Early morning of Friday, 08, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The training center Jorge Helal from Flamengo, one of the greatest soccer clubs in Brazil, with a fan club of more than 39 million people, catches fire. The “Vulture’s Nest” as it is known is the accommodation of youngsters of the youth team, that is, of possible future soccer stars, who are between 14 and 18 years old. Ten of them died in a tragedy that devastated the hearts of all Brazilians. 

Among the possible fire causes, one’s can find the carelessness, neglection and the poor dormitory condition.

At this moment when these mothers mourn the early loss of their children, the country once again realizes how its fiscal rules, from north to south, have been ineffective, coupled with a corrupt structure that rewards the “Brazilian way”, which cheats the norms to simplify and get over the many obligations we have as citizens. 

On the same Friday, the Lebanese, George Zreik, died. On the day before he set fire to himself in front of his daughter’s school in the city of Koura. They previously refused to provide the child’s transfer document due to his debt of years to the institution.

Some newspapers mentioned that Zreik, who was from North Lebanon, has been taking tranquilizers for some time. He was also going through an extremely difficult phase because of his financial situation. The country then rose in social networks and what’s seen is a severe criticism of the government, the high cost of education in the country and the economic crisis that’s going through Lebanon . Some activists already call Zreik a martyr and his immolation is being compared to the Tunisian whose death triggered the Arab Spring.

Politicians speak out, but from what I have seen, without providing any solution to the generalized crisis in Lebanon.

Me, as a Brazilian, as a granddaughter of Lebanese, longing for the citizenship of the country where my soul was born, I can’t stop meditating on what is happening to Lebanon. 

First, the country is experiencing a significant increase in the number of suicides, many of which are not reported because of religion and prejudice. They show that depression and mental illness often undiagnosed is widly spread among Lebanese. If recognized within the families, the patients are not medicated and even informed to the authorities. 

The data was presented by IDRAAC – Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and applied Care, during a symposium. This event titled “Suicide in Lebanon: Where are we?”was organized in cooperation with the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology of the Medical Centre of Saint George University in Beirut and the Faculty of Medicine of the Balamand University.

So far there are two problems that walk side by side: depression and financial crisis.

Then and perhaps the most important problem of Lebanon are that this generation resents the lack of glory, the absence of courage or the absence of expressing it. This generation of Lebanese did not take up guns and has no job. It does not generate income and has nothing to conquer. As a consequence, it cannot show its value, unlike the Lebanese of the past. Lebanon today lives on its martyrs because there are no heroes. And being a sexist society in which man has an enormous need to perform his role well, his place in society is dislocated, softened, decharacterized.

All of it together in a pan of 10,452 km² leads to an unprecedented identity crisis. And Lebanon is close to that.

I still see the relativization of moral standards causing great pain within society. Modern Lebanese, who’s more morally free, have created a stereotype of unreal happiness, being maintained by a very high emotional cost.

This analysis is not scientific. It is part of observation and research, talking daily with various Lebanese of various ages, from the north and the south, some with refined instruction, others who have not had many opportunities. 

In all my countrymen I see an overwhelming discontent, not only with the country, but with themselves. A discontent of soul, as if time was unfair for having moved on. An illusion of living in the past, a huge frustration because it is the same land, the same mountains and the same valleys from our ancestors, but the century is different and customs, for better or worse, are very different.

Because I love Lebanon, my true homeland, because I love Lebanese, I allow myself to have these conclusions. But there is no point for blaming or complaining without presenting solutions. I have some suggestions though very mousy. For an identity crisis I recommend a mirror, moments of reflection and sports. Lebanese being naturally combative, can accumulate victories and defeats instead of wondering what they would have been like…

For the mothers of Flamengo, however, there is no prescription. Neither time, nor place, nor sunset, nor the awakening of a new day, can heal this pain.

For Zreik family is the same – there is no way to ease the fire.

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Renata Abalém
Renata Abalém is a lawyer, Legal Director of IDC - Consumer and Taxpayer Defense Institute, Founder of ABRASAÚDE - Brazilian Association of Users of Health Systems, Health Plans and Health Insurance. Counselor of the Order of the Lawyers of Brazil 2016/2021 and President of the entity's Consumer Rights Commission in the same period. She is vice-president of the National College of Consumer Protection of the OAB system. Renata is developing projects with the lebanese diaspora in Brazil, such as legislation to protect international tourists, as well as developing business projects between the two countries. Renata is a columnist for Brazilian magazines, a speaker and a writer. Her grandparents are from Zgharta / Ehden and she is waiting for her Lebanese citizenship. She says that her soul was born in the north between with the mountains and Lebanon makes a noise without sound and calls it nonstop.