Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 3rd, 2016

Drowning in garbage

Bad scores for Lebanon: in debt, and plummets in health and education

Joseph Eid .  Wednesday 28 September 2016

Beirut — “Good morning! I’m an AFP photographer. Would it be alright to use your roof to take pictures of the garbage mountain in front of your building?”

“Welcome, welcome my dear, come in. Would you like some coffee? I can give you a full interview if you want. Will your pictures show how bad the smell is?”

Since Lebanon’s trash crisis began last July, I have asked this question dozens — perhaps hundreds — of times. I am greeted with the same enthusiasm each time, with residents eagerly ushering me onto their rooftops or near their windows to snap pictures of the piles of rubbish lining Lebanon’s roads.

Andrew Bossone shared this link. September 30 at 7:07am ·

“Everyone I’ve spoken to in my work as an AFP photographer and in my daily life as a Lebanese citizen has given up. They have surrendered entirely to the idea that the ongoing garbage crisis exemplifies what is wrong with Lebanon: A political class that has no interest in serving the public.

This political class, Lebanese people say, has intentionally manufactured or at least prolonged a crisis because it has yet been Unable to agree on how to “divide up the cake.””

correspondent.afp.com

After several rounds of government deals on the issue, we thought the waste crisis had been brought under control. But over the past month, piles of garbage have once again invaded our streets and neighbourhoods, from Lebanon’s rocky mountains to the capital’s busy streets.

My 40 kilometre commute to work takes me from the beautiful coastal town of Byblos along the seaside highway to Beirut. Day by day, as I drive this route, I notice garbage accumulate along both sides of the highway, near exit roads that lead into residential neighbourhoods, and under huge concrete bridges.

While driving to Beirut one morning, I noticed a giant cloud of smoke several kilometres away. I veered off the road to track down where it was coming from.

It was a massive construction pit filled to the brim with flaming rubbish. I immediately began snapping photos, as two firefighters emerged from the smoke, calling for backup as they had run out of water to extinguish the fire.

It looked like a disaster movie — except that joggers and people walking their pets just strolled by, completely unfazed by the gruesome scene unfolding before them.

It seemed surreal — are they drugged? I thought. More likely, the situation has become so commonplace that they’ve become numb to the heaps of trash around them.

The following day, I saw a river of garbage — bags piled up on a bridge that serves as one of the main thoroughfares into Beirut. The only way to capture a telling picture would be from an elevated position, so I began making the rounds in nearby buildings to find a suitable lookout point.

The smell was overwhelming — I couldn’t imagine how anyone was living this close to such a putrid monument. A concierge spotted me looking around and knew exactly what I needed. “Do you want to get a postcard of this new tourist site? Come with me and I’ll show you!” he shouted.

He led me up 14 storeys to the rooftop. What a view. I could see Beirut’s perennially-bustling port, the old and new buildings of the city, and, of course, the smoke rising from burning garbage piles across the capital. I could also spot the new garbage dump in Karantina, a mountain in a forest of buildings.

Then, I saw it: Lebanon’s new ski slope.

But instead of freshly fallen snow, the white hill was made of garbage bags, extending for several hundred meters along the Jdeideh bridge, which links the Metn area to Beirut. Once again, commuters were zipping past without a second glance.

I took the pictures I needed and thanked the concierge for his help. As I showed him the photographs, he smiled and complimented the “beauty of my frames,” as if he was looking at a picture of a beautiful woman or a postcard from the Caribbean islands.

It’s shameful. The blatant lethargy of the Lebanese has stunned me.

They are absolutely convinced that nothing can be done — that their fate has been sealed by the governing political elite. They are angry and upset, but they suffer silently, without hope of a real solution.

Along to the warm welcomes that I’ve received from residents whose rooftops I used as vantage points, I also repeatedly heard the following phrases:

“Please make sure to show the world what they are doing to us.”

“We are dying of cancer.”

“We are overwhelmed by viruses, infections, and bacteria.”

“You work for a foreign agency, show the world. Please don’t let this pass unseen. We want the colonial powers to come to rule over us again, at least we would have institutions and wouldn’t be drowning in garbage.”

“A country the size of a small town in the west is unable to elect a president, all its public institutions are dysfunctional, its services and infrastructure are rotten… Why would anyone want to live in such a failed state?”

Everyone I’ve spoken to in my work as an AFP photographer and in my daily life as a Lebanese citizen has given up. They have surrendered entirely to the idea that the ongoing garbage crisis exemplifies what is wrong with Lebanon: A political class that has no interest in serving the public.

This political class, Lebanese people say, has intentionally manufactured or at least prolonged a crisis because it has not yet been able to agree on how to “divide up the cake.”

Because Lebanon’s leaders cannot agree, some have resorted to sectarian discourse as a tool to deflect public scrutiny and camouflage their own culpability.

Others have irresponsibly suggested that municipalities, which have been handcuffed by the same elite for years, take on the responsibility of processing waste in light of the fact that the elite have failed to do so.

Still others have called on citizens to find a solution to the garbage crisis, a move which only highlights the bankruptcy of the politicians.

But until a lasting solution is found, I will keep climbing up buildings to capture Beirut’s increasingly-littered horizon.

 Note: Lebanon globally ranks 3rd in debt, plummets in health and education

Tonnie Ch and Ziad Abi Chaker shared Newsroom Nomad link.
#NewsroomNomad #Lebanon #Health #Education #Corruption #Debt
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An act within a revolution: Egypt

Jack Shenker’s book wears its heart on its cover. From the top right hand corner, Nefertiti’s eyes above her gas mask fix you with a stern, sorrowful look, the nom de plume – or de guerre – of her creator, the street artist Zeft, on the spray-can pointed at her temple.

Possibly the most famous example of Egyptian revolutionary graffiti, here she’s been given a collar of blood, echoed in the bottom left hand corner by the red-dripping Egyptian flag – itself a graffito that appeared in November 2011 after the army and police killed dozens of people in downtown Cairo.

Since the regime in Egypt is stonily set against the merest suggestion – however playful – that walls should be seen as anything other than brutish enforcers of division, simply deploying graffiti puts you in the revolutionary (revolutiophile?) camp.

And this is where Shenker deservedly belongs.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.
theguardian.com|By Ahdaf Soueif

By January 2011 he had lived downtown for three years, made friends, nosed out good stories and told them with style – so when the long-awaited revolution suddenly boiled over on his doorstep he was poised to be as bouleversé by it as any Cairene.

Describing his notebooks of the time, he writes:

“Two of the spiral-bound ones are twisted, their spines dislocated from the pages … The handwriting is hurried, messy – words have been snatched hastily to the paper amid drumbeats and shouts and gas and flight, and they’ve brought bits of that universe with them: grubby stains, smears of rock dust, strange ink … sentences appear in different colours and some of them are splotched by teardrops. Many pages are torn, and a few are missing.”

Can the description of a notebook wring your heart? Yes, if you see yourself and those whom you love, those thousands whom you learned – in the streets – to love, in them.

Bruised and dislocated, stained and splotched, some missing forever, but the ones who remain holding on – at least – to the narrative.

it had always been war, and it hadn’t started with the revolution; 25 January 2011 was just when everyone who had opposed Hosni Mubarak’s regime or who had wished they’d dared to oppose it came together and, for a long, miraculous moment, acted as one.

The Egyptians: A Radical Story is fully cognisant of both: the long struggle that fed that revolutionary moment – and the miraculous nature of the moment.

The revolution, as historian Khaled Fahmy has pointed out, is part of a sequence of turbulence that ebbs and flows but has never been entirely stilled since the mid-19th century.

Seen like this, it becomes possible to freely examine what it was like and why. We are able to give it its due as – in Shenker’s excellent phrase – a “leaderful” rather than leaderless revolution, and accept that it was “make-do” because “Make-do is all you have when you try to make and do something entirely new against the forces of old.”

It needs to be celebrated as a “revolution on the form of revolution” that, like 1848, exploded the old ways “though struggling, so far, to articulate the new”. And most importantly, we need to recognise it as a climactic and transformatory point in an ongoing revolution that is not Egypt’s alone.

The Egyptians positions the 18 days both within their national historical context, and within their political context in the world.

The central argument of this meticulous, carefully researched and passionately argued book is that the battle in Egypt, as in almost every other place in the world, is between a dominant global neo-liberal capitalist system and the people whose lives and livelihoods it is destroying.

It finds Egypt situated at the acute end of a global continuum of citizens struggling against the combined might of state and capital to find a formula for real, participatory democracy.

the revolutionary wave in Egypt has been beaten back for now by a powerful counter-revolution.

In November 2013, as General Sisi was moving towards the presidency, the well-known Egyptian open-source software designer, blogger and dissident, Alaa Abd el Fattah wrote:

“The trajectory of the revolution and the trajectory of the counter-revolution run together and influence each other. The counter-revolution is not just a defensive position taken by the enemies of the revolution; it is reactionary forces in their own right trying to profit from conditions of fluidity to shape the world to their liking – just as we are doing …”

The Egyptians pins down these forces and their backers with care and in chilling detail.

For all its revolutionist fervour, this is a work of painstaking research and investigation. Just one of the tens of examples cited of the international backers swinging into action is the formation of the Deauville partnership with Arab countries in transition under the auspices of the G8 summit in May 2011to keep multinational capital fused with whatever political models emerged from the countries’ massive anti-government uprisings”.

Everyone who is for the revolution in Egypt agrees that what it did achieve was to turn ordinary people into participants in political life rather than its passive subjects – or victims;

that it was about “marginalised citizens muscling their way on to the political stage and practising collective sovereignty over domains that were previously closed to them”.

But for more than six decades the state had actively barred people from political life – and in July 2013, weary, scared and disappointed in the Muslim Brotherhood they had elected into office, huge numbers of Egyptians chose to return to what they knew; they put their trust in what was presented as the one remaining pillar of the state: the military.

So we are back in what Shenker calls “Mubarak country”, but with everything heightened a couple of notches – the glitz of the economic conferences, the grandeur of the promised projects, the severity of the proposed austerity measures, the scale of begging and borrowing, the war in Sinai.

And heightened also is the state’s distrust of the people and the level and spread of state violence against them.

But similarly heightened is the people’s sense of themselves as agents of their own fate. Shenker quotes a young activist, Nour, who, while admitting to exhaustion and the need for rest and recuperation, insists that “a significant proportion of the Egyptian population no longer think about themselves and about politics in the same way, and are no longer prepared to put up with the old crap.”

Shenker lists some of “the debates lived out by Egyptian revolutionaries – over what sort of governance structures their lives, whether or not they should aim to seize state power, how best human beings can find the space in which to imagine and implement alternative forms of sovereignty and the courage to stand up to the brutality that will confront them along the way”. These are, as he says, “debates that are playing out everywhere”.

The Egyptians is not just about the revolution, it is an act within it; making its case, documenting its achievements and tragedies, pushing forward its narrative.

It celebrates the collective and enacts it in its co-operation with texts and witnesses.

It exemplifies the social solidarity that recognises the global nature of our problems and the new and radical solutions they require.

Ahdaf Soueif’s Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed is published by Bloomsbury. To order The Egyptians for £12.79 (RRP £15.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.


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