Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘“Farewell Beirut”

Farewell Beirut (di3anek ya Beirut): Omar Z3enni poem

 الكاتب الشاعر المغني عمر الزعني المولود سنة 1898 والمتوفى سنة 1961 وهو الملقّب بموليير الشرق حيناً وبفولتير العرب حيناً آخر،
على مدى نصف قرن عاش في بيروت، ولبيروت .. غناها كما راها في ذلك الوقت. عرف «بإبن الشعب» و«بإبن البلد».
مما غنى لبيروت قصيدة تحكي واقع الحال … والشاعر عادة هو مرآة عصره …

يقول -..وهو كتب ما كتب وغنى منذ اكثر من سبعين سنة وكأنها القصيدة المغناة كتبت صباح اليوم .
يقول الزعني..

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

يا مناظر عالشاشة
يا خداعة وغشاشة
يا عروس بخشخاشة
يا مصمودي بالتابوت

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

الخواطر مكسورة
والنفوس مقهورة
والحرية مقبورة
والكلام للنبوت
الجهال حاكمين
والارذال عايمين
والانذال عايشين
والاوادم عما تموت

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

الخاين حامل نيشان
والسافل الو قدر وشان
والجاهل شبعان رويان
والعالم لايب عالقوت

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

ما في هيبة ولا وقار
بالاحكام استهتار
وين ما مشيت لعب قمار
في النوادي والبيوت

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

الغريب بيتمخطر
والقريب بيتمرمر
واللي بيفوت ما بيضهر
واللي بيضهر ما بيفوت

يا ضيعانك يا بيروت

Maid living in the Mistress house?

There are many States that allow private agencies to import foreign maids to serve in private families.  The maid lives in the house with the family and work from 6 am to midnight, always standing and serving, and cleaning until the last member of the family is gone to bed.

The maid in Lebanon cost $150 a month and the entire yearly amount is paid to the agency upfront when the commissioned maid arrives in Lebanon “legally”?  Most of the time, the contract of the hired foreign maid is for two years.

Maids arriving to Lebanon are mostly from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and from other African States.  Workers at gas stations are mainly from Egypt.  Construction workers are from Syria.  Sanitation workers are from Bangladesh.  You have the impression that every foreign State has a specialty work to do in Lebanon.

Lately, a semi-official report from Madagascar’s Minister of Public and Social Affairs, Nadine Ramorson, denounced in the weekly “Jeune Afrique” the ill treatments of the maids in Lebanon and that many returned home dead or badly injured.  The number of maids from Madagascar climbed from one thousand in 2006 to over 7,000 in 2010.

Before the civil war in Lebanon that started in 1975, maids were hired from Syria.  The child maid’s father would show up once a year to cash in his dues and leave without even sitting and talking to his child daughter of less than 13 of age.

When a kid, I never asked the maid to fetch me a glass of water or for any personal needs; it is shameful to see parents considering as legitimate and right for their kids to be ordering maids around for simple tasks they can and should be doing on their own.

I can testify that the Lebanese, in general, are racist with respect to the poorer classes.  It is worse, when this domestic or worker is from a foreign land.  A black colored worker is called Black or coal.  The higher the number of maids the higher the status of a family.  I can see families bringing more than one maids to events and ceremonies in order to wash dishes, take care of every whims of kids, and serve on tables.

There were periods when Lebanese were respectful to older members and had a sense of shame working others overtime.  Social life is going bad.  You may pay a visit to our prisons to witness the carelessness we handle human rights and human dignity.

Many foreign maids are incarcerated for months without any due process, simply because they could not pay to renew their work permit or purchase a ticket home.  Many maids had committed suicides and we never hear of these cases or the follow-up investigations, if any.

Fact is, we the Lebanese are living in a big prison, with no way out if you have not the money to getting out.  Maybe 5% of the Lebanese are well off (mainly the public servants and families of deputies) but the rest of us are living under $150 per month, with a standard of living higher than Paris and London.

It is no enigma if most Lebanese are servile to their sectarian leaders who were the culprit of this civil war that lasted more than 13 years:  They want to survive and seek political and employment supports.

It is no enigma of this growing racist tendencies when the leaders of the civil wars returned as ministers and deputy after the civil war and have been totally absolved of their genocides by a Parliament of their own.

We have no dignity left to start demonstrations and revolts.  If it were not for Hezbollah’s steadfastness then, Lebanon would have been a State from the past, a non-entity….

I published in my autobiography the following passage:

“At the time it was the custom for well-off family to hire girl child helpers from Syria around Safita.  My family was no exception. The father of any of these children between 10 to 12 years old would visit once a year to collect his money and leave.  Over the span of 6 years, we had 3 child helpers. The first one was named Salimeh and she was my age of 12 but was much taller, robust and all muscles; I recall that I used to box her buttocks, hard as rock.  She was not pretty but she loved us dearly and we got used to liking her cheerful attitude.

The next one was even younger and she used to get lost every time she had to accompany my younger sister Raymonde from school.  Once she lost her way and Raymonde was already at home and she saw Raymonde on the balcony and she hollered to my sister “come down to go home”.

The third helper was short, hard working and pretty and she was in love with me and I was at the age when I could not stand romance and drooping eyes.  I was glad when her father took her away but she was in cry and would not leave.  Mother was hard on the helpers and she made them wake up very early and work all day long for over 13 hours, but mother was meticulous that they keep clean, eating of our own food and wearing decent clothes.  It was hard for me to accept the conditions of these helpers once I became conscious of their alienation, away from their homes for over two years sometimes.”

The late author, Mai Ghoussoub described the life of one these kid helpers in her book “Farewell Beirut” and how she turned out to be a ferocious and fearless fighter during the civil war; most importantly, she never tried to get any revenge on her “masters”, even though the eldest son had raped her and she was confined never to leave the apartment; the girl was just utterly happy to feel free.”

“Farewell Beirut”, by Mai Ghoussoub (Part 3, November 16, 2008)

Note: Paragraphs in parentheses are my own interjections.

The third part of my review was hard and I delayed it too long because the demons that Mai is battling with are spread throughout the book.

I decided not to try to have a coherent or logical links among the different emotions that were troubling Mai and I will leave it to the readers to do their own homework and reflections.

The main theme in “Farewell Beirut” is “revenge” and the associated concepts of honor, genocides, nationalism, heroes, traitors, denouncers, martyrdom, punishment, hate, love and the fundamental human emotions that might be interpreted differently through the ages, and civilizations but where the moral values of wrong and right should not be left to personal matters of point of views.

There are cases of transient insanity such as degraded human values, mocked tradition, and disobedience of State laws and rules.

For example, why we tend to be more lenient toward the rotten moral values of officials simply because they didn’t show rigidity in the mind?  If we admit that “traitors” are the product of dictatorship and wars and that this breed of people are present in locations fraught with danger (then most of us might have played the role of traitors under the right conditions).

People have the tendency to be more lenient with deficiency in morality than with extremist positions in ideologies and religious beliefs.

For example, burning witches is related to extreme social and religious dogmatism as a reaction for seeking consensus in an established social order.  Heroes are not necessarily that honorable; take the case of this child who denounced his father who helped a few Gulag prisoners to escape to the soviet authorities and in return was awarded a medal of honor and much propaganda.

Take for example the French women who had sexual relationship with German officers during WWII and many of them begot offspring; they had their head shaven since hair is the most representative of female pride.

These head shaven ladies were the scapegoats to releasing the emotions for frustration and rage among the hungry Parisians. The worst part is that the mothers brought their kids with them to watch the dishonoring ritual. The women watchers are badly dressed which reflect a bad conscience in being part of the ceremony.

While the German used modern techniques to hide their genocide, the French “victors” adopted medieval means to humiliate and get revenge on the traitors and informers.

John Steinbeck said “We cannot take pictures of war because war is fundamentally emotions“.

In our back head, we always have fears for the reaction of those we have persecuted. The French star singer Arlettie reacted furiously and said “What! Are they also meddling in how we use our sex parts?”   Many women had to survive under siege and everyone according to his potentials and skills.

The Argentinean navy officer Adolfo Silingo said:

“I was responsible for killing 30 people with my own hands and I do not feel remorse or repentance because I was following orders and I got used after the initial shock surprise. We knew that we were killing humans but we kept killing them!  The civilians were in a semi comatose state from torture and we threw them out of the airplane like puppy dolls.

Most of the navy contingents participated in these mass killings” Adolfo is spending his life drunk on the streets trying to forget the “dirty war” during the dictatorship against his own people.

General Paul Tibits who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima is not penitent.  These kinds of people were once considered heroes: how do you view them now?

Hanna Arndt would like to comprehend “Why these people did chose to stop thinking?

Brecht screamed in one of his plays “Woo to the nations that count too many heroes!

Simone Veil didn’t take it personal that she was incarcerated because she was Jew; she was interested to know “how people are propelled into a climate of condemning and defaming others

This question is pertinent “Is it legitimate to hide truth in order to secure social peace?

How can we manage to forget and yet not take chances for the recurrence of the same sorts of atrocities?”

It is most difficult to find common denominators among the concepts of justice, moral values, and politics when judging cases of genocides.

Bertolt Brecht said: “Tragedies is about human suffering expressed in less seriousness than comedies. The perpetrators of genocides are not great criminal politiciasns but simple people who allowed horrifying political crimes to pass”

“Farewell Beirut”, by Mai Ghoussoub , (November 14, 2008)

Farewell Beirut is fundamentally an autobiography and is of 220 pages and containing 15 chapters of short detailed stories that late Mai Ghoussou witnessed.

Mai Ghoussoub, a writer, sculpture, theater promoter, and a co-founder of the publishing house Dar Al Saki, was 54 when she died of complication from a surgery in London on February 17, 2007.

Mai participated in the Lebanese civil war by caring for the downtrodden Palestinians living in shantytown of refugee camps. She lost an eye by a rocket that hit her car while aiding in a clinic of Nabaa in East Beirut, and she suffered greatly for three years out of that injury.  Mai decided to leave Lebanon in 1979 and lived for a while in Paris and then moved to London.

Mai suggested to her old school friend Andre Caspar, who was hitchhiking in the USA, to join her and open a library that would offer Arabic books and manuscript.  The library led to instituting the publishing house Dar Al Saki in 1983. Mai married Hazem Saghieh, a writer and newspaper editor.

During an art exhibition in Shore Ditch London, Mai and her Israeli actress friend Anna Sharbati donned Moslem attires and held tennis rackets to stir any climate of conservatism in London, but nobody noticed them.

Mai recalls that at the age of 12, she was attached to her French teacher Nomie.  To please her teacher she wrote a lengthy fictitious essay that ended with an injunction for revenge on harms done to her.  Nomie gave her only 10 out of 20 points because the want for revenge is the basest of emotions… Mai retained that lesson and struggled with it most of her turbulent life, especially during part of the civil war.

First story.

Tiny and sickly Latifa was barely 9 years old when her Syrian father “rented” her for a year to work as maid (house helper). Latifa was to get up before any member of the family and go to bed in a corner of the kitchen after every member was asleep and work non-stop most of the time. Latifa, treated worse than a slave, endured all the miseries and humiliations. Latifa’s father used to show up drunk once a year to be paid without even bringing his daughter a token of a gift or spending any time with her.

Latifa was raped by the eldest son of the family and she was no longer permitted to leave the apartment. During the civil war in Lebanon, tiny Latifa was to brave the snipers and rockets to bring food to the family.  Latifa joined the militias of the neighborhood and moved with them; she covered her face with a hood (cagoule) so that nobody would recognize her, but her large eyes could not conceal her.  Latifa never took revenge on her “masters”, but tried her best to move forward.

Latifa got famous as “Um Ali”, and one of the toughest fighters in Beirut.  She was killed mysteriously and her “masters” had no photo of her to plaster it on the street in remembrance of a “martyr”.  Latifa lived incognito and died incognito.

Second story.

Said was the only son of the owner of a small grocery.  His family was constantly worried for his upbringing.  Said was a short, stocky, jovial and smiling helper; he delivered the groceries to the homes and was liked by the entire neighborhood; he wanted to join the “hospitality” business.

The civil war changed Said: he joined the militias and became a tough fighter.  There were plenty of rumors about Said’s deeds during the war; a sniper, a blackmailer, a leader of a group of fighters and anything that warriors are expected to end up doing among scared and humiliated citizens.

Said opened a small hotel after the war.  The author was unable to label a definitive judgment opinion on Said as she recalled him when Mai was settled overseas.  Can a man be fundamentally good and change to the opposite when circumstances change?

Third story.

Hashem is an Iranian refugee in Beirut, fleeing the new Khomeini Islamic regime.  Hashem is well like and funny and has strong and definite positions against the Western States and cultures.  He immigrated to Denmark during the Lebanese civil war and married the tall, beautiful and blonde Kirsten.  Kersten did her best to assimilate Hashem’s culture and tradition; she befriended his friends, learned to cook Iranian and Lebanese dishes, helped bring Hashem’s family to Denmark and had promised him to wear the veil when they decide to return to Iran or settle in Lebanon.

Hashem fell in love with Maria, a Chilean girl, while attending a Danish language center.  Maria didn’t care for Hashem’s friends or even his health; all she cared for was her relationship with Hashem.  Kirsten didn’t like the situation; she never reprimanded Hashem verbally: her eyes and silence and posture expressed her displeasure.

Hashem was killed in Danmark in 1989; Kirsten set up an official obituary in her church and in the mosque; she organized the funeral to its minute details and delivered the eulogy; she persisted on keeping Hashem’s memory every year and obliterated Maria from the picture. From now on Hashem solely belongs to Kirsten.

Mai volunteered her aid in the clinic of the Chatila Palestinian camp at the start of the civil war; she cataloged the medicines and shelved them accordingly. A young Palestinian leader visited the camp and saw Mai; he sent one of his sbirs to fetch Mai to his headquarter. Mai and Abu Firas enjoyed a secret amorous affair for long time until Mai’s brother got injured.  Abu Firas made the error of visiting Mai at the hospital; Mai’s family and acquaintances got wind of her marginal affair and she had to leave Lebanon to Paris when her brother recovered.

Mai never carried a weapon or engage in any skirmishes.  Mai was comfortably installed in Paris when she received a long distance call from Lebanon; Mai refused to take the call of Abu Firas:  instead, she wandered in the streets of Paris to relieve the anxiety of the onslaught of her memory of the civil war.

Mai had questions nagging at her “would she ever be able to convince herself that she didn’t participate in the civil war?”, “would she be able to erase the facts that she met assassins and didn’t oppose their deeds?”

One thing that Mai is convinced of is that she allied to mercenaries on ideological grounds and let her country go to hell.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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