Commentary, Lebanon

What is it about Lebanon?

On Saturday morning, following a disastrous “Faces of Lebanon” awards ceremony, Lebanese-American comedian Nemr Abou Nassar posted a video blasting LBCI for their lack of professionalism and the blatant disrespect that was shown towards the organizers and guests of the prestigious event. Over the course of his spontaneous 21-minute speech, which is well worth a watch, he addressed issues including the incompetence of Lebanese media outlets, their disrespect to non-Arabic acts, and their unwillingness to help rising stars. While he remained relatively true to his “no politics, no religion” policy, he also spoke briefly on the rampant sectarianism that marks Lebanese broadcast news, and that threatens to any day destabilize an already uncertain peace.

“Lebanon stands divided, today more than yesterday. My country stands on the brink of executing itself for the stupidity of Muslim and Christian differences,” he stated to the small crowd that still remained at 3:30 AM, hours after the ceremony was scheduled to end.

Speaking more directly on the lack of professionalism displayed by LBCI, who by his report began the ceremony more than two hours late, interrupted acceptance speeches and blocked audience members from seeing the stage, he addressed the inefficiency characteristic of Lebanese life.

We are 4 million people, how long until we get our act together?” Abou Nassar asked incredulously, as LBCI crewmembers stood by sheepishly.

Lebanon is incredibly dysfunctional to say the least. The state of roads, electricity and Internet in this country speaks for itself. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that the economy is currently surviving on the success of those who have left for greener pastures. Last year alone, it was estimated that nearly 8 billion dollars were sent to Lebanon via expatriates.

“Lebanon is successful economically, it has survived the depression of the world because of the expatriates who live outside of this country and love this country so much that they keep funding its colossal losses. If it weren’t for the expatriates, the English speakers, the French speakers, this country would not stand,” Abou Nassar stated in response to those with an Arabic-only approach to media.

A recent article in the Economist discussed the trend of successful Lebanese abroad, pointing out how “coming from a nation that can go from peace to war in a couple of hours, Lebanese entrepreneurs have learned to be flexible and resilient.”

Indeed, a quick scroll through the Lebanese Twittersphere provides a long list of successful expats – journalists, artists, business people and academics who are leaders in their fields, and who worked their way to these positions through talent, hard work, and dedication.

This begs the question: what is it about Lebanese soil that makes professionalism and efficiency so impossible?

What makes intelligent, educated people drive like animals, throw trash out of car windows, and believe they have the right to take justice into their own hands?

Perhaps years of ‘wasta’ and corruption have saturated work places, promoting an environment that encourages corner cutting rather than hard work. The best and brightest are recruited abroad, or simply leave because of the lack of jobs, in a massive brain drain that has been ongoing since before the civil war. Rules and laws are scoffed at and disregarded, as our own security forces and government members fail to comply by them. (A parliament who passed only a handful of laws over the course of 4 years, but extended its own mandate in a matter of minutes is pretty telling.) Add to that a constantly simmering sectarian atmosphere and you’ve got a pretty potent mix.

How long until we get our act together? And more importantly, can we accomplish this before it is too late?

Nemr Abou Nassar has vowed to build a Lebanon greater than the one we are all nostalgic for. And given his supporters, who are young, hopeful, and disillusioned with the current situation, he may just be the one for the job.

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4 thoughts on “What is it about Lebanon?

  1. Christina says:

    Very well written. Unfortunately, none of us will be alive to see the day Lebanon turning into the Lebanon Nemr described, the Lebanon I am hoping for, or the Lebanon you want to proudly write about.

    • Christina says:

      I agree with David. I think LBC knows well that they are in trouble and too much light was cast on them when Nemr called them out. Even if they are dealing with a third-party provider, their behavior is inexcusable. Professionalism should be a given at all times no matter, especially since they’ve been in the business for over two decades!

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