Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some words about the Lebanese...

"Mrs Makhoul is just one of several Lebanese teachers and parents who are concerned that increasing numbers of young people can no longer speak Arabic well, despite being born and raised in the Middle Eastern country."

I don't know about the rest of Lebanon, but certainly people I've met who come from Beirut are not only dismally ignorant of the Arabic language, their behaviour and mannerisms are completely European and totally internalised. Even Malcolm X had dismal things to say about the level of mental colonialism that they suffer from there, especially their women.

I also notice that class does divide Lebanese (regardless of political orientation) who go abroad. Poorer Lebanese (children of immigrants) from Beirut are into "R'n'B" and "Hip-Hop", Western musical styles originating from deprived urban youth groups, and the richer Lebanese who study at fancy universities abroad have a lot of what people in the United States call "WASP" characteristics. WASP means White-AngloSaxon-Protestant. When I see them I see that they dress the same way as WASP young dress, listen to the same music, and go drinking in the same grotty East end dives that they do - to get an "authentic" feel. When you talk to members of both of these groups, they talk the same way, view the world in a very similar way, and completely internalise the group logic that they have affiliated themselves with.

This may all be quite normal I guess, but it also probably says a lot about where they come from. It goes without saying that their level of Arabic is dismal, many of the ones I've met who come from a Muslim background don't even know the basics of Wudu, let alone what Islam is. Those that come from a Christian background tend to share the same nihilistic and disillusioned perspective with "religion" that their Western counterparts claim to have as well, but don't really know or understand why. All very amusing and quite sad really.

The other day someone I know sent me a clip that "Playboy" an American, now international, magazine which is famous for publishing pictures of naked women in suggestive poses, along with news and current interest articles, had a lingerie fashion show in Beirut. The Lebanese woman who had organised it was trying to portray in a television interview that she was challenging a stifling conservatism that "yet again" was in outrage....she's made herself out to be a total martyr, and for what! I have no sympathy towards her whatsoever and in fact I support ostracising people like her.

I don't think it's wrong to be fluent in another language, but if you don't know who you are, have no principles, and don't even try finding out, then something isn't quite right with you. In fact the only balanced and Arabic-speaking Lebanese I've ever met tended to come from the South of Lebanon and are mostly Shia. It is not surprising that the other Lebanese I've described above can absolutely despise these southerners and view them almost as if they are aliens. I think if they want to see aliens they should just look in the mirror.

صدق من قال
نسائهم لعب رجالهم مع من غلب تجمعهم الطبله وتفرقهم العصا

7 comments:

al. said...

You reminded me with an incident that happened a while back during a screening of a very powerful film called The Cave (Wael Shawky, 2005), in which the artist walked through the aisles of a supermarket in Hamburg reciting sourat al-Kahf in a manner that if you didn't understand Arabic, you'd think he was reporting on something. Anyway, the artist was actually there during the screening, and he was receiving questions from the audience, when this Lebanese girl (who spoke perfect Arabic) asked what he was saying in the film. What followed was pin drop silence, then confusion, then someone volunteered the obvious. Mind you the audience was a mix of Arabs, Asians, & Westerners - and it was clear to all that what was being recited was the Quran (there were subtitles) so it was bewildering that she watched all 13 minutes of it and had absolutely no idea what it was all about.
Now I recognize that she must've been Christian or Druze and may have never read the Quran or heard it being recited in any clear capacity to identify the style and language, but it's a little strange to me that one can grow up and live in the Middle East and still not recognize one of the most constant elements present anywhere you go in the MENASA region. Shocking.

SiSi said...

Someone seems a little irrate :-p

But this phenomenon is not exclusive to the Lebs but also applies to upper class Egyptians- particularly those that go to private universities or the AUC

Maysaloon said...

That is something I can completely see happening in my mind's eye. Complete cultural displacement. More importantly though, where I can see this film? It sounds intriguing...

Maysaloon said...

SiSi,
Thanks, I've been having a bad decade. Yes that phenomenon is also present in "upper class" Syrians too, a complete cultural misalignment of each country's "elite" so that they identify more with America and Europe.

al. said...

He has different versions of the same film shot in different cities (Istanbul & Amsterdam are two examples). I could only find this link and it's not a very good copy but gives you an idea:

http://www.smartvideoserver.org/wm_player.php?moId=2152&meId=1434

I can ask him where a better, bigger version can be viewed and let you know. You have to watch the whole thing in one go & in good quality to be able to appreciate what I felt was so gripping about it. Somehow the background eventually blurs and the words become so clearly illustrated in the mind.

Also found this in Ha'aretz lol

http://www.haaretz.com/culture/arts-leisure/walking-in-the-supermarket-and-reading-the-koran-1.170284

Mariam said...

Last year I spent a month in Damascus to catch up on my Arabic, had the time of my life. Absolutely loved Syria and the Syrians.Whenever I spoke Arabic, Syrians where pleasantly surprised when they found out that I could speak Arabic. They always asked me if I prefered to be spoken to in Fusha or 3ammiye and were very enthusiastic in helping me to improve my Arabic.
When I went to Beirut for the weekend, everytime I spoke Arabic to Lebanese they always answered back in either French or English. Very annoying. I think they wanted to come across as modern or sophisticated, whatever that is.
O and speaking of aliens; you should have seen their faces when I said I was studying in Damascus. I never felt more an alien like I did in the three days I was in Beirut.

Lirun said...

and yet you describe lebanon as a red dot.. very consistent of you to be so inconsistent