Friday, January 26, 2007


Mixed media collage, "Children don't go to war (War comes to them), (c) Tarek Chemaly, 2003

When we were children, we used to play "War!" with other village kids. Of course, growing up in a real war gave one an edge as to the tactics, strategies, and implementations. So it was a real team 1 v/s team 2 thing, with a lot of machinations that later - when I did my military service - I learned they had true technical names. One of my vivid memories was that when you spotted an enemy, you raised your hand in a pistol-mode and shouted "holimantoss!"... The other clear recollection refers to the beginning of the game where one team leader shouts from the top of his lungs "lakad ibtada'at el harbou" (War has begun!)
A lot of analysts and journalists fear that yesterday's clashes in Beirut, reminiscent of what was happening between 1975 and 1990 may be (According to Robert Fisk) "what historians may one day claim was the first day of Lebanon's new civil war", and in that case someone ought to shout: "lakad ibtada'at el harbou".
I keep my hopes that this is nothing but one of those "Lebanese" things, one that always ends up in a kiss and make-up, like traffic accidents: After much screaming and shouting, the two parties always end up having a common acquaintance or come from a nearby village or decided it was not worth the hassle to waste all that time filling up official documents for claims.
Yesterday night there was curfew, the first of my life, and instead of battling this imposed restriction as an strike on my civil liberties, somehow I took the opportunity to fill up an application I needed to finish up with. It's one of those reflexes one develops while going through war: Make every second count, it will never come back (And so might you too!).
The reason I mentionned "holimantoss" at the beginning of this entry was that later, as my French became quite fluent I realized it was merely the hillbillies' appropriation of the French expression "Haut les mains, tous!" (Arms up in the air, everyone!)... And that's exactly what I felt like saying yesterday to all the hormonal belligerents throwing rocks and stones and even firing at one another.
In Lebanon, though, also as Fisk commented, it all runs in the blood, he talked about the fighters' predecessors ­"perhaps their fathers ­ were dressed like this 31 years ago when they fought in these same streets, executioners-to-be, all confident in the integrity of their cause." This also reminded me of another French expression "on prend les memes et on recommence" - we take the same ones and we begin anew... Horrifically, if we take the initials of that expression, it becomes "o.p l. m.o.r." - which means "hop' le mort!" (Reviving the dead), and is a very nasty omen as the last thing we would need today is to revive the war that we thought was now long dead.
So I hope it's "holimantoss" rather than "hop le mort".
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