If we don’t believe in change, we will never see it. One of the main obstacles to the revolutionary transformations necessary for Lebanon’s survival as a state is cynicism that perceives real change as impossible – that corrupt elites will always cling to power and that nothing can be done against it. Hezbollah’s treacherous program.
A symbolic blow was struck against this ambient cynicism when the Syndicate of Engineers of Beirut elected its general assembly. Despite supposed rivals such as the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the Movement of the Future, Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces collaborating in a ploy to keep control, they were swept aside, as nearly 80% of the vote went to the candidates. “Syndicate Revolts” affiliated with the uprising. If the votes of 60,000 engineers from across Lebanon’s social spectrum can be replicated in national elections, the spirit is mind-boggling at the implications!
It’s no surprise, then, that established factions want the elections to be delayed as long as possible, despite intense popular demands that they should stand immediately, as perhaps the only way out of the crisis. Experts fear efforts will be made to delay the vote beyond the May 2022 constitutional date.
Such logic is further proof of the dissociation from reality of these mafia factions. Far from the protest movement running out of steam, as citizens become hungrier and poorer, they will become even more distant from those who dragged this nation into this entirely self-inflicted cataclysm. Tehran will see Lebanon shattered to dust before it allows its proxies and puppets to relinquish their hold on power, but all of these efforts to preserve Hezbollah’s dominance have united the entire nation against it.
Each day sets new precedents in the disintegration of the survivable normality. A few weeks ago, we were saddened by fights that broke out at gas stations; today we see gas stations destroyed or looted in their entirety. Endless queues for empty fuel tanks and grocery store shelves are reminiscent of the last gloomy days of the Soviet Union. Unemployment is estimated at over 40 percent, and 77 percent of families cannot afford to eat properly – more than 30 percent of children go to bed hungry. Incomes plunge as prices skyrocket.
Despite the merciless heat of the Lebanese summer, the CHU Rafik Hariri no longer has the means to operate its air conditioning; hospitals only receive 2-3 hours of electricity from the grid. There is no fuel for the generators, in part because so much subsidized fuel is smuggled into Syria. The priority institutions of life and death are one step away from a complete stop. Critical electronic systems at airport customs, the justice ministry and public security centers have failed in recent days, due to power and supply shortages.
A sign of how dysfunctional the country has become, privilege in Lebanon today means being able to afford to pay someone else to take your car to sit all day in a queue for miles around. a few miserable liters of fuel, or fly to Jordan to stock up on baby milk and medicine, or work three jobs to maintain a bearable standard of living.
The Lebanese economy has collapsed after decades of chronic mismanagement and systematic theft, which the nation depends exclusively on imports, resulting in this small country having the biggest trade deficit in the world. Yet the depletion of foreign currency reserves means that Lebanon can no longer pay for imports, as the national currency slides into a worthless hypergonated value.
Without the generous support of the immense Lebanese diaspora, the country would have starved for a long time. Organizations such as the British Lebanon Association, Life and Impact have launched laudable initiatives to make life more bearable. But if the Lebanese overseas do not want such dependence to continue, they must work together to exert their influence over the Lebanese political system, while constantly reminding the world of Lebanon’s plight.
Pope Francis’ intervention means a lot, especially in raising Lebanon with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Pope declared that Lebanon should not be exploited “for external interests and profits”. Why do foreign dignitaries seem so much better able to perceive the plight of the “disillusioned and weary” Lebanese people than our own heartless leaders?
We have had false hopes about the revolutionary potential of the ballot box in the past, only to wake up the next day and find that most of the votes went to mainstream parties, with progressives, radicals and independents left behind.
This time, anything is possible, but nothing can be taken for granted: Uprising networks must be organized and focused, working to raise awareness and show people that their only salvation is if citizens unite across sectarian lines. and traditional factions. Initiatives such as the “Towards One Nation” project have tremendous potential to reinvent Lebanese models of political organization.
Each more day that the Lebanese leaders delay their democratic calculation only exacerbates the scale of the catastrophe which awaits them: a vote today can win them 15%, a poll tomorrow can give them 5%. And if they torture long-suffering citizens by delaying much longer, the question will not be how much of their income and privileges they can cling to, but whether they can flee Lebanon in one piece. !
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and UK. She is the editor-in-chief of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
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