Lebanon, where Instability is the newly found Stability

Contribute to take security back, spread the word

POST_16-IMG0For months now, countries all over the world have been instructing their citizens (diplomats and civilians) to leave Lebanon due to the political instability. This continuous state of shaky grounds and uncertainty has left us wondering if an unstable Lebanon is the newly found stability.

We’ve grown accustomed to the political turmoil and civil commotion that it doesn’t tame us anymore. The whole country may be in a constant alert mode, mitigating its exposure to risk however it knows best, i.e. Lebanese citizens have been taking precautions by avoiding any major investment decisions, travel plans…etc. but are we really preparing for the worst and hoping for the best? What really is the worst that could happen? What measures have we taken to avoid it or reduce its impact?

Maybe that’s the problem with being labeled as the Phoenix. The city of Beirut has been destroyed 7 times in history (8 if you count the 2006 war, which you really should) and has since arisen from ashes, just like the phoenix in Greek mythology, rebuilt even better than ever… or has it?

We could be in denial, maybe the scars from all the “almost wars” and the actual wars are buried deep inside. Maybe that’s where the oxymoronic Lebanese personality springs from: Indeed, Lebanese manifest heartwarming patriotism in moments of crisis and on major holidays like independence day, Army day…etc. yet remain unmotivated to make a difference in their own country otherwise.  There is no doubt that the Lebanese love their country, so why does the love stop at social media rants, angry messages directed to the government and foreign opinions? Why is it when the country needs its youth’s brains, energy and patriotism the most, we go on and waste it on sarcasm, self-pity, despair and the urge to leave. A people with so much passion in its art, music, food, hospitality, its love of life, why can’t that passion be applied in a manner that is conducive to a greater good? Soon you will realize that you cannot escape your roots my fellow Lebanese, and no matter how much you try, (believe me I have) you cannot take them with you when you leave. This is not just your country, it is that of your children and their children, and if you don’t protect it from potential harm, who will?

Every one of us is a risk manager, our overprotective and caring moms (bless them) taught us that in their loving advices for us: Put on a jacket to avoid a cold, wear sunscreen, save your money, don’t drink and drive, study, don’t smoke, don’t get a tattoo (still questioning that one) and we know the basic steps of risk management already: Identify the risk, analyze it, measure it, identify controls for it, implement them, and monitor the process. Let me paint a familiar picture of an incomplete risk management process: think about when you first begin a romantic relationship and you know there is a potential heartbreak that may be inflicted upon you somewhere along the way. You essentially negotiate with yourself, weigh the opportunities, the fears, the benefits, picture a worst-case scenario, and measure its likelihood. If you can convince yourself that it can’t be worse than your first heartbreak ever, especially if your first wasn’t your last, you know you’ll get over it again, so why prepare for it or avoid it?

The same applies to our preparedness for disaster. Though we may hate how the west portrays us when they show bombs, camels, and deserts when we really want them to see beaches, nightlife, history and beautiful women, we are nevertheless extremely comfortable with feelings of pity being expressed about our country and put ourselves in the forefront of every middle eastern conflict, like we are victims of a bigger cause. The newsflash we missed is as follows though: The Arab spring has come and gone (maybe) and Lebanon is no longer just a “victim” of external regional conflicts that only involve us because we are in the way.  We are not victims of really bad neighbors; these are the same neighbors that put us on the map, but not being part of the solution, makes us part of the problem, and the worst part is, we point fingers at each other instead of seeing the fingers pointed at us. Right now, do yourself a favor and point your index at something, now take a look at your hand, see the three fingers pointing back at you?

They say practice makes perfect, but I think the exception to that rule is you have to actually learn from previous attempts and be better prepared for their potential reoccurrence for the saying to apply. Allow me to elaborate: a few Lebanese cities have had their share of terrorist activity, unjustified human and infrastructure losses, numerous immaterialized threats, chased by a plethora of negative externalities such as absence of tourists, overall weakness in national security, brain drain, to name a few, but once the dust settles how do we fix what’s broken? Better yet, do we even try to avoid the potentially reoccurring risk exposure? No, we don’t. The truth is, as Lebanese, we have no idea how to prepare for a disaster or how to act in one, we just run to the eye of the storm instead of preparing food, water, shelter, evacuation strategy, etc. So no, “practice doesn’t make perfect”, because our bruised memory tells us, that just like a heartbreak, we’ve been through it before, and we can get over it again.

Political instability has become the new norm, and I am concerned that if the illusion that nothing feels broken because it has never been otherwise remains, then no one will bother fixing it. You know, because normal is so mainstream.

Do you agree that we need more education in disaster risk management?

Contribute to take security back, spread the word

9 thoughts on “Lebanon, where Instability is the newly found Stability

  1. Alex

    Very well put Melissa, but I have to point to something here, Us Lebanese maybe love our country, but we don’t love it ENOUGH, not as much as we love our political party, or leader or sect or whatever, our country must come first. Everything else is secondary, it’s called patriotism and national identity, and we severely lack it.

  2. Habib

    Well said Melissa, will be waiting for the day when lebanese people will be flighing outside Lebanon to bring back our 15 million lebanese outsider back to Lebanon…

  3. Rami

    Well said Melissa! We never seem to learn from the past, and we always keep ourselves busy with day to day problems instead of preparing for disasters.

  4. Mack

    Well written and said. Yes we do need education in disaster risk management but first we need education in other major aspects in this country. Education itself is missing and the Lebanese people seem to be carried away with anything else but education. That’s sad because the roots are being destroyed. I hope to see a better country, but if we don’t all wake up and make a change, nothing will change. The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.

  5. Melissa Aoun

    Alex, Ziad, Rami, thanks very much for your comments. Habib, the Lebanese who have left won’t come back unless they want to make a difference or if someone else makes that change for them. Trust me, I was part of that group once. Mack, Thanks for your comment, MENA Strategies is working on several ways to spread awareness and education on risk management, in academics and short articles like this one, stay tuned!

  6. Elie EA

    Having witnessed every single war and armed clash in Lebanon, my generation’s perception of risk became completely distorted. If threat is not present at a 10m diameter it’s not really defined as risk. Being constantly exposed to physical risk (which sits on top of the risk pyramid) makes all other forms of risk insignificant, even worse, it turns people into numb citizens. Compounding these issues is the availability of the historical Lebanese “wild card” better know as immigration. It’s simply easier for us to leave all the mess behind us and start all over in a new land than care to fix the existing pile of troubles.
    I think risk management education is extremely difficult in this region yet crucial. A good start would be to target schools and educational curriculums thru awareness campaigns and sharing international best practices on social media platforms like you’re currently doing.
    Great article by the way. Loved its simplicity

  7. D

    am one of the people that gave up on Lebanon a long time ago. I have lived here my whole life and still do not feel a sense of belonging to this place. I could not care less about which political party rules the country or even which country takes over.
    I got lost somewhere between 14th of March party, 8th of March party and the few men jumping in between, all trying to overcompensate on their small penises by demonstrating acts of “over-manliness” through force and power.
    Quite frankly I do not care for any of them because I don’t think any of them cares for me, for my well-being and for my country, a country I used to care about a long time ago. A long time ago, when I was idealistic, when i was still dreaming of the great Lebanon that I used to hear of. The “Paris of the Middle East”. The paradise. The place where you can become whoever you want be. Then I started understanding politics. Not the politics you watch on the news, the politics behind the politics, the real politics. I started understanding people and how easily they are brainwashed and influenced by the puppet-show they watch every night at 8.00 pm. I started understanding the very little effect I can have on my country, the very little effect any idealistic, peaceful and cultured Lebanese person can have on this country. That is when the when I lost all hope for this pathetic excuse of a country.
    As you said in your article we we just run to the eye of the storm instead of preparing for it. Maybe it’s because of the pile of shit this country is always in and never out of that we have learned to “adapt” to any situation thrown at us, to a point that we do not care to even try to get out of the shit anymore. We have become numb enough that we gladly take shit in the face (sorry for the graphics). And that is simply terrible, but it is the truth.
    We got used to the instability so much that it became a part of us, and as you mentioned, we don’t feel the need to be prepared for disaster, we don’t even know how to define disaster and probably won’t know how to live with no disasters!
    Two days ago I was watching the news (something I try avoiding as much as possible) and saw the types of missiles that are being prepared to be launched our way in case Obama decides to strike. You see the intricate details of how these missiles were designed, how they function, what they hit and how much damage they would cause. I thought: WOW that might be coming my way! And you know what I felt? NOTHING. That feeling of nothing is not strength. That’s simply nonchalance. It’s a pity I feel that way. It’s a pity what this country has made of me.

  8. Melissa Aoun

    Elie, Thanks very much for your comments and praise, it is really refreshing to see so many different opinions on the topic and so very few who recognize the need for risk management education. So thank you and I hope MENA Strategies and Take Security Back can live up to your expectations with respect to awareness and education. Please stay tuned via our respective Facebook pages.

    D, thanks for your honest comment and down to earth sincerity. Ur message is a living proof that there is a need for communication, awareness and education. You have ability to make a difference but you think you are the only one, and that alone, you cannot make a difference. The thing is, D, Countries don’t progress because no one cares. That’s actually how they get poorer and less powerful.
    If I asked you to tell me what u would want changed in Lebanon, can u answer? Do u know what would make you complain about the country less and be more proud of it? if you can make a list, I promise to do something about it…
    The problem is we all rant without suggesting a change. We criticize those who try, especially when they fail, so this discourages others from trying. Truth is, we cannot criticize something if we don’t know how it should be so that it meets our expectations. We don’t have expectations, we’ve accepted the status quo we are in and any change, negative or positive is no longer welcome. The ranting is counter productive, reduces moral, and gives us a false sense of superiority which makes us sound patronizing and condescending instead of genuinely caring about the subject.

    You cannot give up, and accept that the world that is built around u by others is all that u deserve. Build your own world, and if it is good enough, people will want to live in it. Help build a better country, luckily you have something to work with, lessons learned from the past, education from those with more experience. You have the tools, u have an infrastructure and if u like whatever beauty is left in the country, maybe all you need is some “renovation”. Whatever you do, do not give up and don’t kid yourself about the “nonchalance”. You do care, a lot, your comment proves it.

Comments are closed.