I love life in all honesty: Butters on “I love life” slogans you will never see
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 18, 2007
Once again Andrew Butters offers the most pointed take on the latest evolution of the “I love life” campaign, currently in its third or fourth iteration. Having just seen the “I love diamonds” advertisement that “graces” the Dora Highway last week, and the total takeover of the Beirut airport by the original “I love life” campaign (not to mention Middle East Airlines’ in-flight magazine’s laudatory coverage of the campaign …), I am more than ready for his sardonic take:
Political advertising in Lebanon has reached fever pitch. I’ve blogged before about dueling billboard campaigns. A supposedly neutral group started the silliness when it plastered the country in “I Love Life” logos to promote peace and national unity. But the Hizballah-led opposition correctly interpreted this as a critique of it’s culture of martyrdom of and armed resistance to Israel. So the opposition responded with it’s own knock-offs of the “I Love Life” campaign.
Just when you thought that these cliches had been rendered meaningless to the point of absurd, the original “I Love Life” people have been adding more slogans to their billboards. They include “I’m going to work. I Love Life” and “I’m going to a party. I Love Life” and “I’ve got a class. I Love Life.” The idea is to encourage people to carry on with ordinary life in the face of intimidation from opposition blockades and strikes.
Which seems fair enough, except that the “I Love Life” people continue to be dishonest and claim that they are a politically neutral group, when in fact, they are part of the political problem. If you have any doubt that “I Love Life” campaign is in bed with the government and it’s Sunni, Saudi, and American backers, just ask yourself, who in Lebanon has the money to support this massive ad campaign that’s gone on for almost three months? The billboards practically smell like oil wells.
So in the spirt of too much honesty here’s a top-ten list of slogans you will never see in a Lebanese political ad campaign:
“My daughter wants me to pay for her nose job. I Love Life.”
“Some of my best friends are _________ (Fill in in the blank: Shia/Sunni/Christian/Jewish). I Love Life.”
“I’ve slept with ten of my college classmates and four Russian prostitutes, but I’ll only marry a virgin. I Love Life.”
“All my friends are out of work or have moved to Dubai. I Love Life.”
“I’m staying here. But I’m applying for Australian citizenship just in case. I Love Life.”
“I’m staying here. And so is my Sri Lankan housemaid, because I’m holding on to her passport. I Love Life.”
“I’m embarrassed to be an Arab, so I say I’m Phoenician, even though that civilization ended over 2,000 years ago. I Love Life.”
“My husband has three other wives. Younger wives. I Love Life.”
“My family has lived in Lebanon for almost 60 years but we still don’t have citizenship because we’re Palestinian. I Love Life.”
“Foreigners keep screwing up our country, but we keep taking their money. I Love Life.”
I can’t decide which statement affects me more. Some make me want to laugh; some make me want to cry. Some, of course, do both.
Some of these are quite pointed (“I’m going to close the university”; “I’m going and I’m not coming back”), some rather goofily present normal phrases (“give me 500 lira”, “a Hyundai? Lucky you!”), and some are just funny (“I’m going to cause trouble”, “I’m going into the restroom”).
Update, March 25, 2007
Yesterday a chat with a friend made me re-think my opening paragraph for this post. Over a bottle (literally) of Massaya’s new screw-top 2006 Rose, M pointed out two negative aspects of Andrew’s post – aspects I had entirely missed in my first reading.
The first is the most critical: the distinction between members of a group poking fun at their own shortcomings and outsiders doing the same. It reminds me of the way ethnic jokes are treated in the US: if you are Polish, you can make Polish jokes and they will (assuming you are a good joke-teller) be found funny. If you are not, they will be found racist.
M pointed out that although Butters has lived in Lebanon for several years, hs is not Lebanese. Reading his post after its initial publication – and reading it as a resident foreigner myself – I missed this point entirely.
On a related note, M argued that the hipster in-the-know flash of Andrew’s statement about the Phoenicians masked the deeply rooted arguments about positionality that underly the claim to a Lebanese Phoenician identity.
Generally speaking, the claims that people here make to be Phoenician rather than Arab make me ill – not least because they sound utterly out of touch with the genetic mixing of two populations living in one small area for the past 1500 years. However, M is the second person in the past three weeks to argue that regardless of the utter bogusness of the Phoenician claim, the identity position it marks is a very legitimate one for demonstrating a particular Lebanese identity – and a particular relationship to Lebanon.
I still think the Palestinian and Sri Lankan comments are productively critical – but thanks to M I now see my initial reading in an entirely new light.