The date is April 8, the year is 2037. Spring is in the air, the smell of flowers permeates the streets of a beautiful seaside city, and like the bees at this time of the year, the media is all abuzz… though with activity. Traditionally conservative press has allowed emotion to seep into the titles and copy; the headlines are celebratory, and the articles are awash with sentiment, for this is no ordinary day – it is the day a whole nation is celebrating the silver jubilee of an event long since passed and known as ‘Paint Up Day’. That was the day that started it all. Along the way it was picked up across borders, seas and continents, to become part of the life of many a country. It was here that it all started.
It was on April 8, 2012 when a group of 12 young graduates spray-painted their name, ‘Dihzahyners’, on the first staircase that they painted in a lonely part of Sakiet-el-Janzeer of conflicted Beirut. Paint Up was the audiovisual expression of a cry of desperation, a long –
almost last – sigh of longing to something that had eluded them and many others before them. It was the last movement that someone on the edge of suffocation would make in an anxious attempt to gasp a gulp of air; a dream long-suppressed and chased away by so many and so much that the odds were so dead against it. It was the blow landed on the face of the improbable and impossible, and it started an unstoppable chain of events.
It was not lost on them that they had limited power to change the political landscape, society, culture, and more. As the media retold their story, they recognized that pervasive rot determined to squash life in any of its expressions and all of its hope, as well as quashing their refusal to be discouraged, their refusal to be marginalized and, indeed, their refusal to stay there when marginalized. They were the youth that refused to turn their backs on a country that seemed hell-bent to strangle hope and the promise of a future, and that was determined to make them surrender, give up and turn away and leave. They fought on and stared malice in the eye and responded to it with unconditional love and commitment, one-sided as it may have been… back then, the publication said. Dihzahyners may have done just that, for while they started with the objective of changing the only thing they could – how people saw Beirut, they seemed to have done a lot more than just that. They seemed to have sparked a movement that first spread to the most unlikely places – the Middle Eastern countries that were going through upheaval of their own; the people from Syria who stood at the edge of devastation, and those from Egypt, who were at the crossroads of the unknown. They took up their brushes and started adding life and colour to their own streets, which were so often visited by chaos and death. Further afield, in places such as Turkey, Kosovo and even Brazil, more hands picked up brushes and brought optimism and life to places often challenged by adversity and insurmountable difficulty, if not a lot more.
Looking back, the news covered on April 8, 2037 was not all about Paint Up Day. There were some very interesting notations; Lebanon’s national agenda and focus was the subject of much coverage and commentary, it being hailed as a model that helped multi-confessional countries to rise to economic prosperity, and generate a GDP that surpassed that of countries with more natural resources and mineral wealth. Beyond the economic revolution it has created, all religious authorities of the day were delighted in how they worked with their communities far away from politics.
These were quiet sober events, rich in spirituality but devoid of power play, focused on introspection and the promotion of good and communal work. Sectarianism has long since been abolished, and people started holding public office on merit independent of religious denomination. Interestingly, religious marriage was still practiced, but it was alongside civil marriage, which had become mandatory.
In other local news, a returning high school delegation was acknowledged for having won the Mediterranean Social Innovation Competition. Much had happened to the country’s education system ever since it was overhauled and more emphasis placed on free individual thought; challenging the status quo is now encouraged and promoted – rote learning was no longer the bedrock of the educational system. The press recognized the levels of knowledge and maturity displayed by high school graduates – so much so, that the national assembly even considered putting up a motion to lower the voting age, at least in municipal elections.
Internationally, some media reported the story that recently took place at Earth Council, the body that replaced the long-dead United Nations. Three nations offered apologies to the Lebanese representative for having berated their foreign policy practices as being overtly and independently selfish. They created quite a furor when those delegates ganged up on Lebanon with the objective of forcing the country to bend its trading rules, so they could reclaim lost market share. Lebanon’s Selfish Foreign Policy Act was adopted by a growing number of nations, that credited it as being one of the most powerful acts that helped a nation leapfrog its previous underperforming economic situation.
On April 8, 2037, as on every previous April 8, it is customary for the initial group of 12 Dihzahyners to get together for a celebratory lunch. They reminisce that all they have done is give hope, the only thing that is stronger than fear. They gave hope by bringing colour, one public staircase and space at a time, and in so doing they are slowly revealing the rainbow that certainly hangs over their city, though very few have been able to see it. And it was a much-changed place in every aspect; from education to the rule of civil law, from security to organization and infrastructure, from government to a people with a national, not sectarian, agenda.
In the background an oldies song was playing; one from the rock band, Linkin Park. You could faintly hear the lyrics:
When you are standing on the edge of devastation
When you are waiting on the edge of the unknown
With the cataclysm raining down, insides crying save me now
You were there and possibly alone
Do you feel cold and lost in desperation
You build up hope, but failure is all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go.
To all the Dihzhayners of Beirut and the world, to all of you who are standing on the edge of devastation, or waiting on the edge of the unknown, though you feel cold and lost in desperation, and though you keep building hope but experiencing failure, never let go. You are an inspiration to the world and so shall you be for generations, for you are iridescent.