Whenever an Iraqi, Libyan or Lebanese told me that he had returned to his country so as not to die in exile, I had strange feelings. Is the tomb the only service that troubled maps can offer to those who once tried to avoid engaging in their massacres?
Is it conceivable that the homeland becomes a mere grave project for the returning expatriate and for the suffering resident? And does the map become a large tomb when people are addicted to living under partisanship, militias and failure, and away from the State of laws and institutions and its guarantees? And who deserves to be cried over, those who have come back and saved some of their lives while abroad, or the residents who completely squandered their lives inside their country?
He was sitting alone in a coffee shop with a cup of coffee and his computer, surfing websites and sometimes smiling sarcastically. He did not look around, giving the impression that he was waiting for no one. His presence in that place was strange. Today, he is expected to be in his village to assume his duty.
The parliamentary elections are a national wedding. The screens say so. They also say that it is an opportunity for the citizen to speak. To choose. And to decide. To participate in making his future and the future of the country to which he belongs.
The journalist quickly spots a person who has a story to tell. This man wants nothing from his country. His age does no longer entitle him to enter the race for the search of a future. He neither wants a job nor a role. He wants to spend the time that is left for him in a natural place. These are the basic rights of a citizen when he has a homeland.
The man packed his bag and returned home. He has been spoiled in his readings abroad. He was convinced that the Lebanese had learned from bitter experiences… From the destructive internal battle and its consequences… from foreign tutelage and its sorrows.
The absence of the state means handing over the keys to the dark old caves. The absence of the state means that groups will always have their daggers and prepare new graves for their childrenGhassan Charbel
He was almost certain that those who were born during successive wars would not repeat the sins of their fathers; and that they would not fall into the traps of sorcerers, charlatans and sellers of fanaticism and hatred and the squandering of public money and the confiscation of the state.
He said the new generation would inject new blood into the country’s veins. He believed that those coming from schools and universities would not hide the daggers under their clothes, waiting for the moment of clash with their colleagues and co-citizens.
The man returned and stayed. He had the illusion that his country was a warm and welcoming place, and that the Lebanese have learned the lesson. He soon discovered that the ordinary Lebanese people are despised every day… in the streets, in public institutions, and on screens. He found out that his country is losing its meaning, its spirit and its role. He discovered that the decline is speeding up…
He discovered that his country has exhausted all its characteristics; that the capital has not ceased to deteriorate for decades. The capital, which was a window and an opportunity, has become a prisoner of past wars.
The country has grown old with its books, its members and groups. Its blood is shed by the corrupt, the helpless and the adventurous. Even those who were believed to be a promise
have swooped down on the feast with an old hunger. Disappointment with their behavior will add to the deterioration of institutions and will root out the remaining immunity of the country and the people.
He skims through newspapers and screens and becomes more anxious. Why is the country so arid? You find no sparkle, no idea of progress. It is a country that expels its children and continues its path towards defeat.
Others head towards development and progress, while the country follows the swamps of failed ideas, while enjoying same faults committed by the same people. It’s a situation of awful aridity... Electoral lists that carry a fair number of corrupt, shameless and perpetrators. The audience applauds. Old and small wars in a turbulent region full of dead, interventions and waves of refugees. As if the election season is the period of announcing national bankruptcy. Here is Lebanon shrinking and waning.
Arrogant boys are lacking experience and moral and national immunity. Boys, who ignore their history to an extent that they spoil their present and their future. Their voracity knows no limits. They do not hesitate to open the wounds and add salt out of their ambitions in a handful of votes and a seat in Parliament, the corruption of which is well known to the Lebanese.
There is no use to grieve the old Lebanon because it wouldn’t have gone with the wind should it had the capacity to survive. But the alternative is really awful. While others move towards building a state and consolidating security and stability, the Lebanese people remain prisoners of those who have killed their sons, their dignity and their state.
There is no dignity for a map without a state… A map that is nurtured by young politicians’ tricks and their ability to deceive people and seize what remains of the looted resources without mercy.
The war has killed some of the spirit of Lebanon, and here is the fake peace which assassinates the rest of it. Truce, which is held in the absence of a state and over its ruins, is in fact an assassination. Dignity, in the absence of a state, does not deserve to be named as such.
The absence of the state means handing over the keys to the dark old caves. The absence of the state means that groups will always have their daggers and prepare new graves for their children.
How difficult are democratic elections when they stress the insistence on the decline. When some politicians pounce the elections, like pirates attack a ship carrying gold. One can see sharp fingernails, eyes full of greed and consciences that were lost due to the excess of their wrongdoings.
These are criminal maps that punish the citizen once when he leaves, and once he makes the mistake of surrendering to his nostalgia. However, he will not return to France. He has run out of adventure and wasted years. He will spend his seventies aboard the broken ship. This sick map will not spare him a grave. He opens his hands, wondering: This is my country, but Oh Hell!
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghassan Charbel is the Editor-in-Chief of London-based Al Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Ghassan’s Twitter handle is @GhasanCharbel.