Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Visualization of Lebanon

Posted by Hello

Okay, I'm not as good as Beirut Spring, but what can I say? At least I tried!!! Please click on the picture to get a larger version of the chart.

What I tried to convey through this chart is, simply put, the "make up" of Lebanon - or in Arabic, "tirkeebit Libnan". Society in the right, political elite in the middle and the state in the left. There are several points that I wanted make:

1. The circles represent only a small selection of the communities in Lebanon. The dark green is supposed to represent the socio-economic elite, and the yellow is basically every body else (don't read into the size of the green; it doesn't mean anything). Every single one of these communities is slightly different in its social and religious norms. Two variables have to be taken into consideration: religion and traditions. Every single community has its own unique combination of tradition and religion: their own formula for social order. I see no problem with that at all, and hence you could say that I see no problem with "sectarianism." The caveat is that people don't try to impose their own formula on me, and that the state provides a protected haven for those of us who would like another community in Lebanon: the secular cosmopolitan community. Unfortunately, both of these conditions are very far from being met. The danger of people calling for an elimination of "sectarianism," for example, is that they are calling for other Lebanese to conform to their own notion of social order without consciously being aware of it.

2. The political elite section by no means represents all the politicians/political forces in the country - it is a small sample. The main point to take out of it is that the overwhelming majority of interaction that takes place between politicians and the sectarian communities is the unhealthy patron-client relationship. The communities support the sectarian system for two reasons: (1) they depend too much on the politicians for essentials of daily life (2) they fear that other sects have the intention of imposing their own notions of social order on the entire country, and ultimately on them. This fear is, of course, encouraged, or at least, not discouraged by the political elite.

3. Finally, the state is the sliver platter from which politicians distribute their "gifts". Politicians' gifts include such things as: a seat in any academic institution in the country, deferral of utility bills, deferral of tax-payments, and all other ridiculous bits of minutia. When the state no longer plays that role, its raison d’etre evaporates, politicians withdraw their support from it, and it breaks down.

PLEASE: Don't hesitate to criticize. This model is far from perfect, and I am fully aware that it can be built on. A good example of a shortcomming of the model is that I failed to address the relationship among the different members of the country's political elite. Had I done that, then there would be no avoiding the intervention of foreign powers in domestic politics. I am sure there are a lot more ways the model can be improved; however, keep in mind that models are inherently general and do not necessarily account for details.


Firas said...

Both you and Beirut Spring post online delights. You have a fan. Sallim dayyatkon.

Doha said...


Thank you for your efforts on attempting to draw up a model that makes sense of the socio-political order in Lebanon. I give you an A+ on your finals :)

But really, your talk on the state being the platter from which politicians distribute their gifts goes back to a comment I once wrote on the budget process.

One more faction you forgot to mention under the Lebanese politicans category, particularly within the Sunni box, are the Islamists. Islamists make up several disparate groups in Lebanon, some prominent and some not anymore, but they exist and represent a considerable constituency.

Maya said...

I like your blog. You have some interesting stuff. Hope you enjoy your stay in Lebanon. Will you get a chance to vote? You know, in reference to your blog entry about Lebanese abroad to play a vital role in Lebanon's "reconstruction". I think it would be critical to create an "association of Lebanese" with branches in major cities of the world. Untiy is what makes a nation strong. If we can stick together, help each other, influence foreign governments regarding their policies about Lebanon, attract investors etc. These are the things we need to do! Further, an "Association of Lebanese" could also help out fello citizens who move to a foreign country to adapt, make friends, find a place to live etc. etc. Any suggestions? please visit my blog and leave comments! (by the way, I'll be adding a link to your blog from mine coz I enjoyed reading your stuff!)