I’ve had many people ask me for my thoughts about the explosion that happened in the port of Beirut. But I am no expert in Lebanese or Middle Eastern politics. I’m just the daughter of Lebanese migrants who holds Lebanese citizenship by birth. The only thing I can tell you about is what I’ve seen. So if that’s what you want to know – here it goes.
A nation in ruins
Lebanon is a nation that has been decimated over and over and over and over again. Every time the Lebanese are struck by tragedy, they somehow muster the strength to pick themselves back up and power through.
When Lebanon was at work with others and itself… they just kept going.
When Lebanon was faced with famine or economic crisis… they just kept going.
And then more recently –
When Lebanon was without a President without two years…they just kept going.
When Lebanon, with its population of 6 million, was inundated with over one million Syrian refugees… they just kept going.
When Lebanon was literally swimming in a sea of actual trash, with no reliable source of electricity and no cleaning drinking water… they just kept going.
When Lebanon was milked dry of its resources by corrupt political families…they just kept going.
When Lebanon was plagued by COVID-19 which crippled the already broken health system… they just kept going.
When Lebanon’s economy crashed so that the cost of essential goods went up by 80-190% and the value of the Lira plummeted… they just kept going.
And now the port which receives their food and medicine has blown up. And the grain silos are gone. And 300,000 are displaced. And thousands are injured. And thousands are missing. And possibly thousands are dead.
So how do they just keep going? What’s left in the courageous and resilient people of Lebanon to keep them going?
A political cesspit
There’s so much to say and it’s all almost unbelievable.
Lebanon is run by corrupt political powers. I’m not talking about the type of corrupt where you give your friends a few hundred thousand (or million) to provide consulting services. I mean the type of corrupt where the economy is drained. Where banks are drained and people can’t access their own money. Where political dynasties have sucked everything out of the system and left nothing for its people.
A type of corrupt where the only way to get decent work/education/health care is to get a waasta or political/social favour from someone who knows someone who can get you what you need.
It’s a type of corruption that sees Lebanese people get heated and passionate at election time about which politician or political party they want to support – yet nothing comes of it for the people. They cry out for and ardently support people who couldn’t give any less of a shit about any of them.
It all came to a head when the Lebanese protested against their politicians in 2019/20. What came of these mass demonstrations? Literally nothing.
And now the Lebanese lira is obliterated thanks to COVID-19 taking what remained of everyone’s jobs and livelihoods. $1 USD used to buy 1500 liras. Now you’re lucky if 8500 liras can get you $1 USD. 40% of its population is in poverty and it was likely to rise up to 70% even before the explosion.
So what happens if people like us want to send money to people in Lebanon to save them from the brink of starvation? I don’t know.
A lack of basic necessities
It’s a country that is constantly going without. Most people still don’t have a regular supply of electricity. There is no clean drinking water that comes to people’s homes. The water is all toxic and polluted thanks to corrupt politicians who, decades ago, took money to dump nuclear and hazardous wastes on the beaches and in the water systems, and a lack of water treatment.
It stumbles through with a barely functioning health or educational system. Its youth are unemployed or leaving the country for better opportunities. While 6 million people live in Lebanon, up to 18 million Lebanese live overseas – outside of Lebanon. It’s a country of mass emigration.
If you have money, you’ll be alright. But if you don’t – you better hope you’ve got a waasta. If you need emergency medical care, you better hope you have generous friends and family who can pool their money together to pay for treatment. Don’t have money to pay for medical treatment? Well – you better hope your village has the money to pay for your funeral and wake.
Lebanon’s is almost completely reliant on the import of food and medical supplies. Remember those grain silos that blew up? They held 80-90% of the grain needed to feed the country. And now it’s all gone, and there’s no port to receive supplies – including those recently sent from Australia to feed and clothe an increasingly desperate population.
It’s a system where people have learned to pretend it’s all good. To focus on the exterior, on the facade of it all. To focus on everything but the fundamental, core issues that are at and deeply, deeply below the surface.
But now that has all blown up. It’s all gone.
And I don’t know how they’ll keep going this time.
If you want to help the people of Lebanon, make a donation to:
Lebanese Food bank: https://lebanesefoodbank.org/donate/
Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org.lb/SubPage.aspx?pageid=1370&PID=158
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