A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

My Fair Lady: small-talk advice for Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 4, 2008

Earlier this week H mentioned being admonished by a friend for taking a position that the friend considered too political.

What? I said when he told me. Everything here is political – why is it a problem for you to make yours known?

A lot of people here feel that way, H told me, frowning slightly as he does whenever he tries to make a point that he thinks I am not quite getting. They think that talking about politics and religion is too inflammatory, so they try only to talk about light things.

Well, that certainly explains why such a large chunk of the Lebanese population spends so much time talking about nightlife.

H’s comment reminded me of someone else who advised steering clear of disagreeable topics in polite conversation: Henry Higgins, from My Fair Lady.

I love musicals, and when I was little, My Fair Lady was one of my favorites. Before Liza Doolittle’s first test run in high British society, Higgins gives her strict instructions. She is to stick to two subjects only: the weather and other people’s health.

In Lebanon, I would say that the two Higgins-equivalent topics are the weather (ski vs. beach) and the traffic.

Of course, sticking to those two subjects doesn’t work for Liza, and avoiding politics and religion has turned them into Lebanon’s two elephants-in-the-room.

But if I could have the 2008 version of Liza Doolittle’s wardrobe, I might be willing to push harder for polite conversation. After all, the weather is getting warmer, and I’ll need a new wardrobe for when Sky Bar opens again.

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One Response to “My Fair Lady: small-talk advice for Lebanon”

  1. Touché said

    What a predicament, steering away from bombing topics to maintain peaceful environment for the social circle, or tackling the real issues and keep the composure against all the bombarding.

    It’s merely a defense tactic when people get too frustrated from a repetitive inflammatory pattern. They give up on those essential topics hoping that one day they’ll solve themselves and spare them the consequences.

    I’ve faced a similar situation a while ago, when I wanted to discuss a boiling up political situation and had to hold my horses due to the fact that it shall involve religion and I’ll end up lining against one side and losing a friend if things heat up and that’s beside that some people might think irrationally when it comes to religion.

    I’m not saying it’s the right tactic or it’s wrong. It felt the right thing to do at the moment and I don’t think that I would shift from it if the situation repeats itself.

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