In The Trial, Franz Kafka describes a bizarre story of a man who is arrested and prosecuted by a vague, distant, and inaccessible authority, for a crime that is never revealed. An endless bureaucratic nightmare for which there is not even a single redeeming reason. That is how the corrupt, incompetent Lebanese bureaucracy is. One has to navigate it without knowing the rules, without knowing the endpoints, and even when there are milestones, they have no logical reason.The only logic one can draw is to invoke the conspiracy theory to the effect that all this endless travel through dark holes of unreason is to feed the valet bureaucrats appointed by the sectarian monsters that rule over our lives. All the appointees to public service offices where such bureaucracy takes place are clients of political bosses, and they cash a paycheck first to vote for the boss at the next elections, second to keep the wheel of incomprehension and vagueness turning in order to cement their jobs, and third as an additional source of income in the form of bribes and kickbacks they take in exchange for doing their so-called jobs, i.e. signing and stamping otherwise useless paperwork.
A case in point is my own recent experience of registering my divorce with the Lebanese authorities for the sole purpose of deleting the mention "متأهل" (married) from my Civil Status certificate (إخراج قيد). My divorce was issued by a US court in the 1990s, and it is a civil (not religious) legal process not involving the neanderthals of the Christian or Muslim clergy and institutions. In a civilized country, you submit an application, along with the divorce court ruling certificate, and the local registry just handles the process. In Lebanon, it is long winding endless maize of ill-conceived, poorly described, deliberately provided as fragmented requirements, involving the Lebanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the local registry (قلم النفوس), all intricately linked by Kafkaesque gossamer which is described nowhere, and which one discovers abruptly at every stunning, maddening step of the way. Like God, Gebran Bassil and his hordes of Uncivil Servants, operate in mysterious ways, and more often than not, only miracles make the process move forward. Do not count on ethics, responsibility, professionalism, obligations or any of the drivers of civil servants in the civilized world. Just take the plunge and suffer the many rectal exams you have to be subjected to in order to change one word in your record at the registry. Here is my story.
Having married in the 1980s in New York, where I had fled from Palestinian terrorism, Bachir Gemayel's barbarism, Walid
Jumblatt's tribalism, Israeli treachery, Syrian vulgar savagery and the
filth of Lebanon's religious politics of the 1980s, I registered my civil marriage and children with the Lebanese
Consulate in New York. It took
years for the names of my spouse and children to appear in the registries in Lebanon, and when I would occasionally call the consulate to inquire, I would be told that I had to fly to Beirut and "follow up" on the registration in person in situ. Being from the Chouf where cave-dwelling Druze and Christian savages have been slaughtering one another for centuries, there was no way I was going to fly to Beirut in the midst of war and drive to Beiteddine to do the "follow up". So, because of the war, and when the names appeared a decade later in the records, I forgave the ineptitude and rudeness of Lebanese Consular
But what about today, with Gebran Bassil wanting to reconnect
the diaspora with the homeland? I will tell you: It is worse today. For
one, Bassil is not really interested in helping the Diaspora; all he wants is
for Christians to register so he can increase their hypothetical numbers in the
sectarian cesspool of Lebanon, and then, of course, having increased their numbers artificially, to "save" those said Christians from their fellow Muslims who, it seems, are bent on annihilating them. He must have Christians so he can claim to want to defend them. With most Christians having fled the country, Bassil has no "flock" to shepherd. He has inherited the greed and stupidity of the Maronite Church which, less than 100 years ago annexed largely Muslim areas of Syria into their autonomous Mount Lebanon entity to create the Greater Lebanon monstrosity in which Christians quickly became a minority. In the 1989 Taif Agreement, concluded after decades of war in which the Muslims demanded power, the Christians managed to hold on to a 50% share of everything - المناصفة - despite their dwindling numbers and sectarian proportion (estimated today at 35%). And so Bassil, in collusion with the Maronite Church, today wants expat Christians - who by the way fled not only Palestinian, Syrian, Druze and Muslim barbarism, but the filth and Fascism of their own protectors of the Christian militias and the Maronite Church - to register at their consulates and embassies so the number of "theoretical" Christians in Lebanon increases, so that, in turn, Bassil can claim to have a flock to defend from the Muslims and more importantly so he can bolster the decaying argument of a 50% Christian share of government to 35% proportion of the demographics.
For the past year, I have been dealing with the incompetence, rudeness, and
lack of professionalism of politically-appointed and often illiterate bureaucrats of the Lebanese Consulate in NY, and the consequent abject misery and agony of registering my
ancient (1990s) and civil (not religious) divorce. It is an endless saga of incomplete information provided on web sites,
misplaced mailings, a New York consul who can't speak or write English and with whom telephone conversations are akin to a bullying contest of who can shut the mouth of his interlocutor faster and louder. After much misunderstandings and missed mailings back in the US, the papers finally made it to Bassil's den of Foreign Affairs in Ashrafiyeh. Thanks to someone I know who used to work there, the papers somehow made their way to Interior Ministry in Hamra. Keep in mind that both places are mindless, chaotic, dirty, incomprehensible worlds of rundown unmarked offices, where you have ask a million times many an individual in your same predicament before you know where to go. After being told that the papers will now make it in 3 days to the registry (the hypothetical endpoint of this Kafkaesque journey), we discovered a month later that the papers did NOT leave Interior Ministry. When we inquired, we were told that the asshole Consul in New York had misspelled my mother's name in the form he fills out, which causes the papers that have
traveled all the way from NY back in April to be returned from Interior to Foreign
Affairs and then back to the US in order for the asshole Consul to correct the name. In addition, there are requirements that
make no sense, or if they do, there is never an explanation provided, as for example the requirement that a proxy (a Power of Attorney) must be given to someone else
(at the extra cost of $125: $100 to the notary, and $25 to the consulate) to "follow up" the registration at Foreign Affairs. You ask a hundred times what this "follow-up" (ملاحقة المعاملة) consists of, and you never get a straight answer. Then you tell yourself after appointing the proxy that you'd better be
physically present here in Lebanon to do the mysterious "follow-up" alongside the proxy. The papers normally should travel by diplomatic pouch from the Consulate to Foreign Affairs, who then forwards them to Interior, who then forwards them to the Registry, where the records are updated from "married" to "divorced". That is the job of ethical civil servants. But not in Lebanon. I
also found out, only recently, that you are required to appoint an attorney for a reason that they never explain to you and that even the
attorney I already spoke with does not understand. All of this to register a really ancient,
settled and done with divorce of more than 20 years ago.
SO, TO ALL MY FELLOW LEBANESE EXPATS:
- DO NOT LISTEN TO GEBRAN BASSIL
- DO NOT REGISTER
AT LEBANESE CONSULATES AND EMBASSIES, unless you are a masochist.
- A LEBANESE PASSPORT WILL COST YOU TEN TIMES THE COST OF A FOREIGN PASSPORT.
- A LEBANESE PASSPORT IS USELESS IF YOU HAVE ANOTHER PASSPORT.
- EVEN IF YOU HAVE A PATRIOTIC HEART, OR A SECTARIAN HEART AND WANT TO HELP THE CHRISTIANS OF LEBANON, GOING THROUGH THE REGISTRATION PROCESS WILL DESTROY ANY LOVE YOU MAY STILL HAVE FOR YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN.
-PATRIOTISM AND NATIONALISM ARE OLD-FASHIONED IN CIVILIZED SOCIETIES. PEOPLE WANT FIRST AND FOREMOST TO BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY, AND BASSIL'S CHEAP SECTARIAN PATRIOTISM SHOULD NOT BE A PRETEXT FOR ILL-TREATING PEOPLE.
- YOU WILL ACTUALLY GAIN NOTHING FROM RECLAIMING YOUR LEBANESE CITIZENSHIP. IF YOU HAVEN'T ASKED BASSIL YET, ASK YOURSELVES WHAT IS IT THAT I AM GOING TO GET FROM A LEBANESE PASSPORT OTHER THAN VOTE FOR BASSIL AND THE OTHER NEANDERTHALS OF LEBANON'S POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS PANTHEON?
- STEPPING DOWN FROM A PLANE IN BEIRUT AIRPORT, YOU WILL QUICKLY REALIZE WHAT FILTH YOU HAVE GOTTEN YOURSELVES INTO: A MISMANAGED AIRPORT, WHERE HOODLUMS AND MAFIOSO TAXI DRIVERS WILL RIP YOU OFF, WHERE THERE IS NO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, WHERE YOU HAVE TO DRIVE THROUGH HEZBOLLAH TERRITORY - BASSIL'S ALLY IN THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT AND AN ENEMY OF ANYTHING WESTERN - WHERE THE SMELL OF GARBAGE WAFTS CONSTANTLY OVER THE CITY, WHERE DRIVING IS A LIFE-THREATENING EXERCISE ....
- WHY RECONNECT WITH A COUNTRY THAT WANTS YOU ONLY AS A NUMBER IN THE CATTLE COUNT CONTEST BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS?
- WHY RECONNECT WITH A COUNTRY OF RUDE BARBARIANS, CORRUPTION, THEFT OF PUBLIC LAND AND BEACHES - IN FACT IN BASSIL'S VERY OWN DISTRICT OF BATROUN - GARBAGE, POLLUTION, AND RELIGIOUS BACKWARDNESS?
- IF ANYTHING, YOU SHOULD USE BASSIL'S QUEST TO HAVE YOU REGISTERED TO LEVERAGE REAL CHANGE ON THE GROUND, IN BASSIL'S OWN MINISTRY, TO DEMAND A CLEANER, FRIENDLIER BUREAUCRACY THAT RESPECTS AND SERVES YOU, INSTEAD OF TREATING YOU LIKE A MISERABLE HUNGRY DOG TO WHOM THEY THROW A BONE ONCE IN A WHILE.