Rana Hanna

The voice on the radio


Freelance writer, Lebanon

“Hopeless! Hopeless!” I mutter to myself as I struggle to avoid a car hurtling towards me on the wrong side of the road, minutes before I narrowly avoid an errant pedestrian crossing the highway, only inches away from the overpass built specifically for pedestrian crossings.

Hopeless, I think as I switch on the radio, expecting the latest doom and gloom to ooze out of my speakers. I make quick plans in my head, a daily ritual: what age should I send the kids away? Should I encourage them to come back? What will they do here? What am I doing here?

It is easy to fall in love with Lebanon. The problem is living with it.

As I ponder the future for my children and myself, my attention is caught by the voice on the radio. It is asking me to wash my car, it is asking me to paint the walls of the city. It is asking the car in front of me to stop emptying its garbage on the street. It is asking the people to come together, each contributing a little, but this time to improve rather than destroy the country.

In a country where the people are giving up on their political class and the political class has already abandoned its people, it is imperative that civil society takes care of itself and sows, itself, the seeds it wishes its children to reap.

I mock the presenter. Good luck to you friend! I wonder how long the show will stay on the air, how long before my new friend gives up, before he packs his bags and goes right back to where he came from. But something in his tone of voice makes me drive to the nearest petrol station to wash my car.

I smile while I wait. Maybe it is not so hopeless after all. For somewhere from within the traffic jams, the driving contraventions, the miseries of the public sector institutions, the poverty, the lack of respect, the ignorance, the unregulated building sprees, the burning tires, the political bickering and the physical fighting, there flies a spark, an ingenious idea that seeks to revive the smoldering cinders of our dying love for Lebanon. A petition to support public libraries, a gift to plant a tree, a bid to clean up the beach, an offer to recycle phones and batteries, a plan to build a park…

…a voice on the radio.


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