Stories from Afar & Up Close

Waiting for nothing to happen

We think it will happen. In fact, we are quite sure it will happen. In a way, we are waiting for it to happen – at least when it happens, we know it is happening, and then we are finally sure. Yet at the same time, we don’t want it to happen. We hope against all odds that it won’t happen. So what we are doing is waiting for it not to happen. ‘It’ being a war, civil or otherwise.

As I told Sietske, quoting Einstein: ‘One cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war.’ Everyone in Lebanon is preparing for war. Those who want to fight are getting weapons, those who don’t want to fight make sure they have some food, water and a spare recharge card for their mobile phone – you don’t want to get stuck in your house for a week without being able to communicate with the outside world.

I had an argument with a friend; I said her mother panics too much. She says her mother is very calm, she just asks her to come home whenever something happens – for example when there is a car-crash and the drivers have gotten into a fight. To me, this should not be a reason to abandon everything and go home; it’s just two people settling a dispute in a rough way. To her mother, this could be the one incident that sets off a civil war.

Maybe they are right. Maybe my youth in a peaceful country has falsely made me believe that things are right until they go wrong, instead of wrong waiting to explode as life is considered here. Maybe the best thing to do when on the brink of war is to always play it safe, to be well-prepared in as many ways as possible. But then who is going to stop it?