Generations of desperation in the Middle East

The voyage down memory lane began with sentimental photos from my grandparents’ deserted home shared on a social network. In addition to feeding vanity and narcissism, social networks have become meeting places to re-create bonds, villages and even nations when homelands seem far away or forever gone. An inquisitive nostalgia kicked in when I met for the first time relatives visiting from Australia. We now live in two continents very distant and very different from where it all began, in a small village in Lebanon.

I remember when my first uncle migrated to Australia. He was a young man in search of a better life. As a child I helplessly watched while my family wept and wailed. It was the first manifestation of desperation I was exposed to, exhibited with a finality that resembled death in many ways. The pain was so impossible to bear that I still hear its echo while passing through the Beirut airport despite the years and the many similar migrations, including my own, that followed.

As a child I helplessly watched while my family wept and wailed. It was the first manifestation of desperation I was exposed to

Octavia Nasr

Stacks of books left to collect dust in my grandparents’ attic spoke of my uncle’s struggle to effect change and a genuine activism to make the world a better place. The artwork that adorned my grandparents house or the art found unworthy of display, and left to rot in the dusty, dark attic, spoke of a promising talent for drawing and architecture. All was left behind in pursuit of a new place to call home.

My uncle came back to Lebanon once twenty years later, and cut his trip short after spending sleepless days and nights in shelters. We watched painfully as every generation that followed my uncle’s experienced the same or worse fate resulting in more migration to.. simply anywhere that would open its doors. From east Europe to its west, to Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia, as immigrants we filled the surface of the globe with our footprints and fingerprints.

Add to that the sacrifices of the men and women who joined the mass exodus to neighboring Arab countries resulting in temporary migrations in search of jobs and stability. Our stories are those of lost generations, lost movements, lost brains and more importantly, lost youth; things keep getting worse for every generation. But the cycle will continue because the main characteristic of youth is a deep belief in change. Those who remain, carry the dream and own the future.


This article was first published in al-Nahar on Nov. 4, 2013.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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