Sometime last week, the inhabitants of Beirut looked out their windows in the morning to see their neighborhoods miraculously transformed to the way they were 18 years ago. Uncollected garbage, party insignia, posters and flags, armed boys hanging out at street corners.
The last 18 years suddenly felt like a dream. A veil painted over with projected hopes and future plans suddenly lifted to reveal a scene where nothing has changed. Where the quiet and calm are the state of emergency and all else is normalcy. Today the government rescinded the two resolutions, the casus belli, and the veil has been closed once again, but not before affording a view into what civil war redux would look like.
Snipers, road blocks, identity cards, break ins, “neighborhood watch,” obsessive phone calls to family and friends, abandoned pets to be fed, an evening spent nursing a whiskey bottle, bakery queues, canned food, an acquaintance dead, even a massacre… All in less than 48 hours and reenacted in such speed you would think it was a drill, so that both perpetrators and perpetrated – if such a line can be drawn – do not fall out of practice.
But then there were other things, less familiar things. A rabid media inciting people. al-Qaeda affiliated websites calling for Jihad. Mobile phones – those ubiquitous mobile phones – put to new uses. Atrocities circulating on youtube. Clips of sounds and sights from the fighting. Live news over the Internet. Live refutation of live news over the Internet. Rumors spreading like wild fire. The refresh button. CTRL+R. CTRL+R. CTRL+R. Tayyar. Nashra. Naharnet. Arabiyah, Jazeera…
Should there be a next time, this time round it will be worse. Much worse.
This time round, the civil war will be digitized.