The anarchist and the dinosaur


Bridging the generational gap

Civil society initially failed to deal with what we lost when we surrendered our independence to regional warfare. An open warning of Hezbollah’s sensibilities was, in retrospect, misguided.

But they are the only group capable of bridging the generational gap. Citizens who have spent years reflecting, writing and giving lectures on secularism, sectarianism, the art of government and reform.

Hold chats in the recovered city center Downtown cinema, expressing eloquence in the tents of the Place des Martyrs and echoing the songs in our majestic and abandoned Grand Theater.

And when the port explosion on August 4 decimated Beirut, they swept the glass off the streets and offered food and shelter to residents stolen from their homes. They intervened where the state had withdrawn.

We are all scared that we harbored a dumping ground for Assad’s brutal war. And we live in a country in free fall, a state that has lost control of its most sensitive sites – from its airport and port to its telecom network and its borders. A status quo of paralysis, depriving us of aspirations. And targeted expression again with the assassination of Lokman Slim.

Peaceful protesters and civic activists lose in war. And that of Lebanon war is far from over.

The condition that collapsed in the early 1970s is the condition that remains. Authority determined by the militia rather than institutions and military, and government defined by the mafia rather than our most talented and brightest. Our security subjugated. Our sovereignty shaken. And our once celebrated prosperity has been replaced by ruin.

The anarchist and The dinosaur are hostages of the same machine. One goes out while the other barely breathes. And any future revolt will be destroyed by the same formidable force that turned deliberation into death.

The fact that civil society has the experience – and the will – to transform activism into political authority makes it the natural opposition.

They rightfully turned their backs on the old guard years ago. They guide young people through campaign strategies and upcoming elections. And when this country recovers, with millions of us in sight, it will face the biggest obstacle that limited movement before.

An agent who inherited a profession. And the protector of our post-war disorder.

Ronnie Chatah hosts The Beirut Banyan podcast, a series of long-running storytelling and conversation episodes that reflect all of modern Lebanese history. He also leads the WalkBeirut tour, a four-hour narration of Beirut’s rich and troubled past. His recent writings have appeared in L’Orient Today and Newlines Magazine. He is sure Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @thebeirutbanyan.

The opinions expressed are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOW.


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