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Are we collectively giving service drivers unfair wages? →

Every morning, I take a shared cab (service) from my home in Jeitawi to my work in Sin el-Fil. I pay 2,000 LL. If a cab driver demands more, I scoff at him from the pavement, knowing full-well that someone else will take me for “one service” – less than $2. If a driver agrees on principle to take me to work for 2,000 LL, then tries to change the price on the way, I find it to be such an enormous injustice that I complain about it to my colleagues immediately upon arrival at the office. How dare he? What a jerk!

But are we being fair?

Yes.


Different classes construct their sense of territory and community in radically different ways.

Low income populations, usually lacking the means to overcome and hence command space, find themselves for the most part trapped in space. Since ownership of even basic means of reproduction (such as housing) is restricted, the main way to dominate space is through continuous appropriation. Exchange values are scarce, and so the pursuit of use values for daily survival is central to social action. This means frequent material and interpersonal transactions and the formation of very small scale communities. Within the community space, use values get shared through some mix of mutual aid and mutual predation, creating tight but often highly conflictual interpersonal social bonding in both private and public spaces. The result is an often intense attachment to place and turf and an exact sense of boundaries because it is only through active appropriation that control over space is assured.

Contrast this with the practices of affluent groups, who can command space through spatial mobility and ownership of basic means of reproduction (houses, cars, etc.). Already blessed with abundant exchange values with which to sustain life, they are in no way dependent upon community-provided use values for survival. The construction of community is then mainly geared to the preservation or enhancement of exchange values. Use values relate to matters of accessibility, taste, tone, aesthetic appreciation, and the symbolic and cultural capital that goes with possession of a certain kind of ‘valued’ built environment. Interpersonal relations are unnecessary at the street level and the command over space does not have to be assured through continuous appropriation. Money provides access to the community, making it less exclusionary on other grounds (residential segregation by ethnicity and even race tends to weaken the further up the income scale one goes). Boundaries are diffuse and flexible, mainly dependent upon the spatial field of externality effects that can affect individual property values. Community organizations form to take care of externality effects and maintain the ‘tone’ of the community space. The state is seen as basically beneficial and controllable, assuring security and helping keep undesirables out, except in unusual circumstances (the location of ‘noxious’ facilities, the construction of highways, etc.)

David Harvey, “Flexible Accumulation through Urbanization: Reflections on ‘Post-modernism’ in the American City” in Amin, Ash, ed. Post-Fordism: a reader. John Wiley & Sons, 2008 (pgs 371-2)


Admit to riding a bus in Beirut and stand by for a horrified reaction | The National →

Certainly in polite company no one admits to taking the bus. I did once, at a Beirut dinner party and everyone just laughed. When I told them I was serious, they looked at me as if I had turned up wearing only my underpants.

Undaunted, I explained that, as the No 8 passes in front of my house in Ashrafieh and takes me straight to my bank on Hamra Street, it made perfect sense.

I added that my wife uses the car on Saturdays and in any case who needs the hassle of parking in one of the busiest parts of Beirut at peak times.

By this point, I was committed. I said I liked taking the bus. It made me feel like I live in a real country instead of the maid-and-valet-parking-filled cocoon that Lebanon can be.

The table began to clear. Smokers headed to the balcony. I had lost them. I was the bonkers bagman on Times Square urging the world to repent, or in this case, urging them to embrace the state sector their parents had abandoned decades earlier.


صفقة في السكك الحديد →

على صعيد تشغيل خطّ السكة، ينبغي التذكير بأمرين: الأول يتعلق بالدراسة التي أجرتها شركة سوفري الفرنسية لإنشاء 4 خطوط قطار ساحلية بكلفة 800 مليون دولار، وقد رفضت بصورة قاطعة من الحكومات الحريرية، ولم ينفّذ شيء منها. والثاني يتعلق بالحملة التي أقامها في مطلع التسعينيات وزير الأشغال العامة شوقي فاخوري، آنذاك، لإزالة التعديات من محطة «ن.ب.ط.» في بيروت وصولاً إلى شكا، وجرى تحقيق الهدف منها بتشغيل مقطورات لنقل الترابة من شكا إلى بيروت، وكانت تصل حمولتها اليومية إلى 7 آلاف طن بكلفة تراوح بين 4 دولارات و6 دولارات للطن الواحد.
وما يعزّز عدم رغبة السياسيين في تطوير هذا القطاع، أن الوصلة التي اتفق عليها بين لبنان وسوريا من طرابلس إلى العبودية، والتي التزمتها الشركة العربية لخطوط السكة (سورية)، توقفت بسبب التعديات وتوقف التمويل، علماً بأن المصلحة اشترت قضباناً حديدية بأكثر من مليون دولار لتأهيل بعض الخطوط، لكنها لا تزال إلى اليوم في مرفأ طرابلس يتآكلها الصدأ، علماً أن رئيس نقابة موظفي سكك الحديد بشارة عاصي يؤكد إمكان تشغيل خط جونيه ـــــ شكا لنقل الركاب والبضائع، ولا سيما في ظل وجود مقطورات بولونية في مستودعات المصلحة لأنها لم تشغّل بعد. ولا تنحصر التعديات في الأفراد، بل تشارك فيها الدولة ومسؤولوها أيضاً. فالأوتوستراد العربي «أكل» أملاك السكة في منطقة جسر النمليّة، فيما أنشئ الأوتوستراد الساحلي بين ضبيه ونهر الكلب على خطوط السكك، فضلاً عن «إغراق» مصلحة سكك الحديد والنقل المشترك في المشاكل والتعديات و«إحراق» كادرها الإداري