It’s Sunday night in Beirut.
Only a few hours left before the first rays of sunshine and a new day of protests.
Motorcycles are still roaming the streets at this hour. And as I hear them, I can still smell the sulfur dioxide, living memory of endless hours of burning tires — and freshly baked bread (or is this a dream?).
The streets smelled like vinegar today, and the feet were soaked in the dark thick layer of tire fire residue. But little attention was given to the chemicals, left unseen… What could be seen mattered much more.
A cancer patient joined the protest, though fumes from the ground could harm him. An old woman squeezed herself between the protesters leading her daughter into the waves of screams and songs, clapping. Groups of men and women organized perfect spots for drinks and snacks to last the day. Standing shishas aligned themselves on the median strip between two highways. There were kids, old, young, adults with quarter-to-mid-life crises, students, disabled people on their wheelchair…
They all gathered under the flying colors of the national flag, while revolutionary songs were coming out of the beating heart of a van at the center of ever-growing circles of protesters.
The same image appeared over and over again in different parts of the country from North to South. A form of decentralized unity.
It felt good.
But a thought was constantly coming back as I looked at all this:
“Yes, but how exactly are we going to extract ourselves, as citizens, as a country, from the mess of dusty years of corruption…”
PAST & FUTURE
On Thursday, the government announces austerity measures, including but not limited to the Whatsapp tax: 6 extra dollars per month to use the calling service.
In the midst of rising anger and frustration after the massive wildfires, the bread crisis, the petroleum crisis, the dollar crisis and more, the additional austerity measures shift the paradigms. It’s a tipping point. But a tipping point leading to what? The only way we can know is by keep moving forward.
In the past few days, there were sporadic moments, trenched in tribalism for those breaking, stealing, shooting, burning… and anchored in an inflated egomaniacal sense of self for the failing leaders of a flailing system.
A gloomy incertitude can sometimes engulf the dream of a better tomorrow. But each will do whatever it takes to not let the flame die.
What is about to come remains unknown. And whatever happens, there’s one single factor that will play a determining role in how we build the future of this country: our mindset. And this mindset breaks down into two parts:
1. Independent thinking: how much can we think for ourselves and fully break the shackles of clientelism and nepotism?
2. Resilience: how much are we willing to go through challenges and not bounce back to the fake empathy of political and community leaders?
TRIBUTE TO THE LITTLE MOMENTS
Despite the tentative to steal the essence of the uprising in a variety of ways from disseminating fake news to infiltrating the ranks of protesters, there were events, decisions & thoughts so precious that I couldn’t but honor them in a heartfelt tribute to the power of the small moments. Not exhaustive. Merely symbolic.
May these immortalized snapshots encourage us to believe again in what we can do together if we break free from the vicious cycle of allegiance and indifference, equally destructive forces that are losing ground, day after day.
Maybe the truest statement of them all: when an introvert goes to a protest and finds himself/herself surrounded by people screaming shoulder to shoulder… it’s serious. Believe me. I’m an introvert.
What does this mean? People are ready to go out of the known and the comfortable to make change. This applies to beliefs and mindsets.
Sorry not sorry.
What does this mean? There will be inconvenience. There will be challenges. There will be frictions. It’s all part of the process of leading the way to something bigger and better.
What does this say? Selflessness is a virtue that our leaders do not have and will never be able to comprehend. While the corrupt fly away to Switzerland, the undying valor of the people remains.
What do babyfoot, labneh sandwich, a pool and mashewe have in common? An uprising.
What does this mean? If we can be creative about our protests, we can be creative about our future. We can create it. And we will.
“And that’s how your parents did it back in the 19s.”
What does this say? Nothing can stop us… from protesting? From loving? From getting married? I guess it’s a case by case scenario. But whatever it is we want, nothing can stop us from getting it if we are ready to go all the way (yes, it requires time, patience, resilience and dedication).
Beyond space and time.
What does this say? We are not alone. There are more of us who believe in another story that is worth telling and creating.
Washing away the brainwashing.
What does this say? Well, it is quite clear. No more words needed.
More of that, please!
What does this mean? The imaginary lines and shackles are breaking. We are being born again with openness to and love for otherness.
A “civilized” way to protest?
What does this say? Maybe protests can be environmentally friendly?
Letter from a teacher…
What does this say? Being an active citizen is an important part of our education and matters more than exams. Speaking of that, might be about time to have decent history lessons and an engaging civic education curriculum to truly nurture free and independent minds.
What does this say? It’s not over. And, may I add, it will not be over even when the protests are done. The fire outside can die; but the fire inside should not.
Starry starry night… It’s just too beautiful not to share.
I couldn’t reach out to every single Twitter Hero (with a public account) to share their pictures here and publish this piece in time for Sunday morning. In case any of the individuals behind the tweets do not want to appear in this thread, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I’ll get it immediately removed.