41.What Have We Learned? (31 December 2020)
The year has come to a close, but the “course
of study” we embarked upon in this most unfavorable of years has not ended. It’s
an opportunity to check what, if anything, we have learned up to this point.
This is not a complete list, and is not in order of relevance, so feel free to
add what you’ve learned. The learning must continue.
Repurposing last year's steel Christmas tree
that they never got around to dismantling
(there was an uprising going on for a while).
(19 Dec. 2020 - Karantina - Beirut)
First: that physical boundaries, though not irrelevant, are not as impervious as we imagined. That terrible plague afflicting far-away China quickly transformed into the entire planet’s concern. Thanks to the way we moderns live, transporting the good and the bad is laughably easy. Some of these rapidly spreading things may be worth celebrating, but others present a grave concern. Here in Beirut, unlike in past days when we wrote letters and waited weeks for a response, or requested an overseas telephone line from the operator to make a rare phone call, now we enjoy the ease of instant and frequent connection with our families, most of whom live in North America. Of course, with the pandemic still running wild we are also using the same methods to communicate with friends and colleagues right around us.
yet there is a serious downside to the removal of that which distinguishes one
nation from another, one culture from another, one set of values from another.
The growing expectation that people everywhere (who, of course, will be
technologically interconnected) should hold but one view on major issues, and
only disagree on insignificant matters is the enemy of inquisitive and critical
thinking. Which explains why countries get polarized, when one group is unable
to force other groups to conform to its views. And that polarized world is
known today as Planet Earth.
A crèche in front of a ruined building facing
the port explosion site, at a Christmas fair
in the hard-hit Mar Mikhael area.
(22 Dec. 2020 - Mar Mikhael - Beirut)
Second: that small countries like Lebanon and Armenia, after a century of being game
pieces on a great political playing board, continue to look to the larger powers
of the world as if they were benevolent organizations. Not much learning has
happened, despite the crises and misery of this year’s events. Lebanon
continues on its happy way, with yesterday’s warlords acting as today’s party
heads, standing firm upon the rights of their small fiefdoms at the expense of
the suffering population. Armenia, which had almost three decades to build a
strong state and progress in its political awareness based on geopolitical
realities, instead merely took upon itself the trappings of an exemplary state,
complete with a recent bloodless “revolution”. Yet it continued to be
emotion-driven, to the point of conducting a defensive war based on making its
citizens and the Armenian Diaspora feel good about how things were going. It
remains to be seen whether Armenia will chart a different path hereafter, and
acknowledge its failures so as to learn from them.
A do-it-yourself Christmas float sponsored
by a local taxi company, complete with an
actual, live sheep among the statuary.
(18 Dec. 2020 - Mar Mikhael - Beirut)
Third: that Armenia’s traditional adversaries, meaning its immediate neighbors to
the left and right, are still bloodthirsty and have not removed that subhuman
trait from their national consciousness after centuries of being steeped in a sanguinary culture. Yes, there are a few reformist voices from within both
countries, including some who are imprisoned for their views and others who
have fled their native lands, but at the helm of these countries are jaded
realists, supported by other jaded realists, who know all too well how to play
the game of politics in this fallen world. The wise old Armenian saying would
be instructive at this point (concerning human relations; canines are able to
be trustworthy far beyond humans), but only if there are ears to hear:
“Befriend the dog, but don’t drop your stick.”
Clementines at two dollars a kilo (at the
official exchange rate) or 37 cents a kilo
(at the street rate).
(7 Dec. 2020 - Mar Mikhael)
|LebCat 41: Ready-boxed for easy gift-giving: |
just wrap and surprise your loved one!
(29 Dec. 2020 - Geitawi - Beirut)
is my prayer for these times and for this world. This is my hope as well as my
plan for serving in the place God has led us, particularly among Armenians in
Lebanon and Armenia. May we all be more courageous and faith-filled in the New