Pros and cons of Lebanon’s car service.

Before jumping into the pros and cons of the service, I will try to shortly explain what is a service.

The “service” is a method of public transport in Lebanon. A person who wishes to move within Beirut, for example, has to stop a car and communicates where he or she wants to go. If the driver accepts the destination, the person hops in and the default cost will be 2,000 Lebanese Lira. One service is 2,000 L.L.
If the driver is not happy with the destination (not on his way, too far), he or she can either just drive away and the person wishing to move waits for another car, or the driver can try to negotiate.
The driver will either negotiate with the destination (I can drop you in X place but not further), or usually with the price. The driver could ask “two services”, which costs 4,000 L.L.
A service can be shared with other occupants.

A service can be “transformed” into a Taxi, if both parties agree. One could stop one taxi / service car and just say that you want a taxi to X destination. The default price of a Taxi is 8,000 L.L This can also comes under “negotiation”, the driver can simply rejects it or try to elevate the price. A taxi is usually negotiated for longer distances or if someone wants a ride alone or a straight A to B path. (and of course if the persons has the means for a taxi)

The pros of the Service:

  •  The driver has power into deciding if a trip will be cost effective or not, (with regards to time, traffic, distance).
  • A car can be filled into its full capacity, a service might be much “greener” than a taxi, only filled with one or two persons most of the time.
  • More availability for people seeking to move. A car with one person or two doesn’t mean that you cannot take the service. With taxis, a car occupied by one single person is not even an option.
  • You could go to a place and the price that you pay would be actually less than the real price to move there (in terms of gas). (this is due to the very grey area of what a service in distance actually represents).

The cons of the service:

  • For other drivers, the service is disruptive. Most of Beirut streets are narrow, meaning that a service that stops and negotiate with a prospective occupant takes time and disrupts drivers behind.
  • You could be paying for more than the trip deserves, but again, this is all due to the grey area of what a service actually means in terms of distance.
  • The driver seeks other occupants and might not take the straightest path to your destination. So a service can be actually less cost-efficient than a taxi if there is a single occupant. And usually, it is slower for all occupants.
  • Although the system is clear, some drivers tweak it and began asking more money because of traffic, or just because they consider that the price ought to be higher.
  • The driver can decide to suddenly drop you somewhere because he or she found new occupants that are judged to be more profitable. This means two things: you could be dropped closer to your destination without paying anything. Or you could be somehow further than where you were originally. In both ways, this means that the person has to find a new service, which is not a very practical way to move.

 

We live in a sexist world and society where survivors of harassment (mostly women) have to struggle through other sexist institutions to have their voices heard or to have justice. This of course is also true to public transport.

Possible solutions:

  • Taxis / Service should have a place where they could stop and talk with prospective occupants.
  • There should be a system where occupants can’t be evicted from the service and where drivers can’t suddenly change the cost of the service.
  • Cars have to be traced back by only the occupants. The car number and the name of the driver have to be visible inside the car. Any harasser would be apprehended with more ease. (I do not support any kind of citizen police).

People living in Lebanon have of course more ways to move within cities and between cities. Public transport can be more pleasant, fairer and must keep its low prices.

Finally, it is self evident that if we want to have a more pleasant ride for all, the number of cars have to be reduced, including taxi / services cars. This can happens through the expansion of public transport like dedicated lines for buses, trains, tramways.

 

 

 

Let’s not wait for the passing away of X politician.

In Lebanon and its hopeless economic situation, a lot of people wait for the death of X politician or leader. “After that X leader will pass away, the country will be better off,” and I can understand why people residing in Lebanon and outside are hopeful about the old age of some politicians.

But losing one head of the multi-head snake that is the ruling class won’t kill the beast.

A politician that has passed away doesn’t remove the debts he enforced on the citizens of this country, nor it doesn’t remove the system of capitalist / sectarian oppression he installed over the years with many partners and institutions.

Usually, the “Leader” will be replaced by a member of his own family, and Lebanon is a great example at “recycling” the political families with each generation. Teymour Jumblatt, today is refilling the role of Walid Jumblatt, who filled the role of his father, Kamal, and the latter also filled the role of his father, Fouad.

Some people rejoice at the idea that a party without a strong leader will wane away because of internal political battles within the party created by a power vacuum. This is not impossible, but this is not enough to make the life of people in this country better.

Dismantling the ruling class system of oppression will take time, and the passing away of a figure or two obviously won’t change the economic apparatus of Lebanon.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the end of sectarianism, and beyond civil law.

The Lebanese parliamentary elections are approaching quickly and a wide array of new groups aim to challenge the traditional power holders of this country, (the ones in parliament, the government and beyond).

Some of of them, such as LiBaladi, Haqqi, hold progressive and liberal point of views.

Participating in a sectarian, proportional, and complicated elections, many new groups believe in a civil state, basically, justice, law and state have to be separated from religious authorities.

Sectarianism is an obvious ill in Lebanon, but it is often a layer (or a curtain) to the ills behind it.

I personally feel that a lot of people and groups often believe that if sectarianism comes to an end in Lebanon, if political parties don’t rely themselves anymore on sectarian manipulation and quotas, if law is separated from religion, then Lebanon would be a functioning nation, with fair services and laws to citizens, and a fair justice system.

It is obvious that it is not the case, all we have to do is to look at other secular, civil nations. Inequality and corruption are also present there, and there is one common layer to all current societies, and it is a harsh, neo-liberal form of capitalism.

Current groups and people fighting for seats in the parliament (or change) have to see this.

Sectarianism isn’t the greatest ill of this country.

To end the current post, I’ll cite the late thinker Bassem Chit:

The reason why many consider sectarianism as a “counter-nationalist” and a “pre-modern expression” is due to the fact that most dominant interpretations of the historical developments of modern Arab and Middle Eastern societies are crude and Eurocentric – in which the development of capitalism (and thus modernity) is understood to follow the European model. In this case the understanding of modernity is that of an ideological break with religious establishments and ideas.