Friday, March 7, 2008

The Marchian Invasion

By Bassem Hassan

“el barghash…”
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.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Bassem many who fit this profile of "progressive, leftist, secularist, enlightened, liberated and egalitarian" have taken a side and compromised on their core values under the excuse that we have to prioritise.... prioritise the democracy aspect for some and the resistance aspect for others.

In my mind they are inseaprable and the left should finally learn to dvelop its own program and rely on iots own forces .. which are not negligible.

Rabi Tawil (AKA Abu Kareem) said...


Excellent analysis, I think you hit the nail right on the head. Although your analysis is pessimistic, it contains the seeds of a solution for Lebanon's impasse. What if people from both sides of the Marchian divide who truly believe in the camp 1 ideals get together and offer Lebanon a third alternative?

Anonymous said...

Abu Kareem

What you speak of is partly one of the aims of arabdemocracy... And not only in Lebanon. The same divide exists in other forms throughout the Arab world.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Bassem, Just brilliant. A few days ago I argued with a Camp 1/2 (who knows really) friend that March is not the only month of the year. I am sure many Lebanese and those non-Lebanese that follow Lebanese politics understand what I mean by that.

Abu Kareem - The greatest problem solving minds in the world would tell you that identifying the issues is solving half of them.

I think the problem has been identified, a long time ago. The issue however is that those that can make a difference aren't willing to and those that want to make a difference have bills to pay. Of course you are also left with the majority that appears to suffer from a very acute and everlasting condition often referred to as short memory. But again as history has it, this is not only the case in Lebanon, but almost everywhere around the world and since the begining of time. Well, except maybe in Eldorado where Godot happens to rule. Unfortunately Eldorado is nowhere near to be found and Godot, well is missing in action.

Joseph - Quit advertising the blog will ya?

Marwan -

Anonymous said...

It wouldnt be what it is if I hadnt advertised it Marwan. Always good to hear from u.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo, Marwan and Abu Kareem,

Thank you all for the kind comments.

I agree that pessimism is almost the antithesis of a progressive idea, but it is very hard to be optimistic in the short term. Of course the editorial is somewhat "emotional" and if you are interested (and at the risk of some self-advertising here) you can read a much more rigorous analysis in the February 2, 2007 issue of Al-Adab magazine (One of 3 special issues on secterianism). You can also download that- and other- articles form my lab website ( at the bottom right hand corner.

On the lighter side, I think I might have the solution for the month of March: simply delete March 8 and 14 and then add 2 extra days to February. This will have the nice side-effect of allowing people born on February 29 to celebrate their birthday every year, instead of once every four years!!



Anonymous said...

Thank you Bassem for your distinctive approach to the Lebanese political scene. I may consider myself as one of the many who might fit the profile which my friend Jo mentioned earlier but I believe that Resistance and Democracy – with its broad concepts- are the key core values of progressive , leftist,… etc and therefore, I disagree with the viewpoint which deem these critical concepts as excuses. Needless to say, that the ultimate aspiration of any political group is to act, respond and develop its stance according to the global geopolitical panorama.


Anonymous said...

Dear Nader

I think u misunderstood my comment.
I did not say resistance and democracy were excuses. I said that prioritising one at the expense of the other was at the root of the problem. And in my opinion cannot lead to victory.

fa iktada el tawdee7.