When an Oyster Chokes on its Pearls
Everywhere I look, misery walks ahead in long lines labeled by needs. Depending on the level of frustration or violence I know which line it is. If it is one dominated by pleading old men, it’s either one for bread or cooking gas. If it’s one full of sarcastic young people cracking jokes about how low we have fallen, then it’s for coffee. But if it’s one full of bullies brandishing guns on helpless old men or a mother with children to cut through, then it’s for petrol.
My city has awakened the kraken on its shores. Its white and golden sands are now salty with tears and muddied with blood money. Even the asphalt beneath our shoes and tires is taking its last breath under the relentless sun waiting to die out into dust in the endless dark nights. When I walk around, I look at my people’s faces but I see none. Yesterday they had empty eyes, empty of hope and happiness today they have no faces and no eyes. They all look the same. Today my people have fear for eyes, aimlessness for a nose, and haplessness for a mouth. Every day, the hyperinflation comes from underneath them and pulls them under to smother their children’s squeals. We have houses but not homes, hospital buildings but not treatment or medication, schools without teachers or students, and utility companies without services. If you ask any Lebanese, what do we still have, they’ll tell you our political dynasties and their sheep. They are the untouchable sanctities and the red lines no one may cross. But if you ask me, I will tell you we have an oyster that’s being smothered by its own pearl.
See, oysters, make pearls when they are stressed as a coping mechanism. My country, the pearl of the Mediterranean, the oyster of the cradle of civilizations, and the beacon of literacy and culture is choking on its own pearls. What pearls am I talking about? It’s called the pearl of “ridiyna bil ham wil ham ma ridi fina” which literally translates : we have accepted the burden of mishaps but the burden of mishaps has rejected us. In my dialect that means we have exhausted all coping mechanisms to outsmart shortage, corruption, abuse, depletion of resources, explosions, endless wars, looting of our resources, and being treated as insignificant beings beneath what normal citizens deserve. So now, we are drowning and choking on our silence and our anesthetic solutions. The time of reckoning has come for us to pay for hoodwinking on the corrupt and keeping them in power because we fear one another. If you ask me, we are a house not a home, a land not a country because we chose to live by the rule : “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. There is no love for country if there is no love for one another. There is no solidarity if there is no brotherhood because there is no trust. We say with our mouths what we negate with our hands and minds. Before we appoint someone we check what faith he follows, who his political backing is, and how well connected he is with regional countries. We don’t check if he has what it takes to sit, if he has something to bring to the table, and most importantly if he has the credibility and dedication it takes to die for his country if need be.
A few months back, a student from abroad who was doing research on the Lebanese social media’s relation mainly in the diaspora with the success of the Lebanese revolution. I surprised her when I said that there was no revolution, there was a movement, a temporal one, a slight awakening. Today my words are true because revolution requires a change from within to affect change into the outside. It’s like an infection that grows in a host wherein either the host develops immunity and grows stronger or dies spreading the infection to another who might be a healthy carrier. The problem today is my people have lots of words but very few actions. They have lots of reactions but no action plans. Like their politicians, they pass the blame ball like an opening free throw in a football match. We all know how bad things are and why they collapsed. At this stage, I couldn’t care less about who did what or who didn’t. We are sinking, burning crisp, starving and soon we will cease to be a country because all the young and able will leave this land for the old and helpless to be buried. I don’t know how long it will take my people to wake up although I pray that it will be before the place turns into a mass grave.
A sheep can’t herd a herd just as a wolf can only eat the sheep. You don’t have to be a sheep to find greener pastures nor a wolf to herd sheep. You need to be a shepherd to herd sheep, someone who knows when to use the stick and when to just whistle or gesture with his hand. Inside each one of us is a shepherd called common sense and survival instinct. These two instantly help us recognize who can genuinely bring something to the table to fix things to let us have a better grip and hold on the ground that’s slowly breaking into bits beneath our feet. Sadly, we shall all be sheep baa-baaing aimlessly to cameras herded like the sheep we are for the world to pity us and throw us some aid. The diaspora has lots of successful Lebanese strategists, thinkers, and people with integrity and love for this country but the sheep will only see the fears that run inside their mind. My people, worry is an abuse of imagination. It fails to create or solve anything because it destroys chance by petrifying you leaving you to rot while others use you as a stepping stone for more gain and power. Not until you give your backs to one another and forsake entrenched alliances with corrupt oligarchies will you ever find the light or a way off this doomsday train. We are not living in hell; hell is within each one of us because we chose this life by continuously doing things the same crooked ways and continuously choosing the same crooked people.
My country is an oyster choking on its own pearls because it closed up on itself thinking tomorrow is still there, a window for doing things differently even though we know we will never do them differently. We are the dead, not the martyrs of August four nor the Tlayle because they are now free to roam and see the truth living right next to the darkness, we choose to sink in. It’s hard not to feel sorry for ourselves in such a scenario but self-pity is all we have been doing for the past 20 years or so. Wake up! The Civil War ended in 1990 and it was a minor war compared to the major war we have within a war on ourselves to cleanse ourselves from blood money, corruption, and the endless lies we keep telling the world about how we’ve changed!!