Note: This is the third in a series of five thematic Lebanon-related posts, based on a conversation between the author and a Lebanese citizen who preferred to remain anonymous. The first post was on politics and the parliamentary elections and the second on the economy.
Eye on the East (EOTE): I never thought it would take so much time to reconvene.
Lebanese Citizen (LC): Well, you know that I’ve been here. You’re the one that’s always so busy. I hope you’re not going to end up like one of those people who is always soooo busy, but you really wonder what they’re soooo busy with.
EOTE: I don’t suggest you even talk about that. You’re the one who completely disappeared, and whenever you send me a message, it’s about something related to the World Cup.
LC: I’ve been busy with the World Cup.
EOTE: How exactly have you been busy? Are you playing in the World Cup? Coaching? Organizing?
LC: Actually, I’ve been busy thinking. You know how sportscasters call the playing teams after symbols of their countries or what they’re known for the most. Like the Japanese players are called the samurais, the Argentineans are the tango football players and the Germans are the machines. I was wondering what the Lebanese would be nicknamed if we ever qualify to the World Cup.
EOTE: That’s easy, the Cedars. Since we’re the Land of the Cedars.
LC: Cedars? Which cedars? There’s barely one left, which is the one stuck on our flag, and even that one is often replaced by a banana, given our well-deserved yet unofficial designation as a Banana Republic. There’s also the flag where the cedar is replaced by a piece of luggage, given our pride in forcing our fellow compatriots to immigrate to seek not a better, but merely a decent life abroad.
EOTE: I see your point. Ok then, let’s think about symbols. What symbolizes or characterizes this land the most?
LC: Our nature. Our beautiful and diverse nature.
EOTE: Yes, there you go. Go on, because we need to be specific.
LC: Well, there was a time when we used to be known as the country where you could ski and swim on the same day. Today, however, we barely have a proper skiing season every other year because of global warming. As for swimming, there is almost no part of our sparkling Mediterranean coastline that is not polluted, polluted to such an extent that people ignore the pollution and swim nonetheless, because they have no other alternative.
EOTE: Ok, forget about that then.
LC: Well, there was a time when we used to be known as the country with four clearly-defined seasons. Now the only four seasons we have is the hotel of the same name in downtown Beirut. These days, we have gotten used to wearing shorts right before Christmas and can’t safely go to the beach in June because it may rain.
EOTE: Ok, forget about that too.
LC: Well, there was a time when we used to be known as green Lebanon لبنان الاخضر, for our grass, our trees, our rolling green hills and mountains. Today, do you see any green left, because I don’t. The desert of the Gulf is getting greener and we’re getting closer to desertification. So we can’t be called the green team, even if that term is also used to evoke environmental responsibility, because we are also anything but environmentally responsible.
EOTE: Ok, forget about that too.
LC: Well, there was a time when we could enjoy the outdoors, whether the sea, the mountains or even the privacy of our own balconies without being literally mobbed and massacred by mosquitoes and flying insects of kinds never seen before by mankind, biting us and leaving traces on our bodies, and maybe even unknown diseases that we don’t know how to treat. This, of course, is due to our infamous and ongoing garbage crisis, which has been making the world’s headlines since 2015. You know what, maybe the sportscaster can call us the mosquitoes.
EOTE: I really don’t think that’s a good idea.
LC: Why not? It’s better than being symbolized by garbage bags. At least mosquitoes are fast.
EOTE: Forget it, we’ll be sued for defamation and slander and imprisoned for attacking the state, being threats to national security, conspiring with the mosquitoes and garbage bags and possibly hanged for being unpatriotic….or in this case, for telling the truth about the tragedy that our environment has become.
LC: We pride ourselves in being a resilient nation politically and economically and now we pride ourselves that all the pollution, in all its forms (air, sea, land, sound, etc…) strengthens our immunity. What kind of a quality and attribute is that?!
EOTE: I know.
LC: I know you know, and everyone knows but nobody wants to face the facts. Even environmentally, we live in outdated bubbles of the stereotypes I just mentioned. But let’s not be too hard on Lebanon either. We are a green nation: we’re very good at recycling politicians, we are advocates of renewable energy as we constantly renew our energy to complain but never use this same energy to change things…even if it has to do with providing a clear and decent existence for ourselves. We ignore that trees are being cut everyday to make room for houses we can’t afford and suffocate in the process, because without trees we are consciously robbing ourselves of the oxygen we need to survive. And we happily ignore that even in what relates to the environment, it is corruption in all its forms and kinds, that is literally killing us alive every single day, and we look at it all as if it’s a sci-fi movie, happening in a faraway land, which doesn’t affect us in the least. This denial is as dangerous and poisonous as the new mutated breed of mosquitoes flying around and happily sucking our blood.
EOTE: I guess it’s safe to say that our imaginary sportscaster won’t be using any nature or environment-inspired symbols to describe our national football team.
LC: I guess it’s also safe to say that Lebanon will probably never qualify to the World Cup anyway, so that should solve the problem.