Last week, we saw a video of an explosion in the port of Beirut that shook us all. The shake was literal for some, while a bit more metaphorical for others. “Terrorism?” you might have initially thought. Supposedly, it was “only” an accident.
After the explosion (and the demolition of most of downtown Beirut; and the death of over a hundred people; and the injury of thousands more), the world learned that there were almost three thousand tones of ammonium nitrate being stored at that port. This is commonly used as fertilizer and normally mixed with chemicals that stabilize it, making it less prone to explosion without a spark. However, from some old photos, it looks like it was Nitroprill – a presumed knock-off of Nitropril that produces it for coal mine usage (controlled explosions), people have labeled it a knock-off, using that as the answer to the question of “Why did this blow up on its own like that?”
Aside from the obvious aftermath of trauma (physical and mental), there is also secondary aftermath – protests. People have come out to protest the government. No, this is not only happening because of the explosion, but it has definitely been the straw that broke the camel’s back. The people of Beirut are upset that such dangerous substance was stored so close without proper security measures in place. They want those who knew to pay for their mistakes.
At the moment, Lebanon is also struggling economically, having defaulted on their debt a few months ago. The devastation of many businesses in downtown Beirut definitely will not help the economy.
Lebanon ministers are vacating their posts, quoting “sterile regime that botched several opportunities” and “failure to reform” as their reasons for leaving.
Al Jazeera covers the situation related to the protests live here.
But let us back up for a moment and see how the “bomb” ended up in Beirut. Apparently, it was on a Russian ship from Georgia, which headed to Mozambique… in 2013. How did it end up in Beirut? Some sources claim “technical issues” made the ship dock in Lebanon. The ship was inspected and forbidden from farther sailing. The cargo was seized and the crew was mostly repatriated.
However, the captain of that ship claims that its owners had money problems, which was why the ship had to stop in Beirut and pick up additional cargo. Unfortunately, they were unable to pay some fees that Lebanon requested and so the ship was impounded (with the cargo). The captain and a couple members of the crew were asked to stay on the ship until the cargo was moved and the ship sold. The cargo was moved a year later off the ship and into a container onshore.
Multiple people tried to warn the government about the ticking time-bomb.
“Customs officials sent letters to a Judge of Urgent Matters in Beirut seeking guidance on how to sell or dispose of it at least six times from 2014 to 2017.”BBC
The captain has some ideas on how this problem should have been resolved:
- sink the ship with the cargo
- anchor the ship WITH the cargo in it
- sell the cargo to farmers/ use it to fertilize soil
Is it not weird that 2,750 tones of ammonium nitrate were just abandoned by the owner? If you are interested in some of the conspiracy theories related to the explosion, check out Firstposts’ article entitled: “Hariri verdict, a Russian-owned ship and Hezbollah-Israel animosity: Conspiracy theories abound over Beirut blast.”
Some of you who have been reading my stuff for a while now might be aware of the below story. I will recap it quickly to fill in the others.
My ex-co-worker would very rarely take care of things right away. If a piece of paper made it onto their desk, you could bet that it would be buried beneath a pile of other papers or food containers. Relying on someone like that can truly test one’s patience. It did mine.
“Were you able to complete the task I mentioned to you the other day?” I would ask so many times.
“Oh, I forgot. Why?” the response would be.
Sometimes the task was done after that, sometimes it was not. The logic was to not do anything that was not an emergency (And “emergency” is a relative term, too, right?) or that was not presented to you multiple times already. Less work is less work. Until there is a problem and then you have to scramble to get everything done at once.
As someone who has a rather strong work ethic, the above-mentioned technique is not something I could ever adopt. Why do I mention my ex-co-worker? I do so because, today, I would like to discuss accountability and responsibility with you.
Have you ever heard someone say: “That is not my job” and then walk away? I know I have. Even though something might not be a part of my regular duties, I will try to find someone who should take care of it. Saying something is not for you to take care of is like Pilate washing his hands and declaring he had nothing to do with the decision to crucify Jesus.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Biblical story:
- The Jewish people wanted to crucify Jesus.
- Pilate’s wife told him not to proclaim Jesus as guilty because of a dream she had.
- Pilate tries to crucify Barabbas (notorious criminal) and set Jesus free instead.
- The crowd does not agree and asks that Barabbas be freed and Jesus crucified.
- Unable to sway the crowd, Pilate capitulates, but before he does so, he washes his hands in front of everyone and says that he is not guilty of whatever may be done to Jesus.
Did Pilate crucify Jesus? No. But did he prevent the killing of Jesus? No.
Just because you do not do something directly does not mean that you were not involved. I am pretty sure that you have all heard about the “See something, say something” campaign. It makes us all responsible for our micro-environment. While that slogan was created to help prevent terrorism, I believe that it is now being used for other purposes as well.
If you see an unattended bag at the airport (or wherever), you have a duty to alert someone who can investigate that matter further. A few years ago, a highway in front of my workplace was blocked for a an hour or so as the SWAT team investigated a bag on the side of the road. It turned out to be a property of a homeless person. Some might say it was a waste of time and resources. Maybe. But at least we are all still here to talk about it.
If you see a child at school getting bullied, I hope that you stand up for them, or at least notify an adult if you do not want to get directly involved.
If you see a co-worker being discriminated against, I hope you say something.
We often think that since we do not have control over some major issues, it does not matter if we take ownership and responsibility. To me, that is a sad reality because we are ALL important. We CAN make a difference. Our inaction can lead to a disaster, no matter the size.
But I understand that some people are trained to turn a blind eye. Turns out, my ex-boss had the same policy – they only took care of something that came upon their desk multiple times. Otherwise, the thing “might have taken care of itself.”
While at a different job, I tried to help someone get the answers they needed and so I started emailing various people in the organization. Some flat out said they had no idea and washed their hands. Some did not know the answer but suggested I contacted someone else. I kept digging. And digging. All of a sudden, one of the people who refused to help found out I was still working on that issue and decided to threaten me. It was not my duty and I was breaking some company laws for asking on someone else’s behalf. To those that are curious how it ended: because the company has not dealt with something like that in decade, and had no idea how to handle it, they decided to refuse to deal with it now.
What does all of that have to do with Beirut? It just goes to show that we have to take ownership and be responsible for our actions (or inactions for that matter) in every situation. While it might not have any consequences right away, it might cause a large explosion several years down the line. Will you be ready to pay the price then?
- Do you handle things right away or do you prefer to wait until you are prompted a couple more times?
- Have you ever brought an issue to someone else’s attention and they did nothing to solve it? If so, share your experience.
- Do you “say something” when you “see something” or do you prefer to let things be as they are?
- Do you have any conspiracy theories regarding the explosion in Beirut? Please share.
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