Monday, May 25, 2009

Monsters, Inc.

Our Lebanese “Our leaders” have much to teach the Great Colbert about government; judging from the uproar they generate, they have improved on the idea that “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”. The amount of hissing is irrelevant if the geese are busy hissing at one another.

For this reason, watching the Lebanese elections is discomfiting at first look. Almost everywhere political discussion appears geared “internally”, towards “consolidating” one's core supporters. Voting in that case becomes little more than a census, where real electioneering starts at conception, making sure the braying masses make enough voters, and guaranteeing that the economic system remains on the right side of failure to maintain them in a permanent state of patronage-enhanced servility. The only real debate is within middle class regions of Mount Lebanon, who happen to be mostly Christians. In that, they're leading the rest of the Arab world's elites.

A deeper look, however, reveals a less pessimistic view; those who once claimed Lebanon as the Switzerland of the Middle East forgot that our region has nothing like the German's federative obsession, the French administrative zeal, or the British legal scruples. We can only be as good as one can be in this cesspool of dictatorships, where the only country pretending at being democratic is ruled by one ethnic group at the expense of others. And no, I do not mean Turkey.

No wonder our search for consensus and internal stability is so elusive. At least, we're the only ones really trying, even if our model is far from perfect, or realistic. And so what if Nasrallah has missiles and Iran. Doesn't Lieberman have Tsahal, AIPAC, and a little more? I fail to see the core difference between those fine examples of Shiite tribalism and Jewish tribalism.

For the time being, our only hope is to try and maintain some internal power balance, by voting our heads rather than our hearts, to maintain our local overlords as much on edge as possible. The pie is shrinking, and their old ways of goose-plucking will soon have to change lest they run out of feathers... Or Until they weed themselves out of here.

Or, more probably, Until, that is, we're all emigrated from here. By “we”, I mean the middle class; the exodus of the Christians from Lebanon is only a symptom of the country's real tragedy, the absence of opportunities for the middle class, mostly made up of Christian, Druze, and Beiruti Sunnis. In the current state of affairs, there is little to do for all those who just want to earn a decent living, without the need to pledge allegiance to petro-mullahs or armageddon-evangelists.

But there's still some hope.