قانون سير أفضل لضمان سلامة المواطن اللبناني

BOU-HAYDAR-TRIPOLI_0

بعد القرار في بدء العمل بقانون السير الجديد في لبنان، قررت وضع قانون سير لبناني من نوع أخر نحن بحاجة إليه، هو لضبط مخالفات المسؤولين وقوى الأمن في وطننا الحبيب

دركي على الخليوي بدل تنظيم السير: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
دركي عكس السير: ١٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
دركي صافف على الرصيف أو نصف الطريق: ١٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يسبب زحمة سير للمواطنين: ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يهدد بالسلاح المواطنين العزل: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
موكب أمني يعتدي بالضرب المبرح للمواطنين العزل: ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
حاجز درك نيته إهانة المواطن بلا سبب وافساد ليلتهم: طاولة مجاناً على حساب الدولة وإعتذار لدافعي الضريبة
حواجز اسمنتية في منتصف الطريق “لأسباب أمنية”: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
تلطيش الأنسات والسيدات اللتين تقود السيارات من قبل قوى الامن: فرك ألسنتهم بالصابون البلدي و ١٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إقفال طريق عام أو اوتستراد لتدريبات عسكرية: يوم عطلة مدفوع لكل اللبنانيين مع غرامة ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إعطاء ضبط سير بدل من تسهيل السير وامن السير: ١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠
إجبار المواطن على تجاوز الضو الأحمر ومن ثم اعطائه ضبط سير: إجبار العنصر على دفع الضبط، وتعويض للمواطن بضعف مبلغ الضبط
السماح لشبيحة الفالي باستملاك طريق عام مقابل رشوة: دفع مبلغ الرشوة ضعفين لكل مواطن يسلك الطريق المذكورة

 إن كنتم توافقون على هذا القانون، أو لديكم أي تعديل أو إضافة، الرجاء إستخدام هاشتغ #يا_نظيف

مع أطيب التمنيات والتهاني للدولة على الثروة التي ستجنيها دون تحسين السلامة المرورية في وطننا الحبيب

جينو رعيدي

ملاحظة: هذا النص ساخر، ولكنه يحاكي الواقع المرير الذي يعيشه المواطن اللبناني جراء انتهاكات القوى الأمنية والمسؤولين السياسيين دون أي محاسبة أو معالجة

Oh BTW, Zahleh Now Has 24H Electricity

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What happened in Zahleh is both extremely encouraging, and awfully scary. Encouraging because it’s been almost 50 fucking years since the war started, and we still don’t fucking have fucking electricity in 2000 fucking 15. Scary because the politically-backed “moteurs” gangs are shooting transformers to stop EDZ from supplying 24 hours of electricity a day. And the best part is, the government, church, and every other useless, self-important institution was busy fighting over the stupid corrupt Casino du Liban and some stupid contracting project no one gives a fuck about at the Port.

It’s unacceptable we don’t have electricity all day yet. It’s shameful, given that so many tens of billions of dollars have been dumped into the pockets of everyone involved in running Lebanon the past 25 years. It’s shameful we have accepted it as a reality we can never change: that we will never have electricity. All they do is buy stupid, expensive, useless ships to pollute more and supply less. They build an extremely polluting “new” power plant in a heavily populated area with no or bad filters. Their rotten employees close the main highway into Beirut so they get ill-gotten benefits for sub-par services. Tfeh.

I am extremely proud of Electricite de Zahle. Proud of them for saying to the government, fuck you, we’re gonna give the people who pay us what they’re paying for. Fuck you to the disgusting animals that run the generators who threatened to disrupt this plan, and attempted to on several occasions, while police ate fried chicken and tortured kids smoking pot.

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EDZ showed that waiting for the government is useless, and the only way is for the private sector to take initiative and fix things, and let the government try and keep up when they’re too busy boycotting parliamentary sessions till their foreign patrons give them the go-ahead. I hope they can install bullet-proof infrastructure, but that would cost too much. Here’s to hoping all the moteur owners die suddenly of heart failure caused by the pollution of their illegal “livelihoods”. I hope the rest of Lebanon learns from Zahle and its surroundings, and remembers that, hey, it’s 2015, I’m pretty sure humans have figured out a way to generate electricity round the clock, right? Mafrood ya3ne.

Bravo EDZ!

Why the LBC Fadl Shaker Interview Was Actually Good

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I’ve followed the hurricane of criticism hurled at Edmond Sassine and LBC for the interview with notorious pop-star-hearthrob-turned-filthy-islamist-terrorist Fadl Shakr, or Abou Whatever according to his terrorist pet name. It was amusing, to say the least. I loved the March 8 team of conspiracy theorists, especially Al Akhbar who turned into an international, best-selling thriller. But, it was actually sad. Very sad.

Freedom of the press is sorely misunderstood here. If you get an interview with Satan himself, you go take it. If a CNN anchor got an invite to interview Bin Laden, they’re gonna fucking take it for sure. Why? Not because they want to be the mouth piece of Bin Laden, but because people wanna know more about these terrorists, where they are hiding, are they alive, etc. Ask yourselves, who among us didn’t wonder what became of Fadl Shaker? I for one care a lot, and for me, I want to know where the murderous terrorist with Lebanese soldiers’ blood on his hands is hiding. I want to know why he isn’t behind bars yet. I wanna see how this coward will try to escape the hand of justice like his filthy collaborators who tried to escape the airport in Beirut posing as metro-sexual male escorts…

We learned one thing from that interview, which is that a plot to get the terrorist off the hook is being cooked up. Do I think Pierre El Daher or Edmond Sassine are the masterminds? Of course not. Why would they? The Waleed Ben Talal argument is stupid, and I think Al Akhbar and co with these allegations are just encouraging LBC to cover that issue even more, an issue that Lebanese folks honestly couldn’t care less about. We don’t care about the legal disputes with the Saudi prince. So, please, please stop the absurd conspiracy theories about this.

I think the interview turned our focus to something that was a mystery. I’m outraged someone thinks they can whitewash the filth off that murderous traitor, and will definitely not sit idly by as this unfolds. I mean, come on, an awkwardly placed framed photo of his toddler smiling juxtaposed with a worn-out Oud, I mean, come on. How stupid does Fadl and his handlers think we are? If he by a miracle escapes the hand of justice and is exonerated, then we’ll all make sure his musical career remains a laughable throwback, and that a comeback will never happen, and that’s one thing I’m sure all of us can guarantee.

LBC had every right to air that interview, fake and hollow as it was. The questions were obviously coordinated if not dictated by Shaker, and Edmond wasn’t exceptionally tough on Skaker. Then again, he was in territory that is harboring this criminal, and where the security forces can’t intervene if the worst should happen. Regardless, the insight Edmond gained was valuable, and Shaker’s extremely flimsy rationalization of his crimes, claiming he “was asleep” when the clashes with the army erupted, and that he simply walked into the camp and took refuge. This, he just casually says, while the opposite is well-documented in video and audio recordings of the terrorist kissing Assir’s forehead and boasting about killing two Lebanese soldiers, referring to them as “fteesten” (which means two carcasses).

The first phase of this whitewashing campaign has started, and it was a major flop. The next logical move in this deceitful campaign is infusing the kidnapped soldiers crisis into the mix. The increasing moves toward a prisoner swap with the terrorist groups in Aarsal’s hinterlands, though in my opinion very imprudent, seems to be getting momentum. Shaker would make a great dance-monkey in a bell-hop suit as a cherry on top of such a “deal”.

Here, I know many people will feel offended and outraged, but, we need to think a little less with our testosterone and feelings and a bit more with our brains. Releasing terrorists which will do exactly the same thing and try to kidnap more soldiers, is a mistake. As hard as it is to acknowledge, these brave men knew the risks they took when they joined the army, or they should have at least. And the only way to release them is to actually rescue them. We have ISF and army teams which are extremely well-trained in counter-terrorism tactics, and I think the initial mistake was stopping the battle before rescuing our boys taken hostage.

What I’m trying to say, is that the interview fooled no one. And that airing it was the right thing to do, and I fully support Edmond and LBC in that. Anyone with that scoop would’ve taken it, and I’m glad it wasn’t with a media outlet more friendly with the Assir phenomenon and its religious extremist followers. What I think we should do now, is make sure no one ever forgets the crimes of this disgusting, vile “human being” and I use that term liberally to describe Shaker. I expect that if he ever releases another song, a team of patriots will bring down the networks of any label that dares approach that islamist terrorist thug, who is cowardly trying to back-pedal.

And, lastly, even if Shaker finally saw the error of his ways, this isn’t a fucking romcom. He still has to pay for his past crimes, no matter how much you dress that pile of shit up and shave its face.

No respect, no compromise for these individuals. However, despite my deep, deep hatred of them, unlike many who share these sentiments, I don’t want to torture or kill them. If we do, we’ll be just like them. He needs to stand a proper trial, and spend the rest of his days behind bars, singing his beloved songs to try and forget the miserable conditions he will eventually die in thanks to the crimes his newfound faith in religion made him do.

25% of Lebanese Left, 35% Leaving Soon

image56The Lebanese Emigrant Statue in Beirut [image source]

A Real Crisis

There are 5 million people around the world that have the Lebanese passport. 25% have already left and reside in other countries now. Whereas another 35% are either waiting for their papers, or are expecting to emigrate from Lebanon soon. That’s not taking into account Lebanese citizens whose parents or grandparents immigrated to foreign countries. (source: Al Jazeera)

That’s 6 in every 10 Lebanese who either left, or are preparing, or at least expecting to, leave Lebanon. We sort of all know that most of us would rather be working and studying somewhere else, where mentalities and attitudes aren’t governed by a Civil War that supposedly ended 25 years ago, where they have 24-hour electricity and potable water. Probably even somewhere where people vote and have rights and enjoy freedom and equality under fair, secular laws. But, seeing them in percentage form is still quite shocking.

It is obvious that the emigration problem is a massive one in Lebanon. Add to that the influx of more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and you are certain to have the excruciatingly delicate Lebanese demographic scale, which our political system is built upon, completely pushed off-balance. But, after countless field missions and dozens of fixing jobs with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, I’ve come to realize that Syrian folks are generally very eager to Lebanon, and that often times, all the odd jobs and money they try to scrape together, is to buy a ticket to Turkey, and figure out what to do from there. So, the broken record of astoundingly bold claims that the Syrians are going to replace the Lebanese is simply not true, and the reality is closer to: they both want to leave Lebanon, but it’s easier for Lebanese to do so than it is for a Syrian refugee.

Regardless, this powerful repulsive force in Lebanon should be a major crisis on our agendas. But, from a governmental and policy perspective, it seems Lebanese governments over the past couple of decades sort of encouraged Lebanese people leaving, and for good reason. Remittances from Lebanese expats amounted to a whopping 16.2% of Lebanon’s GDP in 2014 (7.67 billion USD). Just to put that into perspective, Russia’s was a total of 7.33 billion USD, and Italy’s was 8.22 billion USD. (source: Daily Star)

However, despite the perks of having an extra 7+ billion dollars a year, it’s not ok that first, Lebanese people so overwhelmingly feel the urge, or need, to leave. And second, that they contribute so much, yet have virtually no say in what happens in the country they grew up in, have family in, identify as from and increasingly support financially.

Faced with the unanswerable question of “how we can fix Lebanon”, pragmatic options aren’t that many. With no president, and illegitimate parliament and a cabinet of ministers busy exploiting that void to empty tax coffers into personal or party interests masked under the guise of the taxpayers’ interest, it’s hard to suggest something feasible. Add to that the endemic corruption in every state institution, the brutality of Lebanese security forces and the crippled and politicized justice system, and you get a brain teaser political science students visiting Beirut from abroad have sought for decades to try and understand, while their local counterparts just gave up trying to make sense of it from an early age.

A Silver Bullet, Sort Of

Numbers are nice. They speak louder than words sometimes and more safely convince us of what the right thing to do or focus on is. If we take into account how many Lebanese people there are in the world, safe estimates put them at somewhere around 14 million outside of Lebanon. That’s 3.5 times more folks than in Lebanon itself.

The first thing these numbers make me think of is, that’s the key to our elections problem. The sad truth is that political allegiances in Lebanon are largely sectarian based, with the majority of Shiites supporting the Hezbollah camp, the majority of Sunnis supporting the Future Movement camp, the Druzes largely in Junblat’s Progressive Socialist Party, and the Christians sorta split down the middle with a slight (and easily reversible) advantage towards the Michel Aoun camp in the past two elections. So, the wiggle-room has always been in the Christian votes that are more likely to change their minds at the ballot box. Sadly though, the options they have to choose from, are both far, far from ideal. They’re not even remotely adequate, and so, the option of change by ballot boxes, and that votes can speak louder than bullets, is hard given the current political landscape in Lebanon. That’s where those 14 million Lebanese folks become our best chance for changing something.

The Obstacles

But, the hopes that Lebanese abroad can help change the tide faces a lot of obstacles before becoming a reality. First and foremost, most of these folks don’t have the Lebanese passport, given that their families might have been in their new countries for generations now. So, getting them on the books will be the first challenge, assuming they even want to of course. Second, our electoral law is absolute shit, and most of the suggested amendments are also absolute shit. The problem is that those trying to write it are thinking on a very tiny scale, towns and districts to try and predict the results of the elections before they even happen, lessons learned from the days of the Syrian occupation. And third, and less quantifiable and observable, is how the Lebanese emigrants will vote. Will it be based on pre-emigrating attitudes? Less or more conservative? Policy-oriented or za3eem-oriented?

I’ve met and talked with a lot of folks from the Lebanese diaspora in different parts of the world, and you can never really know what to expect. Sometimes, I find they’re a bit more open, outspoken and dare I say liberated. Other times, I feel like I could very well be in a rural village talking to illiterate octogenarians who still think black people are referred to as “slaves”, despite living for decades in urban metropolises of the West. So, it sorta is a gamble, but one that would speak loudly and resonate through not just votes, but maybe even representation.

It might sound unorthodox, but given how much they outnumber Lebanese residents and how big their share in funding Lebanon’s GDP is reminds me of the Washington DC license plates that read “taxation without representation”, given how the district is only represented by a delegate in Congress instead of congressmen and senators, but still pay taxes to the federal government and lie exclusively under the Congress’ jurisdiction. Difference is, DC folks are vastly outnumbered by the rest of the country, whereas in our case, it’s people residing in Lebanon that are the minority.

Wrapping Up

So, an ideal electoral law would guarantee the right of Lebanese emigrants to vote. Their fresh, uncorrupted votes will be a major help in restoring faith in the democratic process in Lebanon. Crooked politicians have already understood the value of the Lebanese diaspora, and in previous elections, both camps chartered flights to herd in expats loyal to them and bribe a few extra thousand votes where they needed them most. Therefore, it’s even more necessary to install a voting from abroad process, to try and discourage this foul form of bribery, and make sure that at least expats, can vote somewhat more freely and wholeheartedly.

Then again, should people who don’t live here have the major say in what happens here? Honestly, given the track record of those living in Lebanon, I’d be willing to take my chances, and if not, maybe a formula that guarantees the Lebanese diaspora are properly represented, just without completely alienating those actually residing in Lebanon.

Who knows. And which group are you guys in? The 25%, the 35% or the remaining 40%?

Why We Never Go to Downtown Beirut

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Downtown Beirut, which the most zealous of the pro-Hariri camp always hail as the reason he should be idolized by every single Lebanese person, is a massive failure. Apart from the fact that how it came to be rebuilt, is everything but transparent, if not outright criminal, it was built and invested in for all the wrong reasons:

1- Never build a part of your own country for tourists

Tourist traps are usually parts of a city or country already there from centuries ago, which locals decided to turn into a tourist attraction instead of replacing it with new, expensive buildings. In Lebanon, we let contractors destroy priceless heritage sites to build high-rise towers that no one ever buys, and proof of that is how initial single-unit floor plans quickly get divided up into 3 or 4 units to try and sell them when the bigger, expensive ones don’t get any absurd million-dollar bids.

After the July 2006 war, when Hezbollah started to lose favor among most Sunni Arabs, especially the wealthy ones in the Gulf, and the authoritarian monarchs there decided to bar their wealthy subjects from visiting Beirut, Downtown became a ghost town, and remains one today. In a country and region this volatile, one can ask why on earth we’d invest tens of billions of post-war rebuilding funds into a tourist trap designed to vacuum every cent possible from wealthy Arabs seeking to escape their suffocating regimes for a little fun in much less uptight Lebanon. You know, the whole point was to rip people off, not give a good experience, and that Lebanese “7arba2a” had a major role to play in Downtown’s downfall.

One can ask why not a single establishment there was geared towards Lebanese people, Lebanese families and Lebanese youth. None of us want to pay 20USD for water and stale peanuts we never ordered. None of us wanna pay a deposit to guarantee a reservation. At least, not very many of us.

But, one cannot blame the political tit-for-tat that stopped the flow of Gulf petrodollars that financed a big portion of the crucial, yet unreliable services sector in Lebanon, which exponentially eclipses more stable and secure sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. There’s more to it than the absence of rich Gulf tourists.

2- Obnoxious, Useless and Brutal Security

How many times did you try to pass through (if not actually mean to go to) Downtown Beirut and got surprised by a complete or partial shutdown for whatever silly reason? Too many. When it’s not some special interest group trying to twist the hand of the government, which in reality just giving the average taxpayer undeserved hell for it, while the ministers and MPs jovially order their foreign-financed, armored vehicles to cut through any perceived threat, which sometimes, incredibly, can be peaceful protestors in tuxes and wedding dresses demanding for their right to get married on their own terms, not the church’s or mosque’s. If it’s not that, it’s some meeting or whatever that they hold behind hordes of armed riot police and 4-meter high walls of barbed wire. Cowards. Afraid of their own constituents.

If you’re that afraid for your safety, then stop being a drama queen and pretending to go down and do your job in parliament or some ministry. Stay home, do your “work” from there, instead of mess up our commutes and daily lives for your unbelievably inflated sense of self-importance, when most citizens don’t even know your name or what you look like (just the ones you pay off, of course).

So, another reason, is that we get harassed by the cops enough as it is, why would I ever in my right mind go down to a place that’s practically their mini-fiefdom along with the warlords that assign them to that post? Fuck that, I’ll go somewhere with some peace and quiet, and some respect for fellow human beings, especially when its their taxes pay for the cops and politicians’ ill-deserved salaries.

3- Solidere is hard to trust and stomach

Did you know you need to pay Solidere a few thousand dollars for a half-day of shooting something there? And that you need permissions from so many people, that you’d gladly fork out the money just to get all of them off your back. I’m not sure about you, but when my taxes all go to build those 2-3 blocks of fake buildings, I better fucking be able to shoot a video of me dancing in a tutu without needing 8000USD to be “allowed” to in what is supposed to be public property.

Another issue is transparency. Between the horror stories you listen to from the anti-Solidere camp, and the fairytale ads on CNN International by Solidere themselves, you’re sorta lost on who’s actually right. Why don’t Lebanese taxpayers know more? They don’t have to of course, if that’s what the company thinks, but, personally, I’d much rather go spend money in a place where I trust the people a bit more. People straight with who they are and what they do/did with all that money.

Personally, I don’t really have an opinion and don’t feel any sources of information are credible enough. But, the fact that this issue is such a controversial one, and with many people so vocally pro or con, it sorta ruins the mood for me.

4- Everything Interesting is a Church/Mosque or Mausoleum

You can feel how much Lebanese people hate each other when you see the gargantuan Mohamad El Amin mosque, built on land “donated” by the St Georges cathedral right next to it, that looks more like a doll-house now. Of course, this “insult” by making the mosque so much bigger, didn’t go unanswered by the Maronite church, which decided they’re going to spend many, many years and millions to build a bell-tower that’s as high as the mosque minarets. I mean, come on, who wants to go see that happen when they’re on a date or out to club?

When it’s not the race for who has the biggest, shiniest tower, it’s a battle on whether or not we should light up the crucifix on this church and the crescent on that mosque. And in between, there’s images and mausoleums of prominent folks killed violently everywhere, and with security to make sure no one vandalizes them. Quite the atmosphere to go out in, right? And how many of you haven’t gotten into odds with the annoying gatekeepers and guards of those sites, who somehow think you owe them some kind of allegiance or respect, when they’re the ones closing your roads, barring your access and not allowing you to park without paying their cousins who work as valet parking thugs.

I’d Go Down Someday If

If the roads stop being blocked. If I can find cheap parking. If the soldiers and cops there are taught respect to the taxpayer they’re supposed to serve and protect, not humiliate and abuse. I’d go down there if I won’t be charged money for stuff I didn’t order. I’d go down there if there’s a museum or cultural space where you can sit and work, maybe with internet connection that doesn’t cost a fortune and a million wastas to put the fabled “fiber optics network” to use. If I know if I ever felt the need to, I could protest in front of this illegitimate parliament without getting the shit beaten out of me after the cops have confiscated everyone’s phones and cameras.

Prospects of that are starting to appear though, with the Uruguay street and Annahar building restoring some of their old days’ glory. But, if it weren’t for happy hour reasons, I’m not sure how many people would voluntarily commute to the area if their work wasn’t already walking distance away. That’s why people migrate to places like Gemmayzeh, then Mar Mikhael and now Badaro. It’s because we feel like we’re in our own country there, not a ghost town patrolled by bribe-driven security people protecting the thieves of taxpayers’ money and votes. It’s also because we don’t feel everything is geared towards ripping us off (like most business owners in the area who have modeled their business plans on ripping off rich Khaleejis).

It’s not because of the political in-fighting, nor the security situation, and even if all that suddenly stopped and everything was fine and dandy, I’m pretty sure many of you would still not go. It’s been 9 years now. It’s time to figure out how to do business, without relying solely on rich Arab money, and instead trying to engage Lebanese folks who aren’t easily dazzled with glitzy price-tags for sub-standard services and products.

10 Years Later…

I’m alone a lot. I know folks think I’m always at a party or exploring some cool stuff with cool people, but remember, my Instagram is the stuff I choose to share. I live alone. I travel alone. I work alone. Sometimes I watch a movie alone. Sometimes I even go clubbing alone.

Being alone allows you to think a lot. Thinking uninterruptedly because the free WiFi is just 30 minutes at that airport. Thinking uninterruptedly because there’s no smoking area in that terminal (the one that caters for the budget airlines). Thinking uninterruptedly because you’re not worried someone traveling with you forgot something and you need to go back to the security check.

“Eurotrips” aren’t something new, and by any standard, I’m very late to that party. But this one was exceptionally epiphany-inducing for me. It might have been the solitude. It might have been the legal drugs. It might have been the music. It might have been the people I met. I’m not really sure, but one thing I knew it coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the Hariri assassination. I knew it would coincide with that anniversary, so I knew I’d probably be sitting on a river bank in Amsterdam with a rolled-up joint to ponder that a little.

Love

I love Lebanon. I love its people. I’ve fallen in love with a few Lebanese girls. My closest friends are Lebanese. Most of my family is Lebanese. It’s where I went to school, where I had my first kiss, where I partied my first party and where I raised my dog.

I love my hometown of Ehden. I love the heavily-scarred, over-choked Beirut. I love the parties there and I love the DJs that spin in them and create their music. I love that a Lebanese person can get themselves out of a tight spot in pretty resourceful (though not always ethical) way.

I love the weather. I love the resilience. I love that almost every major civilization has conquered and eventually liberated us, leaving some of their ruins, and their genes, behind. I love we have an opinion on everything, even if it has nothing to do with us. I love that everyone thinks they’re an expert on everything, and often get into embarrassing situations because of that. I love how everyone tries to be holier-than-thou when behind closed doors they’d make Mia Khalifa blush.

Hate

I hate it because we’ve spent unlimited billions of dollars on electricity, but we have none. I hate it because our slow internet is always expensive, and when it isn’t, our quotas suddenly become shorter. I hate it because they think they have the right to censor us. I hate it because almost every person thinks they’re important enough somehow to dictate how others should live and what they can and cannot do with their own lives and decisions.

I hate it because I know everything done politically in the name of the people, involves a not-so-secret contract worth many, many millions. (Remember the fire extinguisher thing a few years back? Well, compare the current food and garbage and casino and port ludicrous issues as exactly the same). I hate it because I’m 24 and I’ve never voted, and don’t think I will anytime soon. I hate it because issues that I care about like civil marriage, women’s rights, no police brutality, fair courts and respect for human rights always gets sabotaged by filthy religious men and the politicians that fall under the same corrupt sect.

I hate it because the police do miracles to crackdown on harmless civilians for having a beard, or smoking a joint, or other petty “crimes”, but when someone actually commits a crime, like block a road, murder, assassinate, terrorize, they are left to roam free and unabated (maybe cause the cops are too chicken like their favorite food, or simply, there’s not much bribe money in it). I hate it because people think revenge is right, and often take it into their own penis and head-chopping barbaric hands I hate it because people think being a soldier means benefits from the government, not the duty that includes putting your life and liberty on the line for the sake of your country, and expect us to release terrorists for their sake, terrorists who will try to the exact same vile things again, instead of trying to rescue them like a military should, not pander and court a stupid, barbaric terrorist network.

I hate it most though, because it punishes hope. Being hopeful in Lebanon is like being stupid. I didn’t particularly like Rafic Hariri. I had not forgotten that for most of his life, he was a partner in the Syrian occupier’s crimes, and only when their interests shifted, the very public strife between them arose. The images paid for on TV ads and spots making Hariri look divine made me uneasy, and the fact that people who a week earlier wouldn’t have hesitated calling him a “bad man” to put it politely, were suddenly shedding tears at the edited videos with sad soundtracks about his life. But, I hated the Syrian occupation and everything about it, and I was hoping that the loudspeaking vans and pick-up trucks that kept inviting people to go down to Martyr’s Square and tell the government to resign and the Syrian occupiers to get out, would actually amount to something. It did. And I did go down, with very big hopes about a Lebanon we could be proud of and live in and look up to.

A couple of weeks later, the mostly bonafide Syrian lackies who had suddenly become March 14 freedom fighters, reverted to their old ways and gutted the very essence of the March 2005 movement, with the disgusting and aptly named “foursome” electoral coalition which ensured that the Christian parties that had been actual “14 March” for years (LF and FPM) stayed out of power. All the years of struggle against the Syrian occupation, while the newcomers to M14 getting fat from the crumbs the Syrian regime was dropping on the floors of torture dungeons for them. That was the first slap in a hopeful kid like me’s face.

Then, Gebran died, and none of those left could be trusted anymore. And I switched camps. But, I don’t like ideologies and I don’t like Arabist nationalists and I don’t like Islamist ideologues and above all else, I don’t really like hypocrites. So, that didn’t last long, and ever since, I’ve been watching how the two pathetically incompetent camps have performed worse than anyone’s wildest (and incredibly low) expectations.

I hate it because it makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty because when we work on a specific cause, I still feel like we giving others hope, when we have none… And that has been taking its toll on me, and I hate that.

It forced us to make our goals less ambitious. A lot less ambitious. In a decade, we went from restoring our old, free, independent country, to “please don’t kill us with this toxic chemical and that rabid law” and “no guys, it’s not ok to beat and rape your wife cause of your religion”, and “please stop wasting so much energy and time ruining young people’s lives for a quick buck”, and “hey, why is it unsafe to run an election, but it’s safe to take taxes and arrest people with zero probable cause or legal precedent”, and the list goes on and on.

Gateless, Fenceless Metros Did It

Berlin’s metro and trams don’t have gated stations. People can just walk in and sit without paying first. But they do. Imagine the money saved on all those gates and fences and stations. The transport authority trusts the people will do the right thing, and the people know that if they don’t pay for what they use, the city won’t be able to afford running that service anymore. Of course, if an inspector asks you for a ticket, and you don’t have one, you’ll get a fine (but didn’t run into any of those in over a week).

Picture a metro in Beirut. It’s hard to imagine it ever being completed because most of the money for it would be in politicians’ pockets, like everything else. Assuming it did though, imagine the vandalism and sabotage it’d endure by Lebanese folks: people who have historically never learned to trust a government or respect authority, which was mostly foreign invaders. Look at what the disgusting creatures that run the generators in Zahle are doing: they’re shooting transformers that promised to provide the area with something that should be an absolute basic right, not an unattainable luxury: 24-hour electricity. And look what the cops and politicians are doing about it: nothing. Imagine what the service and bus drivers that keep menacing our roads, would do if we had a better, cheaper and more efficient alternative…

Instead, they make big deals about corruption scandals like in the past few weeks the Casino one, and the Port one, where the real issue is only that they didn’t split the crooked money between themselves evenly, so they try to turn it into a religious or national thing (with the Maronite church, frustrated it can’t influence the political class to vote for a Maronite president, always meddling in these non-religious affairs, trying to fill the president’s shoes, which don’t really do much btw). The casino thing ended by paying off fake employees with your real tax liras, and in the meantime, you watched a dramatic sitcom unfold, when really, a microscopic casino that no one visits doesn’t need 3 fucking thousand employees with 200,000USD of severance…

The Fortress Has Fallen

A good friend once told me that Lebanon is a fortress, where anything bad can go in, but barely anything can escape. More like a prison. We all know how restrictive our passport is, and how difficult it is to secure a student or work visa, or immigration, to somewhere where we could build a better life for ourselves. That didn’t bother me before, and the thought of trying to stay away no matter what the cost, was never an option. It is now though. I’ve realized that other than the States, there’s plenty of countries I’d rather live in than at home, and that’s sad. When we get hungry and someone suggests we order delivery here, I immediately think of local Lebanese delivery spots, then remember I’m not there anymore.

I guess, 10 years later, I’ve become the person who will probably persuade others to leave, instead of persuading my family and friends why I, and they, shouldn’t.

Charlie Hebdo Massacre from One Arab’s Point of View

unnamedartwork by @SabineDaou

We’re a generation with no purpose. We don’t have world wars to fight in, we don’t have an industrial revolution to initiate and the common denominator of all the verdicts on a generation like ours, is: “obsessed with their Facebook profiles”. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth…

Our generation’s duty is monumental, and we haven’t had a proper start before a major onslaught. Our fight is to keep the liberal ideals we have in some parts of the world, and try to encourage the same set of ideals in others. Our struggle is between the democratic, peaceful secular form of governance, and religion-based dictatorships that excel at murder of innocents, quashing individual and human rights and nurturing violent hatred and intolerance.

Today’s horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices was a major blow to every freedom-loving person in this world. The 12 heroes who were killed are martyrs in the age-old struggle for free speech. Right after North Korea’s digital terrorist attack on free speech in the United States last month, the fundamentalist muslim criminals struck both flesh and bone, and the freedom all of us take for granted, when not holding dear.

As an Arab, and quite a liberal one, the terrorist attack hit hard for many reasons. For one, Charlie Hebdo is the perfect example to follow for anyone who publishes “controversial” content. They set the standard with each issue, and their staunch resilience in the face of countless threats and several attacks. For two, in a part of the world where freedom is a scarce resource in perpetual depletion, the West and many of its media outlets embody the goals we aspire to accomplish. It’s always there, it’ll always be there, and if it gets that bad, we can always move westwards and be part of a liberal society elsewhere. So, when that “safe-haven” gets so savagely attacked, it makes our unfortunate circumstance even more unenviable. If the Islamist extremists can get to Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris, where they are a tiny anomaly, imagine what that means for us, in a place in the world where these islamist extremists form parasitic hordes that plunder, kill and rape everyone that doesn’t submit to their violent, archaic religious laws.

I know today was very hard, and that it my make others think twice about publishing freely. But it can’t. We’re counting on you. Our hope is to eventually defeat this violent current, so you cannot let its brainwashed minions score a victory on the “home turf” of free speech. Please, publish the cartoons again, and again, and again. Maybe with time, the murderous savages that kill for a drawing in the name of their god, will get it through their thick heads that they can never stop us, and every attempt to only fuels our cause more. Charlie Hebdo needs to stay our symbol of hope in our times’ greatest struggle.

As for the murderous cowards who attacked pens and pencils with assault rifles, I ask you, what god are you serving, if he asks you to kill human beings over a fucking drawing? How do you think this makes your fellow muslims and arabs feel? Proud? No. Ashamed, and horrified. Yes, ashamed that these horrendous individuals share our languages and the religion of some of us. Horrified that we’re in such close encounters with them every day of our lives. Horrified their terror can spread to supposedly much safer and freer parts of the world. Shame on you, and I hope justice is done swiftly on you. And know that your disgusting crimes only serve to prove the cartoons right. Violently reacting to peaceful suggestions your religion is violent. Geniuses. You do exponentially more to ruin the face of Islam than you allege these 12 heroes you killed did. And by the way, in your hatred fueled crime, the police officer you gunned down in cold blood was a Muslim, Ahmad Merabet. You killed in the name of the prophet, a man who shares the same name.

Now more than ever, we need to stand up and fight for our right to free speech and expression. We cannot let the rising tide of extremist religious ideologies and the malicious censorship being enforced in Lebanon win. We’re Lebanon. We’re supposed to be the Paris of the Middle East, and so, we are just as involved in today’s tragedy, and it is just as much our mission to make sure their deaths were not in vain. That the wheels of time will turn in the favor of choice and liberty, tolerance and equality under a fair, democratic, secular law.

Thank you for everything Stéphane Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac and all the other victims. Your work will continue to inspire us all, and we will always cherish your memory and achievements.

Je suis Charlie Hebdo.

Why We Don’t Want Weed Legal in Lebanon (YET), Just Decriminalized (NOW)

I have been a very vocal advocate of decriminalization of marijuana in Lebanon for years. If not for my personal appreciation for the plant, for the extremely brutal, vicious, barbaric and sometimes even deadly reaction by Lebanon’s super corrupt judiciary and police force.

The horror stories I hear every day from busted pot smokers and their friends and parents, make my gut wrench. We all know someone who was caught, unlawfully incarcerated and often tortured. Every step in the right direction we take, is countered by a devilish scheme by the police to circumvent it. They can’t imprison users? They trump up dealing charges for them, which is a much more severe crime. Lawyers are often in on it too, and wait to get paid handsomely along with the bribes, before getting someone out of the police station. It’s a horror story from every angle, and if you need help, there are good people who will help you, like Skoun and Legal Agenda.

Anyway, that isn’t the point of the post. The point is a recurring theme in Lebanon, especially with Joumblatt’s controversial tweet this week.

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Lebanese immediately think money, and start proclaiming that if we legalize and tax it, we’ll pay off the national debt, etc. To that I say, come on, we both know that’s not true. Here are a few arguments I overhear, and why they’re invalid:

  1. “We don’t need to allow it here, just export our production to countries like Amsterdam”Firstly, Amsterdam is not a country, it’s a city. Secondly, export of marijuana plants is still illegal. We can’t ship off something illegal here to somewhere where it isn’t. It’s just not how things work. So, please, put this absurd argument to rest.
  2. “Taxes will pay off our debt, and make Lebanon prosper”Really? In Lebanon? With one of the most corrupt institutions on Earth? Where will those taxes go? Who will actually be taxed? Look at what’s happening with our non-existent oil sector: we didn’t even break ground and already millions of dollars are unaccounted for, shell companies in Hong Kong and the whole money laundering and theft of public money mechanism has already been worked out. Plus, remember, the main pot growers are all politically backed, or even owned. Why would they tax themselves? You’re right, they wouldn’t. Plus, making it legal would drop their bottom line, after all, what’s illegal is always more expensive. So, I don’t really see this working, and if it is, it’s the small-time farmers that’ll get taxed, not the ones that matter. And assuming it does, where will the taxes go? The answer is hard to find, but a definite one is that it won’t benefit us taxpayers in any way fathomable, just like every other tax we pay for no return.

    A good example is Joumblatt’s double-standards here. He tweets pro-decriminalization, when the security apparatus entrusted with butchering and torturing pot smokers is considered loyal to him in Lebanon’s disgusting confessionally-divided security system. Now, I’m not saying he’s doing it on purpose and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he really is on our side, but perhaps he can’t micromanage the whole corrupt apparatus. But, he could at least try to use his political privilege to make them tone down on their barbarism and instead do something that helps society, you know, like fighting actual crime.

  3. “Lebanon is not ready, now is not the time”It feels like it’s never the time for anything in Lebanon for nay-sayers. To those folks, I say, pot is endemic in our society. Lebanese folks have been doing it since before Christ, and they still do. I’m not sure how not putting them in jail after beating them to a bloody pulp would “hurt” or “damage” our society, but in my humble opinion, removing the fear and hatred of the cops, and restoring some trust in the system would do our society wonders. So, you’re right, it’s not the time now, it was the time a decade ago before thousands of lives were destroyed forever for the sole purpose of getting paid bribes.

The main point I’m trying to get across, is that the point isn’t making money for the government’s leaky coffers, the point is stoping lives from getting ruined. That’s what the focus should be on, not unrealistic expectations of fortune and bliss. Let’s stop people getting violently and unlawfully detained for absolutely no good reason, and maybe then, we can consider a Colorado-like plan of legalization even for recreational use. For now, we need the cops to stop, and those encouraging them for part of the bribes, to stop as well. Khallas, enough.

Lebanon: 10th Most Inspiring City, 14th on Global Terrorism Index

It couldn’t be truer really. As observers, commentators and above all taxpayers in Lebanon, it’s often hard to figure out where we stand. We’re abysmal on so many fronts like corruption, lack of basic necessities like electricity and water and the constant threat of escalating violence. But, we’re also pretty fucking awesome. We put most other countries in the region to shame with our liberal ideals, even under threat by filth and scum like Da3esh and its sympathizers, we party harder than any other somewhat civilized people and the art, science and culture that ooze out of Beirut’s streets and underground basements deserves a special light shed on it.

Lebanon: 10th Most Inspiring City on the GOOD City Index

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The last bastion of the liberal Middle East, Beirut is where the rest of the Arab world comes to let their hair down. While there is much more to the city than drinking cocktails on the beach, the fact that one can even do that legally is an important aspect of life in Beirut. More importantly, Beirut is one of the region’s only cities where people are free to embrace secularism, gay rights, and free artistic expression. Residents of Lebanon are constantly reminded that they are living in the midst of ongoing regional and political turmoil. However, this uncertainty has done little to slow Lebanese-funded construction. Nor has it impacted infrastructure, park development, or partnerships with cities like Geneva, London, and Paris aimed at making the city a better place to live. In 2014, Beirut’s startup scene thrived: Displaced Syrian artists established new studios in the city, the arrival of Uber ameliorated the city’s notorious traffic problem, and green activists proved Horsh Park could be a place for tolerance. Clinging to its outlier status in a region of uncertainty, Beirut will continue to be a beacon of possibility.

Source

Talk about a boost of serotonin, huh? Philippa Young said it pretty accurately above, and there’s not much I’d like to add here.

Lebanon 14th on Global Terror Index

Fires burn and smoke rises from the site of an explosion in Beirut downtown area

The Global Terror Index is a comprehensive study prepared by IEP that accounts for the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in 162 countries in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects of terrorism.

It is disheartening to see that we lie just behind Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and others when it comes to how deeply we’ve been affected by terrorism. Lives lost, opportunities missed, property damage, economic tolls, social unrest…

Source

Make Your Choice

Given such stark, yet such Lebanese, contrast in where our position lies among the world’s countries, it’s almost impossible to reconcile them both. Are we the 14th most devastated country by terrorism? Or are we the 10th most inspiring place to live in? We’re both in reality, but I choose the inspiring one more. Cause if I don’t, the terrorists win, and I know that sounds cliche, but if we stop advocating for women’s rights, gay rights, our right to drink and party and make art and make love, we sorta become like Da3esh’s Islamic State. We do have a role, and as the late Pope John Paul II said, “Lebanon is a message, not just a country” (or something like that), and even though me and him differ on what that means, I do agree that Beirut and Lebanon are a message, a message of hope for the rest of the region in turmoil.

We came out of a brutal 15-year Civil War and somewhat survived in one (though incoherent) piece. When cops shove a stick up a person’s ass because they suspect him of being a homosexual, there’s an uproar and backlash and we force it to stop. When we fight for women’s rights and it gets derailed by religious authorities, we force them to pass it, though partially, and keep struggling till it’s in the format we aspire to in the 21st Century. When a conservative minister wants to punish an Olympian for posing for risquee photos, we all got naked to shut him up and support one of the few heroes representing Lebanon in such events.

The list goes on and on, and even though it’s barely even scratching the surface of what needs to be done, it’s something, and we’re not giving up. We’re just rethinking our strategy, and toning down our ambitions to more achievable, pragmatic ones. No revolutions, no mass protests, just smart, patient and well-timed pressure to preserve our liberal ideals that so many have tried in vain to erase…

Shake b3aynkon ya jayyet w 2ol3at el tatarrof <3

GTA 5 for PS4 BANNED in Lebanon

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After hearing rumors that GTA V’s PS4 release was banned in Lebanon, I called the Sony stores in ABC Dbayeh and ABC Ashrafieh and got confirmation that they’re not gonna get it, because “el dawle mana3eta” (the government banned it).

GTA V is one of my favorite console games, and playing it on my PS3 was an absolute blast. Now, that doesn’t really affect us gamers, because we’ll get the game “tehreeb” (black market). But, it’s the principle that matters. We’re banning video games now too? Just a few days after a documentary about the Iranian Green Revolution was stopped from being screened at an international film festival in Beirut?

It seems that the new chief at the Censorship Bureau deceived us with OK-ing our MARCH play, but has upped the ante when it comes to banning stuff from Lebanese people. The video games thing is especially scary. We’re used to censorship of books, movies, music and websites, but video games too?

It’s like every day we take another step closer to becoming a mini Iran or Saudi Arabia…

We at MARCH are working diligently to get to the bottom of this and reverse this unspeakable act. Join us if you’re pro free speech and anti censorship! Gamers, we need you on board!