I woke up this morning with those three words in my head “Pity the Nation” while thinking of Lebanon, Lebanese, of our sad situation caught in a never-ending cycle of wars, both physical and psychological. “Pity the Nation” is the title of Robert Fisk’s publication in England (1990) and the US (1991). Strange how the content of his book didn’t mean anything to me in the early 1990s. True Lebanon was occupied by Israelis in the South and Syrians everywhere else, but I was a teenager, and like many of my generation, we dared hope for change, for turning the page of violence and looking for a better future.
What about today? 23 years later? Syrian troops evacuated, Israelis too – except for few lands -, Ariel Sharon died few days ago – my generation does not forget Israel’s then-Defense Minister, one of the many villains of the piece -,… However, hope is fading… Our war did not end. WE ARE STILL AT WAR. We are not in a post-war era. We are not in Peace. We do not have, as Lebanese, a common identity, nor history, nor memory. Our nationalism and democracy are damaged. Human rights are nowhere to be found.
In fact, there is no Nation. There are disparate scattered cities run by warlords, mafia leaders and tribes, manipulated proxies who mastered themselves the art of manipulating their people, and our so-called leaders culpability has become part of the political amnesia of our time.
Pity our Nation! Fisk was describing it as ‘agonizing’ two decades ago. Gibran Khalil Gibran, in the ‘Garden of the Prophet’ (1934), stated the following: “Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another with trumpetings again. Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation”. Fisk found this passage of Gibran contemporary enough to provide the title of his book.
Well, today, I can honestly tell this Irish journalist that ‘agony’ isn’t the proper word which can describe the current situation, and our beloved poet and visionary Gibran that there is no nation to pity anymore. Our nation is dead! In fact, there was never one nation! Maybe something close to a nation in the early 1900s when Lebanese fought for their independence of the Ottoman Empire, in the 1940s facing the French Mandate, in 2005 against the Syrian regime, and during the 2006 Summer combats with Israelis. Punctual fights and events, but no sustainable revolts or revolutions followed by a true systemic reform.
Time to stop denying we are at war. Time to stop mocking others and believe WE are intelligent. There is no ‘We’, and the ‘I’s are dumb. Time to stop thinking that the tree has grown and following sun spots over it. Time to stop waiting for the unknown or leaving for foreign ‘oasis’. Enough plunging into one’s veins, hiding into one’s brain, observe endings while doing NOTHING, wiping tears, discovering inner tears which turn into wounds, immuring oneself in loss, wallowing in dead civilizations and becoming one. As Etel Adnan states ‘In the heart of the heart of another country’, time to stop choosing “between absolute sorrow, sorrow with no despite, and death”, breathing “soot, and uncertainty”, putting off “all lights and project mental images on the wall”, shifting “the battle to the next generation”.
There are other choices… Other paths to follow…
Time for those tiny arrogant ‘I’s to wake up, resurrect, rise, start working their “matière grise” and build one nation…