The Genealogy of Lebanon’s Disaster

Charif Majdalani at The Paris Review:

The economic machine is breaking down, retail businesses are almost bankrupt, and yet the city has been seized by a frenzy of activity since this morning, just like in the glory days of its suddenly vanished opulence. The gridlock is no worse than it was back then, even though the traffic lights are out because of the electricity shortages. And where the lights are actually working, police officers are controlling traffic and encouraging drivers to ignore them, directing everyone to move at the same time with grand, raging gestures, as if they were vengefully making a point of reminding us that order no longer reigns, so why should anyone even bother respecting these last damned surviving traffic lights. The drivers are astonished. Some, like me, resist, under the officers’ resentful eyes. They seem aware and ashamed that they have become representatives of the general chaos and the failure of the state, and are going above and beyond what’s actually necessary, as if they were furiously smashing a prized object to pieces to punish themselves for having carelessly chipped it. I talked to my wife about this when I got home, she didn’t seem to care about the feelings I was ascribing to the traffic officers. She doesn’t like them and even before the economic crisis she thought that they actually tend to be the cause of the gridlock rather than anything else, that they always complicate any situation they are in, that city traffic is like a natural process, it always ends up regulating itself, and that human intervention only disturbs it and makes it more complicated.

more here.