A Lebanese woman dressed as Joker attending the nationwide protests.
Lebanon’s towns and streets filled with chants for rights that are so basic in form, they would put most third world countries to shame. Electricity, clean water, sanitation, taking care of the environment, and many more basic needs, that to foreign ears, sounds futile to demand. Yet tragedy is truth in Lebanon.
For a long time, and not a good time, the Lebanese people have been separated. They have been separated by religion. Separated by sects. Separated by political parties and their leaders, in unison, had everyone convinced of their differences.
It started with a spark that lit a flame.
A week ago forest fires set Lebanon ablaze. Wreaking havoc and tearing through several towns. If the tears that they caused could’ve been collected, these fires would’ve been extinguished with a few hours. Sadly that wasn’t the case, and the Lebanese were left to rely on it’s political regime and divine intervention, for a solution. Luckily the latter pulled through. And in the most act of God like manner, prayers around the world were answered, as rain washed over Lebanon, putting the fires out. During all the commotion, the Lebanese politicians in full form, showed their incompetence. They scrambled like headless chickens, providing little to no relief. Stories of Helicopters that cost the country millions, whose sole purpose were for events such as this, remained grounded, due to maintenance issues, or the fact that their functionality was never suited for a country like Lebanon. The best solution they could come up with to put out the fires, was groveling to countries like Cyprus and Greece, for help. In the end Lebanese were left to lick their wounds.
But that spark, even though tamed, remained.
What followed was a spit in the face. Kicking a wounded person while they’re down. It was the very first thing the government did, after the catastrophic event that tore apart the countries national identity of landscape and environment.
An asinine, imbecilic decision from the telecommunicationsminister Mohamad Choucair, to implement a tax on the free to use mobilecommunication’s app, “Whatsapp”. 20 cents a day, 6$ a month, 73$ a year. Over apopulation of around 7 million in Lebanon, that’s revenue of $511,000,000.Again, for a free to use communications application, which Lebanese heavilyrely on because of the already high costs of the monopoly communicationcompanies in Lebanon, which are part owned by the state.
This tax came at a time where the country is facing dire economic strain. Where there have been turbulent issues and discussions surrounding the financial situation, and the jeopardy of the currency. This was a tax that was introduced without an infrastructure plan, without a medical bill, with no public transport project in the works. No subsidies were given,no benefits. It was and remains even after its reversal, a corrupt ruling class, taxing an impoverished nation, on a free to use, private, mobile service, in order to shore up funds, whose allocation is unknown, most probably towards private interests that serve the same said ruling class.
It was this moronic tax that set Lebanon on fire once again. People took the streets. And have since not left. There were attempts by the political elite to infect the purity of the demonstrations, with violence and chaos. But their attempts at violence have been met with kindness and modesty by the protestors. Post protest trash cleanups, handing out of water and food,singing and dancing, with DJ booths to fire up the crowd. And apart from a popular profanity filled chant aimed at the Foreign Minister’s mother, Lebanese have kept this clean and wholesome.
The Lebanese are determined, and for once united. The walls of sectarianism and division erected by the political war criminals, since the days of the civil war, have come crashing down. From underneath the rubble, crawls out this political regime, scurrying to do damage control, as they try to contain the increasing masses that have been in the streets for days on out; still going strong. Some politicians even tried to band with the protests, masquerading that they have been part of the cause since the beginning. But their attempts have been ineffective. The Prime Minister presented an economic plan, the strictest one to date, with no taxes that reach the people. But it has fallen on deaf ears. In the economic plan, one of the the prime minister promises was cutting the annual deficit spending to 0.6%, a nosedive from the current 9%. This has left people wondering if that is even possible and if yes, why wasn’t it done sooner? It’s effect, to numb the protests, has caused the opposite, enraging them further. The President is MIA, having yet to address the nation, sparking rumors about the condition of his health.
The Prime Minister’s economic plan provided more questions than answers.
What lies ahead is uncertainty. It is what some politicians are banking on. They have tried to weaponize the idea uncertainty, to scare the protestors into retreating, advising them to not push ahead, because going any further, it will push the country of the edge, into the abyss. This reasoning by the political class is at the heart of the problem. Politicians have become so far removed from reality; they don’t realize that the Lebanese have been living in uncertainty for the better part of the last decade. Uncertainty of electricity, water, or garbage pick ups/treatments. Uncertainty of peace, safety, or of any sort of stability. Uncertainty of job security, or a job at all. Uncertainty of the exchange rate for the local currency, and whether or not ATMS will give them money. All that and more, makes the uncertainty moving forward, shrink in comparison to the uncertainty being left behind. But one thing is certain; all of them means all of them. And as things stand, it is not likely this gets solved with a handshake. Lebanon is owed what has been stolen from it, and the Lebanese, after a long slumber, have woken up, and have come to collect.