I was recently in conversation with some "expat" women over dinner on the topic of aggression. Some asserted that moving to Beirut had made them more aggressive. My usual self would have replied that one becomes aggressive by choice, not be circumstance, but in this occasion, I didn't have such a clear-cut answer.
Have I become more aggressive since I moved to Beirut?
I am a firm believer that one chooses one's way of being in the face of circumstance, and not the other way around. But somehow in Beirut, I have noticed that little by little circumstances have started to take over the best in me. Since the realization of my latent aggressive self, I have become more aware (self conscious?) of my behavior. And I am surprised at how little it takes now to get me absolutely and completely enraged. Why the hell am I so mad?
Let’s take a step back. What is aggression anyways?
Wikipedia tells us: "Aggressive behavior is a behavior which is intended to increase the social dominance of the organism relative to the dominance position of other organisms"
As humans, we are social beings. And as social beings, we influence, love, hate, help, support or dominate one another. It is just natural. That is what we do. Why is Beirut showing me this side of myself?
There have been events in Beirut where I have felt the need to fight. I have been pushed, yelled at, looked at disrespectfully. There have been occasions when I have felt unsafe. I have heard talks about gunfire, car bombs, and massacres in neighboring countries. But I was usually able to calm myself down. I was usually able to take a deep breath. Not in Beirut. The guns of my mind come out very quickly here.
Is it the constant noise and car honking, is it the reckless driving? Is it the lack of rules, people cutting in line, the ladies followed by their maids, carrying their bags? Is it the mistrust between people of different religions, the unkindness that people show to one another? Is it all the street animals, the children begging in the street? The men staring at me as I walk in the street? Is it the oversexualization of women, the botox and the plastic surgeries?
I have no answers. I am in a weird, inexact and highly subjective realm, the realm of feelings. And I just can’t help these feelings. They are there, like dormant snakes, ready to bite if someone steps on them.
Do I need to grow a thicker skin in Beirut, in order to survive? Does the world need more people with thicker skin? In Beirut, I find it difficult to have an open heart. Sometimes the reality is very raw. And it has nothing to do with violence. It is just an overall feeling of hopelessness (in government, in the future, in things working) and mistrust of the other. It is asphyxiating.
Can I put the positive spin to this? I sure can. Beirut is beautiful, Beirut is full of life. Beirut is full. Beirut is like being fed a very sweet baklava with a huge wooden spoon, even when you are full already. Some times, it can be delicious, but some others it just too much to get in one bite.