The Silent Killer

This time I’m not writing about cancer, or any other illness in fact. The silent killer I’m writing about is my own country, Lebanon. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew Lebanon came with a baggage of never ending problems. Political corruption, lack of rules, constant instability, no electricity, not enough water…the list of problems can go on endlessly. And yet, despite all its flaws, Lebanon used to be a place full of love and hope. Whenever we needed a boost in life, we’d book our tickets home. It used to work wonders. Used to.

Sadly, this is far from the truth these days. Trips to Lebanon are now stressful, and if it weren’t for family still living there, I would personally stay away. I’ve witnessed this place ruin the life of my grandparents many years ago, and now I watch helplessly as it ruins the life of my parents. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ve actually allowed my country to fool me a second time, but I’ve vowed I’d give it no more chances. Lebanon will always hold a special place in my heart though.

Let me just point out that I am not writing this from a political or economical perspective, both of which are topics I understand pretty much nothing about. I’m writing from the perspective of a daughter who is watching her parents’ life collapse right in front of her eyes, and feeling paralysed because nothing can be done to change their situation.

A country is meant to strengthen its people. My country has slaughtered its people, both literally and metaphorically. I won’t get into the literal part. That’s a whole other issue that deserves it’s own spotlight. For now, I want the world to know that Lebanon is silently killing its people by robbing them of the basic necessities in life – money, medicine, electricity, water.

I don’t even know where to start with the financial crisis. The Lebanese banking system is mind boggling these days. And a little absurd. There are two types of dollars in Lebanon now, lollars and fresh dollars. The term “lollar” refers to “old dollars”. These are dollars that were already in the bank when the crisis hit. Not only do the banks dictate how much lollars people can withdraw from their account each month, they also give them their money at a fraction of its original value. The term “fresh dollars” is self explanatory. It’s any new dollars in the country and they go through the black market rate which is escalating through the roof with each passing day.

When you look at social media, you wouldn’t know that Lebanon is going through a crisis. All we seem to see are stories of overbooked restaurants, raging nightclubs, crowded malls, and lots of travelling. These are probably the people that have jobs paying them in fresh dollars or maybe have relatives overseas that send them money every month. There is a whole other side to Lebanon that isn’t posted about as much on social media because it isn’t as entertaining. It’s actually quite heart breaking.

A large number of people are still getting paid in Lebanese Liras, an amount that is inhumane. It’s not even enough to cover basic utilities or even groceries. People that served their country for many years, and were depending on their retirement money to survive the rest of their lives, are now struggling to get through each day. The Lebanese Lira has lost more than 95 percent of its value in the last three years. The struggle is real, especially since the salaries have not been adjusted to account for the devaluation of the currency as well as the inflation.

My parents, as many other Lebanese, lived as expats all their lives. I clearly remember how hard they worked, not only to provide for their family, but also to save up for their retirement. They made enough money to be able to live quite comfortably. They would be able to pay their medical insurance, medications, electricity, generator (because of course Lebanon has electricity for only an hour or two a day)… but also to travel and live life. To live life as they pleased, not according to the Lebanese government. One day, all their dollars turned into lollars, without them having any say in it. It’s actually wrong to refer to the money as theirs because in reality they have no control over it. Even if they had a medical emergency, they would still only receive the monthly amount dictated by the bank. They retired in Lebanon because they called this country home. What they thought was home turned into a prison. The people behind this flawed financial chaos are living life to the fullest, while the Lebanese people are paying the price.

Are the basic necessities even available in Lebanon? Most definitely not. Only in Lebanon, children have to bathe with water warmed in a pot, while frantically looking for candles to light up the room because the electricity never comes and the generator has run out of diesel. Only in Lebanon, we had to queue for hours (literally) to fill up our cars with petrol. Only in Lebanon, medications are available only according to how important you are. Only in Lebanon, you use your phone’s flashlight to go to the toilet at night because there is no electricity. Only in Lebanon, you get a cancer diagnosis that can be managed medically, except the medications needed are either not available or too expensive to buy. Only in Lebanon, the people still support the politicians that destroyed their lives.

It’s easy enough to blame the politicians for all the problems, and they are definitely the ones held accountable the most. But we need to acknowledge that the Lebanese people are also to blame. Despite all the corruption in Lebanon, and the constant crisis after crisis, we still have many people that swear by certain political parties. Full blown fights can happen between people with different political beliefs. I’m not sure why. Actually, I know why, but I just don’t understand it. Maybe a particular politician helps them when someone in their family is sick, or maybe they get their bills paid off. You can’t promote peace and corruption simultaneously. It’s a recipe for disaster, as we can clearly see happening in Lebanon.

The beauty of Lebanon is mesmerising. Lebanon used to be known as the Switzerland of the Middle East. But what’s the use of that beauty when there is so much suffering? I always tell my children that true beauty comes from the inside. Beauty radiates from the inner peace and love that lies within a person or place- a quality that Lebanon lacks these days. I still hope and pray for a better Lebanon, although that hope fades away a little bit more with each passing day.

8 responses to “The Silent Killer”

  1. Well written! This is exactly what each one of us feels and you explained it all so well in your article. Thank you! God bless and help our families. I keep telling my parents it is good that my siblings and I left the country to be able at this point to help them out a bit just to get through those months and years left. It is sad very sad and heartbreaking to see their life not being lived as they would’ve hoped for after retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

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