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Opinion and Editorial

Empathy, sacrifice can lift morale

Christiane Waked
Filed on June 21, 2020

Doing good should not be followed by an expectation of recognition for the act

Lebanon's economic situation is bad, and it is no secret. In fact, in a recent report, the American bank JP Morgan noted that the Lebanese economy will contract by 14 per cent in 2020 and 4 per cent in 2021. Now these estimates can be revised down further, if the situation worsens.

Things are not looking up at the moment and the Lebanese are getting more and more desperate.

Rising inflation, joblessness are forcing people to make choices they have been unfamiliar with. Families don't know how to source their next meal, how to pay rent, medical expenses, or next year's school fees.

Recently, I went to my bank to withdraw the minimum amount allowed and I saw a mother crying as she was leaving the bank. I looked away, not knowing what to do. I felt ashamed in front of her despair and wanted to preserve her dignity. I wanted to comfort her with a hug but instead I fixed my eyes on my shoes and stood still.

That moment felt eternal, she walked away and my heart was beating fast and I started to sing a song from the nineties from a band called 'Right said Fred'.

I entered the bank singing the song and it took me a few moments to disconnect from the whole situation. 

It made me wonder how sometimes our brain behaves when confronted with a tough situation. I mean we can talk about empathy and post things all day long but in real life, being empathetic is hard when challenged with people's dignity.

During the crisis, social media was abuzz with online initiatives in order to help the Lebanese citizens who are in dire need but the ones that got my attention the most were the discreet ones. The anonymous Samaritans who didn't need to post their names, who were hiding behind the pages and who did everything to preserve people's dignity.

Several religious texts say, 'When you give (.) do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.'

Doing good should not be followed by an expectation of recognition for the act. Because if we are giving for the sake of recognition, the whole act looses its depth and meaning.

The recognition part is a tool of power where the giver has a hold on the receiver. The latter is put in a position of being grateful towards that person and feeling in debt and this is a bad cycle that was used all through decades in Lebanon where corrupted politicians kind of paid their way to get the votes by granting favours, helping poor etc.

Lebanon is going through a tough process of regaining its independence from corrupt leaders and in order to do that the mentality must change, old patterns must break and get replaced with healthy habits. The change must start with the civil society.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut


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