It’s October 2019, and this is not the first time I find myself on the streets in my life. Back in March 2005, we Lebanese united again to expel the Syrian army from our country, their puppet government also resigned back then and we were able to put the people we thought we wanted in power. This time, it’s a bigger mission, we’re hoping to get rid of the whole political class (including these people we brought in, 15 years ago) because it’s blatantly corrupt and had been robbing and ruining the country for the past 30 years.
This time, it’s a real Lebanese revolution. It’s no longer about politics; but about dignity, economic rights and justice! It’s the biggest anti-corruption outcry of the people, and its taking such a beautiful peaceful creative manifestation that’s making us proud to be part of this resilient hopeful and courageous population.
Being with all the heroes leaving everything and taking the streets taught me and the world 9 life lessons:
1- Change is never without sacrifice:
All those people on the streets, they’ve left everything behind: their families, their work, their business trips, and their plans. They’re risking the bad weather, confrontations with the armed forces and militiamen of the corrupt system, and being fired from work to bring forth change. Change is never without sacrifice. It is not easy, but always worth it. And those who are sacrificing are those who truly deserve to live in a country without corruption, where all their political, economic and social rights are granted.
2- Nothing trumps the power of the people:
If people only knew their real power early on, we would’ve changed this corrupt system long ago. But there’s no loss. Now, and for the second time in Lebanon’s modern history, people awaken to how powerful they are and how in-control they can be under the umbrella of even a quasi functional democracy.
Powerful dictatorships, authoritarian despots and police states have already fallen under the feet of people seeking their freedom and dignity. I hope this second lesson sticks so we can bring about serious change during the next elections.
3- There’s nothing wrong in mixing revolution and celebration:
The whole world had something to say about the celebrations taking place during the Lebanese protests. We took international media by storm. But then again, why not? It gives a cheerful and most importantly hopeful vibe, and it keeps people from having to count the hours.
4- Creativity fuels motivation:
It’s the age of information and freedom of expression; and Lebanese people used both these advantages to get seriously creative about how to revolt and keep people motivated about the revolution’s main anti-corruption message.
5- Human dignity is above all:
Lebanon had always been divided by sectarianism and conflicting factions. Yet, it was united when the dignity and economic rights of its people were undermined. Human dignity is indeed, instinctively, above everything that can and may divide us. May we recognize that when they try to divide and rule again.
6- United we stand:
The Lebanese haven’t been this united for so long, and a corrupt political class has nothing more to fear. When the people unite, the political elite gets scared and starts doing anything it can to stop them. When you see those in the authorities fleeing the country, using the armed forces for reasons beyond peace keeping, wiring their stolen money abroad, and making threats; you understand that united we stand, and we win.
We, the people.
7- Religion means nothing without tolerance:
As a population that had been divided by sectarianism and 3 civil wars over 150 years of turn of the century history; these revolutionary moments taught everyone on the streets and watching from afar that religion truly means nothing without tolerance. Only now, we can truly hope that our post traumatic sectarian thoughts, left over from the last war, can be truly erased.
8- Women are a serious power to start accounting for:
Half of the people protesting in Lebanon were women, showing that not only Lebanese women are a force to reckon with; but that we’re still pioneering in matters of women and freedom, in this part of the world. Having decorative women in seats of administration does not rival, in essence, having them as the main pillar pushing change forward.
9- Awareness coupled with courage are the dynamo of all change:
Being aware is half of the battle against corruption, being courageous to face it is the other half; and the Lebanese people had both. There’s nothing more dangerous on any corrupted ruling elite, than masses armed with awareness and courage.