A Lebanese friend of mine had moved to my country several years ago to work as a pharmacist, and like his countrymen who are very professional, industrious, and dedicated to their work, he advanced in his career to become a deputy marketing manager at a large pharmaceutical company. Being a Lebanese, he was doomed to become a hostage like thousands of other Lebanese who work in the Arab Gulf region as bank managers, engineers, car technicians, and service providers – just to name some of their professions.
Nowadays my friend lives in a beautiful villa in an elegant suburb, and owns three state-of-the-art cars, two of which have private chauffeurs. One car is for his own transportations, another is for taking his children to their private foreign schools, and the third one is for his graceful wife who drives it to move around for her social activities. At the villa he has altogether five servants; two chauffeurs, one chef, and two housekeeping ladies, and in case of any medical ailment the five can be easily and affordably treated with $3 at the nearby clinic, where they would be examined by a physician, x-rayed, blood-tested if necessary, and receive any necessary modern medicines.
As for the family of the hostage, it is medically insured by his company and receives free-of-charge treatment in private hospitals. Not long ago the hostage needed an implant of two molar teeth, so he went to the clinic of a dentist who also happens to be another famous Lebanese specialist with a private clinic, and he added the two new molar teeth gratis.
My friend the hostage likes to go shopping on weekends in the neighborhood’s cooperative association, where the goods are guaranteed to be of high value and affordable prices. There, a workman would roll the trolley before the hostage, who would inspect the association’s special offers on vegetables, meats, poultry, and household items. After selecting his needs, the association’s local workman would roll the trolley further to the near shadowy carpark, where he would put the purchased items into the trunk of the hostage’s car.
One observation regarding my friend the hostage is that he doesn’t like to stay in my homeland on vacations, but prefers to travel either to the United States or to his Parisian apartment that overlooks the Seine River, near the historical Boulevard Saint-Germain, where Paris’s most prominent football clubs have their presence. Sometimes, however, he prefers to go shopping in London. The hostage is planning to send his children to study in the US, since they are close to concluding their high school education at foreign private schools that are full of children of other Lebanese hostages, and from other nationalities as well.
Once I asked my friend the hostage about what he misses in Lebanon. As any Lebanese patriot who loves his homeland, he replied saying that he misses a lot. I urged him to elaborate more on this, so he said: “As a hostage here, I send my chauffeur to the gas station and he returns in a few minutes with a fully fueled car, whereas in Lebanon one would stand still in a queue for hours during which I would intermingle with people and listen passionately to how much they enjoy waiting for hours just to get some few liters of fuel. So, yes, I miss intermingling with people for hours during the wait.
Another peculiarity of Lebanon which I miss is the candlelight. There you would either walk in sunlight or sleep by candlelight, as electricity is considered an erroneous innovation the citizens must dispense with. Furthermore, I miss shopping in groceries where it would be so interesting to count the empty shelves. However, the thing I really miss is distinguishing genuine and valid medicaments from counterfeit or expired ones, for the latter are abundant, wide-spread, as they are administered by organized gangs that are protected by some political figures!”
Then I asked my hostage friend about homeland images that haunt his mind. He replied: “Well, there are several of such images, but two of them might be the most persistent. The first one is of a Lebanese layman who has come to disbelieve in everything around him and, being in a furious mood, voiced a strong-worded message against a political personality said to be pious.
However, just a few hours later, that particular layman had to make a public apology for his words in a self-humiliating manner. Such a scene has recurred so often, and to me it is worse than assassination, for it represents a disregard of entire humanity. The second persisting image is an old one; namely, that of our compatriots in the south – or some of them at least – who at the early 80ies of the last century received the invading Israeli troops advancing to Beirut with flowers and rice, most probably not out of love, but rather as a reaction to the dreadful and miserable living conditions the ‘resistance’ degraded them to.
They were ready to close a pact with the devil just to get rid of a bitter reality imposed on them under the pretext of the liberation of Palestine. As a matter of fact, the resistance did not liberate one inch of territory. All they did was turning a part of its affiliates to thugs or organized gangs, while assuring that the other part would remain submissive.”
My friend the hostage went on to say: “However, the thing I miss most is the repetitive speeches delivered by the Lebanese Rasputin, when he appears on TV screens with his face that turned yellowish due to lack of sunlight – since he lives in the underground. Such speeches filled with wordplay and contradictions were providing rare chances for humor.”
My friend noted: “Do you remember a very interesting book titled “Straight and Crooked Thinking” published under the series of ‘the World of Knowledge’ in early January 1987 as an Arabic translation by the distinguished scholar Hasan al-Karmi? Amongst other themes, the book tackles the issue of demagogic rhetoric, and the speeches of our Lebanese Rasputin are a perfect representation of that rhetoric.
His speeches represent a series of endless reactionary lies which, according to that book, would appeal to the naïve, the laymen, and the ideologically-indoctrinated. It goes exactly in line with the style of speeches Adolf Hitler and Benetto Mussolini delivered to lure their followers. Such speeches are quite abnormal, and reminiscent of the atmosphere of witchcraft. Their fabrications leave nothing logical to be concluded by sane people.”
So often, hostages can think and conclude things better, as is the case with the hostages of the divinely-ordained Wali al-Faqih in Lebanon.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Lebanese outlet Annahar al-Arabi.