Symptoms: Part II

Here are some thoughts that might come off as harsh, especially in the current context. Please forgive me if you are insulted.

I think the murder of Yves Nawfal is really just a symptom of this ongoing disease, which most of us are responsible for perpetuating, not just the criminals who committed the crime. When confronted with a disease, or a problem, there’s an approach known as a palliative treatment: it’s a treatment in which you relieve pain without dealing with the underlying cause. You deal with the symptoms, but not with the disease. In the case of the sad story of what happened to Yves, part of the disease is our judiciary system, and the fact that some people think they are above the law. But I would say that this isn’t the whole issue.

People are often biased. One could even say hypocrites, although that’s harsh. When tragedies like these occur, most of us are outraged by what happened and the events that follow because we knew the person in question, or because he came from a good family. Lebanon has a huge class problem, don’t kid yourself, and the community Yves comes from is rich and powerful. That’s one of the reasons we’re hearing so much about him.

Still, I’m glad we are. And I’m glad a sit-in in front of the 2asr el 3adel is being organized. I wish I were in Beirut so I could attend and join my voice to the many that will be screaming for justice. But sadly, I also think that this won’t fix the problem. It might fix this particular situation, but nothing will change if we don’t start thinking differently about what’s happening in our country, if we don’t tackle much more complicated issues than this one. No one can escape the law, no one can murder someone else and go unpunished… I agree. Making sure justice is served in this case is what the sit-in and the social media campaign will achieve. But what about the underlying problems? But what about the fact that some of us carry guns around? What about the male culture that makes it so that so many times when you go to a club in Lebanon, you leave because a fight broke out? What about the attitude of men in our country?

This time, a Christian shot and killed a Christian, so we’re all outraged by the criminality of it. Thank God they’re both Christians, in a way, so no one can hide behind other excuses. But face it: this culture of violence, of accepting male machismo, of condoning acts of brutality on a daily basis, are the real problem that plagues our society. People like Charbel Khalil were raised in a cultural climate where guns and fighting were romanticized, with men talking about guns like they’re talking about nice cars, or about their football teams. I’ve actually had a conversation with a man (who would never consider himself violent) in which he told me that he’s obsessed with guns, that he loves them. “The way you love music, I love guns.” I was baffled, as you might imagine. Not just at how much he must be in love with guns, since I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to music, but that young people in Lebanon, after everything done with guns in the country so recently, can still say something like that. And what did our friends sitting with us do when I was shocked by his statement? Yes, they laughed.

Let us all remember what happened this past week when it all calms down, and hopefully change our attitudes and our tolerance towards brutish behavior, whether it’s through verbal violence, or through fights between men who want to establish their “virility” and other ridiculous illusions. Let us recognize that these attitudes are not only wrong, but they’re often manifestations of deep troubles caused by repressed emotions and experiences. If these men weren’t scarred by the war directly, they were most likely raised by people who were, and who, instead of letting out their rage at what they saw, what they lived, chose to let it in, and acted it out on their children and the people around them. Let’s start talking about what happened to all of us, and let us start being vocal about day-to-day unfairness, bullying, and idiotic behavior. That’s when we’ll really start getting better.

Let us be thankful for the people who were willing to get organized and to spread the energy to tackle the corruption and the justice system when it was slow to react to Yves’ killing. Let us stand by Yves’ family, his mother, and express our solidarity, our sympathy in their terrible plight. But let us be weary of the kinds of reactions people displayed on social media, calling for the criminal to be hanged, for him to be publicly executed, calling him an animal and more: realize that in these moments, you’re only hiding behind your reaction. You’re only letting out your rage on this man, because it heals the pain a little bit, because it makes you feel a little bit better. But ultimately, it makes us lose more of your humanity, it makes us brutal and animals ourselves, and more importantly, it distracts us from what we need to do. We should be standing together, we should be talking about the world we live in, and how we can fix it. We should be healthy, and to be healthy in this case means to express our pain, our horror, our trauma, not act it out on others. Not repress it by deflecting the issue.

Let us not allow for Yves’ death to be in vain: we need to realize that this is only a symptom of a much larger problem, and that for these incidents to stop happening, we need to change the way we think, stop accepting what we do accept, and take a deep look inside each and every single one of us.

May he rest in peace.

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