I was having lunch with a Lebanese friend the other day, when he in the middle of the conversation smiled and said I had definitely become fully integrated into Lebanese society. Seeing that this could mean many things (both good and bad), I asked him exactly what he meant. He told me he had noticed that whenever the conversation touched on something political I dropped my voice.
I grew up in a home where politics more often than not was discussed around the dinner table, so I’ve always loved talking politics. In fact, once or twice I’ve even taken on a point of view that wasn’t really mine just to get the discussion going. And I don’t discuss to convince others that I’m right (I hate it when people automatically think you don’t understand them, when in fact you just don’t agree with them). I have no problems admitting if there’s something I haven’t decided upon yet. And I have no problems admitting if some of my viewpoints may be considered controversial.
One of the things I was looking most forward to about coming to Lebanon was all the political talk. Whether in a café in Denmark or on a beach in Dubai, I always find that when Lebanese are together politics is the main topic for discussion and no one holds back. But after having been in Beirut for four months now I’m beginning to wonder if that has changed.
A German friend in Denmark once told me around election time that she felt it was very strange how little the Danes seemed to care about the elections. She also thought it was strange that no one would say who they planned to vote for. In Germany people were very open about that, she told me, whereas in Denmark she felt that it was much more accepted to ask about a persons sexual preferences than political point of view.
I can understand why a lot of (especially young) Lebanese might be tired of all the politics and feel like it’s ruined their country. But at the same time I hope it doesn’t lead to complete apathy. I would hate it if the Lebanese became like the Danes and only touched on “innocent” subjects. While I in many ways find that hard to imagine, listening in on conversations being led by young Beirutis in places like “Younes” and “De Prague” make me fear that that’s exactly the way the Lebanese are headed.
So in the future I think I’ll try raising my voice a bit.