Saturday, January 13, 2007

... Let him cast the first stone!

We, Lebanese, always seem to be overcoming some inferiority complex. The advertising industry, only seems to capitalize on that feeling. Latest case in point: The Byblos Bank ad. OK, so many did not see it here's how it goes: On the background of national flags, people representing their countries would say in a dramatic/hopeful/proud way "Je suis Francais", "I am American", and so on and forth. When the Lebanese get their turn, they refer to themselves as based on their confession "I am Druze", "I am Chiite", etc... Then the slogan appears "When will we become Lebanese?". The idea of refuting the confessional system and replace it by a "national" identity, is certainly a great one. It is time our society worked according to meritocracy rather than through confessional clientage (Commonly referred to as "wasta"). So, if the idea is so praise-worthy, why am I raising hell?... Here's why!... Because when the nice gentleman says "Je suis Francais", I think back of the chants "Black Blanc Beur" that resounded throughout France after winning the 1998 Football world cup. Chants that celebrated the ethinic fusion of the people coming from the Maghreb, and Africa within the French society. A few years down the line, the major events in the suburbs reminded everyone that the "Black Blanc Beur" was simply an empty slogan: Marginalized youth were revolting against a system that simply rejected them. When the man (An Irish-American) says "I am an American", I think back of Rodney King, about the white cops beating him and how a "jury of their peers" gave them a "not guilty" virdict. I think of the melting pot that stopped working a long time ago, I think of the disaster of Hurrican Katrina and the fact that it was black underprivedged people who suffered the most. When the lovely young lady speaking Afrikaans says that she comes from South Africa, I nearly rioted on that one... For heaven's sake, Lebanon does not need lessions in national identity from the country that brought us the Apartheid system. A nation still struggling under the weight of its past. A nation with a committee for national reconciliation. Oh yes, and that lovely chubby fella saying that he is from Russia. Well, that's a lovely one considering "Russia" - only a couple of decades ago - was a totally different entity. At least Lebanon has references as early as 3,000 B.C. (In Sumarian language) indicating that it is the same patch of land we know today. The Columbian? Need I talk about the rebels there? Or the Palestinian... Yes, is he "Fatah" or "Hamas"? And which fragment of either? So whereas Grey communication did a good job with the concept and the execution, the countries chosen to give us a lesson in "identity" are a total bad choice. We have a bad system in Lebanon, I agree and confessionalism must make place to something else. But that "something else" is necessarily not a model of "affirmative action" such as the one in the U.S, or the French exclusionist system, or a Palestinian fragmentary one. So he who has the magic solution "let him cast the first stone!".... And let Bank Byblos and Grey just leave us alone until then without abusing of our inferiority complexes.
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