As Minister Gebran Bassil's "Lebanese Diaspora Energy 2017" reached its climax today, while he continues in his drive to get you (who have emigrated, or were born to emigrant parents and grandparents) to "return" to, build tie with, or invest in, Lebanon, or even recover your Lebanese citizenship...here are a few thoughts:
Lebanese expats and emigrés have always supported their families back in the home country. The money that you have been sending for generations has held the people of this country steadfast in the face of great adversity, and despite the fact that a lot of your money has ended in the pockets of the corrupt politicians and their cronies in the form of bribes, kickbacks, high taxes....
So, what exactly is Bassil pushing, since he knows like everyone else that you have already and always supported the people of this country?
Well, for one, he wants your numbers, and since he is now a defender of Christian rights (after a brief ideological career as a "secularist"), he wants the demographics of the emigrés, who are overwhelmingly Christians, to alter today's balance between Christian and Muslim to the advantage of the Christians. In other words, he wants to perpetuate the disease that has afflicted this country for so long, namely to keep it divided between Christians and Muslims, which allows politicians like Bassil, beholden to the primitive religious establishments that dominate the underbelly of the beast, to claim to be defending their respective herds. Which means yet a few more train wrecks around the corner in the form of a civil wars, massacres, and other modern means of protecting one's religious identity.
Now mind you, very few Christians in this country actually practice their religion. Religion here is like a forced ritual which most people do by habit, tradition, peer-pressure,.... and rarely out of genuine faith. Just see how the Lebanese do business or drive or treat their maids, and you'll know they are no Christians. But that is an altogether different question.
Two, Bassil wants your money. He wants you to spend money in Lebanon, to buy houses and apartments, to start businesses.... But he rarely talks of the damage that unregulated chaotic overbuilding, with not an ounce of urban planning, is doing to this country's natural landscape. Greed for money drives all the economy in this country; so it goes logically that the Lebanese will NEVER consider slowing down construction and pollution to allow for the country's natural resources to recover from the endless assault: Mountains, hills, beaches, rivers, the Mediterranean.... they are all raped every day in this country under the pretext that we need to make money, because we need to make money to buy more and bigger cars which will continue to need more and more paved roads across a devastated deforested wasteland....
Has anyone of you attending the Lebanese Diaspora Energy 2017 conference asked Bassil:
- Why is the air so polluted in Lebanon?
- Why do the Lebanese drive like hateful maniacs?
- Why are buses and trucks spewing black smoke that kills thousands each year from lung and other cancers?
- Why do I have to bribe and beg and get humiliated every time I need a piece of paper from the Lebanese bureaucracy?
- Why is Lebanon still one of those countries that rank very low on the scale of "ease of doing business"?
- Why are the Lebanese sick and tired of the political class that Bassil is a perfect representative (Because he never won a parliamentary election, and he didn't even win his chairmanship of the Change and Reform Bloc (and his Free Patriotic Movement Party). On both accounts, his Father-in-Law, the venerable General Michel Aoun, has imposed him as a minister, and has imposed him as head of the Party. Ask him why isn't democracy practiced in Lebanon as it is in advanced countries and as it should be here? Why is Bassil the beneficiary of cronyism and clientelism and nepotism, even as he claims his party wants "change and reform"?
- Why is Lebanon 137th (out of 170 countries) in the corruption index?
- Why are 90% of all beaches denied access by ordinary citizens, and why corrupt politicians and their cronies own the resorts that dot the seacoast, and in which entry is prohibitively expensive?
- Why is Bassil so eager to extract gas and oil from Lebanon's maritime territories at a time when dirty, filthy, polluting fossil fuels are retreating in the world's energy markets? Why isn't he embracing hydroelectric power (Lebanon's wealth is its waterfall and high mountains) and solar energy (with nine months of sunshine per year)? Doesn't he know that oil platforms in the sea, operated by corrupt Lebanese, will bring about major pollution disasters and environmental catastrophes?
- Why did it take 2.5 years for the corrupt parliament to elect a president, and it has taken Bassil's fellow politicians and parliamentarians 6 years and still cannot agree on an electoral law?
- Why did the BBC run a documentary this past week on Lebanon's dirty secret, namely its lucrative sex tourism that exploits Russian and Eastern European women, as well as a large pool of destitute Syrian women who are forced into prostitution by the very people who claim to be Christian and Muslim and who are protected by the political establishment? Think of it: prostitution is illegal, yet it flourishes. Let Bassil bus you to Maameltein, north of Jounieh, and see with your own eyes that, right under the nose of the Maronite and other Christian church patriarchs up on the Bkerke hill, women are being served for rich Gulf Arabs who come to Lebanon for sex and alcohol.
- Why is the "private property" concept so sacred that any jackass can build just about anything anywhere without any accountability to zoning, to urban development, to the environment, to vital spaces for the human being? Have you seen the quarries that have disfigured the country's mountain tops and valleys?... Has Bassil taken you up the pass at Dahr El Baidar, or down the ravine between the Metn and Kesrouan? Please ask him and see with your own eyes how the rape of the country continues day and night, and is likely to skyrocket when the rebuilding of Syria looms on the horizon.
- Why is there NO public transportation that would mitigate the large numbers of vehicles on the roads, the car pollution, the lack of enforcement of any traffic laws, and the lack of driving etiquette on Lebanon's roads: No sidewalks, no pedestrian crossings, chaotic parking on the few sidewalks that do exist....? Why is the law not enforced? Ask Bassil if perhaps his Iranian friends in Hezbollah, who maintain a separate state and army, cause much of the rest of the country to refuse to abide by the laws as long as Bassil's Iranian militia friends run amok of the laws.
- Why are women's rights relegated to the bottom of priorities?
- Why do the Lebanese buy water in plastic bottles (that end up as trash everywhere you go, by roadsides, deep in the forests, ...), when the country is so rich in rainfall?
- Why is it that after nearly 30 years of the end of the war in 1990 Lebanon still rations electricity with 12 hours per day provided by the government for about $25 per month, and the other 12 hours provided by the Mafioso cronies of the politicians with private generators for $130 per month?
Of course, Bassil and his father-in-law will tell you that they are doing everything they can to "change and reform" all these ills of a backward country, and that they have been in power for only 6 months (since Aoun's advent to the presidency), and cannot do everything overnight.
True. But when you see people like Bassil and Aoun, who for decades attacked the political establishment for its corruption and incompetence, become the establishment using the methods of the establishment (political family farms and dynasties, nepotism, sudden enrichment and wealth, political alliances that go against principle, etc...), it becomes difficult to trust Bassil and Aoun as serious agents of real change. They have become the political establishment. They now own its corruption and bad governance.
My request to you, my fellow expats and emigrés who have breathed oxygen into this country for so long, is to not fall for the dazzle and the words and the grand conferences, where I see you sitting listening to Bassil's blatherings, but instead use his appeal to you to leverage real change. TELL BASSIL THAT YOU WILL INVEST IN LEBANON, or THAT YOU WILL RETURN TO LEBANON, AFTER SOME OF THE ITEMS ON THE "WHY" LIST ABOVE HAVE BEEN REFORMED. NOT NOW. AFTER. Use your positive pressure on Bassil to effect real change. Lebanon is really more that Kibbi and Tabbouli... it is about a suffering people who think in the 21st century but who are forced to live in the 19th century by Bassil's friends and fellow politicians.