Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

A Corpse Called Hope

A Corpse Called Hope

Monday, 24 May, 2021 - 06:15
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The political class has achieved what wars, occupations and hegemonies could not. It has broken the spirit of the Lebanese people. It has fragmented and displaced them. It has impoverished them. It has shown them as islands drowning in a sea of failure and spite. It has succeeded in making hating the Lebanese people a constant policy amid the absence of all official policies.

Under the rubble of the state that the Lebanese dreamed of rebuilding, orphans hold back their tears while insult after insult after insult is flung their way on a daily basis.

After the assassination of the Beirut port, some believed that the people would wake up and defeat the usurpers who had killed their children. The political class managed to abort the Lebanese people’s uprising and forced them to become preoccupied with searching for their daily bread and medicine and means to immigrate.

This scenario is not strange because it is a product of an age of mediocrity. It is a product of what remains of the state falling in the hands of men, who are much too small for their office and are only good at playing on suicidal fanaticisms. Men whose ignorance of Lebanon’s secret is rivaled with their ignorance of the wealth of the friends it has made over the years. Men who do not know their country and do not know the world.

The senseless and offensive statements by resigned foreign minister Charbel Wehbe are evidence of the age of mediocrity and growing ignorance and triviality. Small men who waste warm friendships and networks of interests with stupid and spiteful statements.

If Lebanon is being punished with men who are nothing more than a headache, it is also being punished with a lack of medicine that would make the headache go away.

At the café, smiling facemask-clad friends sat around me. It has been a long time since we last met. The coronavirus is to blame. I thought that the pandemic would make up most of our conversation, but I was wrong. I thought that they would want to talk at length about the Gaza war, but I was wrong again. Countries have changed and interests have changed.

One of them told me: “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? We would have sent you the list of things we need.” I was surprised as it was not their custom to request anything. They realized that I am an expatriate and was not aware of the daily ordeal they have to endure, so they started to explain it to me. “The list includes the medicine that we need. They are no longer available in pharmacies. You would laugh if we told you that Panadol (headache reliever) was at the top of the list. The Lebanese people have a new job these days, that of touring pharmacies to beg for medicine they need. They have another job called searching for Panadol.”

Another friend interjected to add more bitterness to the tale. He said: “The Lebanese people no longer expect a friend coming from abroad to bring with them a necktie or perfume as a gift. Those days are over and there is no place for such luxuries. Rather, your Lebanese friend would be very grateful if you arrived with a box or more of Panadol. There are several medications that the Lebanese people miss, but Panadol tops the list because a headache and the pain of the people is the only common factor among the Lebanese people given the fragmentation of their state and its institutions and the collapse of its currency and economy.”

A third friend offered another perspective. “President Michel Aoun’s term did not invent the regular Lebanese person’s need for pills to address their constant headache that used to plague the majority of the people of what was once known as Greater Lebanon. But it is certain that he compounded the headache and the pressing need for Panadol and other similar medicine to say nothing of Aspirin. The Lebanese people have relinquished their rights and demands. They dream of nothing more than having a supply of headache relievers.”

“I don’t want to blame Aoun alone for the waves of headaches striking cities and villages as the entire political class is complicit in the collapse. However, Aoun with his style and the hopes that he sparked and the sentiments that he provoked, has the exceptional ability to bring on a headache.”

“I am not making light of Saad Hariri’s ability to start a headache given the long time he is taking to form a government. Or the ability of the Hassan Diab government to start all sorts of headaches that the Lebanese people are not accustomed to. Or Nabih Berri’s ability to use the same old remedies that delay the headache and never address the root of the problem.”

He added: “All the rights of the nation and citizen have been violated. The state is being violated and its institutions are collapsing like old rundown buildings. The citizen is begging on the streets. The Lebanese no longer wait for darkness to go rummage in the garbage for something to end their hunger. But the Lebanese want to preserve their right to obtain Panadol and, of course, other painkillers, whose sales have, unsurprisingly, reached record levels during the current presidential term.”

One friend decided to link the Panadol crisis to the heated developments in the region. He said: “The situation is terrible in Gaza and the Israeli strikes are merciless. But let me tell you one thing, the Palestinians have it better than the Lebanese. The Gaza war reminded the world of the rights of the Palestinian people. It reminded them of their right to their own state. It reminded the world that the solution lies in a Palestinian state and that the plot to eliminate the Palestinian dream will fail.”

“I know the deep suffering in Palestinian camps, but it pains me to tell you that the situation in Lebanon, which has turned into groups of impoverished and rival camps, is much harder and challenging. The Palestinian camps hold on to their determination and hope and dream of a state. The divided Lebanese camps are not even united over a major casualty called hope. You should therefore not be surprised with the long queues in front of embassies. You shouldn’t be surprised with the rising number of people climbing on death boats and dreaming of throwing themselves on any shore that can take them away from the failed state.”

It was a painful rendezvous with friends. It was more dangerous than the assassination of the Beirut port and all other assassinations that preceded the assassination of an old citizen called hope. Despair is present at all meetings. Mothers, who used to cling on to their children, now celebrate as their flesh and blood depart to countries near or far. The stench of the corpse of hope is present at every get together. Add to that pain the absence of Panadol in a republic that produces daily rivers of Captagon pills. As they await the end of the eventful presidential term, the Lebanese have to spend their days enduring insult after insult after insult.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks