I don’t know about you, but when I watched the scenes from Benghazi last Friday, as thousands of Libyans stormed the headquarters of Islamist group Ansar el-Sharia, leading to their eviction from the city, it felt quite overwhelming. The militia that some have accused of not only being behind the attack against the US Consulate, but of spreading terror and fear among the local population, had gotten the people’s verdict of its presence first hand. The government of Libya and its interim leader soon followed with their call to disband all illegal militias in the country, which spread during and after Qaddafi’s ousting. But on Friday, the people of Benghazi had had enough, they spoke and they were heard. Of course, disbanding all militias and transforming Libya into a full-fledged stable democracy will take time, but at least that seems what the people truly want to achieve, no matter how long it takes.
Soon enough, the potential applications of this development hit home with a tweet by U.S.-based Lebanese journalist Hisham Melhem. Melhem tweeted “Hoping someday the word “Lebanese” will be in such a headline, ‘Angry Libyans Target Militias, Forcing Flight’. “ I couldn’t help myself and quickly tweeted back “sadly, Lebanese are good at forgiving and forgetting and don’t seem to ever be angry enough to do that…”
And we don’t. We are angry behind the wheel, angry at our neighbors, angry for having to wait in line too long. We are angry about valets parking, angry we can no longer smoke indoors, angry because a friend disagrees with the political party we support and criticizes the feudal lord that we worship. But we are never angry enough to force change into our society – since I am loosing hope that change will ever succeed in Lebanon in a gradual manner.
We are never angry enough to take to the streets en masse to force change. Never angry enough to denounce the brutality against peaceful activists, working on our behalf to reform the electoral law, to start the process of freeing us from the political mafia that has governed us for decades. Or angry enough to denounce the unhealthy connection at the source of many our political and economic ills, of billionaires who become politicians, of politicians who thus protect the interests of the wealthy, and of the wealth that keeps on growing at the expense of the rest. Or angry enough to demand the freedom of speech we deserve if we really hail to be a shining Middle Eastern democracy (although the Arab Revolutions may put that title in jeopardy), given that our freedoms are still limited and our ability to criticize our government (e.g. the presidency) and some of its institutions (i.e. the army) carries with it a possible prison sentence.
And why aren’t we angry enough to denounce corruption, seen everywhere across society, slowly tearing apart the fabric of values that tries to keep us together and gobbles the country’s wealth, from tendering of public contracts, to Sukleen to Banque du Liban, and to any kind of registration that needs to be done with the government. Or why aren’t we angry enough to force out of our neighborhoods and suburbs, in Tripoli, the South, or Beirut, those that still believe the power of weapons has any future. It may have now, but will not forever.
Why aren’t we angry enough to stand for what we believe in and aspire to? Some do, but most don’t. We may not forgive, but we do indeed forget. Or it may happen that our focus is quickly driven to the next, more pressing problem to which our attention is diverted, and the next and the next, given that our problems are never solved only replaced.
But didn’t 30 years of Syrian occupation make us angry enough to demand freedom, transparency and accountability in our government? Haven’t the tumultuous years since 2005 make us angry enough to demand stability, clean and courageous men that will lead us in times of peace, not lead us to war? Haven’t the developments in the Arab World and the changes that have unfolded make us bold enough to believe that our anger, may for once, lead to something good? Sometimes I wonder, whether we will ever be angry enough to change…