Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is the R E A L problem with the Lebanese, politically speaking ?

It is a question I have been asking myself for quite some time now.
I still do actually, even though I am beginning to have what seems to be a start of a complete answer.
I will expose my opinion about what I think the real problem with the lebanese is, politically speaking. Again, it is my own opinion, and I invite you to write yours, always in the same spirit, as the famous french writer Voltaire once said:

"Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je défendrai jusqu'à la mort le droit que vous avez de le dire" ( I do not agree with you, but until I die I will defend your right to state your opinion) (I chose to write it also in french for the french readers, and be it also a small wink to a journalist who I hope will recognize herself).

It begins like this: the Lebanese have been living for too long under corrupt regimes, and in an unhealthy atmosphere.
With the Syrians out, and Hizbullah (HA) under the international community's microscop, it is getting better, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, I fear.

The Lebanese are used to vote according to their own interests, and not that of their country. They are not to blame; had they done otherwise they would have starved to death, of worse, been left to rot in some dark jail cell.

"I vote for this man because he promised he would get my son out of prison", or "I vote for that man because he promised me he would pay for my medical treatment I so much need", are sentences that you could hear during the syrian occupation of Lebanon, and probably still now, in some villages.
For you see, habits are very difficult to get rid of.....

But, the story doesn't end here..
The most dangerous aspect of this is, the Lebanese have somehow developped what I like to call the "personality cult" towards their leaders.
It is not excluded to hear a supporter of mister X say: "Mister X is really a great man, the Lebanese do not deserve him !"..
Let me repeat that: "the Lebanese do not deserve him !".....

Yes, in Lebanon, it is up to the people to be to the liking of their leaders.. and not the other way around.

After my 3 posts about Aoun (which you can still read on my blog), I got a lot of mail, and comments, even messages from friends, telling me: "You know what, you are really mean, and you do not understand anything about politics, and most of all, you do not deserve General Michel Aoun !". I will spare you the less polite mails.

Sad, really..

Let's examine the situation of Aoun precisely in more details. Yes I liked a lot the hate mails I was receiving, so why change a winning horse ?
For as long as I can remember, Aoun was always an outspoken opposer of Syria, and the occupation of Lebanon. This earned him an enormous popular support, especially among the christians.
Upon his return from exile in 2005, and for a few months following that, he kept the same stance, criticizing harshly HA's "state within a state", and claiming loud and clear that "no weapons should be left outside the LAF's hands" (LAF=Lebanese Armed Forces).

His supporters, and I must admit I was among those, were extatic and opposed HA in every way and on every occasion.

But than, Aoun changed stances radically (without getting into the details of why).
OVERNIGHT, the Aounists became best friends with HA, their "natural allies".......
For those of you who are familiar with George Orwell's "1984", doesn't that remind you of anything ?
Why did the Aounists react in such a manner ?
Simply because of the Personality Cult that leaders in Lebanon install on their followers.

For you see, the Aounists do not agree on Aoun's ideas, they agree on Aoun himself. Big difference.

And for those who see politics differently (yours truly), and who stopped supporting Aoun after he stopped speaking in their name, they are faced with the 2 magic sentences:
- "You are not worthy of Aoun"
- "He knows what he is doing, he is more intelligent and aware than us, for he is the leader"

I myself resent that, hence my stance today.
Apparently, and fortunately, I am far from being the only one.
A friend, who was an Aounist, told me that there is starting to be a difference between Aounists and LFPM members (LFPM is Aoun's party).

With HA giving cash money to the refugees who lost their homes, I'm afraid the phenomenon lives on.

As long as there will be this personality cult in Lebanon, and as long as the majority of the people will try to be up to their leaders' expectations, instead of judging them on their work, instead of voting on the long term's benefit, and not the short term's one, nothing can be achieved, I'm afraid.

So is Lebanon doomed ? .... NO ! there are 4 million Lebanese in Lebanon, 15 million Lebanese in the diaspora, spread worldwide.
The personality cult desease does not apply, or at least not in the same proportions, to the diaspora.

The next battle ? getting the right to vote, for the diaspora..

A special dedication to all those who wrote to me saying that I am a traitor not deserving this and that leader, I say that slaves do not fight. This is the priviledge of free men. Free man I am, free man I wish to remain, and everytime one of these megalomaniac leaders stops speaking in my name, he will stop getting my support.
The battle wages on.


Blogger EvilConCarne said...

Kudos Jean! Freedom is not Free and the truly brave are those who speak their mind while surrounded by those who simply follow and do not think.

The more we all express our views and are not intimidated by the views of others that are thrust open us, the brighter the future will become.

8:06 AM  
Blogger AM said...

Aoun = Source of my Anger these days.
Ok here it goes:
- "You are not worthy of Aoun" ... then I am not. Similarly, he is not worth the votes and admiration of the people who supported him all these years, Lebanese in general, those Lebanese who believed and died for his cause few years back specifically.
- "He knows what he is doing, he is more intelligent and aware than us, for he is the leader ... I doubt it very much, I doubt his motives very much, I doubt his sanity and therefore I don't trust his vision anymore, that is if he still has one.
- True that many are changing their minds about him, unfortunately, Lebanese in Lebanon are taking more time to realize this but they are able to criticize him already, good start.

One suggestion:
Can the French take him back before he, in a way or another, causes another internal conflict in the country?

11:53 AM  
Blogger AM said...

One last thing:
I am so ashamed to think that I was one of his supporters once, that I spent nights sleeping outside the presidential palace in Baabda ...

11:55 AM  
Blogger Jean said...

Thank you for your post. Obviously we share the same vision.
As for Aoun's political depth, read my other posts about him. he is a military man with ZERO political intelligence, and I welcome anyone who's ready to prove me wrong.

Anyway, an important point of this article, is the personality cult.
I used Aoun's example as it is still very raw in people's minds nowadays, but it applies to the MAJORITY OF THE LEBANESE POLITICIANS !
Aoun was just one example among many..

12:03 PM  
Blogger sub Rosa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:33 PM  
Blogger sub Rosa said...

You can sum it up by saying this: The Lebanese are still stuck in the Hamula (clan) politics, and are having a hard time modernizing in that sense.

Israel, too, has sectorial voting behavior, and we too have many groups and trenches between them. But there are grave differences between the countries. Here, the vast majority accepts the democratic procedure, and though not perfect, there is a modern democratic tradition. Some sectors in Israel need to modernize more, and I fear they are staying behind, while the "state of Tel Aviv" is progressing. Yet I suspect the gaps are not as big as in Lebanon, and the common base is much stronger than among our neighbors from north.

I expected Lebanese to unite more during the conflict and take their country back to their own hands, even if it means the common ground is hostility towards Israel. that's because I believe Lebanon needs stability more than anything, in order for the democratization to succeed (and not just the procedural democracy like they had thus far). Instead, I saw much dispair, and I saw people talking about leaving the country in lieu of taking responsibility. But I still have hope for this country. I think it has a chance of really changing, with the help of the intl force, and with it - and that includes changing political culture.

Jean, why should Lebanese in the diaspora vote, when they don't have to live with the consequences of their vote? Sorry, but if you wan't to vote, you shoukd live in the country!

I'm posting a copy of this in too.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Some sectors in Israel need to modernize more, and I fear they are staying behind, while the "state of Tel Aviv" is progressing..

I expected Lebanese to unite more during the conflict and take their country back to their own hands, even if it means the common ground is hostility towards Israel.

I think Nasrallah has been making this point repeatedly - shut up and unite with me on the common ground of hostility to Isreal. What a surprising unity of opinion between a hardcore shiite fundamentalist and somebody from the 'advanced' state of Tel Aviv.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

The lebanese abroad must get the right to vote because they are lebanese just as much as those living in the country.
They left the country, for some, because they couldn't express their opinions. So giving them the right to vote would give a value to their voice, and make them think about resettling in Lebanon.

This is not an exception. Rather, not giving the right to vote to expatriats is the exception.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

I especially like this:

I expected Lebanese to unite more during the conflict and take their country back to their own hands, even if it means the common ground is hostility towards Israel. that's because I believe Lebanon needs stability more than anything, in order for the democratization to succeed

..uniting the country on 'the common ground of hostility towards Israel' to make the democratization to succeed !!!

3:13 PM  
Blogger Tsedek said...

What's your problem Nobody???

It is obviously that unity makes a people stronger. That's basics.

You don't have to live with your neighbour every day, but you do with your countrymen. So, isn't that the principal goal one would want to achieve?

Of course I'd rather like Lebanese to see Israel (the Israeli's) for what they really are: non-hostile to them at all, so there is NO reason to become hostile towards them either and they all unite behind that stated fact ... but first things first. Anarchy and diversement in a country is worse FOR THAT COUNTRY. So, I agree with sub-Rosa and can't really see your problem.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

You certainly can not see my problem ,Tzedek, because i have none.

As to the unity and solidarity the best i can remember was produced by Vox from vox's den. I cite from memory: "Nasrallah has asked for solidarity from the Lebanese people but the only solidarity i can see here is about sending these monkeys back to Iran."

The Syrian president Bashar Asad was also making the point of unity on the common ground of hostility to Israel, when he called the lebanese government half men who serve the israeli interests.

But given that Lebanon still has nt reached the 'advanced' state of Tel Aviv this demagoguery has been apparently received without much enthusiasm in Beirut.

For sure Jean did nt like the idea

7:45 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Of course if the arabs or lebanese need hostility to Israel to secure their democratic achievements i have no objections. But as far as i remember whenever they tried this trick just the opposite has been achieved.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Today I read this on the Lebanese Political Journal. I think it connects in some way with the idea of granting voting rights to the lebanese living abroad

tomten said...

The best way to solve sectarianism in Lebanon is to send everyone abroad for 5 years. Here in the US, all us Lebanese call ourselves Lebanese, whether we're Maronite, Sunni, Shia, Druze or Orthodox (like me). If you want to find and embrace your national identity, become a foreigner for a while.

1:53 PM  
Blogger JoseyWales said...


No shame needed. I was with Aoun when I thought he was right. I think today he is wrong and playing a dangerous game.

That's what Jean is talking about: take position on the issues not the man. Nothing wrong there.

BTW Jean, I don't think you or I deserve Aoun or any of the other idiots. We deserve much better. ;)

2:33 AM  
Blogger sun wukong said...

I discovered that Jumblatt was in charge of displaced, but never helped Christians go back to his chouf. But you don't recall such events, because he is anti-HA...

Interesting idea about the vote system. I don't know to what circumscription these "15 million Lebanese in the diaspora" belong? I don't think they ever pay taxes to the Lebanese government. At the end of the day, the Lebanese that stay have the final word. They aren't in Lebanon for the summer, and if there is a problem, they won't leave the country on the first French ship.
They want to have schools and a good education, health care and social security, a protective army not tea serving one [i am not asking them do die, just to remain proud of themselves].

If they [South Lebanese, or any Lebanese community] don't see such involvement of the (central/federal, whatever) government. If thugs in place will use your diaspora to remain in power...there is something called "self determination".

PS: Finally, when people leave Egypt, the pro-west president, and his wealthy son... they never think of ever going back, nor voting.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Tsedek said...

No, Nobody - :(
I didn't mean that Israel once again becomes the excuse to obtain national unity. Not only for Israel either (although that weighs a lot of course) but a country that's teared up and only held together by the weak fabrics of having one common enemy has no solid foundation anyway and its citizens are always misused by their government.

But at least to have a government that is truely representing the views of the majority of its people - in EVERY aspect.

I wouldn't know what to do for instance if here, in Israel, the Kahane terrorgroup would hold the government hostage because they own more weapons than the national army, and people would be split about political land issues. That would mean that democratically voting wouldn't mean a thing....


1:24 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

Sun wukong,

without any hypocrisy, I want to thank you for commenting here, because you are one of the very rare persons here on the thread who disagree with me. I do not like discussions without debate.

For Jumblatt, thank you for asserting my own idea about personality cult. The man changes ideas like he changes shirts, and yet, his popular support stays unchanged.
As for myself, like I told you, I follow ideas, and support the one defending them.
If jumblatt happens to do so, I don't see why I won't support him.

As for the diaspora thing, and especially the taxes issue.
I must confess, Sun, that I laughed when I read that.
I don't know if I will shock you with what I am going to say, but if Lebanon was still standing on its feet until before the last war, for all these years, it is exclusively, and I say it again, exclusively, thanks to the money flow coming from the Diaspora.
Had the diaspora not existed, Lebanon in its actual form would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
I bet you yourself, if you are in Lebanon, have relatives living abroad. If you yourself are living abroad, I rest my case..

The Lebanese abroad are as much lebanese as any Lebanese in Lebanon.
I would say they are doing a better job at promoting a positive image of Lebanon than their counterparts.

I will open a new thread about this. you are welcome to comment there.
If I don't find time in the near future to open this thread, feel free to reply here.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

well tsedek

I think its a bit wierd that two israelis would start arguing on a lebanese blog what the lebanese should do and how they should unite. We can do it on our own blogs. No reason to clutter the space here with our discussions.

But to answer you i would say yes. If Kahane would have tried to approach me with the idea to unite on the common ground of hostility to arabs, he would have been in for a big disappointment.

As to the lebanese thing my very misinformed and probably ridiculous impression is that the problem of Lebanon is not a unity at all. The problem of Lebanon is that people think along sectarian lines and political parties there are political only in appearance, they are mostly sectarian movements. Probably the proper alternative would be that people would start voting indeed for poltical programs like social democracy or free markets or whatever. But that they would start vote on substance and not because this or that party is associated with their particular community or leader.

This does nt mean any unity. It just means that people will not be uniting or disuniting along sectarian lines. Of course when people start thinking politically it becomes more fluid since people are moving between political parties, many people are not voting for ages for the same party . When people think along sectarian lines their loyalties are usually predefined in advance.

4:43 PM  
Blogger sun wukong said...

"I follow ideas, and support the one defending them" this argument makes sense in any democratic country, were there is counter powers that control governments and officials actions. Not in a 3rd world country, that was unable to build, and defend proper public institutions in more than half of a century.

My opinion, is that Lebanese should focus on all corrupt people. A new political class would emerge, with a real credibility. Those could face HA with confidence, and HA would not be suspicious about hidden motives. And using politicians whose past is made by bloodshed and "ethnic cleansing", is not going to work on honest politicians. [I am not saying that HA are honest, but that honest people know how to face thugs]

Eyes are turned towards Lebanon. If Lebanon manages to present to the Arab world a model of good and transparent governance, Lebanese will show the way to get out of the Arab dilemma (Chaos vs Corruption). Such a success could trigger regime changes in the region, without the fear of
ending like Iraq.

The International community isn't concerned in such deep changes. They want stability, security, and more important a client regime that will serve their interests.[Do you think that Chirac cares about corruption in Lebanon?specially with the Chirac-Hariri connection] Terrorism talk is here to lure Arabs from the real challenges they are facing. If such reforms don't start, middle classes will continue to look for a future abroad.

1:27 PM  
Blogger EmirBachir said...

Sun wukong,

I agree with you about the diaspora vote. I am entirely against giving the vote to people who have little or no ties to the country. However, we should make some distinctions among the Lebanese who live overseas. Of the "15 million" figure which has been quoted, a smaller group actually has real and active ties to the country and they deserve and should be given the vote. These are people who are also very likely to consider moving back as conditions in the country change or later in their lives to start a business or to retire.


While I sympathize with your need to include the entire diaspora into Lebanon's political system, I think it is neither possible nor desirable. However, part of that diaspora should vote and I think when they do they could have a very positive effect on politics.

However, there are possible pitfalls. One of these is that the very problems of allegiance you speak of does exist among the diaspora. I can imagine that when far removed from the day to day issues, people tend to become more radical in their thinking and will back "transformation" over "evolution". Democracy is not only about standing for something. Its also about being able to find a middle ground. Those living abroad, being far removed from the day to day of life, and living often far away from their compatriots with whom they disagree, are less likely to see a middle ground in my view.

I would say that I am for giving the vote to the "expatriate Lebanese" and not to the citizens of foreign countries of Lebanese ancestry. That should be the distinction.

On the issue of cult of personality, I would add that, while what you say is often true, it is not always so. I think people in Lebanon often support a certain leader, not because of his or her positions on issues, but on the basic values or goals they associate with that leader. People who are backing Aoun today may not agree with his tactics, but they will agree with what they feel is his position on the basic issues regarding Lebanon's future. I fear that people backing Aoun today do so because they feel he is standing up for a strong Christian role, something that appears reflected to a large extent in his retoric.

2:08 PM  
Blogger IsrealiMom said...

Democracy is such a fragile thing... Combine that with the delicate balance of religions and ethnic groups in Lebanon... it can't be easy for you guys!

Not that it's easy here either. As others have commented, Israel has many ailments when it comes to its democracy. I would still take that over any other form of government ;)

IsraeliMom - - Middle East Talks

5:43 PM  
Blogger samer said...

Jean Great blog, i really like manner in which the ideas are being exchanged.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Leafless Eve said...

AM Don't be ashamed, there are MANY like you... atleast U WOKE UP and realized this... u learned from it, and you'r writing about it

1:17 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home