Photo by Pierre Abi Younes

This Is Not Chaos

The Lebanese Revolution is organized and blissfully leaderless.

Josie Elbiry
Oct 28 · 3 min read

Today is Day 12 of what has been dubbed the October 17 Revolution in Lebanon. This morning, dozens of people participated in the daily clean-up and separation of garbage. Many others brought reinforcements of water and food. Men with bed head were interviewed on news cameras while a drummer hammered out a morning cadence for chants and dancing. The Lebanese no longer wake with creature comforts in mind. They have a list of demands.

The resignation of the government — all of them.

Investigate government members suspected of theft and corruption via an independent judiciary.

Halt the embezzlement of state resources.

Abolish the banking secrecy clause.

At dawn, the revolution appears ragged and sparse. Thin crowds mill about picking up tasks as they arise: move another dumpster into the road, bring more dirt in a wheel barrow, set up a hand washing stand. The army is always on the periphery, alert but worn from being sicked on to their own people by a Ministry of Defense in full coward mode, but a ministry which cuts the soldiers’ paychecks nonetheless.

The daylight reveals the underside of the revolt, a movement of pure human might whose reserves must be rotated and replaced. The middle-aged have been willing to sleep in their cars and on the ground but can’t maintain such discomforts for long. News cameras pan along faces resolute but bearing the smeared face paint of Lebanese flags and cedar trees on a worn cheeks. The glittering fireworks from the night before are charred garbage on the asphalt along with water bottles and cigarette butts.

Hold early parliamentary elections.

Install a secular government.

Launch an economic plan to staunch the current crisis.

End government nepotism.

This is our daily chrysalis. The Lebanese people have delegitimized the government and eschew the idea of any leader rising up organically or otherwise. The morning is the time to retreat and refuel, to enter a womb and quietly gulp down the life force. Food, transportation, medical attention and even legal counsel have been arranged free of charge. In the evening, the labor pains come once again, and two million souls will thrust themselves into the lights of Tripoli, Jal el Dib, Riad el Sohl, Martyrs Square. Each night is a rebirth. Just when we feel the movement will tire itself out, the streets fill, brimming with life and music, dancing and chanting.

The government is unresponsive, which has only served to deepen the people’s resolve. The protesters are vindicated, for the absence of any concession whatsoever has proven irrefutably that the men who govern this country are thieves and traitors.

Return looted money.

Install 24/7 electricity and launch a clean water policy.

Raise the minimum wage and engage tax reform.

Institute women’s rights at every level and abolish the nationality law.

Every night, fresh crowds pour in from all corridors to feed the weary and breathe new life into an anger that feeds the communal atmosphere, an anger burgeoning against the cowardly chest-beating of Hassan Nasrallah’s thugs and the shameful parading among Michel Aoun’s pussy-whipped, deranged supporters.

Establish real funding for public education and transportation.

Instate universal healthcare and proper waste management.

Support LGBTQ rights.

Legalize civil marriage.

This is not chaos. This is a sociologist’s dream — to witness the masses brought together by indignation and rage, to trace their movements, seemingly random from space, which reveal a compulsion to cooperate and organize in the face of impossible odds.

People have stopped working and going to school. They have willingly decided to sacrifice all the tenets of normal life to sit in the road, in the rain, in the wind, bound by an unspoken pact to remain as one organism, to protect one another and care for the injured and the weak. Such a monumental movement needs no leader.

It only needs the current “leaders” to get out of the way.

Josie Elbiry

Written by

Player: Creative Nonfiction

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