It was a cloudy, rainy, miserable kind of day when driving around to run my errands would have been stressful, so I opted to watch a Netflix movie that had been sitting around for a while. I was delighted that I did! It is an old movie (2004) titled: The Notebook, which is based on a true story. The movie is romantic, touching, sentimental, elating and tear-jerking. James Garner and Gena Rowlands are the two main characters and they did a terrific job.
The story begins in the 1940’s, and it took me back to that period when the United States was in the early stages of a financial boom as industry was flourishing and millionaires were being born; a period when the rivers and streams were still so clean you could safely drink their water; when there was no Lyme and other diseases lurking in the forests; no hackers and cyber criminals looking over our shoulders; no surveillance state monitoring our every move; no American political angst. Yes, black people then were still enslaved in many ways; homes in the South, especially, had the black “help” cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, baby-sitting and working the cotton and other crop fields; racism was rampant and Jews, Catholics, Chinese, Italians and Indigenous Americans were all discriminated against openly. Yes, too, a Second World War was brewing and America sent its young men to fight Hitler and racism abroad, while not taking any effective steps yet to fight it on the home front, thus setting the stage for our foreign entanglements and domestic anguish whence listening to the news has become something to be dreaded! What now? What else?
It seems that everywhere we look at our Planet there is something, or the other churning and driving people to the streets: France, Spain, Hong Kong, Chile, Ecuador, England, Bolivia, Venezuela, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and now tiny Lebanon too? What the hell is going on? The picture is very disconcerting, worrisome and ominous. Discontent is manifesting itself, and, according to the Chinese Government, it was the Hong Kong protests that inspired the upheavals? Perhaps, but clearly disgruntlement refuses to remain behind closed doors anymore. How is the political leadership going to deal with all that, I wonder? It does not look to me that they are addressing the issues seriously, coherently or wisely. To the contrary, in most places their answer seems to be: Call in the army. Hose the people off the streets! Haul them to jail! And, yet, that does not seem to be killing people’s desire for demanding Equality and Justice.
In most places where the anger, discontent and protests have oozed out into the streets there is an apprehensive and somber atmosphere. Not in Lebanon, where a Protest Party was unfolding and expressing itself joyfully – even the foreign tourists participated – despite the anguish and anger in people’s hearts.
The situation in Lebanon has been brewing since the beginning of the conspiracy – and, yes, it was exactly that – which ignited the Civil War in 1975 and ravaged that small country; where the corruption mushroomed as never before and where one of the slogans then was: min ayna laka hatha, as in: From Where Did Your Riches Come? This time around during the protests upbeat slogans were accompanied with dancing, singing and the most humorous signs I have yet seen during any social upheavals:
“Happiest Depressed People You’ll Ever See.”
“If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep.”
“Yeah, Sex Is Great, But Have You Ever Fu–ed The System?”
And so it charmingly goes! Bakeries were making Manakeesh and Knafe and feeding the Protestors for free; volunteers were sweeping and cleaning the streets; activists were on social media advising the people not to burn tires and to refrain from violence; old women were pleading with soldiers to join them since they, too, and their families were suffering; sectarianism was thrown out of the window as the people proclaimed unity and solidarity with each other and against the corrupt and divisive ruling powers. How long will this last? Unknown as yet, since the infiltrators, evil-doers, political parties, and other nations will most probably try to interfere and meddle.
Nevertheless, and despite it all, it remains Charming Lebanon!
And, yet, Lebanon is really and truly only a microcosm of our world with its beauty and splendor on the one hand, and its wickedness and misery on the other. The protests depicted the bourgeoisie marching shoulder to shoulder with the hoi polloi, as well as men and women, who seem to have just stepped off the pages of GQ and Elle, walking on the same streets as those dressed in bedraggled and flimsy clothes. Here, too, are the young girls with their spaghetti-strapped tops walking arm in arm with their neighbors sporting the hijab. Native citizens mingled with the many refugees from around the region who, not being able to protest their own governments, felt somehow vindicated and hopeful. Here you can find a thriving gay community side by side with the priggish, artificial traditionalism of its Christian hoity-toity, as well as its strictly misguided and extreme Muslim conservatism. One can also find lovely restaurants serving haute fusion cuisines from around the world, as well as the delectable ethnic foods that no one else does better. On one side of this sliver of a nation you have the museums, artists, film producers, painters, actors, dancers and an exuberant cultural hub, on the other you have a world where trafficking and drugs, laundered money, spies and conspirators, prostitution and thugs exist with impunity. One views the architecturally splendid high-rises and luxurious apartments almost adjacent to run-down sectors and decrepit hovels, burning forests and a polluted Mediterranean shore reflecting humanity’s negligence of the environment and the planet we live on. Lebanon is a paradox like no other!
Lebanon’s endemic corruption has bared itself to the world in these recent weeks. However, there is similar, and often more egregious corruption going on elsewhere on our planet as crooked and inept ruling classes are ignoring their people, such as in San Francisco, which like many inner cities around the US and the world, is seeing the proliferation of streets where the destitute live in tents that are in stark contrast to the gated mansions of the billionaires across the nation who do not seem to be concerned with neither poverty, or people’s minimum basic needs. How is that even possible? In this tech world of ours Jeff Bezos wants to build a settlement on the Moon, and Elon Musk wants to establish a colony on Mars proving that these United States, too, are their own paradox! Generally and globally, it is not a pretty picture that we are all seeing! In fact, it is quite alarming, because unless the people’s concerns are seriously and concretely addressed our world is headed for social upheavals on a much wider scale. However, with or without Twittering Trump, with or without a responsible and ethical media, Charming Lebanon and an angry world will continue to go through these convulsions that are now manifesting themselves on the streets until Equality and Justice prevail, which, at some point, they must, or we can all say: Goodnight and Goodbye to our Tormented Planet!