“It starts with you, the man in the mirror*”, said the arrogant academic, who sells his own rainwater, as Michael Jackson rolled in his grave a few times.
Seriously, though, it wasn’t the first time I’ve been told something along the lines of that, after I’d spew criticism of the Lebanese establishment’s failure to provide a solution to the garbage crisis, let alone the plethora of things that are going wrong in this failed state.
The “Don’t Blame Others But Yourself” Culture
I think this is linked with the obnoxious over-individualistic society that we live in, where the individual is responsible for everything in life. Every problem and misfortune in said individual’s life is their own responsibility.
That’s just absurd.
If said individual pays taxes to the state in order to receive certain services in return, they can’t blame themselves if the government fails to stick to their end of the deal.
…unless you’re into Ayn Rand’s politics; good luck with that.
How does this apply to Lebanon and the garbage crisis?
It is true that household waste production in Lebanon is terrible to say the least. We waste a lot. There is no doubt about it. Going forward, that is something that needs to change- drastically.
However, there is a more immediate problem at hand that is purely the responsibility of the government and privatized waste collection service, Sukleen.
We have been given two options: either we have landfills, ‘mountains’ of trash, risk the well-being of people in poor and vulnerable communities, and further damage whatever’s left of Lebanon’s ecosystem, or we just tolerate having garbage piled up on the streets.
In short, your tax money will be used to make your life a living hell one way or another.
But “it starts with you”, and we shouldn’t point fingers. Should we keep paying our tax money to Sukleen, and then pick up the trash off the streets and separate it ourselves?
For the longest time, in the interest of ignoring ‘politics’, people in Lebanon have chosen to just live their lives in parallel with the failed state. Garbage is the tip of the iceberg. Businesses and corporations have truly benefited from it, whether it’s providing separate sources of electricity and potable water to residential and office buildings, to even expediting certain state services due to internal corruption in the state.
So perhaps it does start with us…
In order to have a functioning state, we must identify the problems within it, and take action. That is how a democratic society functions.
If we ignore identifying and taking action, and try to mitigate what is already a disastrous situation just to avoid ‘politics’, then we only have ourselves to blame. We can’t expect to have a functioning state and democratic society if we don’t do what we ought to do as citizens.
So, yes, it starts with us. We have to improve the amount of waste we produce in our households, but at the same time, we really need to solve problems at the institutional level.
*Apologies to Michael Jackson fans who were offended by the academic’s irresponsible use of his lyrics. I, too, died a little. RIP MJ