The Forsaken State of Lebanon

protesters set garbage bins on fire, blocking Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa road, to protest the attacks on Sunni Muslim scholars, 18 March 2013. (Photo: Reuters – Hussam Shebaro)
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Lebanese are living without a tent over their heads. Every day their forsaken state disintegrates a little further.

Nobody imagined things would reach this point.

A state, incapable of producing solutions, with leaders unable to take the initiative.
A government so ineffective it does not even act as a caretaker.

A “street” in which every kind of chaos reigns, under no political authority, and with no leaders who can claim to speak in its name.

More than a few people who, unemployed, have turned to banditry.
A vast multitude of clerics who fan the flames of sectarian strife with each prayer time.
A public sector groaning under the pressure of official neglect. A private sector that won’t budge because it doesn’t want to sacrifice a small portion of its profits.

A rapacious financial sector intent on spending every moment accumulating massive fortunes.
The remnants of a middle class teetering on the brink, looking to emigrate to avoid the steep plunge.
And on the margins, a posse of civil society and NGO fraudsters who have become like tomb-robbers in wartime: quietly plundering, then fleeing,

Can anyone in Lebanon today claim there is a proper health system? It is no longer a figure of speech to say that people are dying at hospital doors. Or an education system, in the absence of schools teachers and students? Public education is slowly being killed by the beneficiaries of sectarian education.

Can anyone claim politics is high-minded? On the TV screens, talk show hosts vie with their guests over who can curse the loudest. In the worst kind of theater of the absurd, substance has been replaced with abuse and incitement. Media ratings suffer if their programs demonstrate any modicum of responsibility and restraint.

The country meanwhile no longer needs to produce writers, poets, playwrights, and artists. We’ve sold the output of an earlier generation to the oil and gas monarchies.

Could Lebanese claim that party politics are interesting? Who could persuade their child to join a mainstream political group? Who could convince their parents that becoming a member of a political party is a step up in life? How can trade union activism temper the madness of the market when everyone – from the state to revolutionary political parties – joins forces to blot out the good work of the Union Coordinating Committee?

The alternative, meanwhile, is madness.

The madness that obliges one to constantly work the phones – to police, political parties, or young men on the ground – to check if the roads are safe.

The madness that makes people worry that any crowd outside a mosque is a sign of trouble.

The madness that drives people to commit acts of violence just to let off some steam, leaving their co-sectarians to justify their behavior. Does that not apply to the many people who refused to condemn the delinquents who attacked religious students in Cheyyah and Khandak al-Ghamik? Has Ahmad al-Assir become these people’s role-model rather than Hassan Nasrallah?

A storm is quickly approaching Lebanon. It threatens to take us back to the dark days, when the raging fires were all-consuming, and nobody and nothing were spared.

If the country’s security and military forces maintain their present roles, they only have the praise of lying politicians to gain. The army and security forces will soon become spoils for the warring parties, as the Lebanese witnessed over the course of two decades.

As they wait, the Lebanese anticipate a solution, probably from abroad. Nevertheless, the horror of death will prompt people to submit to whichever front offers them death without agony. Those who make it through this ordeal will have the chance to belong to a new entity. It will not be called Lebanon.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

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