I didn’t go down to the protests today. And I don’t know why. Perhaps it was out of deference for my parents, who are wary of the protests’ motives and who, of course, don’t want to see me get hurt. Perhaps it was because I myself don’t have much confidence yet in the direction the protests are headed. I’ve been away for most of them, and every time I go online and check the news, I see conflicting narratives of what is actually taking place, of whether the protests are peaceful or violent, whether the violence was started by riot police or by the protesters. Maybe I’m simply a coward. Or maybe it’s all the above.
But I have so much awe and respect for everyone who did go down there tonight, and every other night. You are brave. Despite all the attempts trying to silence you and shame you into staying home and not speaking your mind, you still went. You had tear gas canisters thrown at you and water cannons launched at you, and yet you remained. Some are calling you thugs and that you don’t really understand what you’re doing, that overthrowing the government (I’m rather fond of calling them the regime these days) will have dire consequences that we may not be able to overcome.
Those concerns are valid. There may very well be a chance that this won’t turn out well for us. But that should not stop you from protesting and voicing your anger.
Because that’s playing right into their hands. That’s how they control us. They prey on our fears. They’ve manipulated us into belonging to different political parties and made us fear one another, and it is that fear they use to distract us from the real issues and fuel their own power trips.
And the real sadness is, we’ve come to believe it ourselves.
Women’s status as second class citizens.
The state of our educational system.
All real and pressing concerns that we’ve been made to believe are not of vital importance, because we’ve got more important things that we need to focus on.
And I’ve heard the above statement from people I love, and it cuts me to the core to hear that they have become complacent, that life has become more about survival than actual living to them. And I still can’t justify how these so called primary concerns are of more importance than the well-being of every citizen living within the country. I don’t even know what these concerns are half the time.
My parents’ generation lived through a war that tore through their very beings, and the ramifications of it are coloring the lives of my generation. Theirs might want to hang on to any semblance or mirage of stability, despite the cost, and I understand that, I do. But the youth of Lebanon truly have nothing to lose anymore. Hardly anyone I know sees themselves building a future here. My own mother says I should leave sometimes.
So to those who say that the protesters will ruin whatever ridiculous thread we’re hanging on, that they will ruin the nation, I say, we’ve hit rock bottom. We’ve nothing to lose anymore. It may be fatalistic, but it’s our only option if we hope to build a future for ourselves in the country that we grew up in, the country that had so much potential post civil war.
Those of you who went down tonight, you are brave. Their attempts to pit you against one another based on your supposed sectarian allegiance failed miserably. So their second fear tactic is to divide you based on class, labeling violent protesters as lower class or ‘infiltrators’. While I’m certain there are infiltrators there to undermine your efforts and your goals (and you should call them out and name them), it is important not to engage in a moral superiority battle.
That is how you will lose, and they will win.
The violent protesters are angry, and they may very well be lower class. That is no reason to exclude them. They have even more cause to be angry. They are the ones who have had the most resources stripped from them, and they have just as much right to be there as anyone does.
Wanting the protests to remain peaceful is an honorable thing. So be vigilant. Try and talk and reason with ‘violent’ protesters and calm them down, but for the love of all things good, don’t patronize.
This is a movement of the people, and if they divide us, then they’ve won.
That’s how they have been winning so far. Let’s direct our outrage at them for their horrendous mistakes and apathy and lack of regard for our well being. Let’s stop giving them excuses. And let’s stop letting them distract us over petty divisions.
Enough is enough.