Posted by: gebs | October 8, 2011

Who are We?

We Lebanese people come from an ancient way of life. Many of us find ourselves existing today in this land for varying reasons. The older generations came here as opportunists. Hearing tales of the new world as a place to make money, many Lebanese people made there way across vast oceans to reach this land we call Australia. The Lebanese people have business in their blood, inherited from millennia of trade and commerce. Byblos, which is about 5000 years old, is one living example of how old our ports are and our shrewdness in business is one of our greatest inherited gifts. We prosper all over the world, and as I write this, the richest man in the world is a Lebanese Maronite.

Others, including my own family, came here as refugees driven out by war. Unlike the opportunists, my father was moved here against his will, fleeing a war which was brought upon our beautiful land. This is not to say that he did not have prosperity in his eyes, but he was making his fortune in Lebanon, doing the things he loves. He had to make the move to Australia for survival, and now that I have grown up, I am very thankful it was Australia we made our home. Growing up I could always sense the sadness deep down in my father’s heart over the loss of everything he owned. All our childhood photos were lost in the war, not to mention the new house he had built which had become a command post. Unlike the opportunists, therefore, there are some of us here because war has driven us here.

Today’s world is very fast, always changing and often leaving no time for reflection for what we are becoming. We are global creatures now, and as the world becomes smaller, so does our culture slowly become one. We stand at a watershed moment in history were we are clinging by the last shreds to our traditional believes and way of life. If we do not consciously stop and realise the epoch we are in, we may loose centuries of beliefs in one or two generations. This is also the case for the indigenous people of this land, whose way of life spans more than 30,000 years. All this can be lost in today’s world without any regret or awareness as we are inevitably initiated into this demanding era of history. We all run the risk of simply becoming another component within the capitalistic social framework which defines our modern way of life and culture.

At the moment, there is a war of cultures across all the lands of the earth, and more so in the Western world. Having come from a certain place where my identity was defined by my culture and my place within it, I now find myself uncertain of my identity. I now find myself in a new culture, an ever changing culture which struggles to define itself. I am like an alien in a foreign land, learning a new language and way of life.

In Lebanon, ones identity was bound by ones place. Family homes had been passed on over generations and neighbours had been neighbours for centuries. There was a defined way of life, and honour and shame were as strong, if not stronger, than the law. In Australia, however, I live in a society where the family structure means little and I hear ever growing cases of divorce and separation. I am told that honour and shame mean little in world were one can choose and pick their friends and family. It is true that all generations change some things as a result of time and evolution, but the speed and degree at which this is happening today, is unsurpassed. We live in an era of identity crisis and it will only be by the grace of God that we are able to salvage the worthy parts of our tradition, which should not be discarded because of the vogues of time.

I know it is disheartening and often too powerful to try and hold onto a Church and faith being persecuted by its own sins and the current collective psyche, which sees it as being an outdated and superstitiously ill-founded institutional religion, but who can bear the thought of what we would become without it. If we were to join the current tide of narcissistic humanism, and deny all our traditional beliefs of what it means to be human, what it means to be married, and belong to a family and humanity, what kind of life would we be fighting for? Although it is impossible for us humans to do anything within our power to attain faith, as its initiation is solely the work of God, we do however, have all the power in the world to deny our faith and not cooperate with its work in our life. We too can choose not to go to Church on Sunday or even argue against the belief in God if we feel so inclined.

Although we will loose many of our enculturated traditions and believes which made us Lebanese, we stand a chance against total identity destruction by at least choosing to hold onto our most fundamental defining feature, which is our faith. As the letter to the Hebrews tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever”- because truth is not changed by time or vogue, truth remains the same forever. Although each era may fantasise and define love according to its own interpretation, we are assured that true love, i.e. divine love, remains the same forever and can never be outdated or surpassed. We have a choice to make in our life and in the things we choose to teach our children. We can both become ignorant to what is happening around us and become just another statistic within our modern world, including its views on tradition and belief, or we can choose to stop and take the time to consider our history and the beliefs we inherit from our past. Consider what it means to be a Catholic and make the choice to fight for what remains of it, even if it means that we are the only people left standing at church.

So what are we to become? Are we strong enough to stand the test of time? Do we consider this fight worthy? What does our identity mean to us? Are there things we have inherited that we consider as being worthy for our children to inherit? Or are we simply going to be another avenue for the status quo?

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