When the #youstink movement began last August, Beirut-born Khaled Nasser, holder of a Ph.D. in Family Communication Counseling and Lecturer at AUB and LAU, joined protesters downtown. He carried the Lebanese flag, but held no other banner. He heard people complain about poverty, the lack of dignity, the garbage crisis, the government, political leaders, the traffic, unemployment, and many other things.
“I think this is what makes the movement strong,” he told me. “This variety of demands coming from a variety of people who are all fed-up.”
When Nasser decided to contribute, however, he went after a more specific target –for him the main factor behind many of Lebanon’s ailments. Nasser created a Facebook campaign against the ideology of the zaim, or zaim-ism, as he called it.
German philosopher Karl Marx defines ideology as an idea promoted by the bourgeoisie. Presented as the normal state of affairs, it is in fact a belief system that supports the rule of the bourgeoisie itself. For Nasser, the culture of the zaim in Lebanon is one such idea.
Nasser is a family communication consultant and parenting is one of his specialties. He was therefore concerned that parents were teaching their children never to go against the zaim and to constantly seek his favours. The campaign he conceived, Ya Kbirna, addressed that aspect specifically.
“I decided to create a campaign where our children, or the future, are represented as husband and wife, and where we address every one of the country’s major zaims,” Nasser said.
But as a communication specialist, Nasser knew that visuals were key to the success of the campaign. He sought the help of Ramz Studio, a Hamra-based boutique specialised in social communication and brand identity, among other things.
“We have worked on many social issues but this one, unlike the usual campaigns we’ve done, represents the voice of people at all levels,” Moukhtar Alayli, creative director and co-founder, said. “This gives it great importance.”
A team of five people, including actors, photographer, costume designer and graphic designer, produced together seven different posters.
Six of the posters, which were shared on Facebook, represented Speaker Nabih Berri, MPs Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and Michel Aoun, and party leaders Samir Geagea and Amin Gemayal –in their respective colours.
In a controversial step, the yellow poster, representing Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah, was intentionally left without a face. “We want our children to speak freely. We don't want them to have the fears we have,” the poster said.
The campaign was shared 851 times to date, mostly by Lebanese citizens, but the number of views could not be determined because the images were posted on a private profile. Hundreds of comments addressed the shared posters. “Ya Kbirna.. Lebanon’s revolution,” one of them said.
When I mentioned the comment to him, Nasser smiled. “Everything happening now is quite positive but change comes very slowly,” he said. “We need to change our way of thinking before we ask our leaders to do so too.”