I’ve been in Beirut for two years and a half. I went to university (not the famous overrated AUB, but the much despised for its upper fancy gate LAU) and now I’m researching my thesis, while writing my reports twice a week.
And ever since I landed here, there hasn’t been one day when I didn’t hear these phrases from some analyst or in some report: “Tensions are rising in Lebanon! Lebanon is divided, sectarian. The loyalty of the people lies with the sect or religious community, not with the state. Lebanon is a weak state ready to blow up!”
Fr the first few months, these phrases worked on me too. I was expecting a war any second and thought everything was going to blow up when the politicians quarrelled . But nothing happened. Ever. Everytime things cooled down miraculously the last minute. And I got it at some point: it’s all talk, all politics, all smoke but no fire.
The politicians, some sort of unreachable gods who believe they are doing a favor to a journalist when they actually open their mouth to make an empty statement in a dead language nobody believes, say what they are programmed to say in order for the masses to hear it. But then, in their boudoirs, they speak their minds. It happens all over the world.
But unique, most intriguing phenomenon in Lebanon is that, although everybody knows about corruption, about empty words meant for speeches and they people still choose to believe and follow their leaders without questioning what they say.
And it all goes beyond that: even clear naked facts that prove them wrong would not stand as proof. As a friend told me once, Lebanon does not have a public opinion, but more public opinions, one in every religious community. Each of these communities will recycle your objective facts and make them fit their ideological patterns. And sometimes, at the of a conversation you might end up believing you were wrong: there is no clear objective fact.