Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Maronite sect

Part 1. “The Ideological Analysis of Christianism in reply to  Nietzsche’s position”, by Aida Ghoussoub (April 5, 2009)

 

Note: Aida Ghoussoub wrote this French Doctorate thesis in 1984 at the Sorbonne. I found it well thought out to summarize her thesis and discuss it as an extension to my six articles on Nietzsche’s Philosopher of Life.  The first part is about the author and why she worked on Nietzsche; the second part will deal with the analysis proper.

 

            Aida Ghoussoub was a nun of the Christian Maronite sect before the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1975; she had a bright mind too.  As the war dragged on, her religious institution took side in the conflict and showed its ugly face of intolerance and barbarism.  Aida repudiated her formal oath of blind obedience to the institution in order to follow her conscience and the true message of Jesus.  Aida was studying at the French faculty in Lebanon when the French government decided to temporarily close down the university; she immigrated to Paris and resumed her study in philosophy.

            Initially, the author contemplated a comparative study between Nietzsche’s ascetic ideal and the corresponding Maronite ascetic ideal.  (The Maronite constituted since the 6th century a structured social and religious institution oriented mostly toward ascetic life).  This project was out the window because the author had no access to Maronite manuscripts stored in monasteries during the war.  Christianism is an important topic in the author’s life and she admits that Christianity, even in secular societies, is permanently pervasive at all levels in the social fabrics from government, political decisions, education, and moral values; thus, Christianism is an ideology. Nietzsche has sensed the “bad taste” attitude of the sacerdotal caste to always view any opinion or position as an attack at its theology. It turned out that Nietzsche didn’t directly criticize Christianism from an ideological perspective, a void that the author considered worth investigating.

            But why study Nietzsche?  The author had to read Plato, Descartes, Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer, but Nietzsche was an aggressive and affirmative philosopher, an active philosopher who wanted to change. He wrote: “A snake has to change its skin to survive.  The same goes to spirits: if free expression of opinions is usurped, then spirits die. Thinking in the active is to think against time, on the time, and in favor of the future time.” It is in the nature of man to be spiritual and to endeavor in the constant process of re-invention of the self.

  

Nietzsche interrogated on the every day realities of existence, and how man struggle with life day in, day out. Nietzsche wrote “Would you like to deal with fundamental problems on the salvation of humanity, God, immortality, and destiny after death? That is fine and dandy, commendable, and merit due reflection. As you are dealing with these abstract notions, I have a few questions to ask: How do you live with your body? What do you drink in the morning? How do you nourish your body? How do you relax? What are you work patterns? Are you aware of the climate that most suits you?  Don’t you think that all these little details turn out to be, in fact, more important to you? Are not these little details more exigent in rigor and of immediate nature than far-fetched concepts?”

            It must have been a lonely, silent, and daunting project for Aida, grappling with conditions of earning a living in Paris and constantly worried about the consequences of the civil war raging in her country.  However, the author took the warning of Nietzsche at heart: “Philosophy demands of its admirer to step aside, take time, learn silence, becoming slow in reading, profoundly, cautiously looking behind, ahead of oneself, with after thoughts, and eyes wide open.  That is why philosophy is more necessary today than at any other periods, because the kinds of work-habit and the frenzy required to finish with a task or a job is totally indecent in its demands”   

            The author was challenged in tackling Nietzsche’s train of thoughts: Nietzsche is the type who meditates, ruminates at great length, continuously transcribes his reflections and intentions, and answers his own and other philosophers’ queries. Nietzsche steps back from polemics and anticipate the future. It is difficult to interpret his mood swings, the situations that drive his aggressiveness and then his conciliating moments.

Note: I published “Is religion bunk? Case of Byzantium Empire” as a continuation of my review of Aida Ghoussoub’s thesis.

The State of Lebanon: A string of exclamation and question marks (November 11, 2008)

I need to state my position on the socio-political structure of the State of Lebanon.

Isn’t it enough that the individual is living a lie, that I have to swallow a bigger lie concerning my “nationality”?

Lebanon is a State recognized by the UN and it has endured for over 65 years after many civil wars and countless invasions by Israel and a long Syrian mandate for over 20 years.  Is not this fact legitimate enough for us Lebanese to unite and reach an understanding of common denominator that would protect us from further senseless divisions?

Let me recapitulate.  The Lebanese society is structured around 19 self-autonomous religious castes.  The various religious castes may be grouped around three larger religious tribes: the Christians, the Moslem Sunni and the Moslem Shiaa.  Let us expound on the smaller castes.

The small Druze caste is fundamentally in its inception a Shiaa “fatimide” sect but had found it more advantageous to obey the Sunni Caliphates for several reasons.

First, when the “Fatimide” dynasty in Egypt was replaced by the Sunni Ayyubide and later the Mamelouk dynasties, then physical persecution of the Druze and the Shiaa was common place. Thus, to survive, the Druze had to pay allegiance to the Sunni monarchs. Actually, the Sunni Ottoman Caliph empowered the Druze families of Maan and then the Chehab to dominate the political life in Mount Lebanon for over three centuries.

Second, in the State of Lebanon it was far lucrative for the Druze to take umbrage under the larger harmless militarily but powerful politically Sunni tribe since the Shiaa constituted a menacing immediate neighbor for their autonomy as a caste.

The Christian tribe encloses at least a dozen castes.

The Maronite sect is presently barely more numerous than the Greek Orthodox. It is said that the State of Lebanon would not exist without its Christians; that might be true.  But to state that the State exists because of its Maronites then it is incorrect.

The Greek Orthodox are by far the most numerous Christian sect in the Near East region and spread throughout Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine (Syria has more than 5 millions).  If it was not for the heavy presence of Greek Orthodox (and supported by Imperial Russia at the time) then the State of Lebanon could not be imposed no matter how, and the Maronite caste would not have enjoyed the supremacy of its administration for over five decades.  As a matter of fact, the first two Presidents to the Republic since 1920, under the French mandate, were Greek Orthodox.  Presently, Seniora PM is reluctant to define the responsibilities of his Greek Orthodox Vice Premier.

All these civil wars in the State of Lebanon were basically the need of this caste system that viewed the establishing of a strong central government as anathema to survival of its petty interests: their respective free float interests would be jeopardized and those two dozens warlords, small feudal leaders, civilians as well as religious, would lose much of their powers over their subjects.

Sure, the various foreign State interests played a catalytic factor but the civil wars would not have been so frequent or so enduring without our caste system.

Thus, Lebanon is meant to experience a civil war every 25 years or so in order to destroy and exhaust any accumulation of energy and good will for instituting a strong government.  All the foreign powers and regional powers know these facts except the Lebanese citizens who prefer to survive on chimerical dreams of a full fledged “nation”; sometime referred to as Phoenicia, or Canaan or Arabia or Nation of Islam, or even Switzerland of the East.

Lebanon is not a “Nation”; it is a State recognized by the UN.

Can we live and unite within this definition?

Switzerland is not a nation: it is a State and its sovereignty is protected by an agreement among all its strong neighboring nations.  Among the over 190 recognized States in the UN, maybe no more than a dozen could be legitimately considered as full fledged, self-autonomous and independent Nations.

The calls for defining our origins as a “Nation”, (be it Phoenicia, Canaan, Arab, Fertile Crescent, Islam or even Switzerland of the East), benefit only the regional leaders in their respective cantons; simply because they have no viable programs to entice their youthful “subjects” but to offering them chimerical fictitious national sentiments.

Tiny Lebanon needs to unite under a State strong central government in matters of defense, finance, foreign policies, national civil register, and general planning and control.

Tiny Lebanon needs decentralized administration and State economic incentives on performance.

Tiny Lebanon needs a fair and equitable electoral law; variations on the proportional system should be seriously considered for a feasible and lasting electoral law; with minor reforms every now and then as the central government affirms its responsibilities for providing security and opportunities to all its citizens.

The State of Lebanon needs to vigorously obtain the long lasting support of its regional powers to securing its stability, sovereignty and neutrality.

If, and only if the next parliamentary election in May is not rigged to maintain a balance among the opposite political parties, then maybe some kind of hope for reforms of this caste system could be contemplated with the tacit agreement of the regional powers.

Note:  I am Christian by birth but a secular citizen; no, I am not a Greek Orthodox if you are already suspicious.

I really don’t care about all these sects and wouldn’t care one iota about their theological and apologetic differences; all these sects are fundamentally politically motivated by their clergy for closed autonomic institutions and to get a piece of the pie from their naïve co-religionists.

Lebanon: An improbable Nation in the making, (February 19, 2008)

 Lebanon has been mentioned countless times in the ancient stories, particularly in the Jewish Bible, as the land of milk and honey, and snow covered majestic mountains of cedars, pine and oak trees. Lebanon has been described for its skilled inhabitants and sea faring mariners, and commercial ingenuity by establishing trading counters around the Mediterranean Sea. 

Lebanon is recognized as a formal States in the UN since its inception at the sessions in San Francisco in 1946, after the end of WWII, and Lebanese delegates participated in the writing of the UN charter.  Lebanon snatched its independence from the colonial mandated France in 1943, with a big help from Britain.  The last French troops vacated this land in 1946.  Still, the Lebanese are lacking the definitive belief in a motherland.

                        Lebanon is surely a good place for leisure time and a vacationing location for its immigrants; many families that can afford to leave for greener pastures are not overly disturbed of losing a “nation”.  Most Lebanese have not participated as a Nation to defend the land from aggressors and to preserving its unity.  

After over 65 years of nominal independence, the political system has failed miserably to convince the Lebanese that prospect for security and lasting development is feasible.

                        The main problem is that we have 18 officially recognized castes, closed sects, with autonomous personal status legal systems associated with each respective sect.  Thus, the Lebanese citizen is defined as practically a member of a caste from birth to death, whether he likes it or not.  The political system has followed this caste structure and allocated the civil service positions, particularly in the highest levels, that a citizen of a certain caste can attain, and the number of deputies in the parliament, and ministers in the government according to a structured quota relative to the hierarchy of the caste after each civil war. Members of a caste have realized that services could be obtained through the leadership of their caste and not from a central government or legal rights.

There are large sections among the citizens who have secular, agnostic, atheist, many of leftist tendencies, Marxists, progressives and seculars ideologies, and comprised of all castes and would like to establish reforms to the political system.  Thus, the following harsh criticisms are not targeting individuals, but the social structure in general.  Unfortunately, I had to adopt sectarian terminology in order to get the point through, as clearly and as simply as feasible.

                        The Druze sect, located mainly in the Chouf district and part of the Bekaa Valley that borders the Golan Height, was originally a Shiaa sect affiliated to the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt around the 13th century.  When we mention Shiaa it is meant a sect among other sects that refused to abide by the Moslem Sunni sect that paid allegiance to a Caliphate, not directly descending from the Prophet Mohammad. 

After the demise of the Fatimid dynasty, the Druze were harshly persecuted and they opted to close the membership in order to discourage serious infiltrations to their sect.  They admonished their members to have two positions, one that would satisfy the power to be and another of a more intimate belief system.  For example, Walid Jumblat is a typical Druze leader with two-faced messages and ready to change his political position when opportunities of allying to the strongest power materialize.

In general, the Druze sect is suspicious and even hates every sect bordering their location of concentration.  They have practically allied to anyone that might weaken the political and economic status of districts of their neighboring sects.  The Druze is the only citizen who recognizes that he belongs to a caste, a closed religious sect, where no outside believers can be accepted, and none of the members scratched from the register. This is a dying sect that failed to open up and comprehend or assimilate the notion of belonging to a larger community or nation to unite with.

                        The Moslem Sunni sect is even worse than the Druze in allegiance to a central government, because it has been functioning as a caste since independence but not acknowledging it.  The Sunni sect has nothing in its religion to prevent it from opening up and uniting with other sects under one nation. It has enjoyed supreme privileges as the main caste during the Ottoman Sunni Empire and had the opportunities to concentrate in the main cities on the littoral and also to trade and communicate with foreigners and other sects but it opted to hide in its shell and stave off changes and reforms.  

Foreign travelers and many accounts have revealed that nobody could rent in a Sunni house or has been invited inside their lodging. Only Sunni males were seen outside doing business; women were never seen outside their domiciles. Man reached the moon but the Sunni caste has yet to acknowledge this achievement.

The leaders of the Sunni caste agreed in the National Pact, right after independence, to share power with the Christian Maronite sect but they kept vigilant to continuously allying with the most powerful Sunny Arab State of the moment.  The civil wars of 1958 and then 1975 started in order to regain hegemony over the Maronite political privileges in the new political system. 

The Sunni sect has allies with the monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni State of Egypt and it frequently takes positions with Arab foreign powers at the detriment of national unity.  In general, the Sunni still hope for a return to a Caliphate reign and support all kinds of Sunni fundamentalists and salafists.  This caste is very adamant in proscribing matrimonial relationship outside its caste.

                          The Maronite sect was very open for centuries and was the main religion that established roots in the Druze canton because the feudal Druze landlords needed the Maronite peasants to work their hard lands.  In 1860, a bloody civil war broke out in the Druze canton and thousands of Maronites were massacred. 

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1983, it encouraged the Christian Lebanese Forces militias to entertain military presence in the Druze canton.  As the Israeli forces vacated the Chouf region then the Druze of the feudal Walid Jumblat asked the aid of the Palestinian factions at the orders of the Syrian regime and he systematically slaughtered the Maronites and thus, drove the Christians out of the Druze canton and back to their original cantons of centuries back. 

 Since 1990, the government allocated over two billion dollars to repatriate the Christians to the Chouf and only 15% returned; there is no accountability in which black hole all that money was siphoned in. The Maronite adopted the closed sect system when agreeing to the National Pact and it is extremely difficult for non-Christians to join this sect.

                           Under the leadership of Hezbollah the Shias, in the south and the Bekaa Valley, are basically the main caste shouldering the heavy burden of defending Lebanon from the frequent aggressions of Israel.  Without the Shiaa south Lebanon would have long been swallowed by Israel and Lebanon divided and scraped from the number of independent States.  It is the Shiaa who forced Israel to withdraw from the south unconditionally in May 24, 2000.  It is the Shiaa who foiled the strategy of Israel of reconquering the south of Lebanon in July 2006 and installing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East. 

                        Hezbollah split from the main “Amal” Shiaa movement around 1983 and adopted an ideology tightly linked to the Khomeini hardliners in Iran and was responsible for the suicide attacks against the US and French headquarters in Beirut.  Hezbollah was the only resistance movement allowed by Syria to operate against Israel’s occupation in the south of Lebanon: Syria had prohibited all the other Lebanese nationalistic and progressive parties to resume their liberation resistance during its occupation of Lebanon.

                        After the assassination of Rafic Hariri PM in 2005 and the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, we have been experiencing a serious void in the legitimacy of the current government.  The entente between the Tayyar political party of Michel Aoun and Hezbollah has allayed the perception that schemes for a recurring civil war in under planning. 

The patient, internally non-violence strategy of Hezbollah in conducting non-cooperation activities against an unjust and usurping government has permitted the Lebanese population to gain the assurance and relief that another civil war is not feasible.  This Seniora’s government and its allies have been plundering the public treasury for the past three years and for the last 15 years under Rafic Hariri.

 This continuous regime of the Hariri political and financial clan has been spreading poverty and deepening the indebtedness and ineptness of Lebanon, with the explicit support of the Bush administration, under the guise of empty rhetoric of democracy, security and independence from Syria’s indirect involvement in Lebanon.

                         Consequently, the Shiaa have proven to be the legitimate sons of an independent Lebanon and have paid the prices of martyrdom, suffering, sacrifice and pain in order to be the guarantor for the emergence of a Nation against all odds.  It is the sacrifices of the Shiaa and their patience to suffer for the benefit of all Lebanese that is providing them with the leverage of flexibility, intent to change, learn from experience and improve.  The successive unilateral withdrawals of Israel from Lebanon since 1982 without any preconditions have given the Lebanese citizen grounds to standing tall.

                        Our main problem is that International requirements of Lebanon and our local politics are at odds.  The USA, Europe and Saudi Arabia would like to settle the Palestinian refugees as Lebanese citizens with full rights and thus avoiding the corny problem of their rights to be repatriated to Israel as stated in the UN resolution of 194. 

The Monarchy in Saudi Arabia has been viewing the Palestinian question as a major liability since the extremist party of Hamas has taken power in Gaza; Saudi Arabia is exhausted of paying the bills for the destructions of Israel to Palestinian and Lebanese properties and infrastructures at the urging of the USA and would like an end to this conflict that is hampering the internal stability of the Wahabi Saudi regime. 

                        The two main local movements of the Future (Moustaqbal) party (The Hariri’s clan) and Hezbollah are more than content of this unconstitutional political dilemma.  On the one hand, The Future is satisfied with its dominance among the Sunnis in Beirut and the North and thus, giving the Palestinian refugees citizenship might create an unknown variable that could disrupt the majority of the Sunni allegiance to the Al Moustakbal. 

Consequently, the Hariri clan cannot disobey the Saudi orders, but it cannot shoot itself in the foot:  Externally, the Hariri clan is pro Saudi but in reality it is very cozy with the Syrian position of keeping the Palestinian refugee status as its strongest card during the negotiations with the USA and afterward.  The unstable constitutional political system in Lebanon may delay indefinitely any serious pressures from Saudi Arabia and the USA to resolving the Palestinian refugees’ question. 

On the other hand, Hezbollah is weary of having to deal with a constitutional government and negotiate returning its arms to the Lebanese army; thus, the two main parties in Lebanon are supporting each other practically and just playing the game of opposing forces. Furthermore, The USA has decided after the fiasco of the July war in 2006 that no more investment in time on Lebanon is appropriate at this junction.  We have to wait for a new US administration to decide that it is willing to re-open the file of the Near East problems.

                        The allies to the two main parties are side shows; they know it, and they are not allowed to change sides.  Thanks to the vehement rhetoric against Syria of its allies, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geaja, the Future party has been able to give the impression that it is against the Syrian regime while practically it agrees with the Syrian positions and would like to keep the present status quo in Lebanon’s political system of the Taef constitutional amendments. 

General Michel Aoun has realized that he has been taken by the sweet tender offers of Hezbollah, but he cannot shift allegiance or form a third alliance since the non resolution of the situation is the name of the game until further agreement among the main Arab States and the main superpowers.  General Aoun has declared that it is Hezbollah that needs his alliance.

                        So far, the polemics among the government’s allies and the opposition political parties are not shy of harboring sectarian allegiances in their charged speeches but somehow they failed to discuss the actual caste, or closed religious system in our social structure, which is the fundamental problem toward a modern state of governance. I do not believe that any fair and representative electoral law is of utility unless the basic caste system is recognized as a sin and altered accordingly to represent an alternative for the citizen joining a united and free status under one State.

                        The first step is to instituting a voluntary State marriage law and letting the situation unfold into a more liberal understanding of the need of the people.  The road is very long and arduous before the beginning of a semblance of trust among the Lebanese is established. 

However, I feel that the Shiaa under the leadership of a wise and disciplined Hezbollah, and their corresponding Christian Free Patriotic movement, are leading the way for a semi-autonomous Lebanon, at least in its internal restructuring.  I believe that the necessities of survival would loosen up many stiff ideological and caste roadblocks toward a reformed political system and the institution of a governing body that abide in integrity, accountability and justice for all.

                        It is a fact that extremist Sunni salafist ideology is gaining quickly in all the Arab and Moslem World, out of desperation and the widespread illiteracy and lack of job openings.  The feud between the Shiaa and the Sunny is historically and fundamentally a clan warfare between the Muslims that demand the Caliphate to be a direct descended to the Prophet and those who don’t mind as long as the Caliphate is from the Kureich family, mainly Hashem or Ummaya or whatever. 

Maybe our mix of all kinds of sects might be a rampart to our moderate liberal tendencies.  The spirit of motherland is coming from an unforeseen quarter; mainly the Shiaa caste freshly arriving in the social and political scene around 1970. 

This disinherited caste was already a majority when the civil war of 1975 broke out and it suffered from the total ignorance of the central government for infrastructure and social services and had also to suffer the humiliation and atrocities of frequent Israeli air raids and land attacks and bombing of their villages under the disguise of dislodging the Palestinian guerillas.  This caste is opening up to almost all sects and managed to ally with large sections of many other castes.  This extending arm might be considered as necessary out of the realization that they are a majority in Lebanon and a real minority in the neighboring States of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. This necessity is a blessing to Lebanon because the main major caste is encouraging unity against foreign invaders.

In the event that Hezbollah maintains its strength then, it can be forecasted that the economic strategy of Lebanon will shift from tourism and third sector (the Hariri’s clan strategy) into more emphasis on agriculture and small and medium industries, many of it geared toward guerilla warfare.

 I used the term “Nation” for Lebanon in a general sense to convey that a form of unity is developing in the conscious of the Lebanese but this notion of Nation is far from appropriate to Lebanon simply because experiences since independence could not provide any evidence to a unified people under legitimate and responsible central governments.  Lebanon is fundamentally an amalgamation of castes that enjoy self-autonomy.  I still believe that the Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Jordanians naturally form a Nation and they should generate a common market with separate recognized States.

I am convinced the Taef Constitution was meant to have total entente among the various main parties in Lebanon before starting to elect a new president to the republic; the entente should involve everything from election law, to the constitution of the government and other priorities.  This fact translates into agreement among the main Arab States and the main superpowers on how Lebanon should be governed during six years.  Unless the Lebanese leaders and political parties get together to review the Taef Constitution and be willing to pay the price of deciding to have a mind of their own then Lebanon is de facto under the UN protectorate.


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