Ain the beginning it is still like always. In a round of Lebanese gentlemen jokes about the latest absurdities of political leaders are torn. "Do you know what they want to do now?" Someone asks, as if he was not himself a functionary in the government of "these people". It's Thursday afternoon, and the Cabinet once again announced that ordinary people are being asked to pay. Tobacco should be more expensive, as well as gasoline. The state also wants to cash in when Internet-based service providers like Whatsapp are used for calls – while two state-owned mobile phone companies behave like monopolists and charge fees that are among the highest in the region. "That's crazy," says the official.
A few hours later, the Lebanese burst the collar. In Beirut dozens, then hundreds, then thousands go to the streets. Spontaneous, angry protests break out across the country. Protesters block important traffic arteries. Schools and banks close. The usual smog in the center of Beirut gives way to the exhaust fumes of the revolution: at first it is a burning smell when barricades are lit from rubber tires. For some, the frustration turns to destructiveness. ATMs are smashed, the ground floor of a shell goes up in flames. Tear gas is added on Friday night as the security forces try to dissolve the demonstrations by force.
It has long been a matter of principle
But people keep going on the street. Also, when the Whatsapp tax has long since been resumed and suspected Cabinet members have protested, it was not their idea. It has long been a matter of principle. To tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, they flock to the city center of Beirut, which is actually an island of the well-to-do and therefore mostly deserted.
Now come out of the near-ease-of-neighborhoods, like the tough guys on the scooters, orbiting the demonstrations like a cavalry regiment protecting a trek of defenseless settlers in the Wild West. They come from the Shiite suburbs in the south, which are dominated by Hizbullah, where there seems to be no contradiction. And protesters also come from the Christian heartland and upper-class neighborhoods.
The popular anger is directed against all political leaders. They are all equally concerned with disputed genital comparisons: the head of the Shiite Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, as well as the Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the Christian President Michel Aoun. The loudest call the protesters, if the name of his hated son-in-law is called – Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. What is otherwise said in private is now a battle cry on the street. And there again and again the slogan of the Arabellion of 2011 sounds: "The people want the overthrow of the regime!"