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War approaches Lebanon

Hazem al-Amin

Published: Updated:

The expression "the will of the people" appears miserable if tested in Lebanon, not because something is wrong with the expression but because of what it reflects on a devilish destructive depth. The other expression "the will of the individual," which has nothing to do with us, seems more progressive and humane. The Lebanese man on the street is more aware of upcoming disasters and is resistant towards it as he views himself a future victim.

When this Lebanese man left the cinema at night to return home and couldn't because of the roads blocked in the capital "in solidarity with the Aarsal events," he felt how violated he is and how easy it could've been to be killed.

He felt great pain due to the state's weakness and reluctance from providing a safe path for him to return home. Although he is a supporter of the March 14 bloc, whose people blocked off the roads that night, he hated and vilified himself for the narrow options he has. But this same Lebanese will return the next night to be part of his people and he will block the road if residents in his neighborhood decide to do so. He will avoid looking at the people sitting in their cars and waiting for the roads to be open - just like he was sitting and waiting a day before.

These are the people who possess that energy to destroy. The most popular of our leaders are the ones with the tendency to kill. When a man or a woman stops being part of the "people," he/she immediately realizes what criminal he/she has been and how he/she has become a victim.

Part of the people

The Lebanese experience this formula on a daily basis. When they leave to their obstructed jobs, they curse the politicians for what they've done to them. But when they return to the neighborhoods or towns, they become part of the people again and they become men with blind foot.

The Shiite businessman who knows that his Syrian employee supports the Syrian revolution, and who for some reason hasn't fired her, started to avoid running into her at work when Hezbollah entered the town of Qusayr. The employee told herself: "There's something good about this man. He's ashamed of what the people he supports are doing in my country." But she later asked herself: "If what Hezbollah is doing makes him feel ashamed, then why does he support it?" She felt that a double cruelty lies in the man's kindness and shame. His efforts to avoid her implies that he admits he's against what Hezbollah has done.

But it's a confession that has not led to a change of opinions. It's an individualistic feeling that will pass by once he returns home and becomes part of the people. The photo that Associated Press distributed, in which armed supporters of Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir are seen passing in the city of Sidon in front of a Lebanese army tank and under the soldiers' eye sight takes us back to the same formula. The Sidonese merchant felt the danger resulting from the death of the legitimate authority before his eyes. This danger threatens his family and business and brings up dark options for his future. But there is something in the photo that addressed the "people's sentiment" and made him request power with every victory that Hezbollah achieves against his sect. Ahmad al-Assir will not gain the votes of the Sidonese if he runs for elections. But the people will support it with plenty of blind foot if he decides to fight.

Destruction in Syria

The Lebanese peoples are currently living through explosions and tensions that have not been powerful enough to defeat the people and send them to shelters. When this happens, the number of fighters will be less than 5 percent. Five percent will take over the streets, neighborhoods and public and private facilities whilst the remaining 95 percent will live in shelters. With these numbers, not a big number of people will die. The percentage of numbers will be low. During 15 years of the past civil war, less than 3 percent of the Lebanese people died. Our memory still aids us somehow with getting by and surviving during the possibilities of war.

The Lebanese peoples are currently living through explosions and tensions that have not been powerful enough to defeat the people and send them to shelters.

Hazem al-Amin

What's strange is that our rush to willingly go towards this fate comes this time with images of Syrian death that feeds our imagination of new techniques that surfaced in the past two decades in which we only witnessed small wars and in which we only experienced the Israeli destructive power. You thus find a Lebanese saying that the images of destruction in Syria reveal the difference between the destruction we witnessed in Lebanon and the destruction currently witnessed in Syria. The latter destruction hints that houses were greatly fragmented whilst the moraine of our houses is similar to cement blocks that were broken and burnt.

When explaining this, some say that the power of fire there is greater. Others said that the type of construction in Syria and the material used, especially in the suburbs, did not take into consideration such destructive weapons. Some noted the similarity between the fragmented houses and buildings as a result of shelling in the Syrian suburbs and what happened to the buildings in Beirut's southern suburb during the 2006 July War.
The dust resulting from the burning of cement leaves behind an emotion of a dusty fate. It leaves behind a feeling that the person is part of this burnt dust and that this is the color and smell of life.

Enriching the imagination with such comparisons and expectations is what we depend on most of our times in Beirut because there's no horizon other than them for our next war. We are heading towards this war while realizing that there's no winner and that no one can change anyone and that this war will leave nothing behind but dust and dead people whose number will not exceed 100,000 and that more people will immigrate and others will return.

The war too has small pleasures and different distances. The two rockets that hit the southern suburb weeks ago fell far away from our balconies. So we are still well. Happiness is not only that future we make for our children but it's also that happiness resulting from our survival from the two rockets that fell far from our balconies.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on June 23, 2013.
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Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.

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