Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lebanon's Choice

Ian, a man who likes walking more than I do, persuaded me to lug my overloaded bag the required 4 km to the hostel Talah, just north of Gemayzih, where we had decided to stay. Even more than out of the window as we drove over Lebanon’s greeniness, the higher levels of prosperity and westernization became apparent, signaling an end to my month long exile from western culture, which had begun in Kayseri east of Goreme.

This intimation reached a crescendo of homecoming when I spotted the Virgin Megastore dominating Martyr’s square. The plush, succulent bars of Gemayziz, as self-consciously hip and superior as it possible for a bar to get, further completed the scene; as did the prices which indicated that my Syrian days of spending less than ten pounds a day were definitively over.

I am struck by memories of the food., which was really excellent. Usually I’m pretty indifferent to food, except for two considerations – that it should be adequately cooked and that there should be enough of it on my plate. The food I’ve tended to enjoy most over the years has been fried and fatty and basically on the wrong side of good for me. But Lebanese food – which looks and tastes as healthy food is supposed to, really charmed me as no other cuisine has, during these recent months of travel at least; all the glowing reports are true.

Beirut is festooned with militias and private armies. As I write Lebanon stands on the brink of a meltdown into what might become a new civil war. That event, if it happens, will be a regrettable tragedy for which the various players involved - in all their variousness - will be to blame. One would be forgiven for addressing Lebanon thus: If you value war over peace, do not be surprised, nay, be grateful, if war is what you get. On the other hand, If you value peace over war, as you say you do, then act accordingly and stop boring the world’s media to death with your indigestible quagmire.

After choosing your paradigm by which to understand the geopolitical factors pecking vulture-like into Lebanon, readers will want to decide if the fault lies with the ‘Shia Crescent’ stretching from the Hezbollah heartlands of Southern Lebanon through the Bekaa valley, to the Alawite regions of Syria, and from there into into Iran; or with the ‘Israeli-American Zionist crusading’ enterprise, and its treacherous Sunni-Christian Maronite affiliated supporters. My suspicion is that one’s decision in this regard might reflect some kind of pre-formatted, previously existing ‘pre-judice’ (literally pre-judgement) regarding the affairs of the region of a type distillable to the question of whether or not one is pro or anti-American - though I could be wrong. Speaking for myself, I am sure both sides in this grissly face–off are in their own peculiar ways to blame for Lebanon’s ills, to an extent.

That said, I am not an anti-American. As such I realize all too well that the deeply ingrained 'Zoroastrian-style' instincts of the ‘Babylonian’ human psyche will want at once to conclude from this that I am necessarily pro-American in such a way that compels me to be anti-Syrian/Islamic/Palestinian or whatever. I am both pro everyone and anti-everyone depending on what is meant and when.

A curse of immediate death on this form of dualistic, either/or reasoning. Please. Its stupidity cries out to heaven for fireworks.

Why can one not be pro-everyone and anti-everyone at different times and in different ways, depending on what is meant and when? Of course, I forgot; because above all else what you are not allowed to be is an individual – unshepherded, unherded by other people’s ways of categorizing you.


Emily said...

I agree, this Lebanon situation is essentially the US/Israel vs. Iran, when you break it down to the core. The Cold War enters another chapter. I guess I just missed you in Lebanon, as I was there about a week and a half ago. I spent a leisurely weekend doing a whole lot of nothing, assuming that I would be going and coming a lot in the next year or so; however, with the situation as it now stands, this may be less than likely. I'll be keeping up with the news in the hopes that things get worked out over there, at least to a level of minimal stability. What are you doing there anyway? Are you in Kuwait or what? I'm confused. Also, I will be leaving Damascus on December 17th to head back to the States for Christmas (with a night stopover in jolly old England, actually). Let me know if you visit The Sham before then.

Jonathan said...

Hmmm..I can see how things might be confusing.

Yes, I now live in Kuwait,teaching English, and my blog about Kuwait is at so similar but different from this one. I was in lebanon ages ago, in September, after I last saw you..and I'm still very belatedly writing up what happened and etc on this bloh I can see that virtually Im sort of living in two worlds.

Yeah, I read about your exciting times in Lebanon and left a comment, which u may not have seen yet. Enjoy blighty! Drink real Ale! I can't. I may however be going to Cyprus.

I thought you couldn't access Blogspot in Lebanon..have they changed their minds again about it?

Hope to come out to Shams sometime in the next year.