Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Barbar Moawad

Could this enduring Garbage Crisis become the issue that breaks Lebanon’s status quo politics?

In a country rotten to the core with incompetence and corruption, it is a particularly fitting piece of poetic justice that garbage collection may be the straw to break Lebanon’s proverbial back. (The political leaders are Not incompetent: They are too clever in reaping and steeling the public funds to the hilt)

While power outages can be remedied with the help of generators, and water shortages managed with bulk purchases (citernes, water tankers), there is no quick-fix for garbage collection.

Even Lebanon’s most privileged can only do so much to isolate themselves from the festering piles that are now blocking roads and choking out the most isolated municipalities.

Image via Dalal Mawad


There is a popular notion that the Lebanese traditionally adhere to their political leaders’ agendas without much challenge, as suggested by this early 2000s TV spot.

But an overview of the news, and the reality on the ground, suggests a recent shift.

The momentum that fuels secularist and women’s rights movements, and visceral responses that inspired the #JusticeForYves hashtag display an impressive social cohesiveness motivated by frustration with socially conservative notions and rampant corruption.

And while this can be boiled down to Internet outrage, these movements undeniably demonstrate Lebanon’s ability to rapidly collectivize and mobilize around specific cases of political and social discontent.

Now, the #YouStink movement, like the garbage that triggered it, has spilled into the streets, in plain sight.

States ruled by corrupt governments are often enabled by a weak civil society.

But in Lebanon, blessed with neither regional stability nor significant natural resources, the population has never had the luxury of remaining unengaged.

(Here I beg to differ. For 20 years, the youth refrained from getting engaged in internal politics. They focused their attention on international activities such as Global Warming, Organic food, Human rights… It is this specific lengthy garbage crisis with no resolutions in sight that got the youth into asking the relevant questions on their internal problems, and the answers were baffling and humiliating and they felt the wide range of indignities they succumbed to for 30 years.

How the external world will perceive us” was the first motivation until they got educated on their rotten political militia system)

This has had the effect of pushing the population towards parties promising to protect the interests of their sect, further aggravating the sectarian lines upon which the country is drawn.

But those institutionalized powers have long since failed to provide basic services.

Indeed, Lebanon’s current political class lost legitimacy long before rubber bullets and tear gas were aimed at peaceful protestors demanding the most basic of human rights.

Unlike many states fettered by corruption and nepotism, Lebanon boasts the rare combination of a healthy blogosphere, a digitally engaged community and, recently, momentum born of frustration that just may be sufficient to challenge the political status quo.

Tourists, foreign journalists and even diplomats often marvel at the duality of Beirut – the fact that bullet-riddled buildings can exist alongside a thriving nightlife.

But the real duality exists not between religions or lifestyles, but between status quo politicians and a younger, educated generation fully aware of the ineptitude by which they are governed.

The governing political class does not yet appear to have grasped that the culture of impunity that enabled them during the war years no longer exists. It is this sense of entitlement that motivated parliament to extend its own term, and misled them into believing that their incompetence would not be challenged, even when failing to provide the most basic of services to the population they are there to serve.

Lebanon is not by definition the weakest link in the region – it is the weakest link because it has since the civil war failed to produce a national strategy with sovereign interests in mind.

Failure to strategize is what allowed the Cedar Revolution to be co-opted by both external and internal forces, disenfranchising the very voices that thought their moment had come.

What differentiates the #YouStink movement from past protests is not only its size and staying power, but also the fact that it arose organically, without being sponsored by a specific political side, external or internal.

Indeed, on its Facebook page, organizers publically decried politicians attempting to co-opt the movement, affirming that their participation “is not welcome so long as you are a part of the authority.”

The #YouStink movement is the opportunity for Lebanese civil society to replace the status quo political class that has long governed without accountability or transparency.

The momentum must be sustained by a unified strategy prioritizing the prosperity of the Lebanese people, and by propping up a fresh wave of candidates for the upcoming elections. Only then can a new political class emerge, one unfettered by the collective failure of current political authorities.

Michelle Ghoussoub is a freelance journalist and Barbar Moawad is a graduate in clean energy engineering. You can follow them on twitter at @MichelleGhsoub and @barmwd.

Image via Dalal Mawad

As support and momentum for the #YouStink movement grows, the question of national strategy emerges|By Michelle Ghoussoub

the #YouStink movement, like the garbage that triggered it, has spilled into the streets, in plain sight.”




March 2023

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