What Ails Lebanon


By Ghassan Karam Special To Ya Libnan

The modern concept of sovereignty of a nation state and all its implications to the inviolability of borders, the sacredness of its territorial integrity and the supremacy of the state are traced to the treaties that ended the thirty year war through the Peace of Westphalia. I mention this only to highlight that this took place almost 400 years ago.

A young nation state can be excused, during its first few formative years, for its inability to exercise its sovereignty immediately at its inception despite the fact that independence for a nation state is usually based on the idea of sovereignty. Realistically no society can be expected to make the transition from dependence to independence overnight. Institutions have to be created, elections held, laws promulgated and citizens informed and educated. But a learning curve of 65 years that fails to make any progress whatsoever is only a sign of total failure in the effort to establish a viable independent sovereign state. Under such circumstances one must wonder whether the experiment that has so far gone awry is worth continuing or whether it would be more advisable to just stop the pretense and dissolve the state.

As you might have already guessed, the above scenario is not fictitious. It is a perfect description of what passes for political leadership in the nation state of Lebanon and for either the inability or the refusal of its citizens to act responsibly by demanding accountability from their so called leaders.

There is no doubt that the present is the sum total of our past decisions and choices. We are what we have become because of our history. But it is wrong to even suggest that the past shapes our future. The only time that the future becomes an identical image of the past is when we keep making the same decisions and choices over and over again. The future doesn’t have to be an extension of the past since its most significant feature is that it embodies immense possibilities. Whether these possibilities are actualized or not is a function of the decisions that we undertake in the present. Our present is the history of the future moment.

So it is not enough to dream about equality, dynamism, individual freedom, economic prosperity, responsible government or a sovereign state. We need to take action that is commensurate with our objective if that goal is to ever stand a chance of being fulfilled. But we can never set our sights high and yet proceed to act as we always have when we were greatly displeased with the outcome. The same input will result in the same output irrespective of our hopes.  For our hopes to be fulfilled, we must have the courage to reject business as usual. It will always fail to deliver on our dreams and aspirations because if we cannot change our actions then our goal would be only a wish. Lipstick on a pig.

If we are dissatisfied with the performance of the political regime and with all the politicians in Lebanon, as we should be then we have no right to complain if we do not have the courage to show our outrage at their incompetence, exploitation and feudalism. Note that the 4.5 million Lebanese sheeple find it easier to put up with the inconvenience of having one of the most outdated unreliable and expensive public electric power system in the world by installing private generators, at a great expense, rather than demand a solution to a problem that is simple to solve but that has persisted for over a decade. Why did we reelect the same rascals who created the problem in the first place? We complain about the lack of law and order but when the politicians elect a president by violating a very clear constitutional clause no one questions the decision. How can we expect a person to respect the sacred constitution when the same person accepted to be elected under unconstitutional grounds? The message is simple. Laws, including the constitution were made for the convenience of the Lebanese oligarchy.  Their disregard to the constitution and the rights of the citizens is all around us. Its best manifestation is the unworkable new interpretation of a national unity government whereby the executive branch is a tower of Babel, the legislative branch has for all practical purposes been subsumed by the cabinet and the judicial branch has been abrogated.  I ask you, have you seen any demonstrations against the above?

Then we have our “Progressive Socialist Party” that is everything but progressive or socialist. It is run by a feudal lord and its leadership is passed along as part of the inheritance. Actually the ever charismatic head of the party regaled us on a recent popular TV show by the analysis that part of the current Lebanese political problem is that PM Hariri represents the Sunni while President Suleiman does not have the support of the Maronites. And that from a progressive socialist. Somebody should remind Mr. Jumblatt of the high regard that Karl Marx had for religion. He went on to say that he; Jumblatt; will not accept an invitation to visit Iran unless King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia gives him his blessings. And that from a progressive socialist in Lebanon. (What is true of the incongruity of the positions of Mr. Jumblatt is endemic of all other parties bare none.

Given the above few examples, and they hardly scratch the surface, it should be clear to any observer that Lebanon is neither independent, nor sovereign. Its inhabitants talk the talk but never walk the walk. If freedom, democracy and sovereignty are important then let us act as if they are by vowing to hold all the current politicians accountable. We need to remind them that they work for us and we should make it sure not to reelect any of them again. The problem of Lebanon is not its politicians. It is its voters. Unless we learn to act upon our convictions then we deserve the government that we get.