Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 13th, 2020

Lebanon should never go back to his sectarian/plutocratic political system

The Autumn of Sectarianism?

Any credible and viable facts and society behaviors that could convince me that sectarianism in on the way out?  After 77 years of practicing this feudal/sectarian system since Lebanon “independence” in 1943?

February 2020
Bassel F. Salloukh, Associate professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University, and LCPS senior fellow

No matter the short-term outcome in this latest battle in a long Gramscian ‘war of position’ against sectarianism, something has changed irreversibly in Lebanon since 17 October, 2019.

Whether Lebanon’s sectarian political mafia elite like it or not, whether they concede it or not, they already know that their grip over society is slowly, but surely, slipping away.

To be sure, sectarianism is not gone, nor will it go anytime soon, but it just doesn’t have the monopoly it used to have over peoples’ modes of mobilization and identification.

And because they see their vivisected ‘streets’—the sectarian political elites’ favorite term to describe what they, and the Lebanese Constitution, consider as docile sectarian subjects rather than citizens with inalienable rights—slipping away from them.

This rotten “militia “leaders” have responded by weaponizing sectarianism and its other distortions in a bid to neutralize alternative types of identities and mobilization. Indeed, they were so taken aback by the protests that one of its unwelcome consequences has been to alert them to the need to reinvigorate their clientelist and corporatist ties with their sectarian base.

Perhaps the revolution’s (7iraak) greatest achievement so far was to insist that there were no grey choices in this grand battle for a new Lebanon: You are either on the side of the sectarian system and its ensemble of violent disciplinary practices, or you are Not.

You are either for the perpetuation of the lopsided political “rentier” economy, distorted social ecology, and environmental degradation, or you are willing to embrace new kinds of identities that are deeply antithetical to the sectarian system’s constructed binaries.

All of us are now faced with simple but difficult choices: Are you willing to defend your privileges in the name of the sect and what John Nagle labels ‘zombie power-sharing’, or to turn the tables on this whole violent edifice?

Are you willing and ready to speak the modern language of accountability, representation, social justice, gender equality, LGBTQI and other minority rights, shared prosperity, and environmental sustainability, regardless of your private sentiments and practices?

And to the angst of the sectarian system’s apologists, the battle over these choices has entered the intimacy of every household and friendship. It sometimes pits parents against their post-ideological siblings, siblings and cousins against each other despite family and religious affiliations.

It even opposes friends who used to assume they shared a minimum of common civic values, only to discover that it was all a fake reverie.

It is in the turbulence of these intimate relations, and the emotional and discursive ruptures they give rise to, that one finds the humble origins of an invented new polyphonic “Lebanese  State” in-the-making.

But this time around it is a nation imagined neither via the homogenizing frameworks of confessional binaries once expressed in the form of the deux negations, (Two negations do Not constitute a nation) nor their postwar sectarian derivatives.

It is imagined instead in anti- and cross-sectarian visions, ones that do not deny alternative sectarian imaginings of the nation yet refuse to allow them a privileged place or monopoly over how to define this nation.

Whether in the graffiti adorning Beirut’s walls (shlah ta’eftak, take off your confession, is my favorite), the explosive rap songs giving voice to late millennials and Generation Zs once assumed disconnected and apolitical, or in every Nasawiya rally (feminism rally) and chant, the public expression of these new imaginings of the nation can no longer be reversed. They are here to stay and make a better Lebanon.

But we should not be carried away by the energy and creativity of this anti-sectarian moment. What the sectarian counter-revolution has shown is just how many continue to hold on to the sectarian system.

Whether for sheer clientelist purposes—despite the near end of the political economy of sectarian—the power of sectarianism ideological hegemony buttressed by a complicated institutional edifice, or the naked fear of the unknown that comes with any kind of systemic change in a plural society still haunted by memories of a 15–year civil war, so many Lebanese refuse to budge and dream a different dream.

And this helps explain some of the more bizarre commentary emerging on social media or in private conversations, as people try to explain their impossible choices.

After absorbing the initial shock, the sectarian political elites are now on the offensive, acting as if they have been preparing for this challenge to their supremacy ever since the war ended.

They spent decades colonizing the state’s public and coercive institutions and packing them with loyal clients who will do their dirty work when the time comes, clients who are now devouring around 40% of government expenditures.

Also, there is no shortage of opportunists willing to parachute themselves under the label of technocrats and stab the revolution in the back. The problem with that group is not a lack of technical talent, but rather that they do not represent in any shape or form the new community and forces that emerged in the past months.

The sectarian political elites have shifted tactics: From playing what in International Relations is called a game of chicken to a game of billiards, by using one bland actor to hit multiple targets.

And yet, the 17 October revolution has achieved so much, despite its many setbacks, with some that are yet to come. It is primarily an introspective interrogation at the very intimate level, a thawra ‘alal-nafs in Bou Nasser al-Tuffar’s beautiful rendition in his song Khayr al-Shaghab featuring Al-Darwish.

This revolution gave us a new calendar—are you still living in the pre-17 October era or have you made that mental leap to the post-17 October dream—and a new lexicon—who would have thought NERDS could stand for Nasty Economy Requires Drastic Solutions?

The past months have witnessed an oversupply of political analysis.

It is now time to invest more heavily in the concrete building blocks of political practice and organization. Disaggregated and competing modes of political organization reflecting varying ideological choices have to be imagined, created, and then institutionalized.

Existing sites for alternative political contestation need to be liberated from within, a process that has already started among the youth, professionals, and inside the Beirut Bar Association.

Disaggregated political and organizational alternatives connecting people across classes, vocations, and regions are the sectarian system’s worst enemy.

Only then will the present moment look as part of a cumulative longer struggle to penetrate the sectarian political system and transform it from within, gradually and democratically.

And only then can we make sure that what today looks like the autumn of sectarianism will not be one day remembered as that autumn of 2019 when sectarianism was jolted, only to reassert itself with a vengeance.

Note: This militia/mafia sectarian elite (1%), which monopolized 80% of the economy and banks, have robbed the budgets of $120 bn in the last 30 years.

7% of the citizens accounts are below $100, 000 and less than $10,000 for the other 90% of the citizens.

And it is this large sector of the poor citizens who are subjected to severe restriction in withdrawing money from their accounts.

Add tho these economic/financial difficulties, the purchase power of our local currency had devalued 30% and higher prices have reduced the monthly intake of the pay to 40%.




February 2020

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