By Kamal Dimachkie
February 10, 2014 2:46 by kippreport
The date is April 8, the year is 2037.Spring is in the air, the smell of flowers permeates the streets of a beautiful seaside city and like the bees at this time of the year, the media is all abuzz…with activity. The conservative press has allowed emotion to seep into titles and copy; headlines are celebratory and articles are awash with sentiment, for this is no ordinary day – it is the day a whole nation is celebrating the silver jubilee of an event known as Paint Up Day. It was the day that started it all. It was picked up across borders, seas and continents to become a part of life of many a country. It was here that it all started.
It was on April 8, back in 2012, when a group of 12 young graduates spray painted its name – Dihzahyners – on the first staircase it painted in a lonely part of Sakiet-el-Janzeer in conflicted Beirut. Paint Up was the audio-visual expression of a cry of desperation, a long – almost last – sigh of longing for something that had eluded people and many others before them. It was the last movement that someone on the edge of suffocation would make in an anxious attempt to gasp a gulp of fresh air; a dream long suppressed and chased away by so many and so much that the odds were so dead against it. It was the blow that landed on the faces of the improbable and impossible, and it started an unstoppable chain of events.
It was not lost on the graduates that they had limited power to change the political landscape, society, culture and more. As the media retold their story, it recognised that pervasive rot determined to squash life out of any of their expressions and all of their hope, as well as squashing their refusal to be discouraged, their refusal to be marginalised and, indeed, their refusal to stay there when marginalised. They were the youth that refused to turn their backs on a country that seemed hell bent on strangling hope and the promise of a future, and that was determined to make them surrender, give up and turn away and leave. They fought on, stared malice in the eyes and responded to it with unconditional love and commitment, one-sided as it may have been… back then, the publication revealed.
Dihzahyners may have done just that, for while it started with the objective of changing the only thing it could – how people saw Beirut –it seemed to have done a lot more. It seemed to have sparked a movement that first spread to the most unlikely of places –Middle Eastern countries that were going through upheavals of their own; people from Syria who stood at the edge of devastation and those from Egypt, who were at the crossroads of the unknown. They took up their brushes and started adding life and colour to their own streets, which were so often visited by chaos and death. Further afield, in places such as Turkey, Kosovo and even Brazil, more hands picked up brushes and brought optimism and life to places often challenged by adversity and insurmountable difficulty, if not a lot more.
The news broadcast today [on April 8, 2037]is not all about Paint Up Day. There are some very interesting notations; Lebanon’s national agenda and focus is the subject of much coverage and commentary, it being hailed as a model that helped multi-confessional countries to rise to economic prosperity and generate GDPs that surpassed that of countries with more natural resources and mineral wealth. Beyond the economic revolution it has created, all religious authorities are delighted in how they work with their communities, away from politics.
These are quiet, sober events, rich in spirituality, but devoid of power play, focused on introspection and the promotion of good and communal work. Sectarianism has long been abolished and people have started holding public office on merit, independent of religious denomination. Interestingly, religious marriages are still practised, but it is alongside civil marriages, which has become mandatory.
In other local news, a returning high school delegation is acknowledged for having won the Mediterranean Social Innovation Competition. Much has happened to the country’s education system since it was overhauled and more emphasis is placed on free individual thought; challenging the status quo is now encouraged and promoted – rote learning is no longer the bedrock of the educational system. The press recognises the levels of knowledge and maturity displayed by high school graduates – so much so, that the national assembly is even considering putting up a motion to lower the voting age, at least in municipal elections.
Internationally, some media report the story that recently took place at the Earth Council, the body that replaced the long-dead United Nations. Three nations offered apologies to the Lebanese representative for having berated its foreign policy practises as being overtly and independently selfish. They created quite a furore when they ganged up on Lebanon with the objective of forcing the country to bend its trading rules, so they could reclaim lost market share. Lebanon’s Selfish Foreign Policy Act was adopted by a growing number of nations, which credited it as being one of the most powerful acts that helped a nation leapfrog from its previous underperforming economic situation.
On April 8, 2037,as on every April 8, it is customary for the initial group of 12 Dihzahyners to get together for a celebratory lunch. They reminisce about all they have done to give hope, the only thing that is stronger than fear. They gave hope by bringing colour, one public staircase and space at a time and, in doing so, are slowly revealing the rainbow that certainly hangs over their city, although very few have been able to see it. And it is a much-changed place in every aspect; from education to the rule of civil law, from security to organisation and infrastructure, from government to people with a national, not sectarian, agenda.
In the background an old song was playing; one by the rock band Linkin Park. You could faintly hear the lyrics:
When you are standing on the edge of devastation,
When you are waiting on the edge of the unknown,
With the cataclysm raining down, insides crying save me now,
You were there and possibly alone
Do you feel cold and lost in desperation?
You build up hope, but failure is all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go.
To all the Dihzhayners of Beirut and the world, to all of you who are standing on the edge of devastation or waiting on the edge of the unknown, although you feel cold and lost in desperation and although you keep building hope, but experiencing failure, never let go. You are an inspiration to the world and so you shall be for generations, for you are iridescent.