Feb 26, 2013

Turmoil Beneath the Ashes

What happened with me this morning was another proof to me personally that the renowned Orthodox Electoral Law was nothing but an obvious manifestation of the local mentality most of the Lebanese are still holding on to, unknowingly, especially the previous generation, the ones that were my age during civil war.

In the course of looking for a housing in Beirut, I came across an online advertisement for a small apartment in Ashrafiyeh with two bedrooms, which is generally my preference since that would cheapen the rent and of course I'd enjoy the company. That phone call left me traumatized for a while after I hung up: the weight of the shock was actually insurmountable, especially after all the reforms people I know are trying to make, and of course after all the positive energy me myself and other activists are trying to spread. I just couldn't stand that someone, that naive, would actually ask me such a question.
I leave you with the discussion:

"Me: Hello, I just found your number for an apartment in Ashrafiyeh
Woman: Yes, it is true *sends her children away so she could speak on the phone*
(We discuss the lame usual details)
Me: Ok so I will call you tonight or tomorrow max to come check it
Woman: I can't make sure it will remain available, so many are asking about it.
Me: tab what's the address?
Woman: somewhere in ashrafiyeh bla bla, the whole building is ours, just ask for Mr. X's bldg.
Me: um, okay, basically we are two guys, an engineer and a journalist looking for a place. If it's okay with you I will....
Woman: I'm sorry, *lowers her tone* are you two christian?
Me: What the??? Lek ma a7leha!
Woman: *stutters* but, it's a normal question
Me: for god's sake it's NOT a normal question! we're in the 2013 and after all we've been through you still got the nerve to ask me this?
Woman: you have to understand the surrounding here
Me: I don't care about your logic, I am a human, a person. why would you care about my religion?
Woman: *always stuttering* we don't mind other people, we just prefer christian people
Me: Shut up please. *hangs up*"

The above story was immediately posted on my Facebook profile, people instantly started reacting in a manner that resembled a lot to mine, a sign that the majority of us young people have had enough with the sectarian game that's still being backed by people such as this poor woman.

What really triggered my fury was not only the clear racism she was hiding behind, what really REALLY pushed my buttons was that, if I weren't a christian as she was wondering, I would so simply be an "other" to her. Whether the person on the other end of the line from her was Buddha, an angel, a reputable doctor or a renowned actor: you are an "other" until you are a christian. I am damn sure as well that even if I happened to reply with a yes on her question, she might most probably try to fetch if I were a Maronite or an Armenian, because, it's a normal question after all, isn't it?

Taken during the Anti Orthodox Law protest in Downtown - Beirut, Feb 19th 2013 
On the other hand, a friend shared with me her story, very much similar to what I faced over the phone. The landlord, a woman, approached my friend, one of two tenants in her apartment, to ask her whether she and her roommate were christian or not. She replied with a yes regarding herself, but made sure to mention that her roommate was of another sect. The woman's reaction at the time was not an indicator of how she would treat the roommate in the future, and how my friend's boyfriend, best friend and muslim neighbors had to withstand her unbearable harassment whenever the woman wanted. My friend reported two specific cases where her roommate was teased, only for being of the Druze sect, and how she brushed it off with a laughter in order to hide the sarcasm and even worse, the blind discrimination. When her half sunni-half shiaa boyfriend came along to pay a visit, he got his own share of nuisance from the woman as well, ended up by letting it go to avoid any turbulence or scenery that might take place.

I personally am aware that people of all sects are constantly doing this, whether Muslim, Christian, or whatever sect there ever existed.

Where are we heading to? I'm addressing both women and everyone who takes pride in making fun of the "others", of mocking those who are different from their personal identity. I apologize if I made them look bad, if I showed these two in the figure of cruel racists whose only goal is to get hold of the country. I feel bad for everyone still stuck in that vortex. Such people are only victims of war, of a repressing system, of mutual benefits and a good living that only see the light whenever they sell their souls to the demon; victims of a never-ending fantasy of a well established country overcome with the greed of whoever becomes a leader.

What is the answer then? How to solve this? I'm afraid it's not as easy at it sounds, all we need to do is being  a living change, a flowing river, becoming saints, and leaving an impact wherever we step foot.

I leave you with the fruit of other fellow friends' dream, such videos have managed to overcome some of the nuisance the infamous Orthodox Electoral Law had been causing.

Feb 21, 2013

The Death of Laurent Schwebel

An email found its way to my inbox, with a PowerPoint presentation attached, seemingly having photographs inside, in a way to remember the great photographer Schwebel who was stabbed lately in Buenos Aires, while taking snapshots of a local memorial. Such emails are easily thrown into the garbage bin usually, but the familiarity of the photographer's name was the reason I opened the presentation: And what a shock that was!

Firstly, here's a translated extract of the Swiss Grandes Espaces on the latest incident:
Wednesday morning, February 8, 2012, Laurent Schwebel, 52, was stabbed to death by a thug who stole his camera in the center of Buenos Aires. The murderer, 24, was chased by witnesses of the drama, and apprehended by the police. Lawrence returned from Antarctic trip with Christian Genillard, and rejoiced to discover the Iguassu Falls before returning to his Alsace.
More on the incident is found here.

Laurent Schwebel
You might be wondering why would I care about the death of this person specifically. Well, the answer isn't found in letters and words, it's simply by admiring his work and his passion. I was touched so deeply that a person THIS creative and talented with a jaw-dropping portfolio, gets murdered that easily, only for the sake of stealing that seemingly expensive camera he owns.

I'll leave you with some photos, all found on Pinterest.

Feb 13, 2013

Decent Everything

The article below was triggered by a recent conversation I had with a friend lately. Those few lines were enough to surface a large amount of hatred, anger and despair as well, that were all hidden for as far as my parents' divorce 10 years ago.

Here's part of what he had to say upon me asking him what he would do in times he felt down:

- I get very irritated and feel like breaking down or curl against a corner and just sleep on it (dysthymia). Its nothing new but i've been coping for years and recent events were a catalyst for more depressive episodes.
- Do you ever tell anyone about this? Or at least do you have anyone by your side?
- I only have a therapist to work with. Besides that, i have no familial or social support. They just don't understand.
- what do you think would've prevented this phase? what do you wish of having around that you'll be sure would help you out?
- A decent family. A decent society. A decent everything
There is no doubt this person is a victim, a victim of the nuisance we caused in our communities. Yes we, you, I and everyone else. Ever noticed when you point a finger at someone, the other four would be pointing at you?

Social extremism has taken its toll in the last few decades, young people are having the hardest time trying to fit in, trying to prove a point, to find a goal for their life. They try as hard as possible to never waste any moment in life without offering help, the kind of help that would fix what others have ruined.

Have you ever personally felt the need to make someone happy? Ever wanted to offer someone a rose with absolutely no reason at all? Did you ever feel you wanted to help somebody without expectations at all? Well then, how about spending a life doing exactly that?

The following video went viral on youtube, for it dug deep into the kindness we were all born with, the free will we dream of, and the absolute absence of prejudices and cultural blockades. Despite my disapproval for the product at hand, the video is nevertheless one of most successful and cheerful Ads I've seen in a while:

The video clearly showcases a few people whose goal in life was simply to share happiness, to live the simple life and to spread smiles. One of the characters has decided to photograph children for free, the other one is a girl who decided her role in life was to giveaway free balloons. Here's a little test you can try on yourself: Did you tear up during the advertisement? Did you at least feel a long lost feeling moving inside? Is a growing urge to change the world building up inside? A few months ago a strange occasion came to my doorsteps: Free Huggers was born and people in numbers are amazed by what we do, that is without mentioning the interviews and the media attention we are getting. The people at the free hugs are no ordinary people, yet you are no different from any of them. We sat on the asphalt and shared our stories, we hugged total strangers, we witnessed people crying of joy, we enjoyed every praise and learned from every invective. We hugged the rich and the poor, we smiled with the children and the teenagers. We shared ideas with the adults and the oldest. We enjoyed every second of it, and I, personally, felt my life found its meaning ever since free hugs community was born. Now the free hugs has grown like I never thought it would. I'm not only talking about the free hugs flashmobs, I am specifically speaking of the members themselves, and how the flashmobs have affected them. I will elaborate more on the personal side for every hugger in another post, but for now, I will tell you a bit of what you will be seeing in Beirut streets in the next few days.
Making Friends was never easier. Courtesy of FreeHuggers
The above idea is an initiative started by an anonymous and found its way to my twitter timeline. Minutes afterwards, the design was finished and the news were spread among the free huggers: We will be pasting these papers soon so that people can actually have a chance to have a new friend, out of nowhere. Excitement leaves me with no more words to say. All I say is I hope we're helping enough to change everything into becoming decent. This is for you my friend..

Feb 10, 2013

Bus Station Meat Loaf

I am growing up, I used to fiercely fight the urge to grow up but somehow I'm being constantly beaten by my own ego, my own character. I am growing up no matter how hard I try. I am getting more tired and exhausted than I was 3 years ago. I began to take the most obvious things to wonder about, for granted. I am starting to let go of the small things I used to do in order to laugh. I am losing so many friends in the process, and most importantly both the woman who brought me to the world and the woman in whose lap I was supposed to rest for the rest of my life. I lost them. No matter how much I tried to fix the problems i apparently helped in creating, I still find myself unable to recuperate what I could from my childhood and innocence, my calm thinking and my passive take on life, a striking feeling of wanting to buy something, a feeling of arrogance kicks-in here or there.

I am becoming an egoist, a stupid being full of arrogance. To prove that, count the "I"s in this post.

What is really making me have the hardest time of all is that I've already been here and I've been teaching myself for a long time on how to avoid these situations.

What led me to this arrogance? To this ugly side of independence? Well that is easy, being misunderstood for oh-so-many times, being manipulated and taken advantage of, being oppressed for my own thoughts and my own freedom of thinking, being offered a path where there's no getting back to being poor, and where getting rich is easy. I detest money, at least that is what I remember.

I am now eating a not-so-whole-heartedly-made piece of meatloaf (lahme b aajin) that I bought a few minutes ago, while my family is gathering around their wonderfully delicious dinner course of grilled fish and rice, 5 minutes away from where I am waiting my bus to Beirut at the moment.

This sucks..I want to have dinner with my family....and I really like being poor.....

Feb 1, 2013

Anonymous Confessions, The Epilogue

Source: Original Article

The Last Confession was the straw that broke the camel's back: What I started on my previous post was phenomenal, it was pretty obvious that I had to document it. If you're still unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, check the Anonymous Confessions blog post; I had announced I want to play a game, based on the work of an american artist.

Source: Anonymous Confessions
The thread of confessions started out with the following:
"I still love her"
"İt hurts not to see him"
"I do care about what people think of me"
Several anonymous persons decided to join later on, upon seeing the first feedback, and thought it might be a good idea to throw in their own confession, since, in the end, everything was totally anonymous. The majority spoke of relationships, parents, self esteem, aspirations, and unfinished love stories. Until the last guest posted their comment:
"Confession 1: I wish I can help everyone who posted here.
Confession 2: I am willing to try.
- Our parents will always criticize, out of good intentions as they want us to be the very BEST, although not always choosing the best time and method
- People who left us (whether willingly or not) have taught us many lessons, let's accept the lessons and the memories.
- Love is born in the human being, everybody loves, and everybody feels. If you can't feel it in the present, look for it in your past. That is your proof, and let that be your guiding light for the future as well.
Sorry if I sound Lala-landish... My intentions are good"
Apparently what I had in mind when I wrote that blogpost and started that initiative among the people around me, was sound and well put: they needed it, we all did actually. I'll top this with a personal secret, I once added a confession myself, but then removed it for the sake of integrity and objectivity; the project was THAT interesting.

What does it mean to confess to an absolute stranger, to a random human next to you in the metro or on the park bench? Is it the absolute secrecy that lures those people in? Is it the lack of any liability? There are no strings attached - no responsibilities or duties whatsoever, and most importantly, no judging at all. No one holds any prejudice in heart or mind, waiting for a word that would trigger judgement, keeping you from confessing anymore.

Here's an extract of the original article, going through what was most confessed about, and what were the immediate results:
By the end of the exhibition, over 1500 confessions were displayed on the walls. It’s about sex, love, or fears of dying alone. By collecting the confessions of the hotel’s visitors, this project seeks to create a cathartic sanctuary for this temporary community and help us see we are not alone in our quirks, experiences, and struggles as we try to lead fulfilling lives.
Source: Anonymous Confessions
In the end, I invite you reader to share with me one of your most intimate confessions. And always remember, you'll only be an additional anonymous among us :-)