Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lebanon: Alvaro Vargas Llosa On Lebanon

As the punishment of South Lebanon continues, and the Lebanese roads continue being bombed, Alvaro Vargas Llosa who just visited Lebanon, has some pointed words:

As I traveled in Lebanon two weeks ago, four things struck me: the almost miraculous reconstruction of Beirut; the free-thinking cosmopolitanism of its middle class; the spirit of peaceful coexistence among the various religious groups, thanks in part to the open-mindedness of much of the Sunni population.

Lebanon was obviously making progress. Its legendary entrepreneurial drive was back. Even with an economy not fully recovered from a civil war that reduced the country's GDP by half, one sensed a spirit of optimism. People were planning all sorts of personal projects—an unmistakable sign of civil society, whether it be opening new bars on Beirut's Monot Street or, as Nada, an assistant working at a cultural institute, had just done, persuading a publisher to start an imprint devoted to translations of Spain's modern literature

The Kind Of Damage That Destroys The Spirit
All of this progress has now been reduced to rubble. The infrastructure that took billions of dollars to rebuild is being pulverized. The institutions that managed to hold the internal peace are being blown away. The confident embrace of the outside world is dissipating.

Israel's response places collective guilt on an entire society for the atrocities of a minority of which that society is itself the victim.

My Take
It almost takes a Latin American to fully appreciate the value of basic infraestructure. I lived in Managua, Nicaragua which was hit with an earthquake which destroyed downtown, followed by one (actually 2) civil wars, and economic disasters. We lived without much of a proper city, and watched the downtown area crumble away as a fact of life for 2 decades, even called it las ruinas (the ruins) as if it were an archeological dig.
Bad roads, lousy airports, too few bridges were also a fact of life in the poorer countries of Latin America. You first of all want basic maintenance, then improvements - which can even mean paved roads. But, when you go through civil wars and stuff like road blockades, on top of economic crisis, it just kills hope that anything will ever get repaired, much less improvements built.
For the Lebanese to have rebuilt their cities, and all those roads is just a monumental triumph, and I think that is part of Vargas Llosa frustration. I can not for the life of me begin to even think of the rage that many Lebanese feel now that these facilities and buildings just recently rebuilt, have just been pulverized by the Israeli's. To come out of decades of disaster to finally feel some sense of hope, and to have it dashed like this is simply cruel. And for the people of Beirut - particularly those in the South - to see their city being reduced to rubble every day , it must be unimaginable.
Tip Of The Hat to
Publius Pundit

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