Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Crying Uncle?

To be sure, all of Lebanon is hurting from the current economic crisis. The middle class, as well as Hezb’s huddled masses.

L’assiégeur assiégé

But the impact on Hezb's supporters is "different"; With the United Nations’ in charge of our official borders, and the United States (Still) breathing down Syria's neck, both the smuggling of consumer goods, and the proceeds of the customs racket are down.

And all that sweet Iranian cash is far from an inexhaustible supply.

The frenzy of land purchases may only reflect the fact that the banking system is unable to handle so much “illicit” cash. Indeed, US sanctions can indirectly affect Hezb’s operations, by making the banking system harder to reach; as proff, watch Hezb’s construction arm, Jihad al Binaa, as it struggles to operate now that the US treasury considers it a “terrorist organization”.

Sweet Patronage…

Coincidentally, the resigned ministers want to be back to the job now. The main reason may well be economic, not political; patronage may be all that remains for Hezb to maintain his hold on the Shiite community. Indeed, considerable sources of patronage remain under the control of the ministers from Hezb’s and Amal.

Berri has gone overboard, hiring many new recruits in Parliament security, the outfit he controls. But even this is reaching a limit; you can recruit so many teenagers are security guards before going over budget…

Speaking of budget; even if they return, the ministers will feel the impact of the Finance Ministry’s budget restrictions… All that cash from Paris III came with a few strings attached.

It appears that Hezb and Iran picked far too many enemies; rather that attacking so many dragons, maybe they should have focused on one infidel at a time.

Of Good Intentions (Update May 11th, 2007)

It has been hell dealing with the traffic jams brought about by Offre-Joie’s demonstration. A good thing, on balance, but I am not sure the local marionettes who claim to lead realize, or want to realize what is really at stake here.

I fear that we have crossed a “mental line” in the region, with the loss of empathy towards our fellow human beings. As we do not include the “other” in our “mental map” of mankind, I fear we are ready to commit the worse. Hazbani, took issue with my characterisation, and I wholeheartedly agree with him; A "mental" line must not be crossed, and we must never, ever accept that.

But I fear we have to deal with the facts. Someone once observed that the most clever trick the devil played on us was to convince us that he did not exist. Not to drag into the metaphysical, but we have to face the simple fact that our most deadly weaknesses are our all too human Hubris and Arrogance. These may be the main windows for the devil (for the lack of a better concept) to enter human minds.

My main point is this; we need to never shy away from the glare of the mirror, and look our humanity in the face, warts and all. Beyond all the horrors that were visited on humans by humans, we need to keep in mind that all criminals needed a "lever" of willing agents to do their deed. Horrors like the holocaust were unique in the sense that the technology of the industrial age allowed Hitler to be uniquely deadly.

But we need to keep in mind that our human minds are fertile ground, and the "mental line" can be easily crossed, one step at a time; just watch or read some of media offerings from all sides of this new Middle-East. Democracy is no protection against such helpings of crapola, and we need checks and balances to compensate for our Hubris, Arrogance, and our mob-mentality.

And keep in mind that, beyond all the atrocities he visited on the world, the most horrifying of Hitler's legacy may be that he was democratically elected...



15 comments:

Amos said...

That audiovisual collage should be nominated for a prize.

Anonymous said...

I love the video!

Re Hizballah's behavior, is there a source for the statement that they are trying to return to the government?

Thanks!

-Zvi

ghassan karam said...

In one of the most prescient books Maynard Keynes 's "Economic Consequences of The Peace" predicted the rise of Hitler and the attendant wars and horrors. His pamphlet ; it is a short book; was a total repudiation of the Versailles Treaty. His basic point was that the economic burden imposed on Germany will drive it into a recession and will give rise to nationalism and jingoism.

There is a parallel of sorts in current day Lebanon. Many of the population is desperate to make ends meet to the extent that they are willing to sell their support to one party or the other. It is reported that the going rate for tent dwellers in central Beirut is $100 per day and $37 for part of the day. Acceptable work if you can get it when few other options exist.The longer is the economy neglected then the stronger becomes the push to sell any service that one can offer. Unfortunately, most people do not have much to offer besides their political support and ability to participate in political demonstrations. I just wonder how trustworthy is the result when elections are held under such circumstances.

Democracy, accountability and freedom often require full stomachs and the ability to provide the basics. If you take away that then you deliver a crippling blow to independence and political integrity. Job one, create economic opportunities so that people can feel free and independent.

BTW, I bet that an entrepreneurial person can market Fuktol rather successfully. Is the brand copyrighted or is a copyleft?

Anonymous said...

whats Fuktol?

Amos said...

Fukitol. It's what you take when everything is fubar.

Jeha said...

Zvi,
The link is on Naharnet, and has been reported in all the Lebanese press. It appears confirmed that their return has much to do about patronage; in their absence, the govt has been making quite a few postings of its own.

Ghassan,
A cartoonist once predicted this as well; the cartoon I saw dates from 1918. There was a kid crying in the background, on him a sign; "class of 1940"... But the mainstream was falling prey to the "expert problem", unfortunately.

I agree, there is a similar process at play in Lebanon, but Hezb is oblivious to it. I have never witnessed so much ethnic/sectarian hatred, on a casual level. One thing that struck with the Nuremberg trials was not the horror that it revealed, but how casual many of the perpetrators felt about it, treating it as an "indsutrial engineering" problem.

A similar thing may be at play in Lebanon, the more Hezb talks about "majority", the more others consider ways to "correct" the number imbalance. When many otherwise reasonable casually refer to genocide as an option, you know a "mental" line has been crossed. The rest is logistics.

Anonymous said...

Hazbni.
To Jeha 12:48. I am as serious as an old man can be, please do not talk like that. No ! Life is life and many, if not most, of us have seen things and participated in things. But too often predicting evil and talking calmly about evil some how made evil a factual reality. A "mental" line must not be crossed. It is not logistics. We have this previlage in the blog world to pretend and to hope, we should do that.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani
And as for the Fukitol. The Baba in Rome has talked about abortion, you all must have noticed that. Next from rome(it will do great on the stock market) is the ultimate birth control pill Noacetol.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhh somehow I missed the link. Thank you, Jeha.

-Zvi

ghassan karam said...

Jeha,
Isn't the ease with which we cross that mental line frightening? Many of the horrors that we have seen and witnessed in the past decade or so, all over the world, attest to the dangers of demonising and dehumanising the enemy. How else to explain the atrocities of ethnic cleansingin the Balkans, the Rwandan killings, the Darfur genocides, The beheadings of humans, Abu Ghraib ... What is most astonishing is when these evil acts fail to generate outrage. At times we even encourage those who commit these heinous acts by celebrating them.

ghassan karam said...

Jeha,
I gather from your post that you might be in the Levant at the moment. If you are then maybe you can confirm or deny a story line/rumour that I have heard from two different sources recently. It is claimed that one option that is being weighed seriously by Lahoud and the opposition is to hand the Presidency at the end of the official term to Frangieh. If that is in the cards then that would be the ultimate Black Swan don't you think?

Jeha said...

Ghassan,

I fear we're in the rumour-stage, like when they were telling stories about Emile's and Jamil Syed... I expect many animals to appear between now and the coming elections, and a few may be far less elegant that swans.

But I would not put it past them; the M8 camp appears to be seriously contemplating it.

Here is another "interesting" rumour; there is the possibility that Emile, or Franjieh, or any other pro-Syrian Christians may find themselves excommunicated or indexed if they persist. This is not as far-fetched as it seems; the Shiite religious leaders have been strangely assertive noises, wanting to chose the Christian president after they imposed Berri.

I feel that this is not Bkerke's game anymore; it is the hands of the Vatican, and Herr Ratzinger may not be as accommodating as Sfeir. Interesting times to watch.

Anonymous said...

btw I love the video.

-Zvi

jamal said...

great video

eliesheva said...

Nice one (video).