Just 10 days ago the world watched in absolute horror as the Port of Beirut was shaken to the ground – the hopes and lives of the people of Beirut, and across Lebanon, altered irreversibly.

Immediately one looks for reason. How? Why? Why now? What now?

The Gods were angry.

But whose Gods, and why?

So many options. So many reasons. And so what – what good does the debating do?

Whatever the source, the stretch of recovery ahead, or the arguments surrounding righting wrongs, it feels as though 2020 has become a forced daily reflection of the fact that global complexity has entered a new creative territory: fiction, possibly even science fiction.

04.08.2020. With whiplash speed, global focus immediately shifts. From COVID-19 spikes, surges, second and third wave storylines, the story immediately, dramatically, tragically moved to Beirut – investigations around the sources of the explosion, questions around how simple fertilizer could cause such profound destruction, questions around sources, questions around survivors, questions around the future of one of the world’s most monitored cities as a reflection of rumblings of change. Beirut was already in a devastated state of infrastructure and leadership system paralysis, its people already struggling to remain hopeful around a stronger, safer, more secure tomorrow. And then, in a split second, these rumblings literally exploded, rocking the nation – its shockwaves tearing at the heart of its flag while tearing across the world.

As the numbers of lives and livelihoods lost grew, statistics turning faces and families into figures for ongoing monitoring, it was the individual stories that started to emerge that kept the world’s hearts and minds centered on what really mattered. Who really mattered. Every single person in Beirut who’s life was not broken because of the blast.

A signature impression of that now-historic day’s unimaginable moment of devastation: an exquisite bride swept away during her photo shoot, live video footage capturing the transition of one of the most beautiful moments of her life into one of the most horrific. As revealed in a touching follow-up CNN interview, her life and that of her love were spared….but her love for her native Lebanon will never be the same. Her heart is broken, her hopes for a country once adored are broken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPL1MdexeA

As are those of families having to deal with immense loss of loved ones, loved places, lives unable to be lived. The challenges continue. The people of Beirut immediately took to the streets to clean up the rubble, claim back their lives.

The crisis facing Beirut in the aftermath of the port explosion, and resignation of Government soon after, has left a deep, dark, devastating crater in the country’s economic, political and social structures, not to mention emotional. It will take years and billions to rebuild and recovery. To heal.

Suddenly a variation in the scene emerges: some are wearing masks, some are not. The masks are not for protection from the dust and debris. The masks are to protect them from COVID-19.

Oh good lord, COVID-19.

“It’s just one crisis after another“, millions around the world can be heard saying in despair, disbelief and hope-fatigue.

But it’s not. There is, and always will be, a fundamental flaw in such a statement.

In times of crisis great minds and hearts come together in an effort to ensure that not only is the crisis’ impact minimised, but to try to find the truisms that will take us forward repeatedly. We keep hearing that every crisis prepares us for the next, every opportunity to learn making us stronger. Crisis after crisis after crisis.

Philosophically this is correct.

Practically, however, it is simply wrong.

Crisis is not linear – it is layered.

In Lebanon, COVID-19 did not stop in Beirut because there needed to be an immediate start to cleaning up the city – it’s infrastructure, it’s politics, it’s hopes for the future.

As we now move through August we see that in the southern part of the U S and in the Caribbean, once again, hurricane season is starting. Mother Nature will not stop the annual, cyclical clock because we are focused on COVID-19.

There will be a next crisis, and a next, and a next, be it economic, political, social, natural, beyond-fictional. These are all layers. One on top of the other, varying in degrees of duration, damage, depth of impact.

Look again at Lebanon – a place now facing one of the greatest social, political and economic challenges of its generation (if not history) with COVID19, economic and political collapse, and infrastructure eradication. All of this, all while was already facing the pressures of compassionately hosting over a 1.5 million refugees that were fleeing the war in Syria, refugees trying to find peace, protection and promise in a neighbouring nation. The refugee crisis does not stop for COVID-19. COVID-19 does not stop for cleanup. The clean-up does not stop until a new, trusted Government is created.

Crisis is layered. And what we must make sure we do is not forget one of those layers.

As we layer on the next, adding on layers and layers, it is vital that we recognise through it all that no one facing these layers should ever stand alone. Layers, their impact, and their victims, cannot be ranked. Their interwoven nature must be recognised and respected as a critical part of holistic, humane recovery.

As seen with COVID-19, our shared world’s invisible, primal, merciless, crisis completely uncaring of borders, boundaries, politics, lives, livelihoods, age, gender, culture, seasons or social standing,:

  • COVID-19’s mental health crisis does not wait until physical health crisis is over,
  • its economic crisis does not wait for the mental health crisis to pass,
  • surviving the physical health crisis of Wave 1 does not protect us from Wave 2.

The layers are all connected.

As are we all, wherever on the map, on the curve, on the news lineup, we may be. And in today’s 2020+ world of layered, logic-defying, longevity-redefining crisis, the message from Mother Nature is clear, the human truth undeniable: we either all win…or we all lose.

So too the truths of crisis:

  • Crisis will never be linear – we need to live with, push through, survive, and stay connected to work to suppress the layers.
  • Crisis will never leave us – they will always be present, in one form or another, in one layer or another.

and critically:

  • Crisis must never define us. Our definition comes from our layers of faith and fortitude.

And that is the bottom line. x


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020