Beirut’s surely been done to death.
The Lebanese people have been done by Israel, by Syria and by themselves. The marks are obvious, both physical and cultural. In Beirut, nobody’s saving for a retirement that will never happen: if you have it, you flaunt it. But in the south, where nobody’s got it, and tomorrow may not happen, a lack of investment, jobs and security gives the place and people a special edge. There’s a bit of investment in Beirut, but investment in the south would take the same species of recklessness it takes to live there. And none of the people who live there have any money. The only real investment going into the south comes from Hezbollah.
You meet these kids on the street – nice, friendly kids, but tough. They don’t necessarily want anything, they’re just friendly. Everyone’s friendly. At most, the kids want their photo taken. They want to know where you’re from. They don’t have much to do down there. They’re fifteen, sixteen. Some of them work at something, some of them don’t.
I didn’t go into the camps where Palestinian refugees live out their whole lives, resented and oppressed by the Lebanese, unable to return to where they came from in Israel. You don’t need to go to the camps to understand that the problem isn’t about to go away.
Still, for a place without any obvious reason for hope, they were nice people. Nice kids.