Home Editorial Burning the wrong tire

Burning the wrong tire

by Yasser Akkaoui

The right to public protest is fundamental in a democracy — citizens need to be able to demonstrate when they judge certain situations to be unacceptable in order to pressure those responsible to remedy the situation. There are ways to protest effectively, however, and then there are ways to be an obnoxious, self-defeating disturbance; Lebanon of late has been rife with the latter.

The infamous Tariq Al Matar, the road leading to the airport, has been blocked with burning tires more times, and for more reasons, than is sensible to count over the past month and more. Pissed off about electricity cuts? Yallah, let’s burn tires on Tariq Al Matar! Upset over Lebanese pilgrims abducted in Syria? More tires for the airport road! There are so many protests happening that they are blurring together, with many protesters unsure which cause they are supposed to be angry about that day.

Besides releasing more toxic fumes for everyone to breathe, the roads being blocked around the country almost invariably run through the very same neighborhoods where the demonstrators live and work, meaning they are inconveniencing their neighbors, disrupting local commerce by driving away customers and creating a negative public image for their cause — as well as isolating themselves from the very powers they should be pressuring.

If you have no power at home, what good does it do to block newly-arrived tourists from reaching their hotels? Instead, occupy the offices of the Ministry of Energy and Water or stage a sit-in at the Grand Serail, where the actual power to do something about the electricity crisis lies today. Then, and only then, will the people who are responsible for your plight actually begin to care that you are upset and do something about it. The Électricité Du Liban workers’ strike has been the singular exception in this regard, in that union members have targeted their protests at the offices and headquarters of their employer, largely limiting hindrances to the general public while focusing pressure on those parties that can affect change regarding their grievances.

The thuggish bravado many ‘demonstrators’ exude, standing in the road blocking innocent bystanders from going about their day, masks a cowardice — they are afraid to confront those who are actually responsible for their current situation.

Thus, while proper civil action and public pressure can bring about positive change, the Lebanese cannot hope to move in this direction until courage replaces burning rubber as a symbol of protest.

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Yasser Akkaoui

Yasser Akkaoui is Executive's editor-in-chief.

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