I don’t blame you. It’s hard not to fantasise about packing your bags and leaving the country to greener pastures after all that we’ve been through this year. My feed is cluttered with friends taking selfies at the airport or posing by the porthole of the plane. 2020 has been a tornado of one disaster after another, ravaging through our lives. It’s only natural that people are filled to the brim; they daydream of a life of dignity that this country has been incapable of delivering.
In a conversation with a family member a few weeks ago, he philosophically and very convincingly explained that our parents and those before them have all suffered through the hardships of Lebanon and managed to make a life for themselves. They lived through wars, assassinations, witnessed mass murders, rebuilt after many devastations, ran away from bullets and shielded their children from the terrors of our attackers. And they made it, they lived a full life, a bruised one at that, but they took care of their loved ones, raised their children and managed to give them a decent upbringing.
He argued that if our parents could do it, then there’s no denying that you can do it too, after all, it’s up to you, the nascent generation with the zeal to make a change, the country relies on your contribution. It’s up to you to make something out of this messed up chaos, just like your parents did, and see? You turned out okay. Very okay actually. So this current state, no matter how dire it’s always been, is liveable.
There’s no refuting the argument that I had a generally healthy and comfortable upbringing. I lived a full childhood, I was surrounded by my family, had an amazing set of friends and I had access to the best education. I cannot deny this truth and privilege. But whichever way I flipped it, something about this suggestion made me feel uneasy. I sat with it for a few weeks and kept ruminating over it.
Everyday, you’re reminded that life is so cheap and disposable in Lebanon.
I came back to Lebanon to learn and serve, but I had spent a long time abroad building my boundaries and learning about how to stand up for myself. Along the way, I learned to identify what mistreatment looks like and categorically reject it. Today, I can discern that Lebanon feels like abuse. And my dilemma is about the fact that older generations are condoning it.
I’ve already gone over the the challenges of basic life in Lebanon in previous posts, but the infuriating part is that the ruling class and those around them are enjoying a life of riches that very few have access to. If you’re lucky, your home has only been “lightly” affected by the explosion. Your money is locked in the bank, you’re not sure how you’ll be able to afford your family’s next meal and you’re worried that the debris from the neighbours might fall on your head while walking on the street. You step out to peacefully protest this absurd life you’re living and you’re met with bullets in your face.
You’re wired to the news of a couple of children who might be still alive under the rubble and you’re thinking… What if this was me? Or one of my loved ones? Would they have let me rot in there for 30 days without batting an eyelid? Would my screams be heard through the layers of dust? Do they care? Everyday, you’re reminded that life is so cheap and disposable in Lebanon.
Where toxicity begins and ends
We are expected to live through this toxic string of mistreatment and feel grateful for wonderful opportunities at life in Lebanon. Bury your anxiety to feign stability to your kids. Go hungry for a while so they never run out of their favourite snack. Barter your possessions to get enough cash to fix your home. The list of humiliations is endless. This is the definition of abuse. I’m conflicted because this perpetuates toxic cycles that get passed down from one generation to another. Mindlessly.
Like the kind that forces women to pick a “decent husband” she’d never met, and then she scrambles to make a half-baked marriage work. Or just because your dad was tortured as a child, it’s okay for you to be subjected to the same pain, because it made him stronger and he survived, so why won’t you?
After much grappling with this idea, it then dawned on me. Whoever encourages you to stay in Lebanon out of loyalty to the process that older generations have endured is normalising it just because they went through it. We have grown so accustomed to oppression that anything else feels dishonest. They are asking you to subject yourself to the same blatant abuse and making it okay because hey, they didn’t do so bad after all. Isn’t this a toxic spin on the saying “misery likes company”? Is this our fate? That we are destined for perpetual anguish and contempt?
Nobody should be told that being abused is okay just because someone else experienced it and survived the hurls. So do yourself a favour and stand up for yourself. If you don’t want to suffer through this self-flagellation (and nobody should want to), then don’t be seduced by the romanticised horror stories of how our parents overcame the hardships, you owe it to yourself to walk away if you feel compelled and have the opportunity to do so.
As for me, my reasons for coming back to Lebanon have not changed. I’ve shouldered my way through the first year, I’ve been rebuilding what broke in August, and I continue to piece together my shattered heart. For as long as my boundaries will allow me, I’ll be here, doing the arduous job of sifting through the mud to get to the small nuggets, hoping I’ll find something that could help heal and pull us out of this gutter. We deserve better.
I’ve been writing about Lebanon alot lately, checkout more articles in my Lebanon Chronicles category.
For more mindful content, check out Mindful Sauce on Instagram.