In a functioning country, the priorities of a people reflect everyday concerns for safety and well-being, health and employment. Not so in Lebanon, where many civilians, and officials, have become preoccupied with the topless photo shoot of an Olympic skier, with one minister calling for an investigation into the incident, to ensure “the protection of Lebanon’s reputation.”
The current reputation of Lebanon is as bad as it has been since the Civil War. Since the beginning of 2014, there have been no fewer than five bombings, killing dozens. The country’s borders are insecure, and Tripoli remains fractious. For the 4 million people in the country, some 3 million weapons proliferate. There is a general lack of law and order, not to mention the lack of a working government, and a Parliament renewed beyond its rightful lifetime. The environment and economy are in dire straits, and health care and employment fare little better. Unable to rely on the state, all citizens must pay extra for electricity and water, and in many cases, security.
And the Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami, and many critics on social media, want an inquiry into the alleged “incident” to protect Lebanon’s reputation? Is there a better definition of a failed state than ours? These attitudes reveal a worrying inability to distinguish between genuine national priorities, and luxuries. This woman, who should be a source of pride to the country, at a time when it needs all the national sentiment it can get, skiing as she is at the Winter Olympics, is being blamed for something she chose to do with her free will, while the everyday concerns of citizens are being wholly and fundamentally neglected.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 12, 2014, on page 7.