Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘zaim

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?

Note: The role of opposition and allied political parties to the government have been reversed shortly after this article.

Big Rodents Leading the Assault for Mother Freedom (March 1, 2005)

In the last two weeks, since the assassination of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on February 14, a milestone achievement was won in Lebanon.

Every night, thousands were converging to Downtown Beirut to mourn at the tomb of Prime Minister Hariri in the Place of Martyrs.  Every Monday, thousands were gathering there to demonstrate and protest.  The Lebanese people want to know who assassinated Hariri, nine of his bodyguards and counselors, ten bystanders and about a hundred civilian injured in a road blast.

The people want effective, impartial and speedy investigation in the matter.  The political leaders of the opposition refuse to do political business as usual until the perpetrators are divulged.  The people refuse to do business or are forced to shut down their stores. In fact, Lebanon is becoming a poor country and much so lately and no refreshing indications are pointing to any economical recovery. The people are duplicating the Ukrainian example by constant presence and persistent political pressures.

This Monday, February 30th, the students from various universities slept overnight in Downtown Beirut in order to circumvent the order of the Minister of the Interior, Suleiman Frangieh, to ban any demonstrations and gathering the next morning. By day break, they peacefully forced the lines of the Army units barring entrances to Beirut and flocked by the thousands to encircle the Chamber of Deputies.  The Chamber was summoned to ask the Cabinet one question: “Who assassinated Hariri?”

After the interrogation in the Chamber of Deputies, the current Prime Minister, Omar Karame, was to submit to a vote of confidence. The main slogan was: “We want our freedom, self determination and independence from the Syrian tutelage”.  A few of the corollary slogans were: “Syrian troops out of Lebanon”, “Syrian intelligence services out of Lebanon”, “Down with the Lebanese heads of intelligence services and all security agencies”, “The resignation of the shadow government” and “Bachar Assad is nominee” which means that the Syrian President should be next to go.  The only flag raised was the Lebanese flag which helped mollify the orders of the Lebanese army and internal security units to disperse demonstrators and provided a common denominator to all political factions.

The morning session of the House of Representatives saw many deputies taking full advantage of this climate of freedom and popular support.  They delivered speeches that crossed all the red lines in political discourse, euphemisms in coded words and taboos statements since 1991.  They were about to divulge details about the perfidies, machinations, threats and mafia dealings among the Syrian and Lebanese biggest rodents of the public funds.  The evening session climaxed by the resignation speech of the prime minister along with his whole Cabinet members.  It was rumored that he was the last one among the powerful ministers to be conveyed the order for the resignation of the government.

The main question now is: “What next?” The opposition is demanding a neutral government to prepare a free election for the House of Representative in mid April. Who ever heard of any neutral government?  How any neutral government can function if indeed the real and de facto government is in the hands of the security and intelligence forces?  The only option for the opposition forces in order to secure its credibility is the pressuring of the President of the Republic, General Emile Lahoud, to step down.

It is clear to all Lebanese that the security and stability of Lebanon is based on a free, democratic and stable Syria.  Until that development happens, Lebanon is in for a dangerous and very uncertain phase in its political life regardless of the vocal supports from the United States, France, the United Nations, Egypt or even Saudi Arabia.

This is a very exiting moment that we are experiencing but the nagging question remains: Lebanon was suffering many infamies and the same humiliations for many years under the same and current deputies, political leaders and ministers who are now in the opposition but used to be part and parcel of the same régime for many years before they were removed from the current government. In fact, our House of Representatives itself, elected by the Lebanese, was indeed assassinated several times in grotesque circumstances. Under the two Hariri governments which included many of the current opposition leaders several human rights laws were enacted and rescinded the next day by the same deputies by orders from Syria. For example, the procedures for legally arresting citizens are a case in point.  Not only freedom was banished but self determination was blatantly and ignominiously trampled without major protests.

Isn’t a tangible act for freedom more important than a general notion of freedom?

Isn’t a heroic stand for self determination of the highest power in the land more important than a general concept of self determination? Since when did political leaders attempt to rationally explain complicated matters to their supporters in order to show their strengths? All they had to do was to galvanize their supporters under the banners of freedom, self determination and independence from Syria in order to gather as many demonstrators as today.

So, what gives that the same leaders are so much more conscious about freedom and self determination after the assassination of a former prime minister? In fact, several months earlier, a failed attempt at the life of an opposition deputy was perpetrated; His body guard died and the deputy was in serious health conditions. Why no major demonstrations for investigating the attempted assassination were called for and political pressures not activated?

It seems that a dozen of big rodents who were devouring large holes in the cheese of our public funds and who were left out in the cold were relying on Hariri’s funding of the opposition to refill the shortages in their resources. Now that the alternative funding was assassinated the options were limited and drastic. If a political leader (zaim) is faced with the two alternatives of choosing between physical threats on his life or the cutting of funding, I have no doubts that the latter option is by far the less dangerous and less damaging to his life.

I agree with Deputy Walid Jumblatt, a leader of the minority Druze sect and speaking for the opposition, that the new generation of Lebanese youth who did not experience the long and protracted civil war has dreams that do not match the views of the traditional political parties and their leaders. The new generation does not want to be associated with the infamies and atrocities committed by their predecessors.  They care less for the sectarian rationales and little minded behaviors that drove their predecessors to eliminate one another and crawl safely into their own stuffy and narrow cantons.

The social and political climates are different and the instinct of survival of the new generation is forcing issues that the traditional local and regional powers prefer to be dormant as long as possible. The new generation is ready to accept any foreign support and aid in order to bypass this stagnant environment that is killing any opportunities for progress and self development.  The perception of the new generation is that if the old guards of Lebanon political system, including the opposition, are left to decide for its status then priorities will not change that much.  For now, freedom, self determination and independence, why not?  Next, what are the dreams and objectives of the new generation?  Would they like to have civil marriage enacted as the law of the land?  Would they like to have greater job openings and affordable lodging in order to gain the first step toward independence? Are they claiming decentralization of the administration?  Are they seeking to abolish all kinds of discrimination on the basis of origins, sects, sex, race and physical handicaps in jobs, education, and government functions?

The old guard would like to have quickly an inefficient neutral government to perpetrate the status quo.  They would like to have, pronto, a huge piece of the pie now and fast.  They are used to always have a piece of the pie regardless of the shape, form and content of the government.  Would the new generation fall in the trap again, like the previous generations, for quick relief in the political system with no pain and hard sacrifices or a new spirit is born that is not ready to take dictates from the conventional political leaders? The new generation has to organize itself and decide for themselves what they want and what should be the next steps from this critical impasse that can decide the future of Lebanon in the coming two decades.




February 2023

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