LEBANON: THE MUSEUM OF HEDONISM
Born in Lebanon and raised in Beirut, “Man of the Year” by Arab Ad in 2010, Chehab is a legendary figure in Middle Eastern creativity, whose ideas walked long ways from the communication world they were born in and impacted on a grand scale society and economy. He’s one of the contributors behind the Leo Burnett’s World Wide“Humankind” philosophy and, with a career span of over 30 years, he has managed to find room and passion for political communication, being the advisor of one President of the Republic and several well-known political figures in Lebanon. “A Bet for a National Conscience”, “Of Happiness and Ideas”, and “A Bridge over the 21st Century” are books encompassing his legacy. #LoveAndLobby met him at the launch of his latest book, at Dubai Lynx 2019 and here is the delightful conversation, in full.
- What would make your soul sing? What makes you happy?
2. A childhood story that announced the creative person you are today:
In my childhood I had a soft spot for the pilots of the Pacific War; the jet pilots were my heroes. My favorite game was to use furniture pieces as props for the cockpits and play airplanes war simulation. I launched this game among my peers, distributing the good and the bad guys roles. The plot was so vivid andits course so intense, that soon became the most popular game in the neighborhood. I even ended up bitten by a gang leader. We were of the same age, but he was stronger than me. Apparently his gang abandoned their usual games for this intellectual game of mine and he found himself without groupies. That’s the power of ideas. Sometimes, out of nothing, you can create enormous displays to magnetize people.
3. Best context ever for inspiration was:
Japanese culture, there is nothing like it. The heritage of Confucianism, Hinduism, their love for nature, the way an entire nation was educated to be environmentally friendly are touching. Any environment is constantly embellished by the people’s hand.
The Kyoto shrines, the parks, the open-air museums where they expose the best architecture simply elevated me. I came back a different person from Japan.
4. The project you loved most:
Writing with a consistent impact on my country’s life.
‘A Bet For A National Conscience’ (shortlisted in Cannes–editor’s note) promoting federative economy it’s a book I’ve written few years ago, with the goal to bring Lebanese together, around a common, national interest goal. The book was an open source itself and people could edit its online version.
In “The water of Lebanon”, we asked ourselves how we can manage the water quality and supply and bring Lebanese together through a civil society initiative. We created an NGO to promote the book idea and its first project – “Blue gold”. It took few years to reposition “water” from a commodity to a national wealth and to have citizens involved but it ended up being successfully implemented.
“Of happiness and ideas” it’s another book I am equally fond of.
5. The project others loved most:
A Dewar’s campaign with relevance for Lebanese society. I positioned the brand as enduring love and associated it with zillion Lebanese love stories, despite the civil war.
6. The best thing about Lebanese creativity is:
The intricate way such diverse cultures and ideas manage to live in Lebanon, deeply relating to one another. This country was a hub for all ethnicities and cultures that wanted to take shelter. It was the first place to take shelter, to be honest. Thanks to this social complexity, our culture and creativity is very rich. Let’s remember, in the same region were created all the major religions of the world, there must be something meaningful about it.
7. Best statement of Lebanese humor:
The stories of Abu Abed, a national fictional character, are hilarious, they encompass all the idiosyncrasies of our life in Lebanon. There are similarities within the region, but there is no place on earth that will have all the fun and the contrast embedded in this character.
8. Advice for international head hunters, related to Lebanese creatives:
You can’t find on earth young guys that are so bright, so resourceful, so agile, so flexible and so inventive as you would find in Lebanon.Lebanon is a small country, our education and welfare system is encouraging people to be resilient, we love life, we are not at all cynical, we have eagerness to fight and win. All those values are disappearing in the modern world. The new world is about somethingwe fought against so much before – we are taming those frictions into propositions that work for us. I like to call my country “the museum of hedonism”. When one comes to Lebanon, to his surprise hedonism is displayedon an incredible macro scale. The way you seduce is all there.
9. Best place in Beirut:
Downtown. It was partially destroyed during the civil war, and eventually got restored. It’s bringing a vision of the Levant the westerners never seen.
10. Best Place in Lebanon:
11. On money:
It’s obsolete. Capitalism poisoned the world.
We are made to be productive, not to make money. I believe in productivity.
12. On spirituality:
I believe not in religions to elevate, but in the cosmos to inspire. I believe in the intelligence of our universe.
13. Most disturbing cliché about Lebanon
Violence. In reality, Lebanon is the museum of hedonism.