Ghassan Charbel
Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Where it is Hard to Live

The anxious young man invited his parents to a frank discussion. He said that he loves Lebanon dearly, but decided to quit it.

He explained that the decision was painful for him and the family, but that he made it after much thought. He said he would knock on the doors of all embassies, without exception, and that if it was not possible, he would not hesitate to jump into one of the “death boats.”

The father tried to contain the situation, especially after tears filled his wife’s eyes. He said that Lebanon is a difficult country in a difficult region, and that it has gone through complicated stages, but had regained its breath and life.

The young man was not convinced. He said he was not willing to waste years of his life waiting for the headless republic to find a president. He added that he would not waste his life waiting for the fate of Judge Bitar to be clarified and the port explosion to be investigated.

He said he would not wait for electricity to return to the capital, which has been taken over by darkness, both literally and metaphorically. He added that he would not be able to secure a livelihood in the dreadful forest. He expressed his disappointment with the recent elections, which ended with the re-election of those whom many citizens deem as major perpetrators.

The mother was very scared of what she had just heard. She spent her life raising this boy and hoping that he would build a good future, especially since his academic results qualify him for that.

She was afraid of the feelings of isolation and loneliness she would experience when age attacked a house that had severed its last ties with the future. She reflected on her son’s statement that Lebanon was no longer a livable place. The father was confused. Should he have left early so that his boy could have been born in a country, not in a jungle?

At night, the father became overwhelmed with sadness. He thought about his son’s words and the situation in the country. The system has plundered the citizens’ assets and destroyed the last features of the state. The country is governed by a strange kind of wolves. Strange and terrible. Parliament is not a parliament, nor is the government a government, nor is the judiciary a judiciary.

The fears and hatred of the residents of Lebanon have overflowed. It is as if they have grown fed up with living together. Cohabitation is exhausting and divorce is fatal. The Lebanese have even failed in managing to coexist between the poisons of history and the storms of geography.

The weak does not acknowledge that times have changed. The strong does not accept the idea of respecting the conditions of living under one roof. The calamity of living without a state.

He thought of immediately informing his son of his firm rejection of his decision to leave. Families are not companies that export their children to live abroad and in exile. But he paused. He cannot deny that the city had lost its secret, its universities, its port, and its hospitals. Moreover, bread is hard to obtain, and can only be taken by enduring endless humiliation.

He could not deny that he personally feels that his life was used up long before his savings… that the policeman was no longer a policeman… that the court was no longer a court… and that the law was strange and humiliating, and the constitution worthless.

Every day brought new insults. Only the pirates danced like peacocks on the sinking ship. They meet and separate. It’s a jungle of peacocks and wolves.

He tried to find some consolation, but the calamities of the “death boats” taught him that the disaster is greater than the Lebanese map. It’s massive devastation that transcends borders and maps, whose residents cannot save them and others show no mercy. Maps transformed by regional greed into playgrounds for endless wars…

Whenever a boat sank here or there, he asked about the identities of the victims. About the places that drove them to the sea… Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Somalis, Libyans and other nationalities are found in the lists.

He once dreamed of waking up one day to see the Middle East regain its humanity. Of seeing governments preoccupied with development, education and job creation… Governments, which do not loot or waste public money. Governments that respect citizens and guard their right to be different under the constitution… Governments that do not tremble before the killer and the thief.

But he gave up on this kind of dream, as the Middle East is home to endless conflicts.

He never rejoiced in the “Arab Spring”, when the enemies of the spring seized it. But he wanted to live in a country that is governed by law and accommodates all its citizens, even if they drank from different springs and sang different songs.

The Middle East is home to many conflicts. We have known of the open Palestinian wound our entire lives. The Kurdish wound continues to bleed. Wars and agreements. Negotiations and breakdowns. As if some maps do not accommodate some of their children. They are humiliated if they are moderate, and killed before they take up arms. I think of the young Kurdish residents on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. Their house is only temporary. Their future is vague or frightening. They are likely thinking of the same choices considered by the Lebanese youth.

I also think of the Palestinian youth, who were supposed to dream of earning a respectable degree and a suitable job that would ease their hardship… Their lives could have taken a normal path, but they reside in a place where it’s hard to live. It is as if the Israelis and Palestinians are destined to fight each other forever, because stability cannot be built on injustice. Israel has missed two historic opportunities: the Oslo Accords and the Arab Peace initiative. Here comes the cycle of bloodshed again.

It is a dark night in many maps. Not a glimmer of hope. How hard it is to live in this part of the world!