No one tells you that the streets in hell are riddled with an increasing number of people who can’t afford rent. Only in hell would you find lines of people with its start poking through the windows of a closed bakery and its end is in a different city. Hell has no fuel and no running water even though your bills have been paid. In hell, your middle-class neighbours can no longer afford eggs or cheese or school buses. What was once world-renounced education and health systems are now collapsing. In hell, the streets are not on fire, but they are riddled with people with burning hearts and an ache to leave this place but with just enough bitterness to stay.
In hell, politicians are conversing over dead-alive people whose cries are muffled by the talk of the ‘blocking-thirds’. These talks have effectively amputated Lebanon from the rest of the civilization. While Saudi Arabia is hosting one of the Middle East’s largest book fairs, Beirut, once known as the capital of knowledge, is celebrating an extra hour of electricity because the private power generator owner, who supports housing with electricity since the government won’t, have finally caved in and bought fuel from the black market that is worth triple the price. Now every Lebanese person regards themselves with a hint of resentfulness, nostalgic for the days when every nation envied Lebanon’s excellence.
But little did we know that Jormungand, a gargantuan serpent, child of the god of mischief, is written in the Norse mythology as a nefarious creature that will bring forth the end of the world, lays in the Middle East. Its head in Iran, its body in Iraq, its tail in Syria, and the tip of its tail in Lebanon.
That tip is poisonous, dripping in an IV bag connected to Lebanon’s veins. But after an economic deadlock that stole the lives of thousands of Lebanese people, and after the US and France pressured the Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, and President Aoun to reach a compromise in their debates for Lebanon’s failed state, and after 13 months of abandonment, on the 10th of September, the sectarian system that plagued the dystopian country has lifted its foot slightly off the oxygen tube, and a new government was formed sponsored by Gebran Bassil, the President’s son-in-law whose name has been slandered the most during the October 2019 revolution, the terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, a political leader in Lebanon from where the fangs of the serpent lay, and the president’s lost pillow that prompted him to finally wake up and earn his living.
Is The Formation of A New Government Enough To Keep The Disenfranchised Young Population Hopeful?
Much like the unstable exchange rate, President Aoun’s disposition has changed as well. He went from scolding the revolution and telling anyone upset to leave the country if they’re so dissatisfied, to promising that for the rest of his term he will be working tirelessly to fight the corruption that he himself has fostered. And as pressure from the EU continues, Lebanon’s sectarian system might adopt a more ouroboros approach - which means a stressed snake eats itself, starting from the tail. And all those surreptitious alliances and fictitious feuds among the elite might prove to be more fragile than a winter’s first snowflake. At least, that is what most Lebanese people believe. In order for this new government to fight corruption in this country, it’ll have to tie its noose around its neck, which many are more excited about than having an extra hour of electricity.
As for my friends and coworkers, who are young Lebanese people with no savings and earning about $60 a month, the feeling of pessimism is still prominent in their speech. I joined them in a conversation to understand if my newfound hopefulness was an act of desperation or nostalgia.
“You can’t fix what is broken by taking it to the one that destroyed it,” said one of my young coworkers, who, despite having a new government, is still dreaming of leaving this country. Every young Lebanese person has low esteem for this government.
“The newly designated PM is one of the greatest examples of the country's issues,” expressed Aamir with a hint of a bitter smile, mocking the new government for thinking it can trick him with its make-believe technocrats, “He's in close relation with all of the corrupt parties and politicians.” So not much has changed in my friend’s eyes. He believes that all living necessities are almost nonexistent. Although the President said we were heading to hell, and many think we arrived a while ago, Aamir believes we’re still not there yet. It’s hard to imagine things getting any worse.
“[The Prime Minister] has multiple cases of illegal enrichment,” - Aamir added...
Aamir was referring to a recent article by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that revealed records called the Pandora Papers that exposed offshore havens that help powerful figures from around the world evade taxes and flaunt their wealth in secrecy. Those people included affluent figures in Lebanon who have ironically berated the failure of their colleagues in the parliament. These figures are the current Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, former Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, governor of the central bank, Riad Salameh, and former minister of state and chairman of Al Mawarid Bank, Marwan Kheireddine.
How ironic that Kheireddine has talked poorly about his comrades in power, condemning them of tax evasion and offshore activities as the people of Lebanon suffered. Meanwhile, Al Mawarid Bank was one of the first banks to practice strict withdrawal procedures to prevent people from accessing their money amid an economic depression. The papers revealed that shortly after concluding his speech, Kheireddine signed documents as owner of a company that owns a $2 million yacht in the British Virgin Island, a well-known refuge for many of the names that were stated in the Pandora Papers.
Meanwhile, Riad Salameh is currently under investigation for money laundering by the French government.
Mikati’s speech after the new government was announced is now tainted by the truth revealed to us. A performative art to try and earn credibility from the impoverished nation of Lebanon. The Prime Minister crying on air and talking about how desperate mothers can’t find milk to feed their children did not sate Aamir. “He could simply give the money to the people in desperate need of it,” he said.
The list of new ministers was expectedly less than impressive. Names included questionable figures and fresh faces of unknown backgrounds. Not all of them are bad yet, but it only takes one bad apple, as they say.
Hope Has Abandoned The Hearts of Young Lebanese People.
All my friends and young people in my community are still trying to find a way to leave despite the new government’s promises. Those who remain are finding entertainment in the ministers’ franticness to make sure history doesn’t slander them as it did and will do for every mastermind behind Lebanon’s failure.
My friend has summed up perfectly what every young person left in this country is feeling: “Since the formation of the government, I've had the pleasure of looking at the politicians actually trying to work because of one single thing, not that the country is in shambles and they want to help it, but the fact that the next election is in about 6 months, and they're desperate for voters as they can see how widely hated they are now, especially by their own crowd who's also suffering the same as we are. I'm hoping people will see how incompetent these war criminals are as they scurry to give loud speeches and blatantly never deliver!”
Hoping to see more and more people disengage from their sectarian beliefs is a different type of hope, as summed up by Aamir, but it’s the only hope in all of us here in Lebanon.
Suicide rates and drug abuse are still rising in Lebanon. If you’re a young Lebanese person dealing with hardships, we are organizing an online webinar to help raise awareness of mental health and create a safe environment to help you share your thoughts and feelings with people alike. If you'd like to join the webinar, please send us your email and phone number expressing your interest.