Though that was my favourite Christmas carol, I am not referring to that little drummer boy, nor to the soldier-looking nutcracker, nor to any other military type Christmas character (why are there so many?). We have, in Lebanon, spawned our very own species of drummer boys that only beat to the news of war. Most of the time, if not always, when they start beating, there’s usually no-one behind them – no troops whose arrival is being announced, no decrees or referendums being carried by messengers, no convoys of arms, or goods, or investments for which to make way. The sad thing is, if they beat long enough and hard enough, any or all of these do suddenly appear behind them, as if from nowhere.
Talk of war creeps into all conversations with practically anybody. I was at a dinner party recently when one of the guests asked another, who happens to be one of my mentors, what he thought about the possibility of war. The guest was right to ask my mentor, a knowledgeable reference, who then proceeded to give him a rather impressive, holistic and scientific analysis of the situation, indicating that based on historical patterns and power balances, nothing in the current situation pointed to the possibility of a war the like of which has been drummed into the ether. Joining this conversation was another sweet man, younger than my mentor but of comparable intelligence and critical thinking, lacking a historical depth in his analysis, and the objectivity that comes with age, but no less impressive in the arguments he presented. Though his analysis was on clearly parallel lines to those of my mentor, he could not completely silence the thoughts of war ricocheting off the back of his mind and could not conclude by fully discounting the possibility of war.
As I stood listening to this exchange, I felt that I was being presented with a representative sample of the population in Lebanon. My mentor represented the 0.05% who were able to detach from their emotions and political affiliations and assess the situation based on patterns and an intuitive know-how that only experience nurtures; the sweet man engaging him in the analysis represents 10% of the population who are aware and smart enough to pull the facts together into a critical analysis but have not yet attained that additional fifth dimension that allow them to stand back a little from their chosen ideology. The guest, the originator of the question, represents the remaining 89.95% of the population who express their concern for the situation by asking the question to someone whom they think knows better, and gains nothing from the rich discussion that he instigated (watching it as he was like a tennis game) other than retaining some statements that he will then go on to repeat in other conversations where someone else in his percentage category will ask the question. Some of those will be asking the question out of their pain, finding little comfort in any of the answers, recognizing that something is just not right but they can’t understand it or figure out what to do about it. My heart aches for them and for their continued suffering because, quite frankly, I feel their pain.
You will notice that this representative sample does not include the drummer boys. I have serious doubts that the drummer boys still belong to the general populace as they seem to have inhabited another plane that magically never touches the ground. And while I wait for the 0.05% and the 10% to bring others into their categories, I look forward to the day when we can confiscate the drummer boys’ drumsticks, and burn them to a silent crisp.
Pa-ra-pa-pum-pum…. Here we come.