In Lebanon, we have a refrain that we repeat ad nauseam: We are resilient! We will rebuild!
Aren’t we sick of these platitudes and pats on the back?! How many times do we actually want to rebuild Lebanon? It’s supposed to be a viable country in which its occupants can live in security and stability – maybe even progress and prosperity.
It’s not a fucking Lego set.
We like to tell the story of all the layers of Beiruts we have, one on top of another like a mille-feuille. How many earthquakes have flattened the city? I forgot, so I looked it up and found an article from 2014 titled “Beirut is Ridiculously Unprepared for a Major Earthquake” in a publication called Resilient Cities – ironically.
[And the answer is seven – SEVEN TIMES Beirut has been demolished and rebuilt. Is this the eighth time? More importantly – is this the LAST time?!]
Indeed, I think our common theme is that Beirut is “Ridiculously Unprepared”… for everything. But whose role is it to prepare us, anyway? Oh that’s right! Our so-called leadership.
The article reminds us that Beirut was – was! – the “Jewel of Phoenicia”. And the “Paris of the Middle East”. Yes, yes. We know. It was.
Then the earthquake of 551 AD (which I believe most of us were not present for – except some of our politicians, perhaps?!). It took decades for Beirut to recover, and the article tells us that even then, the city never regained its former glory. Is all of this sounding familiar? History repeating.
We’re “overdue” for an earthquake, experts said. But we’re not prepared for one. Why, you wonder?!
Most of us live along the coast. Housing is dense, poorly constructed, old, not built according to “code”. Do we even have a code?! There’s zero government oversight, even if there was a clear code.
The country is not prepared, the article said in 2014, because – I swear I’m not making this up – “the country is too busy with the political situation to take this seriously.”
How long have we been busy with our political situation?! Since Lebanon was a fetus, clearly. Of course we’re unprepared! We were never built on anything solid to begin with.
In response to these challenges, the government says it is determined to become a “flagship of resilience”. I swear I could not make this shit up if I tried. I’m just not that creative.
As an ominous closing, the article says that we “need something to shake people into being prepared for this.” And, even worse, it predicts that if something does happen, the face of Lebanon will be irrevocably damaged, and it will be “another Haiti.”
I know about Haiti: I was there for six months as part of the emergency response following the earthquake. That was ten years ago – and the country has still not recovered.
We can rebuild all day. All year. For the next decade. But we’re still ridiculously unprepared for whatever will hit us next. We need a total overhaul, a sea-change. Our sea is polluted – also literal and figurative. It’s not just dirty water we’re worried about.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a good swimmer when the water is full of sharks.