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.

3 comments:

R said...

Good to see you back!

Your second paragraph is gold, maybe with the exception of the last two sentences. The last one, I would not include. After all, the standard is not set high in the Arab world, so the comparison is not instructive. As for the next to last sentence, I am trying to decide whether it would be more true if it were
"The only real debate is within christian regions of Mount Lebanon, which happen to be mostly middle class" :)

Regardless of where we put the horse and the cart though :), what amazes me is that the debate seems confined to who said middle-class christians trust less, the sunnis or the shias...

On another front, I am not sure that the comparison between Nasralla and Lieberman is instructive either. Whether there is a difference or not has no real effect on Lebanon. The fact remains that Nasralla is at the very least a partial product of Lebanon, while Lieberman is fortunately not (at this stage we'll take any small blessing that we can). More importantly, it doesn't matter who is holier, the end result is the same. There is no moral superiority or inferiority - only tribes.

Jeha said...

Thanks R,

I've been slow to blog, as I'm trying to develop a sense of objectivity, with all the passions swirling around, and the misinformation that we're constantly being fed.

I agree with you, that I am overreaching with this Lieberman thing... But it all illustrates how much our region is increasingly becoming a cesspool of warring Tribes... with flags.

Nobody said...

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.

This is what I call analysis. Compare it to the banalities and cliches you are endlessly recycling on your blog.