Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Pamela Chrabieh

Women’s Rights: Always an Exception?

‘Mich Wa2ta’ (Lebanese saying for ‘This is not the time to…’) is a national slogan in Lebanon used on several occasions by people of different social-economic, political and religious backgrounds.

Quite understandable in a country torn by cycles of physical and psychological wars, corruption, a dysfunctional system of diversity management, the reign of godfathers and their acolytes, and filthy streets  crawling with roaches.

“The Lebanese society will not succeed in overcoming its myriad crises through limited actions targeting symptoms, or by doing nothing.

It won’t succeed if it does not take into account the intersecting forms of discrimination.

It must pioneer new types of governance that allow and encourage people to move from idolatry (patriarchy as an idol, the zaim as an idol, the messianic figure or the hero as an idol) to iconoclasm/desacralisation, and to develop qualitatively different types of relationships with nature itself and with each other.

Respecting our nature and preserving it and insisting on transparency and accountability, come hand in hand with respecting one another as human beings, with sharing responsibilities and promoting fairness among all of us.”

By Dr. Pamela Chrabieh on the Red Lips High Heels’ blog.

Inevitable when the population is heavily traumatized and is only looking to survive – ‘Baddi al Sitra’  (I don’t want to be in the limelight) is the second national slogan (بدي السترة).

Mich Wa2ta’( The time has Not come) has been adopted lately to halt or criticize any struggle perceived as superfluous:

‘Now is the time for getting rid of the garbage…’;

‘Now is the time for securing our borders…’;

‘Now is the time for electing a new president…’;

‘Now is the time for partying as if there is no tomorrow…’; and the quite famous

‘Now is the time to get ready for the worst, not to deal with women’s issues…’

Standing up for one’s rights, debunking stereotypes, fighting for recognition, raising one’s voice and becoming an active agent of change for the better, are not matters of a specific time and space.

There is no such thing as ‘Tomorrow is a better day for obtaining your basic rights’.

In fact, without those rights, you will not survive. When you don’t face your fears, you don’t heal your traumas, you don’t dialogue with others and look for common grounds while embracing the differences, you don’t search for the roots of your misfortune, you don’t establish equality in rights and opportunities in your legal, social and political systems,…

You are doomed to be extinguished, you won’t survive, and if you do, it will be as one of the Walking Dead in the famous gritty drama portraying life (?) in the weeks and months following a zombie apocalypse.

There is no such thing as ‘a specific time’ to break barriers, such as gender based barriers.

It is a continuous struggle that is part of the same framework. Struggling for economic survival or ecological survival for instance must not come at expense of other human rights.

The rigorous application of a reconceptualized human right to a clean and healthy environment (or “right to environment”) should accompany the invention of alternative discourses and praxis that would meet everyone’s basic needs, including women’s access to a full citizenship status and their recognition as equal partners in the management of their households and country.

Many are the women in Lebanon who regularly suffer violations of their human rights.

Achieving gender equality requires a continuous comprehensive understanding of the ways in which women (and other gender identities) experience discrimination and are denied equality so as to develop appropriate strategies to eliminate such discrimination.

Addressing women’s rights should never be a secondary matter, but a constant priority.

Important gaps remain despite the work of feminists and women’s realities are changing with new manifestations of discrimination against them emerging on a daily basis.

The Lebanese society will not succeed in overcoming its myriad crises through limited actions targeting symptoms, or by doing nothing. It won’t succeed if it does not take into account the intersecting forms of discrimination. It must pioneer new types of governance that allow and encourage people to move from idolatry (patriarchy as an idol, the zaim as an idol, the messianic figure or the hero as an idol) to iconoclasm/desacralisation, and to develop qualitatively different types of relationships with nature itself and with each other.

Respecting our nature and preserving it and insisting on transparency and accountability, come hand in hand with respecting one another as human beings, with sharing responsibilities and promoting fairness among all of us.

Sure, it is not an easy task. There should be a serious reconsideration of the most premises of our legal, political and economic orders, and our cultural order and social norms as well. Many are required to enlarge their understanding of ‘value’ (value of a human being, value of nature, value of diversity, value of change…), to expand their sense of human rights and how these rights can serve strategic as well as moral purposes.

In a previous article (Is Lebanon Ready for a Revolution?), I argued that there is the deeper issue of whether the Lebanese society in its large majority is ready to crawl from under the trash and save what is left of its country.

Much will depend on our individual and collective, disparate, irregularly connected but certainly continuous initiatives in Lebanon and the Lebanese diaspora, on our abilities to articulate and foster coherent new paradigms of citizenship. Grassroots movements, NGOs, artists, academics, virtual activists… flourishing on the periphery of the mainstream political spheres, are all encouraging signs.

Each seeks in its own way to address the many serious deficiencies of our system of governance. For all their power and potential, however, none of these individuals and movements or their visions can prevail without recognizing each other’s struggles, building bridges between their ivory towers and ultimately, grounding their work in laws.

As I said it before, Lebanon’s road from denizenship to citizenship is long, winding and full of detours. We (as the sum of our scattered “I”s called to become interdependent) will get there eventually.

What kinds of a Revolution the Lebanese are Ready for?

Why do many Lebanese let themselves and their country be buried under trash?

Why is the general worldview/behavior – except for few individuals and movements who are trying to deconstruct it – quietist, conformist, and ostrich or zombie like?

Why isn’t there a collective upheaval that would gather all Lebanese?

Is Lebanon ready for a revolution?

These are questions my Lebanese and non-Lebanese students ask, questions I keep on asking myself, questions that do not lend themselves to an easy answer, but engaging with them may facilitate critical assessment of the prospects for a sustainable change.

I will certainly not implicate myself in entrenching the neo-orientalist/neo-colonialist caricature of Southwestern Asian societies as incapable of self-government, and Southwestern Asian populations as uncivilized and backward, with a genetic pool incapable of mutation, stuck in mythical dark ages.

One answer could be the following, as Patricio Aylwin Azocar states:

“Ordinary men and women may often feel unmotivated to exert their citizenship, either because they cannot tell the difference between the different alternatives, or because they have lost faith in the political classes, or because they feel that the really important issues are not in their power to decide”.

A second answer could be the deification of the political party, the sectarian community and the zaim.  (Actually all the Zaims have shrines)

As the well-known poet Adonis described it:

“the sacralisation that colors and creeps into politics, turning parliamentarians, ministers and other public servants into demi-gods, their ideologies into gospels and political parties into sects. Indeed, over the past decades, the legacy of multiple wars in Lebanon, including hypermnesia, and paradoxically the tabula rasa mentality and national strategy, have produced in the minds of a good many Lebanese the illusion that somehow “somebody” – the warlord, the zaim, the political party, the sectarian community/belonging – but not the State (or the embodiment of the common management of our diversity), can provide for ALL needs (if not now, certainly in the future)…”

So why make much effort to fulfill what used to be considered in practice (or are considered in the Constitution) the responsibilities of any citizen?

When human beings become ICONS, such as most Lebanese political leaders and public figures, they cultivate and entrench political iconolatry, and that iconolatry is internalized by the common people.

A third answer could be agoraphobia, or the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone: the home, the family, the job, the religious institution, the past with its glories or painful memories, and even, the trash.

This type of phobia is like a prison of one’s own making with invisible lines that cannot be crossed. People who are afraid become permanently disabled, dependent on others’ assistance.

Where does this fear come from? Non-formal and formal education, media propaganda, traumas in the domestic sphere and war traumas…

Other answers could be easily defined and added.

The outcome would still be the same: a national disaster.

However, the time is not yet for defeatism. “If beyond hopelessness there is hope, I am hopeful” (Elias Khoury).

Hope because even if I believe most Lebanese are not ready for a revolution when this revolution is thought as a general upheaval à la Française or an Arab Spring type of revolution or even a Gandhi style revolution, change-making has already started.

Indeed, agents of dialogue, non-governmental organizations, academics, artists and activists, in Lebanon and in the Lebanese diaspora, have been contributing since the 1990s to raising awareness about the necessity of reforming the social-political system and of finding solutions to numerous crises such as the economic, environmental, cultural…

They have already started the desacralisation process.

(Mainly the militia leaders such as Nabih Berry, Walid Jumblat, Rafic Hariri, Samir Gea3ja3… who are still in control and ruling this rotten system)

What we are witnessing nowadays in Lebanon is one of the many physical manifestations of this desacralisation.

The next step would be to continue on expanding the process, while always keeping in mind the necessity of building dialogue platforms.

Desacralisation does not mean ‘getting rid of the iconodules, agoraphobics, ostriches and zombies’, but building alternatives (ideas and practices) where a unity in a diversity of voices would be reached.

Pushing someone who isn’t ready for change is traumatizing. It is neither successful nor humane. The contrary of building strength within and encouraging exploration that feels wanted and welcome when time arrives.

Street protests are certainly a must, but aren’t enough.

Non-formal and formal education should accompany the demonstrations, and short-term expectations should be coupled with long-term ones.

For the majority of Lebanese to understand what is the value of change, to be able to heal their wounds, to stop cushioning themselves against the rawness of life by staying in controlled boxes ‘safe’ from unwanted intrusion, to choose challenge and the unknown over the known, and to embrace constructive discomfort, time, patience, and multiple continuous knowledge productions and acts for peace, justice and equality are needed.

Lebanon’s road from denizenship (chattel mentality in practice) to citizenship is long, winding and full of detours.

We’ll get there eventually!

Note: What alternative worthy values may unite us? https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/do-we-lack-a-unified-identity-what-the-big-deal/


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October 2020
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