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    Losing our Souls


    Recently, we were served up another example of blinkered nonsense by Lebanon’s religious thought police, this time by those progressive members of the General Secretariat of the Catholic Schools in Lebanon, who sent a letter warning parents of children attending the educational establishments under the organization’s purview that their offspring risk falling under the influence of Class A drugs, not to mention Satan, should they attend the Beirut Rock Festival held in mid-November.

    The event – organized by Jyad Murr, one of Lebanon’s most dynamic businessmen – passed off without a hitch, and, we can safely say, without a significant portion of our glorious and pristine youth going to hell. This was not a neo-Nazi bacchanal organized jointly by the Klu Klux Klan and the Arshrafieh chapter of the Hell’s Angels. They were no people biting off the heads of live chickens. In fact, in a set that was headlined by aging Goth rocker Pete Burns, there was seating and coverage by Daily Star’s social pages. How depraved is that?

    Morality is a moveable feast in Lebanon. On the one hand one can’t escape the omnipresent influence – sometimes good, at times meddling, often downright interfering – of the clerical hierarchy of the nation’s 18 sects, while on the other, images of flesh and suggestion that would have made the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah blush festoon our billboards, magazines and our often unmonitored TV screens.

    We allow a cult of beauty to flourish unfettered. We are encouraged to change the way we look; we live in a country where we respect money and prestige and sneer at substance, intellect and creativity. Our children learn that to cheat and get away is a life skill. We fawn over our politicians and credit them with intelligence and wisdom beyond their ability by virtue of their office.

    And yet in this bazaar of immorality that we call modern Lebanon, in a country where many enter public service simply to stuff their snouts in the trough of kleptocracy, we find insult heaped upon chronic insult by an occasional spurt of self righteousness that defies belief.

    We are told what we can and cannot read or watch. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s hugely popular but ultimately forgettable novel about the theory that Jesus Christ had married and fathered a child by Mary Magdalene, was banned in Lebanon because the church decided it wasn’t suitable. Ditto The Diary of Anne Frank, in which we are told we cannot read about the suffering of an Austrian Jew at the hands of the Nazis in occupied Holland because somehow it legitimizes the state of Israel. Heaven forbid that we should be allowed read them and make up our own minds.

    In the mid-90s, CDs by Nirvana and a host of other rock bands were banned after a spate of tragic teenage suicides were alleged to be linked to their music, (as if Lebanon’s youth are the only ones to feel disaffected, lost and sometimes hopeless). We can dance to the same tunes till dawn in unlicensed nightclubs and then climb, drunk, into a car and kill the unsuspecting. But we cannot listen to this same music – music, we must add, that is widely acknowledged to have contributed to popular culture – in our own homes, and, yes, once again, make up our on minds if they are the work of the Beelzebub or not.

    When it comes to morals and standards, Lebanon is lost. Our leaders set few examples – their convoys push us off the road when they are in a hurry, while their friends and family can call them for help when they are stopped by the few police who try to do their job. Our municipal heads grant quarry licenses that scar out natural beauty, they issue building permits that create blots on our landscape, and they allow billboards to flourish like weeds on roads that could be magnificent boulevards.

    Amid all this madness, all the General Secretariat of the Catholic Schools in Lebanon can do is warn us not to listen to heavy rock in case we lose our souls.

    Some would say we lost those years ago.

    NOW Lebanon

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