All Lebanese Are Being Taken for a Ride to Nowhere
The following Publisher’s Letter was written for the September, 2007 edition of Arabad. The reason why this specific piece is being used once more, is quite simple. It’s because, since then, the exact situation still applies, and perfectly so!
By the time anyone but an unfortunate editor reads these words, Lebanon’s squabbling politicians may have struck a deal that ends the power struggle between the government and the opposition. Or they may remain locked in a pointless contest neither can really win.
No matter: Whatever the condition of the country today, its political class has so thoroughly discredited itself that only its full and permanent departure from the scene can make a difference in the long term. Never has a land with so much potential been reduced to such abject penury and profound instability, all because its “leaders” are not up to the tasks of delivery boys, let alone statesmen.
Let’s face it: From most audiences, the vast majority of them can no longer claim to represent Lebanese interests. The speeches they make seem disconnected from reality, as though they lack the slightest awareness of the hardships confronting most of their compatriots.
Perhaps most unsettling is the unquestioning credulousness of their respective followers. Even the slimiest Lebanese politician does not fear exposure and may even benefit from it. Why? Because most of his supporters are bound to him by blood or tribal loyalty, not ideological affinity. They might jump ship because another Zaim pays better bribes and/or adopts a more hateful stance toward other tribes, but disappointment and outrage are not in the popular lexicon. And so, since being found out as a crook will cause the politician no noticeable damage, a smart one can turn it to his advantage by pleading persecution at the hands of his nefarious opponents.
This impregnable mind-set is perhaps the ultimate revenge of the various foreign meddlers who have tried and failed to absorb or control this part of the world. By various means and mechanisms, both direct and indirect, the people now known as the Lebanese have been systematically prevented from developing anything like a collective sense of who or what they are. To the extent that numerous versions of Lebanese “nationalism” do exist, they are always defined by what Lebanon is not, rather than what it is. Partly, this is because each version has its own set of foreign sponsors whose local minions are loathe to acknowledge their reliance on outside funding and support.
The result is a sad parody of politics. Unless the pawns can be made to understand what is happening to them and what they are being duped into doing, the situation in Lebanon will probably grow much, much worse.