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A Light Bulb

[Electricite du Liban: Image from Flickr] [Electricite du Liban: Image from Flickr]

Last summer, I posted a piece about electricity outages in Lebanon. In the year that separates that article from this one, one March 14 led Lebanese government has been brought down and another March 8 led government has been formed. Popular uprisings have swelled the Arab world with possibility as Ben Ali, Mubarak, and now Gaddhafi were overthrown. The US-Saudi-Israeli mix and match trifecta has seen its influence waning, and is leading counterrevolutions in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Lebanon’s response to the Syrian uprising has easily mapped into the old political divisions of March 14 and March 8, but it has also been the impetus behind an ongoing reconstitution of what it means to be a leftist progressive in this country.

It is tempting to be caught up in the “big issues” that saturate the political sphere in Lebanon today: the Syrian uprising, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the pervasive threat that Israel poses. It is too easy to say that in a moment of crisis, it is not the time to write about the quotidian failures of the Lebanese state: a dying electrical grid, water shortages, decaying infrastructure, and a social service network that continues to crack under mismanagement and ineptitude. I know, these are challenges that we have gotten used to. To a large extent the failures that define the state are due to intermittent wars and political instability. But to be honest, last night when the electricity was cut to my neighbourhood for eight hours, I didn’t care. I just wanted electricity.


I don’t think I am asking for too much. It’s not like I am asking for security, or safety, or to live in a country with an acceptable cost of living. I’m not asking for Saad al-Hariri and Hassan Nasrallah to suddenly realize that they are not entitled to press “pause” on the country whenever they feel like it. I’m not asking for world peace. I’m not even asking for the right to give citizenship to my children or to be protected from marital rape. Right now, I just want fucking electricity. I want to be able to turn on a light, or a fan, or an ac. I want my faucet to not gasp in surrender when I try to wash my face in the morning. I want to not have to sleep on a marble floor on an August night. I want to be able to take these things for granted. I want the Lebanese government to not hold my electricity hostage to corruption, bickering, and the infantile debates between what we call “politicians” in this country. That doesn’t mean that I want one minister to receive a large amount of public funds because he and his father-in -law throw a tantrum,  threaten and say “trust me” in the same breath. That doesn’t mean I want March 14 to be able to backtrack on what they had already agreed to when they were in power. I just want to be able to go into my room and read before I go to sleep without squinting in the candlelight through the Satanic Verses (a totally different experience than reading it in sufficient light. It’s kind of scary). What I want is to be able to take a fucking light bulb for granted.  But last night, sitting, sweating, and swearing with friends for eight hours, what I wanted more than anything was for everyone that lives in this country to march towards the Ministry of Electricity and/or Parliament. Not to demand the end of the political regime in Lebanon, but to demand the end of corruption, ineptitude, and mediocrity. A march to end the confidence with which politicians practice unaccountable mediocrity. I like the sound of that.

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