On this, Matyrs’ Day in Lebanon, I cannot but help remember what the day really means, and weep-smile as I do. Martyr is not a word I like, because I am not really pro being killed for whatever it is you do or believe in. I know some of you might wince when they read this, but seriously, put the romance and brainwashing aside, no one wants to die. And if they do, they are either severely brainwashed, extremely depressed or irrevocably hopeless. So, I will call them what they really are throughout this post: victims.
On May 6 all those years ago, the Ottoman Empire executed Lebanese and Arab journalists in front of what is today the Virgin Megastore in Down Town. They were killed because they were dangerous, for they were spreading information, weaving analyses and even inciting revolt from the Ottoman oppressors. Their cause was noble, and it is one I have deeply fallen in love with over the years.
Information is king, and more powerful than any other force, tool or weapon. Never has this been more evident than the recent Arab Spring, where the formerly simply stupid, lobotomized Arabs, driven only by blind, senseless faith and fear suddenly remembered they do have brains, and that they’re not as severely underdeveloped as they had thought. But, this wasn’t really sudden, we’ve always had the brains, and the balls for that matter, at least in my beloved Lebanon.
Lebanon is the only Arab country with real freedom of the press and speech. Apart from uncivilized, backwards and of course, religious exceptions, no one is exempt from criticism or challenge via the media or other peaceful means. For some reason though, the 3 presidents also are untouchable, which is sad in my opinion. For example, if I say President Michel Suleiman is a corrupt, two-faced and spineless person, I’d wake up in some lovely Hbeich-inspired bed and breakfast, but I’d never say that of course! Just like I can’t talk about the Patriarch, Nasrallah, or whatever other figure the Lebanese people so graciously crap on their reason and logic for.
Apart from that though, we can pretty much say anything and everything, especially after our Syrian “Big Brother” ran away tail between legs 6 years ago. Today, this freedom is in the spotlight again, with dozens of Syrian dissidents and activists seeking refuge in Lebanon and orchestrating the unrest their (depending on which irrational you subscribe to, it’s either a conspiracy like the fake moon landing, Okab Sakr’s brain child, or maybe even the true will of the Syrian people).
But the point I’m stressing here is how proud I am that Arab journalists and activists, as well as the foreign press, have faith in Lebanon’s freedoms and feel safe enough they will not be prosecuted, jailed or even killed for expressing their views. This is of course given that these people are not breaking any laws or violating the non-violent policy of democratic change.
Unfortunately, these freedoms do not come free of charge, and that doesn’t just apply to the distant May 6 all those years ago, but is still evident today, with Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni’s assassinations. Regardless of whether or not you think they were killed for what they wrote and thought, the fact of the matter remains that they were in danger in the first place because of their profession, no matter who killed them and for what motive.
What do we do with these pride-inducing freedoms and principles? Why, flush them down the toilet of course, and no one does it better than Future TV and Al Manar. I silently weep to myself when I hear their news intros, which sound like Homer’s Odyssey, both in their fantastical content, and epic delivery, with words from centuries past being regularly used and they even rhyme most of the time… As for credibility, it is far below zero and it’s pathetic the lies they weave about themselves and others, and the way they try to debunk lies about them.
How do you know I’m right? The Lebanese complete indifference to the Wikileaks scandals… The accused remain in office, and the accusers, who are champions of oppression and misinformation, hail Assange as a hero because he is exposing the other side, versus theirs, which undoubtedly hides equally hideous if not worse secrets.
Anyway, I’m gonna stop ranting now. The point of this post is that we have the freedoms and the potential, but we are ruining it with our own hands. When victims fall in search for freedom in Egypt, Syria, Libya, we squander and taint it for silly reasons. Yet, we can still pride ourselves of being a beacon and safe haven for all free-thinkers, but in light of recent developments, looks like we’re gonna be having some competition, which is awesome, but which also means we gotta pull our act together and truly liberalize our press, while attempting to undo the damage already done by the champions of illiteracy, unprofessionalism and of course, sectarianism!
I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t just comment on my word choice =)