I quit my job and I decided to dive into the world of unknown. So I packed up and went to spend five weeks with my parents. While I go back to Lebanon on a regular basis, this is the first time in over four years that I stay longer than two weeks. And it is quite different.
On the one hand, it feels like things have changed a lot, while on the other everything is still the same. Being here brings me few years back, I feel 17 again; immature, angry and insecure, like I’m out of place. While I do enjoy spending quality time with my parents and sisters and being part of their lives, things get very stagnant very quickly. I have very few friends and although, my big extended family is amazing, and we can create a fun and entertaining environment with very little, I really lack intellectual stimulation. I have a large circle of acquaintance from different regions, educational backgrounds, religions and political affiliations, but my interactions with them is very similar and revolve around small talk, jokes and latest entertainment news! That gets boring pretty quickly.
The only question anyone ever asks me is if/when I am coming back. Few of those are nationalist who are almost offended by the idea that someone can have a life somewhere else and be happy. Others are old fashioned people who believe that I should be living home until a handsome, rich man, from a good family comes to the rescue. All of these people could not care less about what I do now or what options I would have here.
Very few people engage in political discussions which albeit being understandable is rarely justifiable. Political conversations are either scary or can easily turn into heated fights because of the difference in opinions, so people prefer to avoid them. While I follow the politics of the region and I have my opinions on it, I very rarely bring it up. I feel like very few people are interested in talking about it and those who are, are biased and often lack the broader knowledge of political theory, and sadly history, hence they don’t really appreciate the opinion of an “outsider”.
Sexism and homophobia are very prevalent everywhere I look. In advertisements, songs, family structures, shops, hiring policies, jokes, to name a few. It bothers me tremendously, yet it is so engrained in the society that it is almost impossible to point out. I am constantly accused of taking things too seriously. “These are our songs, ads and clothes, you need to relax”, I am often told. When asked don’t you feel there is something wrong in this, people often respond: “maybe, but that’s just how things are” end of conversation.
As for the environment, any conversation is simply dismissed as a joke. The best thing anyone can do is stop littering.
The lack of engagement in important social issues is very frustrating. It is always present, almost as a reminder of why I left. Everyone I talk to is still on top of fashion and the latest technological developments, yet no one is even remotely interested in the status quo and how to improve things that affect them daily. While I still consider going back, for a medium term stay, if the opportunity arises, I painfully think that the idea of permanently living there again keeps getting further and further away from reality. I am in no position to judge people’s lives and interests. However, I find it obvious that amidst the so-called “Arab Spring”, Lebanon is in a desperate need for an intellectual revolution.