Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beirut Journal Day #8: Working

Rain fell last night. I woke to the pitter-pat against the flat concrete outside my window, smiled, fell into sleep again.

Until the jackhammer and the hydraulic drill shook the walls. The construction workers get started early here. According to the UN Development Programme, construction workers and agricultural workers comprise the bulk of the Lebanese* who live below the so-called poverty line.

$4.00 per day. Or less.

28% of Lebanese citizens work for this pittance, according to the report. It would cost each person here about $120 per year to pull everyone up above this artificial line. That’s it. Extremely do-able. Especially in light of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) recognition that this country somehow managed to grow during the “global financial crisis.”

None of the news articles focusing on the prospects for the Lebanese economy make any mention of this report. Neither do they mention the poor or the workers. Only the glorious benefits of privatizing the telecommunications and electricity sectors, currently run (into the ground) by the government. (The Lebanese pay some of the highest mobile phone rates in the region, and endure daily blackouts that can last hours.)

But thousands of men are laying the foundations for a gazillion new hotels, right now. Hard working people.

$4 per day. $120 per year.

I find it so very interesting that, though the lives of nations are based on their daily toil, the builders and the farmers who struggle the most to make a living. The literally kill themselves to make Life possible for others.

The Sorrow of Violets
~Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati (Iraqi poet. He wrote this poem in Beirut in 1964)

The millions who work hard do not dream of the death of a butterfly
And the sorrows of violets
Or of a sail glowing
Under the green moonlight on a summer night
Or the love affairs of one madly in love with a phantom
The millions who work hard
Are naked
The millions who make a boat for the dreamer
The millions who make a handkerchief for an enamored one
The millions who cry
In the corners of the earth, in a steel factory or a mine:
They chew the sun disc to escape an inevitable death
They laugh from the bottom of their hearts
They laugh
They are enamored
Not like on madly in love with a phantom
Under the green moonlight on a summer night
The millions who cry
Under the night sun dream of a morsel.

*The report made literally no mention of Palestinian Refugees living in Lebanon.

1 comment:

pk said...

thank you for sharing this poem trevor. lovely and true.