Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lebanese Rap | Rap Libanais

Now to be clear, I wasn't familiar with Rayess Bek's previous work (and still aren't) and I think some of the stuff he says here are a bit funny (as in borderline "too much") and to be even clearer, I don't agree with everything he says... but most of the rest, well it's quite close to the reality we live in today.

A rough translated transcript below...

Of course, the Lebanese slang and "cute" words we use every now and then... Well, they got lost in translation... But the essential remains.

Just a quick background about Lebanon and how its politics work:

After the French mandate, Lebanon was left divided between sectarian groups carefully arranged in particular regions. Long story short: they fought each other for about 15 years in what we called the Lebanese Civil War. And now, they've been fighting each other on the political arena since. Less bloody you may think... Not really. And of course, since sectarianism is intrinsic to political life, sectarian/religious leaders are as politically involved as the politicians, if not more. In fact, they are so powerful, they can make or break politicians. Because basically, candidates apply to certain seats based on a sectarian quota. Each region has a pre-defined number of seats for each sect. And then you hope the other members of the sectarian group will vote for you. Since you represent them. (What is it that you represent, I don't know. But it's definitely not ideas). And if you're friendly with your sectarian leaders, then you win votes. If you're not, well you better hope you've got a popular family name. Because in Lebanon, in addition to sectarianism, we also have feodalism. So basically, your family has been voting for a political family for ages, you do the same.

Also good to know since it is widely spoken about in the video: Civil Marriage is not legal/available in Lebanon. This may seem like a distant crazy notion for most non-Lebanese but the thing is, if you want to get married in Lebanon, you need to do so within a particular sectarian format. In other words, if a Christian wants to marry a Muslim, one of them must convert to the other's religion first. What's even more ridiculous is that it's not about religions only (that would be too easy), it's about sub-religions. So if a Christian-Maronite wants to marry a Christian-Orthodox, it will be within one of these specific churches and their children will automatically be "part" of this church/sectarian group. So how many groups are we talking about? In Lebanon, we've got 18 different sectarian groups officially recognized by the government as clear independent religious entities. When a Lebanese is born s/he is automatically registered under his/her father's sectarian group and will forever be identified as a member of this group (unless s/he decides to convert to another officially recognized sect).

Me neither.
And I'm Lebanese.

A final note: Since the occupation of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, by let's be blunt, European forces that had occupied our countries and turned us into colonies, many Palestinians lost their homes, their land and their life. Some of those who survived fled their homeland to neighboring countries. One of which is Lebanon. Up until today, they still live in refugees camps which are way below basic living standards (no water, no sewages, extremely bad hygiene, no proper schooling, etc.) and despite the fact that the new generation and their children never step foot outside of Lebanon, Lebanon is not their home. They have no basic human rights, they have no way to be inserted in society. They have no way to get proper education, a job or actually anything for that matter. And half-Palestinian half-Lebanese children don't enjoy preferential treatment since it is illegal and not even an option for Lebanese mothers to grant their children a Lebanese passport (how appropriate that women's rights are also mentioned in the video).

Let's be clear. This is not because all Lebanese are a bunch of sadists who enjoy torturing Palestinians. The unforgivable was done by those who so generously donated what was not theirs in the first place and forcefully turned these Palestinians into refugees.

The Lebanese government is keen on keeping this status-quo because the Palestinian cause is inherent to the Lebanese cause and by implementing the aforementioned "rules," the Lebanese government can make sure Palestinians will not embrace Lebanon as their new home and will keep on fighting to get what's theirs back: Palestine. That is fair. That is important. People should not be robbed of their land. And they must keep on resisting as long as occupation exists.

However, I do believe that the Palestinians' living conditions should be improved, just for basic humanitarian reasons. That won't mean they'll settle down and forget about Palestine. Other legislative practices can ensure that. I do believe that a more educated, healthy and confident Palestinian will have more chances to get Palestine back. Will have more strength and drive (poverty and desperation are efficient catalysts but they are definitely not fair). And a well-rounded, healthy mind will produce stronger ideas. And hopefully one day, a great Palestine.

But we digress... the transcript then:

They told me: "Go vote".
I told them: "I intend to go vote... But I need to vote for someone who represents me, right?"


In this country, who represents me?

For instance, I personally am pro Civil Marriage. OK. Good. Now just name one of them (politicians/candidates) pro Civil Marriage. Me, personally, I don't know any.

To me, I think, Civil Marriage is the only solution for this country. Because if we marry from other sectarian groups, maybe we will start to understand each other. Or maybe, maybe, maybe we will start to love each other.

How do I see this? With Civil Marriage, my son or daughter, or whatever; they will say "I am Lebanese". Not "I am a Shiite" "I am a Sunni" "I am a Catholic" "I am a Maronite". This boy, he'll be saying: "I am Lebanese". He'll say "my dad's a Druze, my mom's a Maronite, my grand-ma's a Shiite, my grand-pa's a Sunni-Catholic-Orthodox"; for example. Whatever. What matters is that it's a mix.

This kid, who can control him?
What religious leader can brainwash him?
Because religion today in Lebanon, and outside of Lebanon, is propaganda.

Reproduce as much as you can. Increase your sectarian group. Multiply the sectarian groups. And go vote, guys. Whichever reproduces more, wins the elections. Nice right?

Because actually, you chose your sectarian group. They didn't force you into it. They didn't feed you religion in the bottle since you were a baby.

Of course not.

You chose your religion in a very rational manner.

And moreover, you are proud of your sectarian group. Like it is some sort of university degree.

And what's even funnier is that you believe you represent everyone. And you have the right to speak on behalf of your entire sectarian group.

Hilarious. So funny in fact, it makes you laugh to death. Or is it that you cry to death? The point is: it kills you. That's it. Nothing more.

Anyway, let's go back to our topic. So, me? Who do I vote for? Who represents me in this country? Who is pro Civil Marriage and who is pro civil rights in general?

Listen, don't misunderstand me. I am not against religion. You want to pray and fast, be my guest. I personally respect your views. But for the love of (your) God, leave (your) God out of politics. (1) see footnotes

Let's be honest with each other. Today, the political parties are built on sectarianism. We're all just 4 million beings in this country. So if you we've got like 27,000 sectarian groups, how do we get it over with? That means each three, four people make up one sectarian group. And one political party.

So I think SECULARISM is the only solution in Lebanon. Meaning, that no matter what your sect is, you can go and vote for a politician because you both share the same beliefs. Not because you share the same sect.

OK, so today, who is this secular candidate, pro Civil Marriage, to whom I will give my vote? Who is this being who decided to work for the Lebanese people in general and not for a particular region or sectarian group? Who is this man who decided to solve the social problems in Lebanon? Which candidate spoke about the educational issues faced by the public schooling system for instance? Or about human rights in general; or about women's rights in particular? Who is willing to resolve the issue of power (electricity) in Lebanon? Isn't there some sort of solution to this "electricity" problem, we live in 2009 for f****'s sake! (2) Who spoke about the economy? About the industry in Lebanon. About work. About healthcare. About the Internet. About corruption in general.

In other words, who is willing to work for all of Lebanon and all of the Lebanese people in general?

Who thought about giving rights to the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon?

We want to find solutions right?
Democracy right?

The politicians are all government employees. In other words, they're employed, by us. Not the other way around.

Who is this guy I'll vote for?

All they can talk about is "America" and "Syria". (3)

OK. Fine. So today we create political parties not because we agree on common believes. No. Today we create a political party because today we all agree that we all hate that other party. So our parties are built on hatred. We hate the others. And if you want some sort of proof, it's easy: just check Facebook. (4)

So basically all our problems are the others' fault. It's always the others' fault. All the country's problems are the others' fault. But me. Me personally. I never make a mistake. My religion is the right religion. My politics are the right politics. And my political party is the right party. I am walking on the right path, 100% since 1975 (5) and up until today.

So in all the aforementioned issues, the politicians haven't changed... for 40 years. The same people. The same issues. The same wars. (6)

So me, personally, who represents me? To whom should I vote? Anyway, could anyone explain to me what are these elections for? How are they different from the last elections? Or the one before that? Or the one before that one? How is it different from the next elections?

Elections? Yeah right.


(1) In Lebanese slang we use the expression "Dakhil Rabbak" which translates to "For the love of your God" which is actually the same as "For the love of God" but here, it's a play on words which is why I translated literally and kept the "your" between parentheses.

(2) Since the Civil War in Lebanon, there have been scheduled power cuts on a daily basis. No home in Lebanon ever enjoys electical power 24 hours a day. So Lebanese have generators all around the neighborhoods (and some within homes) to make sure they can sustain power all the time. That means paying the outrageous electrical bill to the government in addition to the even more outrageous bill to the generators mafia (who act like they own the world, since yes, everyone does need them).

(3) Today there are two prominent political blocs in Lebanon. The current majority in the government and the opposition. The first is pro America and the latter pro Syria. Obviously, when they attack each other, they focus on these "outside" alliances. So basically, which allinace is more Lebanese than the other. Guess what? They're both with "outside". They both claim that they put Lebanon first of course, despite these strategic alliances. And I am no fool. Lebanon is not in a bubble, unaffected by the "outside". But some alliances are more dangerous to the country than others. Of course countries ally. But which alliances will ensure your country's benefits first and foremost?

Lebanese people are nuts these days! On the streets of Lebanon where billboards and photos of politicians with vague slogans have taken control of the landscape. And of course, on Facebook, where the same has happened. And yes, they may deny it, but these people are using Facebook to spread hatred and hate each other now in both the physical and virtual worlds. I just wish I would see one of my friends in a group that is not the creation of one of these two blocks (footnote 3) and even those who claim they are, are not. We're not stupid, we can read. And we can understand what's so subtly implied.

The Lebanese Civil War started in 1975.

(6) Since the Civil War (and even before) the same politicians have been recycling their ideas (and photos) over and over again. Well, we wish there were some actual ideas. It's just their own personal agenda. Power hungry selfish useless agenda. Some have died, let's be fair. But as we say, if you have children you live forever. And indeed, the politicians in Lebanon inherit their "place" from their fathers. Some have no experience whatsoever except that their daddy was a politician before them. Very trustworthy indeed. I'll gladly put the country in your experienced and safe hands. So basically, as if sectarianism was not enough, we have a modern version of feodism in Lebanon. "The deputy is dead. Long live the deputy"... or minister. or whatever. And each one of these proud leaders has his own political party. And loyal followers. And I insist on the word "follower". Not only are they loyal, they're also blind and change opinions (and allies) immediately upon their wise leaders' request. Forget that these same people created the Civil War in Lebanon. Let's keep voting for them over and over again. Forget that today's allies were yesterday's ennemies (and we still haven't found all the missings). And it's OK if tomorrow we go back to our old alliances. Who cares? Nobody's keeping count.

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