Break the chains

Executive Magazine - - Editorial - Yasser Akkaoui Ed­i­tor-in-chief

Watch­ing the fifth mas­quer­ade of na­tional elec­tions since my re­turn to Le­banon, I can­not help but re­call Amin Maalouf’s mas­ter­piece, “The Rock of Tan­ios.” In Maalouf’s tale there is an Ot­toman sheikh of a moun­tain vil­lage who col­lects taxes and re­cruits the able to fight the em­pire’s wars. In re­turn for his al­le­giance to the em­pire, he has his priv­i­leges. While the young men of the vil­lage go off to die in bat­tle, the sheikh stays be­hind, keep­ing part of the tax wealth for him­self and feel­ing en­ti­tled to pur­sue the par­ish’s women. He robs what few pos­ses­sions a man owns: wealth, life, honor, and dig­nity. The most as­ton­ish­ing plot twist is when Roukos, the self-ex­iled, vir­tu­ous, and de­cent man, re­turns to his na­tive vil­lage to de­throne the sheikh, re­turn the stolen wealth, and pro­tect the vil­lagers’ dig­nity, only to find the vil­lagers up­set over their sheikh’s hu­mil­i­a­tion and cry­ing out for his re­turn.

Noth­ing il­lus­trates our re­al­ity as much as this scene. Sim­i­lar to feu­dal life, our politi­cians con­tinue to in­sult our dig­nity, steal our wealth, send us to fight for­eign wars, or push us to into self-ex­ile through em­i­gra­tion. Faced with such in­dig­ni­ties, some choose clien­telism and be­come de­pen­dent on the of­fered crumbs, while oth­ers choose to work in­de­fati­ga­bly to safe­keep their in­tegrity. Yet come what may, ev­ery elec­tion we cry out for the re­turn of our feu­dal lords.

What is be­wil­der­ing is the pre­dictabil­ity of fate, and how eas­ily history re­peats it­self. To­day, we still live on hand­outs from for­eign na­tions who spon­sor a failed state that has never man­aged to grasp the idea of sovereignty or un­der­stand the con­cept of sus­tain­abil­ity.

As much as we want to be­lieve that the re­quired re­forms are the con­di­tion to de­ploy­ing CEDRE funds, at the end of the day it does not take half a brain to re­al­ize that these agen­das are not aligned. The cred­i­tors’ re­lease of the funds—which is bound to hap­pen—is tied to when it serves their in­ter­ests and not our gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to re­form. The $4.4 bil­lion pledged at the Brus­sels II refugee donor con­fer­ence un­cov­ers the ra­tio­nale be­hind the $11 bil­lion in Paris. By peg­ging the CEDRE loans to the Syr­ian cri­sis Le­banon is left solely re­spon­si­ble for the over 1 mil­lion Syr­ian refugees in the coun­try, some­thing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is happy to al­low. There is noth­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian about it.

Elec­tions are a week from when this magazine goes to print. We re­main ever hope­ful that the Le­banese will break free from their hered­i­tary bad habits and re­al­ize what they are trad­ing: their wealth, life, honor, and dig­nity. Only then can we break free of our chains and change the fate of com­ing gen­er­a­tions.

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