Friday, May 9, 2008

lakad ibtada'at al harbou?

Al-Akhbar (Photographer unknown)
(c) Mahmoud Tawil/Annahar

When we were children, we used to play "war". We would devide into two teams and someone - usually my cousin Fadi - would scream from somewhere "Lakad ibtada'at al harbou"... War has begun. And then we would go after one another with our hands in the form of a pistol and when we would get caught, we would surrender immediately as our opponent threatens us with "holemantoss". Later, much later, I have learned that the origin of this word is the french sentence "haut les mains tous!" (Arms up in the air, everyone!)...
Yesterday, Beirut was up in flames with the opposition making itself heard, and not just through the official channels. Beirut/NTSC has never been about political (In its strict and narrow sense of the word) analysis, but the above image taken from the front page of Annahar newspaper has all the elements to tell the story of the day. I have always had this silly theory that the Palestinian intifada was "sponsored" by Nike. Every time there would be a coverage of young hooded Palestinians throwing stones, most of the time they would be wearing black fatigues with a "swoosh" on them. Mahmoud Tawil's image shows a young Beiruti holding a tire and wearing an "Iceberg" jeans (Notice the lettering on his pants). Most likely this jeans is a fake considering that the official reason for manifesting was to increase minimum wage from its pitiful current anorexic stage (An Iceberg jeans - a real one - would never have been afforded by this guy whose main aim by wearing this counterfeit is to want to feel accepted in a social class that is way upper than his).
The other image, taken from al-akhbar newspaper tells the other side of the story - most likely the parents of that young man rushing to get bread. But even then, there seems to be an element of "theatrics" with one person looking fully at the camera and another smiling (I am sure he was aware of the camera's presence as well) that typical Lebanese smile that aggraved people smile when they are interviewed by TV and say "the situation is very bad. We are hungry." And they keep on smiling for that charming TV reporter.
Such is Beirut today. A city that wears make up before confronting its audience. I feel that I want to tell everyone "Holemantoss" but my cousin Fadi who brought me down from the village where I sheltered away from Beirut, did not shout "Lakad ibtada'at al harbou" - but rather he said it solemnly as he looked at the belly of his five-months pregnant wife Nadine.
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