lunes, 21 de octubre de 2013

Lebanese Amnesia

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about fear and how tense I felt about the "situation" in Lebanon. I say "situation" because whenever I gather with my friends to talk about politics, the economy, regional issues, refugees, bombs, attacks, violence, tire burning, road closures or all of the above, we refer to it as "the situation".

However, lately the discussions about "the situation" have subsided, not because less events are taking place (I mean over the weekend there was a shooting between Bab Tebbaneh & Jabal Mohsen,  an "Energa" grenade fell on Syria Street in Tripoli, and Syrian troops infiltrated Lebanese territory, bombing two houses), but because things have gone back to "normal".

As I have mentioned in this blog before, what is considered "normal" in Lebanon is definitely subject to debate. But life has gone back to normal in Lebanon I guess, judging by all the art shows, movie festivals, concerts, restaurants, traffic jams and shopping. The streets are busy, the businesses are open, people are travelling...

I was at a dinner party a couple of days ago and I was discussing this with some Lebanese friends. I expressed my surprise about how quickly everyone had forgotten about last month's crisis, when some countries threatened to bomb Syria, or how no one mentioned all the violent incidents occurring not only in Tripoli, but in many other places as well.

A young woman looked at me and told me "Well, what are we supposed to do, then?".  I responded based on the little experience I have with dealing with collective trauma, which is what I have witnessed in the US. Over there, whenever there is a shooting or a terrorist attack, there is an immediate response with hot-lines, support groups, movies, documentaries, talk shows, magazine articles, blogs, Facebook pages, and so on and so forth.

"Here in Lebanon, people just move on", she said. "We have to move on".

And then it really dawned on me: imagine if every time there was a shooting in Tripoli, or an explosion in the North, people took the time stop and actually consider what it meant.

On the one had, this could be an important introspection exercise, in order to discontinue a vicious cycle of violence. But on the other, the country would be paralyzed for months, if not years.

I would argue that the Lebanese just move on with their lives not because the "situation" is less painful, but because they can't afford to stop. I guess the happy and peaceful times are fewer and far between so it is better to opt for a momentary collective amnesia.

The more time I spend in Lebanon, the clearer it becomes that these intermittent crises, followed by times of "quiet" is what is normal here. I wouldn't personally advice amnesia, as I think one of the worse things we can do to ourselves is reducing our standards of what is an acceptable living condition or not take the time to heal.

But when there are no other options... "What are we supposed to do, then?"


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