Saturday, May 07, 2005

the complexity of Lebanese politics

the complexity of Lebanese politics seems to be boundless.... For anyone trying to read the political landscape there, the ability to grasp so many conflicting forces can sometimes be overwhelming. The few that come to my mind are:

- Tradition vs. Modernity
- Family vs. Family
- Coast vs. Mt Lebanon
- Bekaa vs. Jabal Amel
- poor vs. privelaged
- Maronite vs. Druze
- Sunni vs. Shi'a
- Rural vs. Urban
- Tripoli vs. Beirut vs. Saida
- Arab vs. Lebanese
- Religious vs. Secular
- etc....

Every conflict among politicians in Lebanon is, in essense, a unique cocktail of two or more of the conflicts listed above. It is left to the observer to decipher which cocktail is relevant to a specific conflict because although some of its elements are made explicit, others are not. In some cases, the politicians portray their duel as something that it is not - therefore making it that much harder to grasp.

This beadth of issues and forces is, in my humble opinion, one of the main reasons Lebanese have turned "politics-watching" into a national past-time. So much appears to be at stake for everyone! A good indicator that supports this argument is the fact that the evening news is probably the most popular television show offered by the local television stations.

I will limit this post to stating these observations. However, it is worthwhile to note that the price paid for what some may consider to be such a "rich and engaging" political discourse is always high, and in certain periods of our history, intollerably so.


reem said...


It's interesting that all the conflicting forces you mentioned are related to identity (they are either at the level of the individual, like family and sect, or at the spatial level like rural/urban). Although, like you said, they can be combined in different ways and produce complex conflicts, they do not really lend themselves to a healthy and rich political discourse. Looking at other countries where such an engaging and dynamic discourse exists, what can be identified as are the main components that come into play? In the British general elections -which was just last week- some the topics that generated most of the debates were: a more or less open immigration policy, taxation, more or less government regulation, pensions and the social health services, etc...I don't know if I am going on a tangeant, but somehow it seems the whole political discourse cannot be described in the same terms at all as what you described for Lebanon Raja. Perhaps these issues can really play center stage in politics once the identity issue has been dealt with...
I might have been trying to make comparisons where no comparisons can or should be made...

Doha said...


I agree with what you said, but I would like to add that issues of identity will never fade away. Such issues still exist in the most developed of countries, like Canada and whether the Quebecois think they're Quebecois or Canadian, for instance. What needs to happen in Lebanon is to basically SURPASS AND OVERCOME the identity debates to move towards debating issues that you mentioned, namely ones based on policy choices. The million-dollar question is: how to do that?

Raja said...


while reading your comment I couldn't help but smile. i felt that i was reading my own words!

recall that in my post I described the political discourse in the following terms:

"what some may consider to be such a 'rich and engaging' political discourse"

Rest assured, I'm not one of those who are impressed by what they see! I guess you could call this excercize an attempt to articulate what is happening in Lebaonon... that's all.

Solomon2 said...

Identity, not ideas as in political philosophy. Dangerous, the stuff race wars are made of. But Lebanon has had enough of that, so are Lebanese politicians seeking another route? The successful ones, I mean?

Raja said...

they say they are, solomon. I don't see anything happening unless at least some segments of Lebanese society shove some sense into them.