Lebanon: A State for the Zouama and by the Zouama (political elites)

by Ghassan Karam, Ever its creation Lebanon has failed to depart significantly from the general understanding of the Zouama (elites) that have played a major role in its creation.

by Ghassan Karam

Ever since its creation Lebanon has failed to depart significantly from the general understanding that the Zoama (elites) have agreed upon. Lebanon is rather unique in this regard; the general public has never played a major role either in its creation or during any role of its subsequent development.

The idea of a nation state is foreign to this part of the world. Maybe that is one reason that the Middle East has failed to give rise to a single functioning democracy since the end of WWI i.e. the dismembering of the Old Man of Europe. The defeat of the Ottoman Turks gave rise, under European urgings, to the creation of Nation States, although none of the inhabitants either believed in the concept or even understood it. It was that imported idea that led the French to create Grand Liban in 1920 by preaching separateness between the Christians of Lebanon and the Moslems of Syria. The French were not acting on behalf of the Lebanese masses but simply a few religious leaders and local Zoama.

Even the semi sacrosanct National Covenant of 1943 which is the understanding that came up with the formula that the President is to be a Maronite, the PM a Sunni and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shia had no input from the general Lebanese citizenry. The Zoama decided about the shape of what is to be and the populace had no say whatsoever in the arrangement.

Even after the quintessentially Lebanese solution ,at the end of the Maronite hegemony that ended with the civil war, the system of governance that became operable, until this writing, was the understanding agreed to by its feuding warlords at Taif. Unfortunately that was another major chapter in Lebanese history that was decided solely by the same Zoama that had essentially been responsible for the National Pact. Taif was a “solution” by the same elites who had refused to allow the common people to have a say both in the creation of the state, its constitution or it’s National Pact. Taif was a proposal by the elites and for the elites.

An alien idea for a nation state based on the rather novel sectarian concept was used by those in power to further their own narrow selfish interests and appear to have managed to keep their grip on the state since its inception till the Taif and beyond. This includes the Doha arrangement, and the few fiascos that have given Lebanon its failed attempt s since 2005 to form an effective government.

Albert Einstein once said that it is irrational to keep doing the same thing over and over again but to expect a different result. That has been the major Lebanese failing. Governance is based on a flawed model and the mistake is compounded by preventing the public from participating in the determination of its destiny. The Lebanese elite do not trust us, the commoners, since they believe that they know what is good for us. All what we have to do is play our role as sheep. They will take care of the rest.

Until we the people decide that we have had enough then the Lebanese tragedy/comedy will continue going round and round in a vicious circle. Do you think that we can surprise them next year? I am not betting on it.