I read his material, watch his videos, see him on TV, but this is the first time I sit with him, and have a one-on-one conversation. Jihad has an unpretentious wealth of knowledge, is humble, yet very opinionated about who the youth are and what they should be doing.
“The youth are the cornerstone of society. They are the present.”
According to him, they are the living present. They have this responsibility of building their world and making the world of the older and younger a better one. The problem is that the older generation is not giving them space to grow and take charge. They are not part of the decision-making process; yet, they are the untapped potential — typical dilemma.
The real resistance is them, through them, and by them. This youth has the historical chance to go down in history as the heroes of the updated version of our Lebanese republic. The older generation is already biased and used to a certain unacceptable level of corruption. They lived to co-exist with anomalies. New blood wanted. New spirit desired.
Your name, your family, your country — all one
You carry your name, your family name, and your nation with you. You can try and escape from one or all of them — for a while, but not forever. All three make up your identity. In business terms, as he’d like to frame it, your brand identity.
Youth today have been dealt a weak hand. They are surrounded by opposing forces and energies. The Lebanese brand name is deteriorating. Extreme pressures are being exerted on its three historically-strong sectors: health, education, and banking. Hospitality is no better. However, since they’re smart, they will dig back into the positive legacy that historically Lebanon is known for and build on it.
A healthy Lebanon would bring personal value to every Lebanese. It is to everyone’s advantage to bring value to the image of Lebanon. Everyone’s behavior today affects their current conditions and the status of the generations to come. We have an interest, even if we are outside, to keep building a positive image.
How do they break out of this loop? How can they inherit their fathers’ and mothers’ problems and still rise above?
Youth is invited to act
If you’re 18–30, then you’re young, according to Jihad. Then he goes on extending the bracket to 40 years of age. If you’re young at heart, it applies to you, too :-). Youth is a state of mind.
It does not matter where you live. Each one has a role: Whether you are in Lebanon or elsewhere on earth, you have a part. The in-people can collaborate with the ex-pats for that diamond of a formula that will bring Lebanon to its newer, more productive, hopeful, and fresh state.
How can the youth in the diaspora connect and work with the ones in Lebanon: South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and the GCC?
So, if that applies to you, don’t sit idle and hope that things change by themselves. “What are you doing about it?” he asks. Here are three suggested channels of action:
- The digital knowledge economy
- The future of education
- Cooperative lobbying
The digital knowledge economy
The quickest return on investment and the fastest route to recovery are through the digital knowledge economy. Heavy industry and agriculture will need longer to implement and are heavier on capital investment due to machinery, transportation, equipment, and material. The knowledge economy is faster, talent is either available or quicker to round up, and requires more attainable investments. Investing in the knowledge economy can boost job creation, increase local transparency through e-government, reduce corruption, and bring in highly-needed funds.
A possible and reasonable scenario is technically serving outside markets. Another one is by directly supporting Lebanese or pseudo-Lebanese companies abroad through focused technical teams in Lebanon.
Jihad mentioned several other scenarios that are potentially as sustainable.
“For example, to date, Lebanon still has a surplus in the balance of payment with services.”
The future of education
Build on the excellent education system that Lebanon has. Move it to the 21st century. Allow youth to work together in and around education. The connections and classroom blended learning can happen between youth all over the world. Let people get to know other cultures by taking virtual classes together. One day, your classmate in that virtual classroom will be in a position of power or influence. That connection will help you, Lebanon, and their country. Push for technology learning early on. Teaching coding is an excellent and effective method to build a prosperous future.
In Lebanon and since Oct 2019, young men and women were on the frontlines of the revolution. Their compatriots in other cities around the world carried the same flag and chanted the same hymns. This can continue on political, cultural, developmental, and economic levels. Lobbying together is fundamental to influence decisions in world capitals.
Culturally, youth can impact and create a new code of ethics — a fresh and transparent way of doing business. The young generation abroad can help free the youth who are taken hostage in Lebanon. It is much better to have the new Lebanon influenced by Lebanese abroad than by any other foreign power, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
I tried to get Jihad to get a little personal and tell me what drives him to do what he does. The closest he got to being personal is telling me that he’s been a victim of the old mindset.
“Lebanon, as it is today, is not my dream country. I don’t want for the generation after me to have its dreams lost as well. I have and will do something.”
He deals with youth, and he feels their pain. He was affected and touched. He is trying to help them and help himself in the process.
And the ones who leave?
Rethinking Lebanon youth ambassador Joelle El Hokayem
If you have to leave, go; but continue the collaborative work on the other side. Continue the projects and strengthen the links. People in Lebanon rely on people abroad. Youth connected to youth is a winning formula. Each one is an ambassador to Lebanon. People will love or hate Lebanon by the way we conduct ourselves abroad. Everyone abroad has a big responsibility. Each person is the image of his or her country.
He is not against people traveling. It actually diversifies the Lebanese portfolio of people around the world. It can be used as wealth.
I’m bidding my sister goodbye. I tell her to pick up knowledge and experience and come back with it to develop Lebanon. It’s good to work outside. Lobby outside. Come back with your know-how to help us develop here.
If today you are kicked out of Lebanon, don’t get mad. Get even. Become stronger and find ways to support. No matter how little. Keep supporting. If you have to build a family abroad, still teach your children about their homeland.
The man is a ball of fire, means well, loves Lebanon, and wants to do something about it. The man is on a mission. My talk with him was focused on that mission. Very little, he said about his personal life.