قانون سير أفضل لضمان سلامة المواطن اللبناني

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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

“Ask An Israeli” Video Shows Interesting Opinions on Lebanon

I came across the video below on Reddit, and watched the entire 15 minutes and jotted down some notes which I found interesting.

Now, before we continue, I ask of you to put aside the political, historical, ideological indoctrination and focus for a second on what it actually is: unedited videos of normal Israelis.

The first thing you notice, is that almost all of them want peace with Lebanon, and next in line comes Syria. Even originally Yemeni Jews would rather have peace with us, than Yemen.

I can appreciate Lebanon, they’re pretty secular aside from Hezbollah

Now, that’s something to be proud of, even though it’s not awfully true. We do have a semblance of a somewhat secular system, but that’s just because the sects try to so carefully manage their conflicts, that there’s some space for folks like me to somewhat live the lives we want without religions butting in into every single aspect of life. At least when it could possibly be perceived as an attack from one sect on another, a big no-no here. So, one might hate two-piece bikinis because of their religion, but it’s highly unlikely they’d “attack” them because it might be seen as a Muslim-Christian strife, instead of what it actually is: no one’s fucking business what you wear)

Casino in Beirut

One dude was especially excited about our Casino. If he only knew how corrupt it was, and how horribly Lebanese politicians have destroyed it with their fake “wasta” jobs that bleed what is supposed to be our tax money into the bottomless pockets of the jackets their daddies and grandaddies handed down to them.

Market in Damascus (if it still exists)

Here is one of the disturbing parts of the video, where the interviewer jokingly says “if it still exists” and chuckles when an Israeli woman says she’d like to go to the market in Damascus. It shows the chilling nonchalance when it comes to immeasurable pain and suffering on those considered “the enemy”. At least this time though, it’s not Israeli forces that are dealing that pain and suffering on the Syrian people…

Peace is a dream

It is, and with the current leadership on both sides, it will remain so till the foreseeable future. Imagine what a peaceful Middle East would be like…

I think we are similar to them

Though unpleasant, the idea that Israeli and Lebanese folks are sorta similar in their mentalities, is sorta true. They’re both communities that always feel they’re being persecuted and hunted down, and this perpetual feeling of being a victim, has made them both much worse people.

It seems really natural to have peace with them, same food

The food issue has been a war in itself, with Lebanese and other Arab delicacies like Tabbouleh and Hommos, being claimed as “Israeli” food. This is of course preposterous, and any person with a slight grasp of how the world works knows that’s not true. Yet, instead of the “mine is bigger than yours” (in reference to Hommos plates), the woman feels that the fact what we eat is so similar, it seems “natural” to be at peace.

There is an amazing music scene in Lebanon (another woman: “Ibrahim Maalouf”)

Can’t argue with that, and it is true. Israelis can see how thriving our music and nightlife scene is, they won’t be thrown in jail for doing that like authorities in Lebanon would do. One thing I’ve learned, is that everywhere I’ve been, there’s been a scene I felt at home with: the electronic music scene, and the Beirut one is fucking awesome. Heck, my friend met a Sicilian man on the slopes in the Alps who told him he wants to come to Beirut and party at b018… Yet, all the Lebanese authorities do to help that scene is ban artists from entering if they’ve performed in Israel, and raise taxes or ask for bribes before we hold parties…

Beirut is supposed to be an amazing city

Keyword being: “supposed”, but it isn’t, and it’s largely our fault. Wars, corruption, nepotism have all robbed Beirut of its former glory, and turned it into a severely congested block of cement dotted with empty high-rises with higher prices, that replaced the priceless heritage buildings we can never replace.

One particular kid towards the beginning was odd, and said

I don’t mind if Nasrallah blows up my house (near the border with Lebanon). I respect him more than my father. I think he is a role model.

Goes to show the charisma and influence of Hezbollah’s General Secretary, even mesmerizes some of the people his missiles can reach beyond the border…

Conclusion

This post isn’t about naturalizing with Israel or making peace with a government that has so brutally bombed, invaded and destroyed Lebanon so many times over the past few decades. This post is about remembering that it’s important to see how the other side pictures us, to see if it really reflects the reality. And sadly, most of the things the Israelis think are good about us, have deteriorated. Casino? Promenade? Sea? Secular? We should be, but we’re not.

Here’s the page, it also does videos like this with Palestinians.

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.

Beards and Eiffel Towers: Reflections on My First Night in Paris

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For those of you who saw me live in the past few weeks, you know that my beard has become exceptionally long and bushy. One reason is that, in all honesty, I love my beard. Another, is I wanted to experiment what someone like me, backpacking through Europe with a big beard, would run into.

I got to Paris around 10:00PM and Mika picked me up and after a breather at his place, I decided to go see the Arc de Triomphe, Trocadero Square and the Eiffel Tower. I thought at night, the walk would be more pleasant and with less tourists to ruin your experience and shots. After a good 45 min walk, I finally made it to Avenue de New York, and crossed the Iena bridge to get to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

I was lucky, cause I got to see a good 15 minutes of cool light shows before they turned it off at 1:05AM (to save energy, and the highways were completely dark too btw). I walked under it, and found a nice place to sit there and have a cigarette and think about life and shit. I crossed my legs, lit my cigarette and not 2 minutes later, 4 police officers come up from behind.

Now, the split second I saw them, I started to prepare my passport, expecting them to ask for it, but instead, the policewomen very casually, and politely said: “there’s been a bomb threat, you need to clear the area please”

And I did, and crossed the street and sat there instead to finish the cigarette while I watch from a distance. People were still walking through the area that supposedly had a bomb threat, passing by the 4 police. It also seemed odd that 4 police officers, on foot, with just a hand gun, would be dispatched to deal with a bomb threat at one of the world’s most visited landmarks…

Then again, bomb threats are a common occurrence for the Eiffel Tower, yet, I couldn’t help but feel it was particularly convenient for the police woman to use that excuse to politely tell me to GTFO.

It was almost 2:00AM now, and like every city, the kids who couldn’t hold their liquor were stumbling about the park, unable to afford a cab fare and upset to find out the Metro is already closed. He approached me and asked for a cigarette, so I obliged. When he found out why I was sitting on that bench a bit further away from where I had came all the way to see, he was furious.

He insisted on giving the cops an earful, and I pleaded with the drunk young man not to. I didn’t want any trouble, and I assumed the cops don’t know any better. I also assumed the civilians don’t know any better, but that kid, inebriated as he was, gave a speech about freedom and liberty, and how racial profiling was wrong, how ignorant they were, etc.

It felt good that people understood. I don’t really get upset anymore when I get pulled aside in airport queues and get my underwear dusted for explosive residue. They’re just people doing a job, with inaccurate information and bigoted prejudice that could get frustrating when you think of it.

In Lebanon and the Arab World, extremists and their bootlickers call us shit like “Imperialist” and “Zionist” and whatever words they use to scare their children before going to bed. We’re the “evil seculars and atheists” that want to make Lebanon “like Europe” (as if that’s a bad thing?). In Europe and the States, we’re the “terror suspects”, the “enemy” (as many US veterans in New York called me).

It’s the sad reality, you’re not welcome in both places. One side accuses you of being like the opposite side, and when you go there, it’s the same thing all over again. But that drunk kid reminded me that many people know better. And that reminds me of another reason I keep my beard long. Who the fuck are religious extremists to take away the beard from us? That many of them know that we have suffered the most under both the hands of extremist religions, and colonizing powers… Oh, the irony.

All in all, it was a cool first night in Paris. Today, I’m going to Republique to the Charlie Hebdo memorial to see what the reactions there will be like, and buy a couple copies for myself. Then checking out the underground party scene.

A New Level of Absurdity for Censorship in Lebanon #SenselessCensorship

10369892_786765624694166_3684344099274024970_nAt March, we’re used to the impolite and juvenile way the General Security’s Censorship Bureau deals with us. The former chief, upon banning our play satirizing the bureau’s work, made it his sacred mission to go on every talk show in Lebanon and elaborate how “stupid” “childish” “uneducated” and “far from reality” our work was. He based his “analysis” on a secret “panel of experts” that conveniently echoed what the bureau chief thought. Eventually, our play did get OK-ed by the new chief, marking a victory for March and proving how broken the censorship “laws” actually were: one chief banned it completely, another let it through untouched…

However, the bureau has stooped to unusual lows this time after our most recent experiment. We got together a bunch of scripts and op-eds from popular TV shows and websites and newspapers in Lebanon, and put them in play-format and submitted them to the bureau, to see if they’ll ban something that’s already public. They did, completely. And after 90 minutes of back-and-forth, the bureau chief said it was fully banned.

When we started mounting our campaign to demonstrate how absurd censorship is, the higher-up in the GS’s censorship bureau called us liars, saying that they didn’t ban it, that they just wanted a few words removed. How was it possible to do that? They never give you a paper to prove anything, they just inform you “orally”. The same thing happened when they refused to renew one of our members’ passports to punish him for writing our first banned play, which after the intervention of the Ministry of Interior, was rectified and this absurd “ikhda3″ (submission) tactics made a thing of the past, hopefully!

This fear of the General Security when it comes to written paperwork backing up their decision, goes to show you not even they are convinced of the things they censor, and they realize it’s just as stupid, insulting and uncalled for as we do. So, here, I’d like to ask them, if you think what you’re doing is right, why hide and deny it? Stand by your decisions and give us papers to verify you banned our work so we can avoid this high-school mean-girls discussion of “he-said-she-said”.

Luckily though, under law as well, if the GSCB (General Security Censorship Bureau) doesn’t reply within 8 weeks, it gets considered as a “rejection” or ban. And that is why we are filing a complaint with the Lebanese Shura Council, in hope they’ll do the right thing and overturn this executive order that is blatantly useless and unfair to Lebanese artists and writers who are the only people who suffer at the hands of the GSCB.

Here, we’d like to remind you of several things you can do to avoid going through the GSCB altogether:

  • Screen or display your work in university campuses. The GSCB has no jurisdiction there, and even if something is banned, you can freely display it on campuses like AUB and LAU with no trouble whatsoever.
  • March and SKeyes are ready to appoint legal representation and cover all the expenses if you are ever targeted for something you said, wrote, filmed, recorded or published online. We can’t be expected to tell the Lebanese people to speak freely and unabated, without making sure if the government or those controlling it for their special interests, you are fully protected and represented by some of the country’s foremost legal minds.

So, ma tkhafo min el 7orriye, khafo 3laya!

 

To Lebanese Christians: Please Stop Being Stupid Hypocrites

As a recovering Maronite, when Christians in Lebanon behave in a stupid, naive way, it makes me exceptionally sad. After all, even if you don’t identify with a group anymore, you still hold them dear to your heart and care about the mistakes they do more than you would a group you never belonged to.

The past week, I’ve been flabbergasted with how childish and extreme they’ve been, and how poorly their understanding has been, and how quick to jump to conclusions they are, absurdly contradicting every single teaching of the lord they worship, Jesus Christ.

1- Catholic Information Center Sparks Strife with Future Movement

Nadim Koteich is a friend, and a fellow non-believer. We might not agree on many things, but we do share a lot in common and I do appreciate his courage and outspokenness. He shared a photo on his personal Facebook account by the artist Christina Guggeri which depicts various world leaders, including the Pope, doing their “Daily Duty” on the toilet seat.

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A couple of hours later, he was surprised with brazen threats by the Catholic Information Center, which is the biggest banner of books, fashion, music and culture in Lebanon, that if he did not remove it, the Christian body would go public with a statement attacking him, and the chief of his political party, Saad Hariri. Ironically for the Future Movement, this came only days after Sunni conservatives slammed the party’s newspaper for having a “Je Suis Charlie” headline in solidarity with the weekly satirical magazine after the barbaric attack against it that left over a dozen innocent people dead.

I sympathize with them, and tell them that many liberals do appreciate their brave stance, myself included.

What is unacceptable is how this “information center” is acting in a mafioso manner and censoring what people can and cannot say on their own Facebook profiles! Perhaps they are like North Koreans, and think that this modest pope doesn’t go to the toilet because “he works so hard for the people, he just burns it off”. I mean, seriously? It’s a silly art thing by some artist somewhere, and you create a local crisis with a main Sunni party over it?

What happened to turning the other cheek? Dusting off sandals and moving on? When I saw the photo, I was like, “meh”, but when I heard of the lengths they went to and the threats they issued, I couldn’t stop laughing and being deeply, deeply disappointed about how petty and juvenile they could be. I mean, seriously? Seriously? Was it worth it?

Now, I wish Nadim didn’t remove it and stuck to it, but the threats of the Catholic Information Center were too great given to how silly the post is, and I understand why Nadim might’ve wanted to avoid getting his party in trouble over something so absurd.

2- Christian Zealots Really Hate Toilets it Seems: The Lockstock Mar Mikahel Scandal

Apparently, someone needed to pee at Lockstock in Mar Mikhael, took photos, and sent it to a Maronite priest in Argentina, who subsequently posted it on a 17k+ group on Facebook called “Maronites of the Whole World” claiming that Lockstock was using the chalice used for holy communion as a toilet sign.

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10922607_10155111175060080_2834790376452094518_nThese signs used to be in Kennedy’s, in Hamra, but it seems the Maronite thought police didn’t go to what they probably call “el gharbiyeh” and had no clue, till one disgruntled zealot decided to go drink at Lockstock. The post has since been deleted from the group, I’m guessing cause they realized how stupid it was, but, here’s a screenshot of it, and another when the priest was asked by other zealots why the original post was deleted.

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“Lock stock restaurant in Beirut is insulting Christian holy symbols, with a toilet seat similar to the chalice of communion”

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“We received word that the insult to Christian holy symbols issue in a Lebanese restaurant is now in the hands of the General Security and will handle the issue carefully and calmly”

This reminds me of the time there was the English flag on shoes and slippers, and the same people did the same thing. Or when people thought Bershka’s Santa Muerte shirt was “insulting” to the Virgin Mary, in a classic racist, xenophobic fashion which dismissed the holy symbols of Latin catholics as “insulting” and “satanic”.

I’m not sure what the General Security will do, but if they now censor our bathroom doors too, then, lucky us! Just what we need, more bans and censorship on a stupid basis for an absurd misunderstanding that tickles the fancy of religious zealots, and tabloid-style TV shows who are already working on a rabble-rousing episode of “how Christianity is being attacked”. I know that Tony Khalife is working on it, and expect Joe Maalouf to mention it too (which is sad, considering his recent track record has been exemplary since moving to LBCI).

It’s a fucking toilet sign. The artist drew symbols, one looks like the Swiss flag’s cross. No one is insulting anything. You’re just embarrassing yourselves, and contradicting the claims that you are all about “forgiveness, love and compassion”. Imagine “What Would Jesus Do?”, and if you know anything about him, you know he’ll disapprove of this childish behavior.

3eb, walla 3eb.

3- #JeSuisChrist Proves that the Real Reason is Showing Off to Muslims

Often times, religious zealots know that their real motives are absurd and no sound-minded person would agree with them, so they disguise them with fancy causes that make people become all excited and angry. Fighters from Lebanon in Syria give excuses like “preemptively fighting terrorists” or “to save our brothers and sisters from a tyrant”, when the real reasons are more along the line of “Those other kinds of muslims are attacking muslims like me, I’m going to go kill them because I have nothing else to live for here”

For Christian zealots, they hide their outrage with stuff like “it’s illegal” or “holy things shouldn’t be insulted”, but deep down and in private conversations I was privy too on many occasions, they say “look at what muslims do, when they show Nasrallah, they riot, when Denmark publishes cartoons, they riot, why should we christians sit idly by and look weak?”

And this could not have been clearer than in the past couple of weeks, when the #JeSuisChrist hashtag popped up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. At first, when they thought the comics were just insulting The Prophet, these people didn’t mind, and jumped on the free speech bandwagon. When they found out about the comics that depict Jesus and Mary in unflattering ways, they immediately switched gears to show that they can be as adamant and condemning as many Muslims when it comes to their religions being insulted, even though they probably didn’t mind it at first when it was just about Mohammed.

This need to constantly “prove” to muslims that christians are just as “bad-ass”, is sad and hypocritical, with many christians often drawing parallels that “at least we don’t do like other religions do when they’re insulted” and then falling into the same dangerous cycle of believing that what’s sacred to them, must be regarded as such, even by force, by everyone else, even when they don’t share the same beliefs, or simply didn’t mean to, it just was a coincidence.

Stop Embarrassing Yourselves

In a time when religious extremism is on the rise, you need to be the example of how to be peaceful and “bigger” than being dragged into these medieval conflicts that people on the sidelines and moderates, regard as a ridiculous joke, a laughingstock. Lead by example, follow your religion’s most basic principles and stop being all macho and “mujatama3 shar2e” about it. Come on, seriously. Toilet seats made you go all berserk? Make those “WWJD” bracelets more than just a fashion statement, and ask yourself that honestly, and you will know what you’re doing is both wrong, and in your faiths, a sin.