Groundhog Day

Illustration by Ivan Debs

Some repetitions have become part of our routine; it is amazing what human beings can learn to accept. We have become used to daily power cuts, as the electricity switches back and forth between state supply and generator, and to water shortages in the summer and waiting for private companies to refill the tanks. We are only reminded of the pain when we pay the overpriced double bill for bad quality services. We pay, complain, accept—then forget.

Beyond this nonchalant bourgeois attitude that chooses to throw money at the problem rather than revolt, there is one issue that is impossible to accept or ignore: the lack of mobility in this country. The congested streets and the absence of public transport impacts our daily routines, our pockets, and our health—and the problem has been growing to paralyzing levels.

Our mobility woes are rooted in our politicians’ disregard for lives and productivity. Citizens are forced to contend with destructive behaviors, poor planning, and the lack of responsibility and accountability lost between a state-owned and laissez-faire economy. We are stuck in limbo, between a state unable to provide for its citizens and an unregulated private sector feeding off the state’s dereliction of its duties.

It all boils down to one thing: our inability to decide what kind of country we want to be. Transport is one of the many state-owned industries that has disintegrated over time, as vested parties bickered on their vision for the state. The trams, trains, and buses we enjoyed in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they dismantled in the ‘70s and ‘80s and have never rebuilt.

We need to ask what is the price we are paying—the cost of being stuck in traffic every day is depriving us of the basic human right to get from point A to point B without losing our time and resources, and putting ourselves in harm’s way for hours on end. Moving 20 km in two hours is not acceptable, putting our lives in the hands of reckless Lebanese drivers each day is not acceptable, not being afforded the healthy option, an alternate mode of transport, is not acceptable.

But, of course, the repetitions persist. It is in the interest of our politicians to keep the transport sector in the shambles it is today, just as it is in their interest to keep the electricity and water sectors as they are. We suffer, while they enjoy the returns of an informal system that only benefits them.*

*Due to a technical error the last six words of this editorial were missing from the print edition of the magazine. Executive apologizes for this mistake.

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