Monday, July 9, 2007

Modern Times in a Lebanese village

Now that it’s summer, we try to spend as many weekends as possible in our mountain house in lovely Qartaba. It’s a typical Lebanese mountain village, where time seems to stand still. Yet, there is one thing even Qartaba can’t prevent from entering: the dish.

Because of its isolated location in the middle of steep mountains, there is no cable in Qartaba so all the habitants can receive are the stations that broadcast via the air. With a bit of luck, you can get 3 or 4 stations, including the ever boring national station Tele-Liban. The solution is obvious: install a satellite dish and enjoy hundreds of stations in the comfort of your home.

Photo 1: People throw away the old antennas and install brand new satellite dishes

Sure, this is old news for most non-village people in Lebanon, but well, things take a bit more time in Qartaba. Yet, with time passing, people are increasingly replacing their old antennas with shiny new dishes. Much to the dismay of certain villagers who believe that with the dish, not only modernity enters, but also all the negative elements that come with it…like a suicide.

A few weeks ago, a young teenager killed himself. As is usually the case, there weren’t any obvious reasons for his action. One thing was quickly pointed out, though: not long before the tragic event, the family had installed a dish. People started putting one and one together and sure enough, the dish must have been the reason: all the trash that is being broadcasted must have driven the young chap into suicide.

“Instead of watching wholesome Lebanese TV, like musicals from the 50s on Tele Liban, the youth of Qartaba spends the evenings with watching endless porn, all freely available via the dish”, one of the priests even complained. As always, such warnings have the opposite effect and now everybody wants to have a dish! The local dish reseller has recently opened a bigger store and is working pretty much day and night to install dishes and receivers.

Photo 2: An increasingly common sight in small Lebanese villages: more dishes than you can count

Qartaba survived the arrival of the radio, the TV and the internet without many problems. Surely, it will absorb the dish equally smoothly. Yet, it’s always interesting to see how people react to new technology and the challenges it offers.


Gerard said...

Well, there are also honorable people left, like my brother-in-law: at thirst he refused a dish because of porn, now he has one because of all the evangelical channels in Arabic (sat position 13deg east). As far as I could investigate, that is the true reason: he even did not program BVN (the Dutch international channel).