Lebanese politics should be added to French literature and philosophy programs. This would fit very well into the study of the philosophy of the absurd. So, as they say in France, culture is like jam: the less we have, the more it must be disseminated. I will spread my lack of culture and my slight memory of my lessons by quoting the philosophical essay by Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”, in which he draws a parallel between the human condition and Sisyphus, the king of Greek mythology who was twice punished for cheating death by being forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only for it to come back down each time it reached the top, repeating this foolish action for all eternity.
In my version, those condemned to repeat the same senseless tasks are the Lebanese. Lebanon is much like Sisyphus, because he knew how to cheat death in the face of so many plots and was condemned to be destroyed and rebuilt for eternity. It was destroyed by civil war, terrorist attacks and the port explosion last year, but its institutions are also destroyed, as well as its financial and banking system. Either way, we know it will be rebuilt.
As the Internet reminded me of my French literature and philosophy lessons, Camus’ response to this absurdity is not suicide but revolt. It is not by the death of this small country but by its revolt that Lebanon and its people can change their destiny. It is through revolt that we break this cycle of endless and meaningless destruction. But what does the revolt in Lebanon mean? What should be done in reality?
The revolt in Lebanon means that it is time for the Lebanese people to demand that the new government come up with a new constitution for a free, sovereign and independent nation. Lebanon does not need a new electoral law, it needs new institutions that protect the country. As we have heard from the protesters since 2019, their demands are clear: they all want to live in peace and freedom. They want to live with dignity and pursue their dreams. They want their children to reach their full potential. They want their seniors to enjoy peace of mind in their last days. They want their representatives to be accountable.
Whether they are Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Maronites, Eastern Orthodox, Jews, Armenian Orthodox, Protestants, Melkite Catholics, Armenian Catholics or any other religion or sect, they all want the same thing. But if you ask them how to achieve it and on which political and economic platform, you will have twice as many views as you have of minorities. Under these conditions, no revolt can succeed, because the masses of the street dissolve in the detail of their demands. And so, unless you have a united and engaged group and the power to force change, nothing will happen. Today, only Hezbollah has this power. And his Lebanon is sad and dangerous.
My point is that Lebanon needs a free and liberal system – a libertarian system – to prosper. It must eliminate religion as a factor in political decision making. Today, Lebanon has a sectarian power-sharing structure that does the opposite of what it is supposed to do. This so-called balance of representation is the rock that we push up the hill for eternity. It is, in effect, a disguised power-sharing union for the elites. Today its master is Hezbollah and the others are puppets. This structure allows Hezbollah to create fear and pit one minority against the other while it gets along and treats like a mafia boss of illicit activity. This structure is what religious and political leaders trade in to assert their power. This is the real absurdity of Lebanon today. And the only way for the country to reach its full potential is to revolt against it.
Many believe that the solution and the way to remove religion from politics is through a “civil Lebanon”. But the way defenders of this argument promote it will have the opposite effect on stability. Indeed, beyond civil marriages, which should be allowed, their opinions will corner, ostracize and isolate minorities. Let’s be frank, this will have a negative impact on the Christian community in Lebanon; and without its Christians, Lebanon is not Lebanon. It is their loyalty and love for the country that, in a way, has been the driving force behind Lebanon that older people remember today and that our young people dream of. You cannot think that by erasing a line on your ID card you have erased bigotry from society and politics. It doesn’t work that way.
The revolt must therefore take the form of a demand for federalism. It is urgent that Lebanon becomes a federation. It is time to realize that an effort to decentralize and build a new federal system, where government is light and nimble, is the only way forward. It sounds contradictory, but by giving each sect its own barriers and barriers, we remove the fear of the other and dislodge the ruling elites. It’s the only way to stay together under the cedar.
The reforms, which I believe Prime Minister Najib Mikati intends to implement, will be stalled when they get to the real source of government failure. Lebanon therefore does not need a new parliamentary electoral law. It needs new institutions and a new constitution. It is also clear that no one will trust us or help us as a nation unless we go through a real and profound transformation. Our neighbors and the Western powers no longer have any reason to believe us. Lebanese politicians have cried wolf too often. It is also humiliating to see the representatives of Lebanon begging for their support, especially knowing that, under the current conditions, any aid will be like a drop of water in the ocean.
The Lebanese people must revolt and transform this country. To break this eternal cycle of destruction, a Lebanese federation is the best solution. There is an urgent need to build new institutions to pull the country out of this catastrophe. How many lost generations will it take to understand?
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and technology company. He is also the editor-in-chief of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
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