The wars in Lebanon over the years have had many effects on the Lebanese side of my family. Businesses lost, seeing death, having to drive through corpses whilst praying they didn't get hit, close calls with bombs and assassinations. In fact my dad had been at a gathering for politicians and businessmen at the then prime minister Rafic Hariri's residence the day he got assassinated. When the meeting finished he drove behind his car in convoy and decided to take a left instead of a right to head home rather than go to his office, a decision that ultimately saved his life, as five minutes later 1000 kilograms of TNT went off under the prime minister's car. Tragically Hariri was killed along with 21 other people in his entourage.
My late and favourite Uncle Siab was in my dad's office when the bomb went off, the windows smashed and a body flew in front of him, he grabbed the 'man' and started praying and crying only to find out it was a mannequin in Gucci from from the suit shop next door. We all had a laugh about that. There is a necessary dark humour in Lebanon.
The English side of my family is a little different Sunday for example at my lovely mums house in the UK revolves around a roast dinner with my Grandma and Auntie and the all important fourth party the Eastenders omnibus! We discuss the latest in the Queen Vic and chat about what Dot Cotton did to Nick. "Oooh wasn't it good" we say as we gossip about the latest goings on in the square. There may be an occasional comment about that wally 'Farage' over dinner but all in all it is fairly low key, safe, comfortable and light. I imagine that represents a lot of families typical Sundays in England.
Mum, Grandma and My Auntie
The scene in my dads place on a Sunday in Beirut is very different. The view is gorgeous a front-line ocean property with the sun sparkling on the water as a volleyball match happens on the beach below.
Me, Dad and My Baby Brother in Beirut
Dad, my aunties, cousins , brothers and I are all together on this beautiful day. But no one is sunbathing or looking at the view everyone is gathered around the TV watching the latest political discussion programme as government minister's debate the situation in Lebanon, Syria and beyond.
When that programme finishes the news is put on, as everyone scans the latest information that may effect the economy or worse bring more troubles to the area. They just want peace , no one can fully relax and enjoy life so they are fully engaged in politics. After the news, a debate will usually start as my brother puts forward his opinion's which often are opposite to my dad's and then we get into a full swing discussion. Chaotic, passionate, conversations are had, sometime's ending in a row!
The dream for a lot of my family is, not to save enough to book a holiday to the Costa Blanca but to have enough peace so that business can thrive, husbands that have been forced to work abroad can come home and most of all to not have the burgeoning worry about their children being safe.
I feel guilty on a Sunday like that. This is only my life for weeks at a time I only experienced the war when I was a kid and it is safely wrapped in the cotton wool of distant memories. I was lucky, my mum was British my dad became a British citizen. I didn't have to stay when the war got very bad. I was Charlie in Willy Wonka but my ticket wasn't a golden one it was red and had Her Majesty's' Royal Arms' stamp emblazoned across the front.
So that's the juxtaposition of my two lives.
Here's the thing. There is nothing wrong with the Eastender's omnibus or a bit of 'Downtown' if you are that way inclined (except the time they forgot a bottle of Evian was in the back of shot) but like my dear English Grandma said about her experience of The Blitz in London: 'people cared about politics there was a sense of real community and you looked after your neighbours and supported your community.'
This sense of engagement is not unique to any country in the Middle East... rather it is a symptom of struggle.
So the question is do we really need to feel a sense of fear or discomfort to become truly engaged in politics? Do we want to be numb to what's truly going on and get distracted by reports in mainstream tabloid media putting the blame on the overused and now farcical phrase and sentiment of: "it's the immigrants coming over here and nicking our jobs?"
It's not the immigrants, we all know that really right? It is because the system is just set up to benefit the wealthy. Money over morals is never a great subtext to base societal rules on.Which it seems the Greek people have concluded in their droves.
The recent election of Syriza in Greece is an example of a country thrown into discomfort and standing up to austerity measures plus becoming resourceful and entrepreneurial in the interim.
Do we in Britain have to wait until we make the transition from uncomfortably numb to extremely uncomfortable? Or as the result of our political actions which we have been distracted from or felt too disempowered to do anything about experience worse repercussions?
Although it is human nature to be active when threatened I would hope we can become more engaged and start creating alternatives before that point.
Here's what I know though' attitudes are changing and the internet has provided a platform to spread truth, petitions, events and ideas worldwide. The political system cannot remain the same. People are no longer reliant on press media and TV they have the world at their fingertips and the lines in the sand/green grass are becoming blurred
This blog was originally posted on www.saradamergi.com