By Bassem Hassan
From an old Lebanese radio add for an anti-mosquito spray.
To say that Lebanon today is divided, almost broken, between two camps is to most people the very definition of stating the obvious. But the beauty of the obvious- at least in Lebanon- is that it...well…isn’t!
Two camps, to be sure. Two sides with completely different ideological frameworks, political agendas and societal concepts. Two opposing forces with radically different ideas about the citizen, the state and the economy. Two poles pulling Lebanon in two different directions towards two alternative futures. It is vital that we not belittle or brush aside the differences between the two sides. For doing so implies that we look at the essence of the crisis that is Lebanon from a fundamentally flawed perspective, before we have even begun the process of critical analysis.
For one camp- and let us creatively call it Camp 1- what Lebanon needs today is a political identity stripped of the mythologies of the past and of the invented stories about about its geography, history and the sad interplay between the two. Camp 1 believes that this is the time for nation building through a process of true development; one that places the education, health, employment and well being of the citizen as the absolute top priority of the State. This is a camp that considers the citizen, from the newborn child to the aging adult as the building block of the socio-economic dynamic and, as such, desires to build a socio-economic framework- called the Lebanese Republic- whose cohesive vision can be best stated as: how do we as individual equal citizens work to ensure the well being of ourselves and- crucially- one another at the same time? It follows therefore that Camp 1defines Lebanon’s place in the world fundamentally in function of the answer to this question. Needless to say, Camp 1 is composed of people who have an unwavering belief in prosperity through equality all spheres of life.
Camp 2 is basically the mirror image of Camp 1. Its concept or, more accurately, concepts, of Lebanon are deeply rooted in fanatical mythologies, nonsensical historical narratives and a form of communitarian power structure which obliterates the freewill and social responsibility of the citizen. It is a camp for whom, indeed, the ‘citizen’ does not truly exit. It does not understand ideas like development and equality. It is, by definition, anti-progressive because its only interest is to re-create itself ad nauseum!
If you happen to be a Lebanese reading this article, then you have almost certainly guessed by now who Camp 1 and Camp 2 are: Camp 1 is yours whichever side of “Marchian” divide you happen to be on. And you know what? You’ve gotten it completely…wrong! For regardless of what sort of “Marchian” you happen to be, you, my sadly deluded friend, belong to Camp 2. Fortunately for you, however, you are in the vast majority…and you will win.
Alas, we progressive, leftist, secularist, enlightened, liberated and egalitarian earthlings will be defeated by the Marchian invasion. Our last hope is to be resurrected someday after you Marchians have finished destroying each other.
Istanbul, Saturday 23 February, 2008.