With all the pretty things we can say about Lebanon, it becomes quite ugly when we attempt to allude to politics and the current economic situation. However, when a father gets to a point of burning himself alive in his daughters’ school burdened by the unbearable education fees, the ugliness slaps us hard on the face and lays bare a harsh reality that no longer can be tolerated. The death of George Zreik on the 8th of February 2019, subdued by the merciless administrative of academic institutions marks a shameful day for Lebanon and for its politicians and religious figures in particular. It is a day when the beauties of this country must poignantly set aside to unravel shameful facts and voice frustrating realities.
When you see the cedars of God, know that you are walking among the holy trees that have witnessed centuries of civilizations and cultures. But, also know that they are today witnessing the unprecedented decadence of a herd of Lebanese politicians that have developed an undefeatable immunity against humiliation and have been left with no sense of shame whatsoever. Know that people take to the streets as often as you take your breakfast with their voices and cries falling on deaf ears of corrupt leaders.
When you are moved by the smell of incense and the spirituality that dwells in the Qadisha Valley know that hundreds of hermits lived and died in this valley leaving hundreds of told and untold stories of survival and dignity. But, also know that their stories are being tainted by the hypocrisy of modern religious figures of Lebanon who are walking in the footsteps of their esteemed politicians and robbing the people of the very little they have in the name education, marriage, baptism, divorce, hospitalization and you name it. Lacking all facets of mercy, they are the chess player competing with and against the government manipulating people’s lives and rights in every possible inhumane way.
When you read for and about Lebanese poets and intellectuals including Khalil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy, know that these people have been inspired by their love for their country whether they lived in or away from it. But, also be mindful that there is a bright Lebanese youth fighting despair and frustration every single day trying to defy the miserable conditions of their country while the children of their respectful politicians attend the most prestigious of school and universities in Lebanon and abroad.
When you are blessed to enjoy a spring sunny day in the green mountains of Lebanon, know that the villagers you get to meet still maintain an unparalleled generosity inherited from their parents and grandparents despite their humble lifestyles. But, also know and know well that many mothers and fathers in these villages are denied the serenity of this beautiful nature as their thoughts are always busy worrying about their children who left their homes to find better opportunities or seek a better future. You might as well know that while these mothers are burdened with so many worries, the wives of Lebanese politicians and aristocrats are busy filling themselves with Botox and wasting their vain lives on conspicuous consumption, plastic surgeries and show off.
When you visit the historical sites of Byblos, Baalbek, Sidon and Tyr, know that many past civilizations have left their enduring mark in this Mediterranean cross road. Yet, also know that the one and only mark that is tainting this country and its people everyday is the corruption of a body of politicians feeding their insatiable hunger for money and power. Know that the cultural value of these historical sites is matched by a modern worthless governing leading the county straight into the abyss.
When you learn about the republic of Lebanon, you must know that it is the county of a resilient people surviving and toiling for a better life despite the unmatched corruption of their politicians. Yet, you must also know that the word republic and democracy in Lebanon have become a definition and a synonym for despotism, where governmental positions are inherited through farce-like elections or in refined cases one person remains in a same senior governmental position for over 40 years practicing ‘corrupt-ful’ democracy. It is a republic where political agendas are personal, ‘one-clusive’ instead of inclusive, sectarian, hateful, or in short decadent in collaboration with religious figures hypocrite enough to assist with a perfected state of corruption across the country and its institutions.
This is what the death of a Lebanese father crushed under the burdens of unrealistic school tuitions unravels about this unique country. And yet this is merely the tip of an iceberg of corruption crippling the people beyond description and driving them closer to despair every day. Yet, it is fair to let you know as well that the esteemed government has opened an investigation into this ‘incident’ and the results will undoubtedly be very promising to his family and orphaned children. Politicians and religious figures have indeed shared their valuable sympathy and denounced the tragedy with words of unmatched wisdom, which indeed compensate for the loss of a father and a husband. This is what has become the cost of education in the republic of Lebanon not to mention the miserable condition of other basic human rights, which surely do not include plastic surgeries.