Monday, November 20, 2006

charging up...

I can feel it from here. The fear. The venom. The hatred. I can hear the vitriol in the privacy of homes - it's so loud, it deafens me. If Lebanese were not polarized already, then today, after the speeches given by two of the country's top henchmen, there is no question about it. Druze, Shi'ites, Sunnis and Maronites, cluster together in ever-tighter circles. People ask each other whether they have armed themselves. Wait... what am I saying? They asked themselves that question almost a year ago... . I remember.

"God damn those Shi'as..."

"Those Druze are not even worth my slippers..."

"Who do those spineless Sunnis think they are?"

"We can finish those brutish Maronites..."

The ugly, raw Lebanon gradually rises to the surface as the icing falls off the rotten cake. Yet even if Lebanon manages to avoid stumbling into full-fledged violence this year, or the next, or a decade from now, the country's arrival to this point tears me apart. The fact that people allow themselves to be dragged to this point, embitters me even more.

But who am I kidding? These people... these non-individuals, face a tyranny of the majority that I doubt John Stuart Mill ever contended with. The power of the sect over the individual, I have come to realize, can only be overcome by flight. Lebanon, apparently, only supports sects. It remains as hospitable to individuals as the atmosphere of Mars is to life. And when the sect says you hate, you hate. When it says you like, you like. And lastly, when it tells you to fight, you fight.


Doha said...

I remember myself back in AUB some 8 years ago. I thought that individuals can make a difference and that sectarianism is something of the past.

Little did I know that we're still where we are and yes, just like you said Raja, those who do not fit obviously leave the country.

It pains me and tears me apart to think that the Lebanese are still up for taking up arms and killing each other for the sect. How can we still be up for that after all those years of fear and death.

But guess what? The Lebanese do not need to fight, they can simply "sectarianally" profile you and that equally hurts.

As the days pass, I find myself joining the millions of what I call, the Lebanese "vagabonds". Those who could not fit into one category, of the nicely-stacked categories back home.

My Lebanon, I figured at last, might just be my Lebanon, an illusion of my mind and heart.

Solomon2 said...

The power of the sect over the individual, I have come to realize, can only be overcome by flight.

What other approaches have you tried?

le maronite said...

My family saw this back in 1958 and left Lebanon in 1961. You need to ask yourself a very deep and personal question, "Is this place, are these people worth my life? my family's lives?" My dad left Lebanon at the age of 48 - not a young man. After so many years of being beaten down, he felt the risks of starting new in a completely foreign place were far lower than the risks to his family's lives and livelihoods in Lebanon. A decision that the family is all thankful for.

Faysal said...

Hello guys,

I share your disdain for the secterianism of the Lebanese. I share your frustration at all that is going on.

However, it's easy to feel sorry for ourselves and blame it all on secterianism. The truth is, what is happening today is about much more than that. The country is at a crossroads and to make a very complex story short, there are two major groups in the country who want to take it in very different directions. You do not have to take a side, but to say that the Lebanese are simply intent on killing one another over sect is facile and intellectually dishonest. This is about politics and yes, there is a secterian element, but to write it all off as sectarianism makes both sides' positions equally distasteful, and I can't agree with that.

Doha said...


the problem is that at once this is how the debate was coined. That the country is at a crossroads, between it being part of the international community or part of an Iranian-Syrian axis(that is cozy to Cuba, Venezuela and the likes). or between having the Lebanese state get engaged in an aggressive foreign/military policy (vis-a-vis Israel) with its poeple mobilized as "resistance forces" and having the Lebanese state focus on other economic/social policies with a more pluralistic feel.

However, the problem is that this sort of debate quickly disintegrates and gets tainted with sectarianism. For example, someone calling for a "non-resisting" Lebanese state might quickly be called as anti-Shiite, even when that is not the case or even the issue.

We all know that the political divides in Lebanon are not purely based on sects. Within the anti-Syrian and the pro-Syrian camps, you have a sectarian mix. But this is exactly a deja-vu of when the civil war broke out in the '70s. You had folks killing each other over their sect and over their political leanings and ideologies. Except this time around it's not the Palestinian question that will break the camel's back, but perhaps that idealogical crossroads you alluded to.

Faysal said...


I can't say I disagree with that. You are making a somewhat more subtle point than Raja's above. In 1975, the war started over ideological issues and then degenerated into sectarian murder. I have a feeling this could happen again and in this sense you're right. I just don't think that is the nature of the confrontation at this stage, that's all.

I hope it stays that way. If people are going to fight, I would much rather it be over ideas than identity cards.

R said...

I don't know what to say really to the proposition that the sect takes precedence over the country. It is most probably true in Lebanon. It is probably also true that many (most?) politicians and parties on either side are corrupt or sometimes worse...
But the question that begs an answer here is whether or not it is "morally" legitimate to not take sides. More clearly stated, are both sides equally bad? and if not, should we be invested in the lesser of two evils winning? Can we afford to be indifferent to the fate of Lebanon, and then complain that it did not turn out as we please.
I think that taking a "third path" to the two main ones in this case is not only naive, but counterproductive. The lines have been drawn and the POLITICAL battle will be waged. That however, does not take away from the possibility of aligning with one side but not integrating into the herd mentality. I think that is where I naturally find myself inclined to be. In the march 14 camp, with reservations.

Doha said...

ay, ay, in the march 14 camp, with reservations...i've taken my side.

Jordan said...

Does everyone believe conflict is inevatable? Is there no way out without giving Hezbollah control over the government?

If Lebanon ignites again, its best and brightest citizens will never come back. Lebanon will lose its liberal spirit.

Faysal said...

Count me in on "March 14, with reservations"

T. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lirun said...

we are not far behind you in israel.. in many ways under the layer of democracy you find brutal sectarianism only thinly coated with constitutional freedoms that do nothing more than decorate a severe disregard for the individual..

we too live in a challenging country.. i - as a dual citizen/national - often consider life abroad and the alternatives that stand before me and i remind myself that overseas i wont make a difference to anyone.. but in my homeland i can try to improve and better things..

please keep this in mind.. lebanon needs you..

wishing you peace

Solomon2 said...

the problem is that at once this is how the debate was coined.

Why can't you change the terms of the debate, arguing that X question isn't important, but Y should be asked instead?

Mr. Smarterthanyou said...

Flight is the first option? I guess that is the French influence speaking volumes.

So we have Lebanese who are the most unhappy with the situation leaving the country to those who are keeping it in chaos. Then, from confortable western perches, tell western nations to solve the problem.

That is not the answer.

If your country is run by thugs, or you have thugs trying to take it over, fight like hell, don't run away.

Anonymous said...