Saturday, February 09, 2008

Apes on the Titanic

Politics in Lebanon tends to be so noisy. Rather than tuning it out completely, I often "mute" the sound when one of our politicians does his thing on TV.

There a logic to this; almost invariably, politicians lie. However, their body language almost always tells the truth. Yes, it is a proven fact that politicians make lousy poker players; after all, with a few exceptions, they’re essentially salesmen/showmen, adapted to strutting their stuff to a willing public. And beyond this, the non-verbal component of their communication is well documented, and can teach you a lot about the underlying message.

There is a lot one can do with "home equipment" in this respect... By “muting” the shows, one can filter out the “noise”, and by escaping their eloquence, one can focus on body language. Those who don’t understand the language benefit from an added advantage, since they can use the additional information provided by the variations in tonality… Kinda like an anthropologist watching (inner) apes, and correlating utterances to mental states.

I tested such a method in our Lebanese zoo, and (briefly) zapped in and out on the two speech “events” this week; HassAoun’s duo and Saad’s solo performance.

In the little “love-in” duet, I could not help but note how Aoun was acting subservient to Nasrallah; his eyes drifting constantly to the “Syed”, looking for approval, signalling with his hands in sign of deference, even crouching in his chair, lowering his shoulders ever so slightly when he was not sure of his point. In contrast, Nasrallah was acting approvingly, like a master proud of his disciple. Not having the sound on, I could not really ascertain whether Aoun was also adjusting his speech pattern and tone.

The solo performance came later. Saad appeared confident and strong, and far less hesitant than before. What followed was ever more interesting; his partisans starting to shoot in the air, to celebrate their boss’ speech. The message send to Hezb was clear, since more than simple fireworks were used…

Still, there must be more optimal ways of displaying one’s power… Such a persistent ignorance of the laws of physics remains galling after so many years of evolution; even our lesser cousins have long figured this out… Luckily, no one got hurt this time around. However, as Newton’s law was demonstrated again, a stray bullet hit the car of one unlucky consul on the road to the airport. The guys must have been firing “southward”, apparently.

What next? Well, the speeches told me nothing, but the context invites caution. Combine this plethora of instruments, the increased brazenness and overconfidence, and you get the feeling that, as the orchestra is gearing up to play, the fight over the best seats has began.

Too bad the concert hall is on the Titanic.


R said...

Very nice. really like the planet of the apes video... and while you paint a sad picture, the truth is even worse... Something needs to happen to break this stupid status quo and the most likely outcome at this point is a(nother) implosion of Lebanon...

Pazuzu said...

hm.... though i did understand the dynamic you were talking about in the Nasralla/Aoun interview... I didn't understand the message you were reading from Saad's body language

Anonymous said...

Hazbani Again.
Sorry to bother, I am living south of your house. And the noise from you side of the street is sounding kind of strange I hope nothing bad is going on, can I ask a question? please.
According to you a certain Mr. Ulmart, living in my side of the street is in reality a Lebanese politician, is it possible?

Jeha said...

Maybe I am reading too much into our politicians' body language, and Pazuzu would be a far better reader than I am. But I have sensed a more confident Saad and Nasrallah. But I fear this shows that they are underlying "boost" from their various backers, who appear to be some sort of geopolitical "pissing contest". For this reason, as R points out, the situation is not good. The key, for us on the individual level, is to be able to live on without depending too much on the local economy and the good will of the local "leaders". This sad truth is not limited to Lebanon; as Hazbani hints, politicians across the border are not much different. They have nothing to envy ours, but they are kept in check by a decent judiciary. At least, they have not started bombing their own citizens... Yet.

FoFo said...

Will the fat lady sing this time?