View from a ’72 Benz C250 series, issue no. 1.
Beirut’s service taxi drivers are more oppressed than usual these days. The new Interior Minister, Ziad Baroud, is proving his mettle by enforcing the long-ignored seat belt law, and so the chauffeuriyyeh are predicitably getting shafted, not least because most old cabs don’t even have working seat belts, just a sad little slot above the driver’s dandruff-covered left shoulder.
I spent last month asking taxi drivers what they made of Syria’s negotiations with Israel. The verdict was (almost) unanimous:
1. The talks are a good thing because they will help solve Lebanon’s internal strife and security problems.
2. Let’s hope they succeed.
3. They almost certainly won’t so let’s not get our hopes up.
What is noteworthy about this pess-optimistic outlook is the apparent lack of cynicism regarding the sincere intentions of the two negotiating parties. Unlike the reading typically encountered among pro-resistance folks (i.e. that neither Syria nor Israel are serious about these talks and are each playing for time, for various reasons), the cabbies I met were willing to give the negotiations the benefit of the doubt, if not a realistic chance of success.
However, the cabbie consensus is not a revelation: judging from their repetitive rhetorical questions, March 14th pols believe that there is strong support among a majority of Lebanese for an end to hostilities with Israel. Indeed scarcely a day goes by without Samir Geagea or Amin Gemayel wondering aloud about why Lebanon continues to resist while the mother of resistance negotiates.
Less familiar (and annoying) faces might be able to make more hay out of this question than March 14th’s Christian leaders, but for the time being it, the FPM has been successful at dodging it. “We resist,” they say, “because we are still under constant threat, and because we have legitimate grievances.” And, given the fact that the Syria-Israel talks have been stalled for a while, the FPMers have a point: peace is not exactly on the horizon, so why even discuss resistance vs. negotiation? There are other, more urgent matters: the electricity fiasco, the national debt, the takfiri salafists in Tripoli, the upcoming Syrian invasion from the north (see previous post), the upcoming Israeli invasion from the south… plenty of things on our plate, no?