With Lebanon drowning in heavy rainfall and a hefty $86 billion in internal debt, the people are divided while some are keeping tabs on others.
As millions of Lebanese are unable to withdraw their dollars from banks, have unannounced limits on their spendings, and are nagging about the revolution that was born out of despair, the elite still paddle in their pool of wealth.
The upper class, the rich, the well-off, they worked hard to earn the money they have; they most certainly worked and broke their backs to be able to withdraw $10,000 from a Lebanese bank post-Oct. 17. Ever since the Lebanese revolution propelled two months ago, banks have closed in the faces of their clients and set a weekly dollar withdrawal limit to encourage people to use the Lebanese pound. The limit varied from $150-$300/week to $1,000/week, depending on the bank (and your position on the corrupt nepotism scale).
Dec. 30 started off as a regular day. A friend of mine vacationing in Turkey for four days sent me the photo above. "This man is Lebanese and bragging about how he was able to withdraw $10,000 in cash from Byblos Bank," she texted me.
At the end of the day, both of them were spending their money abroad while their country is economically suffering; the only difference was the amount of money each is squandering. We can't exactly blame either of them for choosing to spend their cash instead of saving it; it's theirs.
A few minutes later, she sends a photo of a shawarma place in hopes of making me and the others on the WhatsApp group jealous. Mission accomplished, if I may say. Seconds pass and a group member sends a screenshot from a Facebook post of a man who reportedly stole a whole shawarma skewer from a restaurant in Lebanon. The odds, right?
Unfortunately, instead of laughing over this coincidence, I came to realize that both photos represented the division from within the Lebanese society. One man had thousands of dollars injected in Turkey's economy while his fellow Lebanese was stealing food to survive the current situation.
A man as he steals a shawarma skewer in Lebanon
How can a man, who surely earned his money, be allowed to get $10,000 in cash, in dollars, in one transaction, while others whose salaries barely touch the $1,000-mark have to make weekly drops at the counter and pay fees that go up to $3 ... just to withdraw $150? How can restaurants and cafés be overbooked for New Year's Eve, malls be overcrowded, and roads be red and jammed because of cars while people are being fired from their jobs and having their salaries slashed in half because "there's no money"?
The Lebanese are sympathizing with a thief. And aren't we already used to that? Haven't we sympathized with our dear politicians for long enough to see our country sucked dry of everything good? Though yes, thieves do come in categories and the man who simply walked in, took an entire shawarma skewer, and walked out is technically one. He took without permission what wasn't his, with probably no intention of returning it. But people supported him still; some cheered him on while others pitied him and an entire population who is facing an unknown future of economic woes.
And when it comes to a man who's spending his own money abroad, on clothes and tourism and whatnot, anger and jealousy takes us over. How is he allowed to do that while others have no access to their money? And again, isn't this our constant annoyance with those we elect to be in power? They have all the money to help but choose not to.
Such opposing scenarios have always been the norm in Lebanon, but where has the October revolution placed the cheering crowd?
This situation makes Lebanon a Robin Hood kind of country, supporting the rioting poor over the selfish rich.