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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Octavia Nasr OpEd: "Some need to wake up... Others need to grow up... Most need to speak up!"

"At a time when Lebanon is going through yet another uncertain and tumultuous time in its modern history, I feel compelled to speak for the silent majority that is truly patriotic and chooses to live in peace away from the polarization of politics and religion."
(ATLANTA)...
I'm deeply disappointed with the Status Quo in Lebanon and people's adaptation to it. Notice I didn't say people's acceptance of the Status Quo, but adaptation. Just as they manage their lives around the absurd power shortages, they find ways to overcome the government ban on VOIP. They ignore abuse of power by civil servants, they deal with nepotism as a fact of life, and they count on bribes to get things done.
During my frequent trips, I speak to many Lebanese from all walks of life. Most of them are eager at first to give the impression they're "neutral" politically, ready to put "the past" behind them, move on in life and prosper. From the Taxi driver to the electrician, to the bank teller and the doctor. Even the passport controller and the luggage handler at the airport. So many Lebanese willing to share their opinion, convinced they're right and everyone else is wrong. Convinced they're neutral, independent thinkers and masters of their own destiny.
How I wish they were right!
It doesn't take long to realize that this neutrality is only temporary until they figure out where you stand. That's when their true jewels of wisdom are shared. A shower of finger-pointing follows. It's always the other side's fault. Mind you, the other side changes sometimes as often as these people change socks, and they don't even realize it or they choose not to admit it. After all, it's a painful truth when your "leader" the one who "leads you" down the ditch in some cases, changes affiliations every time the wind blows in a new direction. To make sure all are included here, note that new winds can show up within months, years or decades. For these "followers" blinded by a tribal mentality of "we're with you even if we have nothing left," or "we're with you until we have nothing left, and beyond," I say wake up! This is the 21st century. If your "leader" hasn't done anything for you so far, chances are he/she won't start now. If you must be "led" by someone, it's time to find a modern "leader" who isn't afraid to put you in touch with the rest of the world and doesn't wish for you to remain ignorant to the truth, living in a bubble and pretending like he/she is God's gift to you and to humanity.

The truth is, nothing has changed!
Most of Lebanon's politicians have remained the same since I lived there and covered the civil war as a local reporter. It really pains me to see that they haven't changed in twenty years. What can one politician offer a country or followers for more than 20, 30, or 40 years in some cases? Recycled politics, recycled speeches, recycled news and recycled leadership. Please note that I'm not against someone remaining active in politics for a long time or even a lifetime.
"Are you really waiting for Ahmadinejad, Erdogan, Abdallah, Assad, Sarkozy or Obama to "teach" you how to unite? Unite because that's your civic duty and because you care about people who entrusted you with their lives, blindly, despite a murky past that might not be worthy of their trust." -OCTAVIA NASR
What that requires, however, is for the person to constantly update themselves; to remain current with the times, to reinvent themselves along the way, and apply 21st century methods of communication and persuasion. Instead, I see politicians who still seek recognition, validation and support from foreign countries to legitimize their stance. Then you have leaders who say something one day, then change their mind another and switch sides completely without reasoning, only justifications. To those I say, forgive me if I and many others see you as immature and I would invite you to grow up! For your sake and for the sake of those who support you and follow you, start behaving like true leaders. Are you really waiting for Ahmadinejad, Erdogan, Abdallah, Assad, Sarkozy or Obama to "teach" you how to unite? Unite because that's your civic duty and because you care about people who entrusted you with their lives, blindly, despite a murky past that might not be worthy of their trust.
There is hope!
Then there is a group that is smart, educated, and open-minded. They are the moderates who have learned their lesson and know how to put politics aside to focus on the future. They are aware of Lebanon's potential and able to get its message across to the world through hard work, creativity, commitment and sacrifice. You are the people I meet everywhere I go and together we have meaningful conversations instead of shouting matches others engage in without convincing arguments. You are the professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, geeks, students, teachers, journalists, poets, even politicians that I spend hours talking to about the Lebanon we dream of, but find harder and harder to reach. To you I say, speak up! Each of you within your own circles and in your own capacity, can make a difference. Don't keep your valuable opinion of necessary change to yourself. Share it with the people around you and hold everyone accountable. Awaken people's social responsibility and speak up about how some people need to wake up while others need to grow up. Remind your audience, large or small, of the famous Lebanese saying: When 3antar was asked who gave him the authority to be 3antar he answered, "I gave myself the authority and no one stopped me."

Footnote: For non-Arabs - Aantar or 3antar is a fictional character in Arabic culture known to be muscular, gang-like and imposing his leadership through fear and intimidation. The Lebanese saying uses 3antar as the name of the character and the verb.

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">