In the new year, let’s resolve to be a generation unafraid to dream

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With a slight jolt, the metro stopped and the speakers exclaimed, “Clemenceau” in a very firm French pronunciation unlike the “Klimansoh” we scream to our local taxi/service drivers in Beirut. The metro doors slid open, and the people on the outside waited politely for the people inside to come out before entering the metro car – a long beep, and the doors close. The metro moves, and then stops, “Concorde!” exclaim the speakers in the same tone.

It just took five minutes from “Clemenceau” to “Concorde.” That’s usually the time you need to go down your Beirut apartment when the elevator is either broken or stopped because the electricity’s out. That’s also the time you spend to cross the street because few drivers would let you pass to the other side. Five minutes is also a tiny fraction of the time you need to get from Beirut’s “Clemenceau” area to “Concorde” due to traffic or prodigal taxi driver routings throughout this city.

Within these five minutes, I stood in that jolty metro car, dreaming of going out at the “Concorde” station in Beirut, under the monstrous and morbidly beautiful Concorde Center, but the next metro stop always reminded me this was not Beirut at all. Two consecutive stations on Paris’s metro line number 1 had names of two of Beirut’s most known areas, “Clemenceau” and “Concorde,” and every time I crossed those two stations in either direction, I let myself slip into a little dream of Beirut.

I had fled Beirut with my family escaping the jingle bells and the congested uncanny climax leading to next year. Beirut does not miss a chance to be a violent city, and the holidays are carte blanche for symbolic blood on its urban dance floors. Walking in beautiful Paris, everything reminded me of Beirut. I was spending my waking hours half here and half at home like an enchanted man in exile although I have only been here for a week. I think it’s the curse of the Lebanese citizen in constant struggle to prove the livability of “back home” while knowing that a lot needs to be done before Lebanon can qualify as a home.

The new year is a few hours away, and I can’t but feel hopeful. It’s a curse. Buying a new calendar, claiming a new resolution, January and a new digit at the end of the year of every new date we will write for the next three hundred and sixty five days all partake in a theater of hope we so fiercely need to survive. Back and forth in the Paris metro, I can believe that this is possible in Beirut. We have no time for cynicism. We have no time to repeat last year. We cannot afford the luxury of doubting the power of possibility.

Everything is doable, and everything that needs to be done must be done. What are we waiting for? It’s about time a generation does something right and change everything in Lebanon, so why not this one? While walking with a friend of mine from one public garden to another in Paris, she insisted that the French built this city and earned it, repeating that, “Some generation must have done something right, and goodness snowballed after that.” It’s not simple, but it makes sense.

It’s very inspiring to admit that Beirut’s metro to the future could be a generation unafraid to dream, so why not this one? While gobbling the second bottle of a bistro’s delicious house wine with another friend in the Quartier Latin a couple of hours later that day, the conversation naturally continued. To him, it is very interesting to map the relationship between people and the institution in their understanding of reality. Is there a reality outside the institution? Can people see outside the rules and parameters that construct their personal and communal identities?

Reflecting on this need for a generation to turn everything around, it must be a generation that is willing to see a reality different than the one presented by the existing rules of the world. It should be a generation that sees an alternative reality as opposed to mundanely try to solve existing problem after problem. While past generations have been working hard to patch the heavy reality we have carried throughout our history, it’s time to propose another one. It’s time to look in the mirror and see ourselves not as victims of our pasts, but as architects of a beautiful, functional, sustainable future. It’s not reckless to propose seemingly crazy ideas and implement them, it’s genius and it’s what we need. We need to shake the system hard enough for it to fall off. So next year, do something that could change your world. The next year is near, Happy New Year!

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


Then pack and go. The rest of us are unafraid to dream

I have looked at pictures of Paris /France, it looks very nice & in movies, especially the old movies, presented Paris as beautiful & exciting place, where everyone lives with their hair let down.
My mothers sister married a French man they lived in Paris my cousin Stephen is their only child. He & his wife & child live on the beautiful Island of Reunion, off the coast of Africa & not far from Madagascar, how cool is that.
My aunt & mother would write to each other regularly. Paris might be okay for the cashed up tourists / holiday makers, but it is not a place I would like to live. In fact the moral & ethical code in the whole of France is very suspect from what I hear & it is a poor country, so they play to the tourist scene for money.
A nation that must rely on tourism for its room & keep in the world is one step away from destitution.
This year 2015 will be a very hard year for all in sundry -
The hands that held all things till now, still believe that they have control - they do not - they will not want to let go -
The hands that will have all thing / those destined to have them are holding on tight to their right to have -
Have you ever been privy to the mother of all tantrums Raafat ... (?) because we are in store for one hell of a fight over who rules the world & each of its nations - humdinger is a good word here.
There will be assassinations on the quiet, oops he had a car accident, oh my god he drowned in the pool.

I read an article a few months back about people in Russia dying of natural causes & effects - car accidents, heart attacks, drowning, falling off ladders, a few suicides - a large number of people - nothing unusual until you looked at the, who exactly was dying aspect & then it was hard not to believe that all these people were not murdered / assassinated / expedited.
Be observant this year Raafat, look to see what exactly is happening around you, lest you miss its subtleties.

I have 364 days to go & I can leave this place / relocate. This will be the longest year. This will be the year for me to pack, I have ordered boxes, they also provide tape & paper, how good is that. Should I have a swimming pool & spa ? is the dilemma & only because they may come with the house. "if you want this particular house mam, you will have to settle for the pool as well, I'm afraid"
Enjoy your holidays man & Happy New Year.

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