The Lebanese lack of narrative demonstrated via ‘Google Doodle’

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Last Saturday, on November 22, every Lebanese that has a device with Internet access rejoiced with a rare sense of pride, “Google has celebrated our independence!” Every day, the electronic deity adorns its search engine’s homepage with ‘Google Doodles,’ illustrating and animating the Google logo to pay tribute to country-specific and thematic subjects. Last Saturday, Google doodled three men and three women wearing traditional, provincial Lebanese costumes, holding hands and dancing a Levantine Arab folk circle dance, known as the Dabké.

Yes, that’s pretty much what we need to feel like we’re on top of the world: an illustrated Dabké with the man at one end of the human chain holding a Lebanese flag commemorating an independence that even the Lebanese state refused to officially celebrate this year, because we don’t have a president. It would have been awkward, I agree. But Google celebrated it, so we’re back on our feet.

To put things into perspective, it’s good to note that this doodle was solely meant for a Lebanese audience. The Dabké was not an international affair. People of the Earth moved on with their lives, searching Google Dabké-less. Good for them. We should too. Instead of getting emotional about it, being signified with an obsolete image of our ancestors within the context of our independence is alarming. I’m not against heritage, but I’m definitely opposed to provincial folk constituting our contemporary image.

It’s a big problem for me that even modern, 20-something year old men and women identify with that image. It’s somehow frustrating that being Lebanese is not about a person being enriched by their heritage, but is rather about living, championing, and dreaming about its resurrection. We actively wait for our past to become our future, and the Dabké is our buoy in this swampy process we bring upon ourselves. As much as I blame our seemingly immortal diva Fairuz for engraving that image as the exclusive portrait of Lebanon for the entirety of her career, her latest works have shifted from the melodramatic rivers of impotence, from folk, to the human condition. Surprisingly, she could do it, but we still can’t. Our mezze will save the world!

The only way hummus and tabboulé will get close to saving the world is by saving it from us. We are probably staying where we are as everyone moves on. It’s funny that a Google Doodle should be our national wake-up call. It’s been a subliminal wake-up call for four consecutive years, and here we are, further into our embroidered past. Google started celebrating the Lebanese Independence Day in 2010, hailing a Lebanese flag over an ancient-looking lettering style. Fine. The image looks representative of something ‘historic,’ but that could pass as an emblem of our early heritage. In 2011, we get a glimpse of false hope with our Martyr’s Statue doodle backed by tons of fireworks, only to be followed with ruins in 2012. Some countries are fine with being represented with ruins, and our Ministry of Tourism could use a push, but Baalbeck for independence? Come on.

The postcard-material depression flourished in 2013, with a Lebanese Independence Day celebrated with a Raouché doodle. In a few years, Raouché will no longer be there for its independent people as private investments are going strong on eating up that last stretch of accessible coastal land in Mediterranean Beirut. Maybe next time, Google could use their November 8, 2012 doodle that was originally made as a tribute to Bram Stoker (the inventor of Dracula) as our Independence Day salute. It definitely seems like an accurate, “Hello, there,” for a blood-sucked people.

Speaking of blood sucking, it’s probably silly, but I looked up Google Doodles relating to ‘Israel.’ Maybe it’s because of this habit of the Lebanese identity being informed and formulated through comparison that I sneakily looked up our biggest enemy. Regardless of the reason, I did. Besides the fact that they have the cheekiness of celebrating an ‘Independence Day,’ their doodle is exactly why we need a narrative. Theirs beats ours by a landslide. While we settled for our outdated Dabké, Israel’s Independence Day doodle shows a group of children of mixed races walking together gracefully, holding flags. There is one child on a wheelchair. Naturally, a sweet girl on roller-skates pushes him forward. It is the image of a fertile generation on their way to plant peace and love in every soul on the road. Seriously? That sounds more like Israel’s Halloween.

I know that using Google Doodles as descriptions of our present and premonitions for our future as a nation is quite delirious, but it’s a perfectly adequate showcase of our lack of narrative. We Lebanese people, as a whole, are allowing our communal identity to dwindle, making room for the past to appear as our most glorious accomplishment yet. As a young man trying to survive this place, I don’t want to see my future as an iteration of my past. Symbolically, this is obvious, but practically, I don’t want architecture to emulate the traditional, and I don’t want our moral values to remain frozen in the days of the virginity of my grandmother. I don’t want to be held responsible for a culture that refuses to move forward, and I childishly want fun, exciting Google Doodles about a dynamic and stimulating home.

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut

Comments

* The children of mixed race are the desperate refugees that inhabit Israel instead of Jews. Israel needs population or else, so anyone who need a place to stay, with a back door exit to parts more favorable, is in Israel. A temporary marriage of convenience for both parties.
* Is that what you see in the doodle of those children, a fertile generation ?
I just see an add for play school, play school is a TV program for kids on ABC TV.
* Wash your mouth out with soap, man - your grandmothers virginity should be a taboo subject. What's wrong with you guy !
* I am totally pissed of that Australia is a stagnant place, waiting for some foreign prince charming to kiss us out of the sleeping sickness that holds us immobile & impoverished.
Australia is obedient to the whims of all in sundry that is/are deemed better than us, to the point that our inventions & innovation are continuously GIVEN AWAY to be developed & profited from by any & all of them. For at least 3 decades I am sick to my stomach with the it. Australia, the docile dog that lays down submissively on its back & begs for affection at the approach of anyone.
* Obama came to visit & there we are, the Gillard government, bowing & scraping our unworthiness, in an apologetic tempo at their every step in any direction.
Hell they even did it for Oprah Winfrey & after they had paid her several million dollars from the public purse no less, to grace our shores with her massiveness.
* Prime Minister John Howard, with a personal invitation to enter Buckingham Palace & via the front door mind, in his jacket pocket had the driver take them around to the servants entrance.
God save us from this affliction, for we are riddled with it.
* Fairuz :- I looked, you are right she is the singers of days gone by, frozen in moral fiber lest they be admonished for impurity.
But hey - what about
Nancy Ajram
Haife Wehabe
Carole Samaha
just to name a few.....(?).....& the guys in their video clips are machismo extra espresso please.
* I speak Greek, Marinella, she sings & I sing along, I fell in love with her when I was 17, she also was constrained by the same morality, but her voice & songs were where it was at & still today I inflict us upon the neighborhood from time to time.
* Haife Wehabe is one hell of a sensual woman, just her facial expressions could get her into trouble. !
Stay cool funny man

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