Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MEA and Racism

To all you claimers of "Lebanon is Wonderland" and "racism is wrongly placed in Lebanese context"....count your words. And while you are at it, read this.

It’s hard to express how disgusted I was by this man. How disgusted I was by how justified he felt he was. How disgusted I am that we share the same passport. How disgusted I am that this behavior is tolerated because it is so pervasive.

Lebanese attitudes to race are evident everywhere in Lebanon on a daily basis. In our behavior towards the citizens of Syria, Egypt, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and beyond who are treated like second class citizens in our country. How can we be proud of a country that abuses the very people that help it function on a daily basis?

We have heard the stories about the abuse of household staff from these countries. Foreign television stations have even dedicated entire documentaries to our institutionalized modern-day slavery. We’ve heard stories of black tourists being denied entry to nightclubs based purely on the color of their skin. We’ve also heard the stories of non-Lebanese people being refused access to swimming pools. It’s hard to believe it’s 2011 sometimes in this city.

Instead of embracing a sort of multiculturalism, instead of learning some new languages, customs and cuisines, we marginalize the very people that could enrich our social fabric and move us away from the navel-gazing self-delusional chauvinistic and sectarian pseudo-patriotism we bandy about.

We are nothing. We are a country of 4 million people that doesn’t have electricity, running water or functioning Internet in 2011. How dare we look down upon others? It’s time for some soul-searching, as a nation. The world is passing us by; we are decades behind most of the region in a million ways.

Sunday night I was ashamed to be Lebanese. But I didn’t want to create a scene. But my girlfriend forced us to, and she was right. Edmund Burke said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing. I’m not pompous or self-interested enough to claim I’m a good man. But I will never stay silent when I see that kind of behavior again. And maybe, one day, I won’t be ashamed on the flight back to Beirut.


  1. Thanks for sharing this important article, but why did you only post half of it? please post the rest so that people understand the whole plane story!

  2. reading nasri's post reminds me of the fury that invades me too when i witness racism in lebanon.

    the scenes that infuriate me most are those where an employer abuses their status as a paymaster to ill-treat a migrant worker: stupid rich housewives mistreating their maids or business owners humiliating their migrant staff. such scenes are so common in this society that racism has become ‘common sense’. it is perfectly normal for a group of lebanese to discuss what they call ‘the inferiority’ of the migrant nationalities they employ and to mock them, sometimes in their presence.

    the racism of petty, ignorant and dictatorial merchants both enrages me and breaks my heart.

    my girlfriend and i were buying a zaatar man’ouche at the old wooden bakery branch on jal-el-dib highway on monday afternoon. as we were making small talk with the friendly egyptian baker who was wrapping our man’ouche, he asked us what we thought we the revolution of his people. i said that we admired their revolt against a dictator and that these are very interesting times for egypt.

    as i said this, the bakery’s manager walked across from the other side of the shop, intercepted us and said mockingly, in the presence of the egyptian baker, that this revolution is nothing but an american plot. he then paused and barked: ‘the egyptian people are a dumb people!’.

    his statement left me in awe. at first, i thought he was being sarcastic, so i asked him: ‘what do you mean?’. he responded confidently: ‘they’re eighty million dumb people!’. by then, i was still in shock, trying to formulate my reply, when the baker, who put his job, source of income and residency in lebanon on the line, responded quietly with a statement that totally broke my heart: ‘we are not a dumb people’.

    i looked the manager in the eyes and said firmly: ‘how dare you say that? how could you call the people of a whole nation dumb?’. he responded: ‘because they’re dumb’.

    so i added: ‘they’re not dumb! if anything, they’re far more intelligent than you and your people. their history, their land, culture, industry and geopolitical importance put yours to shame. eighty million of them coexist peacefully, while four million of you, individualistic self-serving lebanese can’t even deal with each other in peace. you’re prey to your warlords and to you blind sectarianism, and all you care about is how to individualistically chase money and power, at the expense of your community. you’re a bunch of shortsighted merchants, and you call the egyptians dumb?’.

    he uttered a few words when, furious, we walked out of the bakery and sat on the sidewalk, watching the noisy, polluted and chaotic jal-el-dib street that the bakery overlooks.

    i am dazzled by the decaying morality of a large proportion of the lebanese. dazzled by how a people who’s got money and university degrees coming out of their ears, can be so pathetically short-sighted and self-obsessed.

    the cumulative total of the time the lebanese have spent mercilessly killing each other exceeds the total that they’ve spent in peace. as nasri said in his post, even in 2011, they still can’t make a stupid power grid work, they can’t supply themselves with potable water in a land that receives 900mm of rain per annuum, and they’ve got one of the poorest internet infrastructures of the planet. everything about the lebanese is shiny on the outside, and rotting and mediocre on the inside. a disgustingly materialistic, exhibitionist, self-obsessed and intolerant people.

    i wished i could grab that racist fuckhead who runs the bakery and shake him so hard that he wakes up to the realities of humanity. but then i realized, just like i do everyday, that i’d better put my effort in those places where my chances of making a difference are higher than nil.

    i’ve totally given up on the lebanese.

  3. Lebanese scum !
    uncivilized lebanese need to be told, that they are nothing!
    they take pride in their night life (as if that defines culture and civilization) and their thefts and mischieving and claim to be super cultured.

  4. Guys thanks so much for your feedback.

    Lyna there is a hyperlink in the blog that links to the whole article.

    Jimmy you said it all perfectly. Expressed it so well. You put the right words for the situation. Allow me to share this in a new blogpost so other people read and learn from this too and it doesnt go unheard.