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Protests Break Stereotypical Images of Lebanese

Protests Break Stereotypical Images of Lebanese

Sunday, 27 October, 2019 - 08:15

Since 1975, several stereotypes have emerged of the Lebanese people.

The Lebanese trader: Given the nature of Lebanon’s economy, of which services are the backbone, the Lebanese have often been linked to trade. They trace their ancestors to the Phoenicians. Present-day Lebanese, from the populist-leftist, if not Islamic, view, have a bad reputation. Several political insults, such as “traitor”, “deal”, “settlement”, “agent” and others, are derived from trade and business dictionaries. The Lebanese are therefore, the lowest of corrupt opportunists. They sum up the saying: Everything has a price and nothing has value.

The mythical Lebanese: Adonis, Astarte and others are the stuff of legend, whose tales have been told for centuries. Their stories are recalled in songs, poetry and books. They reflect the disconnect from reality as the people try to eke out a living.

The violent Lebanese: Lebanese folktales are full of metaphors of strength, comparisons to mountains and unyielding rocks. The Lebanese army has always been glorified and seen as a symbol of masculinity. Then came the civil war in 1975 and that image was broken. Militias took over and they killed without mercy. People were murdered according to their sect. Kidnapping was rampant. Our weaknesses were exposed and the myth of strength was dashed.

The sectarian Lebanese: The Lebanese fabric is no different that those of other Arab countries. However, Lebanon was not ruled by a nationalist and military regime that imposed on the people how they should define themselves. The state instead adopted political sectarianism and its administration built itself on cronyism. This has led the Lebanese to openly discuss their sects, while Arabs usually keep silent on such affairs. Sectarianism is no longer a moral accusation or flaw we must avoid. It has become a tool with which to identify and appoint people. It has almost become the sole basis on which to make decisions. Not too far away, racism began to take root. It targeted Syrian and Palestinian civilians and foreigners in general.

Several phases, eras and ideologies produced these images, which are both contradictory and homogenous. The revolution, which is led by the youth, has started to break these stereotypes. They are starting to collectively rid themselves of them.

The Lebanese, as demonstrated by the revolution, are people of principles who strive for their rights. They declare their state of poverty out in the open and seek justice. It is no coincidence that the central bank in Lebanon has been seen as the symbol of corruption, one of many targeted by the revolution.

The new Lebanese are filling squares and embarking on this overwhelmingly peaceful adventure. They are crossing their sectarian and regional borders that have compartmentalized them for years under false slogans of “national unity.” They are now sending signals of openness to the other, their partners in poverty and suffering. Throughout, we see them celebrate their new collectiveness with joy, bravery and innovation and with a lot of symbolic responses to those who have robbed and humiliated them. They act with the full knowledge that passing up this opportunity means that they will remain, for decades to come, slaves to a handful of petty corrupt figures.

On the opposite end lies Gebran Bassil’s skeletal empire and Hezbollah’s monopoly of the hungry, who are never allowed to satiate themselves. They are preparing to pounce again to defend their ugly realms.

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