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The Evening News and the Forms of Assault against the Pain of the Lebanese

The Evening News and the Forms of Assault against the Pain of the Lebanese

Monday, 18 July, 2022 - 07:45

The evening news on the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI is a spectacular scoop that recurs daily. It tells us that, in contrast to what we know to be true, Lebanon is leaping from one success to another, consistently taking excellence to new highs. Vacationers and tourists are flocking to it. The parties and soirees never stop. The country's towns and villages are putting all their history, charm, and delicious food on display. The literary and artistic genius of the Lebanese has captivated the world. Our sports teams are attaining one victory after another...

Those who present the news in this way probably have good intentions, and they perhaps looked into the matter deeply and concluded: this total disaster is all the more reason to demand some hope. Think positive, and positive things will happen.

Unfortunately, since we are talking about a news bulletin, the fact that the scoop is fake becomes apparent after only one or two minutes, as does the fact that optimism about the future is misguided. The attempt to ward off reality with an arsenal of desires fails before it begins. The reason for this is that the actual news soon follows and pulls us down from the skies of fantasy to the reality on the ground: tragedy surrounds us from all sides, while escaping them is no easy matter.

This approach is dangerous, not only because the famous phoenix will never rise from the ashes and the Lebanese don't have the capacity to "rebuild what had been destroyed" as the famous song "Rajaa Yitaamar Libnan" (Lebanon will be Rebuilt) tells it will. It is a dangerous approach because it could multiply the sense of hopelessness that the Lebanese feel every time they come into contact with reality, especially since no citizen can avoid this contact all through their long days and nights. Reality strikes every time they go to get a loaf of bread, medicine, or fuel and whenever they face the agonizing reality of being abandoned and left to fend for themselves...

Taking the opposite course to cultivating illusions allows us to add awareness of the tragedy to the tragedy itself. Such an approach might be wiser, more mature, and more useful. It can be realized through a more comprehensive description of what has happened and is happening that illustrates the immense difficulties required to overcome this state of affairs, considers the massive responsibilities that doing so entails, and lays out the sacrifices that have to be made along the way...

Neither denying nor belittling the problem helps. Thus, the juxtaposition of two broadcasts in a single broadcast leaves us with a mind-blowing outcome: the Lebanese's dazzling excellence on every level is behind the unprecedented catastrophe that they are undergoing today!

But if resisting reality with folklore and rosy pictures is harmful enough, resisting it with images of blood is far more harmful.

Here, too, and through Al-Manar (for Hezbollah) and Al-Mayadin (for Hezbollah admirers), uncovering the facts of the matter takes no more than a minute or two: after tons of victories and talk of what lies "beyond Haifa" and "beyond Karish," and "humiliating the Zionist enemy," whose teeth are chattering with fear, the same announcer or guest adds that that enemy has violated our airspace thousands of times over the past few years, or that, at this very moment, it is conducting an airstrike on our Syrian neighbor.

Once again, if we bring the two sides of the story together in a single sentence, we would end up with a phrase something like: because of the many victories we have achieved and because of the degree of the fear that was instilled in the enemy, it has violated our airspace thousands of times over the past few years and continues to violate it.

The knife that stabs formal logic, here, cuts deep.

No doubt, there are many ways to conceal reality, and they come from multiple sources. Some are derived from simple Lebanese village traditions, others from a military Arab tradition that became notorious for spinning defeats into victories.

However, this assault on the mind does not negate the differences between its forms.

The first assault is well-intentioned. It can be categorized as cultural, meaning that it simultaneously adopts an ancient, folkloric and mystical view of the country, a view that has little awareness of changes and imagines, in the same way that old Rahbani songs did, that a nice coincidence could solve our difficult problems.

The second assault is ill-intentioned, taking advantage of the nation's weakness and building on it. It is also cultural, but its culture is of a warlike and revolutionary nature. It is confident that the country is rushing to its death, and it is taking decisive and proactive steps to accelerate the process.

If the rosy assault on the mind raises fears of squandering the pain of the Lebanese by mixing its elements and camouflaging its causes, then the message of the armed attack aggravates that pain and promotes it to the rank of a venerable goal we should strive for.

The first assault tells us that the cure lies in smiling with hope and keeping everything as it is. The second assault tells us that the cure is to gulp down more of what has brought us to where we are now, and by doing so, ensuring that everything will be obliterated by tomorrow.

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