“Techno unites us,” says one sign that a protestor in Lebanon holds up to the night sky as hundreds of people gather in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut. Nationwide protests in Lebanon began last month as a response to the government’s lack of initiative in finding solutions to the economic crisis, the worst since the end of their civil war in the early ’90s. It is not unusual for citizens to protest during times of political strife. Still, Lebanese people have taken to the streets in a hopeful, optimistic, and inspiring way instead of acting angry, violent, and destructive. DIY raves pop up around the country at protest sites and abandoned buildings around midnight and last until the sun comes up the next morning. Many protestors spend their days blocking the streets and their nights celebrating, dancing, and connecting with others who are passionate about raving. Other troubled countries like Israel have also turned to parties to help spread messages of positivity and perseverance in the face of political, religious, and or economic uncertainty.
Protests in Lebanon began as a response to a proposed tax on all phone calls made through WhatsApp, a necessary app for Lebanese people who can’t afford to make regular phone calls and texts. According to the International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, protestors are demanding fair tax, an end to the corrupt government, and the abolishment of the sectarian political system. Many citizens view creating unlicensed raves as a necessary reaction to the overwhelming amount of corruption in their country. Protests have caused not only banks and universities to shut down, but clubs and bars as well, leaving the Lebanese population with nowhere to release the pent up tension their government has created. Raves, specifically those playing techno and house music, have been an essential part of Lebanese culture ever since the different religious sects of the government became overwhelmingly divisive in the ’90s. Raves have become a symbol for the community; they are a way for the citizens to demonstrate to the government what kind of unified society in which they want to live. At a rave, everyone looks out for each other’s best interests, regardless of religion or economic status. It’s not unreasonable for Lebanese people to expect their government to act in the same way. By holding unlicensed parties in the streets, protestors are making a statement that they cannot be silenced, or willfully ignored.
View this post on Instagram
Lebanon: A Revolution against Sectarianism Chronicling the First Month of the Uprising In Lebanon, a sectarian power-sharing arrangement dating from the end of the civil war has created a permanent ruling class of warlords who use patronage networks to maintain power by winning elections—confirming our thesis that politics is war by other means. But starting October 17, countrywide demonstrations have toppled the prime minister and transformed Lebanese society. In this thorough account of the events of the past month, an on-the-ground participant describes the Lebanese uprising in detail, exploring how it has undermined patriarchal structures and transcended religious divisions to bring people together against the ruling class. https://cwc.im/LebanonOct17 #LebanonProtests #LebanonUprising #LebaneseRevolution
Israel is another country in which the younger citizens have become heavily involved in the rave scene as a way of escaping the decades-long Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The war over land has been ongoing since the fall of the Ottoman Empire made land, power, and resources in the Middle East suddenly available. Tensions are still high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Protests have led to violence, and citizens are angry with the lack of clear answers. The end of the conflict does not seem to be anywhere near. To combat the seemingly never-ending debates and riots, music lovers hold secret trance events in the deserts around all the major cities. Nature is one of the focal points at these events. Local Israelis can gather in remote places to disconnect from the pressures of modern-day society, meet new people, listen to music from entertaining DJs, and enjoy spending time in an environment that is free from the restrictive laws and political strife that plagues large parts of the Middle East.
Raving as a response to difficult and even scary moments in a countries history brings to mind the German techno clubs that exploded in popularity after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Some media outlets have gone as far as to claim, “Germany was first reunited on the dance floor,” and it’s not far from the truth. Just a few weeks after the wall was brought down, East and West Berliners were dancing next to each other in the same warehouses, buying each other drinks and enjoying the same music. Just a few months earlier, those same people wouldn’t have even been able to meet, as only certain people could cross the wall for a limited amount of time if they had a day pass. Berlin is now known as an essential city for hard-partying rave lovers to visit, as it’s home to techno and house parties that go on for days at a time. Travelers from all over the world can party alongside long-time locals, creating a special, inclusive environment that allows everyone involved to break free from the expectations their government has of them. Acknowledging the role of the fall of the Berlin Wall in helping rave culture grow is necessary to understand the power music has to help us make sense of difficult circumstances that are outside of our control.
Some might argue that citizens in Lebanon and Israel are misbehaving and that it’s not right to prioritize fun raves over making a difference in your country. The emergence of techno parties in Germany in the late ’80s and early ’90s proves that historically, it makes sense to use music to bring communities together when the government has tried to isolate them. Raves are a hub for respect for individuality, community, and acceptance. If people feel as if they aren’t getting these values from their government, they have every right to get involved in rave culture as a way to send a message to politicians, manage stress, and create meaningful communities.
These countries can be an inspiration to America as we struggle with some of the same issues as Lebanon, Israel, and Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. The Washington Post claimed earlier this year that the U.S. economy is worse than it seems, with tax cuts that are unlikely to lead to a real economic improvement, and thousands of families plagued with debt from astronomically expensive college tuition payments and medical bills. Most of the nation is still outraged with President Donald Trump over his insistence on building a wall between the States and Mexico, his involvement with white supremacists, and his embarrassingly uneducated and petty tweets. A public impeachment inquiry has began this week, marking a defining moment for America. Throughout Trump’s presidency, right-wing and left-wing media outlets have attacked each other, making it difficult for the average American to rely on familiar news sources. It’s astounding that our nation hasn’t found a way to combat all of the frightening goings-on with something more positive. Instead, the rave scene in America remains more underground than it’s ever been, perhaps as a response to the watchful eyes of social media. More young Americans should keep in mind that music isn’t just something we listen to fill the void. It has the power to bring people together during times when they need a community the most, and this can make a real difference.