Monday, July 28, 2008

From Failure to Collapse

People confuse failure and collapse, in the same manner as they confuse Risk and Probability. Such confusion contributes greatly to the confusion about complex issues.

One example is the “debate” about climate change. Most fail to understand degree of uncertainty associated with numerous possible outcomes; arch-conservatives feel they are being misled by tree huggers, which leads Gaia’s disciples to the belief that humans are beyond redeeming.

In our local corner of the Muddle East, another example of this confusion leads us to the “debate” going about the text of the “ministerial statement”. There is little one should add to it all; the whole debate is out of context, since Lebanon is now in that unenviable place between failure and collapse.

A Failed State

In engineering terms, failure is all that matters; once a system has reached failure state, collapse is but a formality. After computations determine that the “Failure Threshold” has been reached, the only thing keeping the system together is not “computable”; most methods are inherently simplistic, making unrealistic assumptions such heterogeneity, non-isotropy...etc. Most importantly, they ignore the time dependence of many parameters.

This is why communication of risk information is so difficult, especially when you are dealing with a self-deluded patient, with an emotional stake in the continuation of their illusions. Someone such as a Lebanese politician...

Yes, the July ’06 War led to the complete failure of the Lebanese state. But we have done much locally to help along; after those who claimed March 14th betrayed its ideals, the country had been inching slowly towards collapse, from the Hezb’O’demos, to the last Hezb’O’Coup. Those who saw Lebanese “leaders” falling over one another to “welcome” the returning hero mistook the whole enterprise for a disgusting display of hypocrisy. Yet it was a little more than that; it was an exercise in survival by politicians who knew, deep down, that the state was gone.

For the time being, in the absence of a state, they had to compose with the country’s new masters, until the day when conditions change. In true Lebanese fashion, they were applying the old adage;

الإيد يلّي ما فيك تكسرا, بوسا و دعي علياّ بالكسر

“The hand that you cannot break, kiss it, and curse upon it to be broken”


Heck, it May Work... Again

It worked for the Egyptians, Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Umayyads, Abbasids, “Franj”, Seljuks, Ottomans, Egyptians, French, Ottomans, and French.

It (almost) worked on the Syrians and Israelis.

It may work (again) on the Persians.

But this all means that all the current talk about the “New Government” hardly matters. At best, it serves as a way to dish out (local) patronage in the run-up to (eventual) elections, and can only be effective as long as (foreign) patronage does not interfere. At worst, it will act as a bad administrator of the country’s chaos, as most of us struggle to survive out of the mess.

Yet, while we may survive as we did before, Lebanon has failed. At least, this current edition of Lebanon has... It is too soon to determine what may replace it, but one thing is certain; we’re on the road to Collapse.

The country may turn back from it, but as individuals, the best we can do is to hedge accordingly.

More likely, those dragging us down this road will lead us to a renewed civil war. The “Maronite regime” was yesteryear’s “isolationism”, the “Shiite domination” is today’s “Persian hegemony”. But this time, as we delve deeper into the hell of Sunni-Shiite war, the effects could easily spill-over across the border, as the Alawite regime next door struggles to deal with the legacy of Hama.

Our best hope lies with our “leaders” sense of self-preservation; lets we forget, none of those who started the first civil war survived it.

1 comment:

VOR said...

Not necessarily a failed state as much as a failed power sharing system that has created the problem we find ourselves in. This idea of consensus needs to be trashed once and for all, and the ideals of a democratic system free from sectarian quotas needs to be ingrained in the hearts and minds of the people...after all, that was the ideals of the cedar revolution. Only if the people rise up in a rebellion against the state of things today, will we have an opportunity to redeem ourselves, otherwise we will continue to languish in the abyss of mediocrity and chaos.