In response to all of this hubbub, I felt the urge articulate in a very concise fashion what I think is unique about Lebanon. When one is under siege, it pays to look within to discover what his or her real streangths are. In fact, in doing so, I will paraphrase none other than the Afandi at Across the Bay:
Lebanese are unique in the Middle East because we manage to live with our differences, rather than deny that they exist.
Tony goes on to say that the desires for secularism and "a united Lebanese voice" are misdirected and even dangerous because they essentially sum up to a desire to emulate the political systems of our Arab neighbors. I agree with Tony on this issue. I agree with him fully. Lebanese are so comfortable under their sectarian skin that it sickens me! However, from a political stand point there could be no healthier situation.
I am very aware of the recurring nature of this debate. In fact, I am quite sure that bloggers will keep it alive as I lay on my death bed (hopefully, at least 50 years from now). But, in the interest of elevating the discourse by a notch or two I will make the following recommendations concerning political sectarianism in Lebanon:
- We, as Lebanese, should not think that all of Lebanon's problems will go away when we all "speak with one voice" as a secular Lebanese community. Even when all of us become agnostic, we will still have differences and perceive different "Lebanese interests."
Rather than strive for a politically immature ideal, we should all strive to accept two principles: 1) respect of the will of the majority and (paradoxically) 2) respect of specific minority rights. When Lebanese understand that breaking the will of the majority is a sacrilege (on condition that minority rights are respected), we will all be in political heaven. Democracy is key. The democratic process defines us as a country and is our country's salvation.
- I am also aware of the popular adage that claims that Lebanon has not achieved its economic potential because of sectarian politics and all the baggage that our political system brings with it. My response is simple: The political system is too valuable to dispose of because it is the guarantor of Lebanon's integrity. Therefore, rather than get rid of it, we should strive to diminish its influence.
Markets should play a larger role in decisions pertaining to allocation of resources. Lebanese should arrive at a consensus to immunize certain governing decisions from politics (more bubbles such as that which currently protects the Central Bank should be created). Once these oases of policy are created, the state will become more effective, and will help enlarge the Lebanese Pie rather than simply act as a conduit for distributing the existing one.