The state ... isn't - or shouldn't be - something separate from and in charge of those who are subject to its laws (i.e. citizens). Rather it is the collective agent of the citizens, who decide what its laws are. So the question of how the state should treat
its citizens is that of how we, as citizens, should treat one another.
This quote is from the introduction of a book I'm required to read as part of my ethics class in Public Policy. The title is Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians. It struck me so much because it is so relevant to
On the first level, there is this notion of state as "a collective agent of citizen" rather than "something separate from and in charge of those who are subject to its laws." The sense I get from most Lebanese is their belief that the state SHOULD be an entity that is separate from society, as a means of protecting Lebanese from themselves - i.e. from the "evils" of sectarianism, nepotism, etc.... Citizens demand that the state become a collection of institutions that is technocratic and fair even though they themselves are not so, and even worse, do not desire to be so!
I see the Tayyar el Wattani as the perfect manifestation of such a movement. Their main goal is to isolate the state from society and protect it from the negative influences of society so that it may become effective and just. Of course, considering that it is much easier to mold a state than it is to mold society, I can totally understand their rationale. Moreover, I can understand the appeal of a military man as the leader of this project. The army is the ultimate bureaucracy. It is the most powerful state entity that is given the authority to forcefully eliminate any outside influences that would threaten its chain of command and ability to accomplish its objectives.
The danger of course is that if the state does not reflect society, then it will not respond to society's needs, but rather to the individual or collective that controls it. The developing world is filled with such states - states that are increasingly being referred to as "failed states" because of their inability to maintain stability and any sense of order within their internationally recognized boundaries.
On the other hand, we can look at East Asia for examples of states which, in my opinion, are "separate from and in charge of those who are subject to its laws," yet remain (in certain senses) legitimate in the eyes of the societies and individuals under their control and are more than able to maintain order within their territory. What is so different about these states? Can the model of development they went through be applied to the
Now lets go back to a section of the quote that, in my opinion, is the most relevant for Lebanon as we see it today.
"So the question of how the state should treat its citizens is that of how we, as citizens, should treat one another."
This quote is so profound for the Lebanese context! There is simply no comparison! Let me make it clear: the
My advice to the Tayyar el Wattani is to reshape their strategy because they are fighting a loosing battle. The only way they can win is by committing, or at least, supporting a grass roots campaign to change the attitudes of the average Lebanese and teach them the modern principles of citizenship and social justice among others. I will close with another quote that I find extremely relevant.
The state is a coercive instrument. It has various means - police, courts, prisons - of getting people to do what it says, whether they like it or not, whether they approve or disapprove of its decisions. Political philosophy, then, is a very specific subset of moral philosophy, and one where the stakes are particularly high. It's not just about what people ought to do, it's about what people are morally permitted, and sometimes, morally required, to make each other do.
We need Lebanese citizens to be aware of the philosophy that is the foundation of the modern citizen and state. Although technically and culturally savvy, Lebanese, as individuals, are too ignorant of these principles. They look at the superficial aspects of "Western" society/state and seek to emulate without going to the core - or rather the religion - that makes "the West" what it is today.