Imagine the economy of Lebanon to be a woman. Her name is Lira. But people call her Doll-ar. Since she is beautiful, she is popular in her social circle. But since she is Lebanese, she falls into the trap of thinking and calling herself ‘Doll-ar’. She is almost embarrassed of the name that her parents gave her. “Lira” she says, “is a backward Arabic name”. So she is Doll-ar, everywhere except for her passport.
But passport matters, eh! In this world where the land borders have been beautifully designed to cut across family homes such that the bedroom is on one end and the bathroom on the other, your ‘real’ labels count. And since the designers have already decided that your ‘real’ name is worth nothing, you begin to explore more sell-able names in this capitalistic world. Like calling yourself Doll-ar for example! It has fooled the economy of Lebanon, giving it a wrong mirror-image of where it stands. Beirut spends its life in US notes in stores and goods directly imported fresh out of the USofA. But is that really where the economy stands?
I see the economy here as being based on an inflated balloon. There is no real foundation. And everyone is busy building night clubs and luxury resorts, painted by dollars. But get out of Beirut and you will see an economy that works on liras. So it makes me wonder if there is indeed any internal mobility or exchange between these two divided worlds in the same society. Can the Lira-land dwellers afford the swag of Beirut? Or will the swaggers of Beirut shame themselves enough to take a 2000 Lira (approximately 1 Euro) ride on a bus with the Lira-land dwellers while they have the choice of their parent-funded BMW? On the pragmatic side, I really wonder if the roads of Lebanon are made to feather the delicate wheels of these bling-cars. But coming back to the question – isn’t the dollar image causing an internal disparity within Lebanon itself? And what will happen when the balloon goes off?
The culture of defining something is not inherent to the base culture of Lebanon. But the capitalistic rush, that pushes everyone to play the ‘label it, tick-it off and run’ game, is a tempting and pragmatic game to play, this game full of labels. And so everyone has joined it, willingly or unwillingly. So we have everyone running after I-Pads and Blackberries and Chole shoes and the newly-launched Ferrari, even here in Lebanon, willing to pay in dollars for luxury goods while the domestic movement of money faces huge leakages. And everyone is too busy blaming the sectarianism, while they forget that they are rather victims of rigid class system that they continue to fuel under this wrong self image.
This place is full of seminars being conducted over creation of religious tolerance and civic space. Yes, all is indeed justified. But isn’t this wrong economic self-image a more deep-rooted case to the contemporary issues in this land? And when you cannot bring the Lira-land dwellers to share a ride with the swaggers, what kind of tolerance are you going to create?