The Egyptian people honored us all by overthrowing two abusive leaders. The second overthrowal was more powerful, since it showed that the Egyptians will not be silenced by any western system that goes by the name of “democracy” if their basic rights are not being provided. Truly inspiring. Power to the people.
What about Lebanon? Despite having one of the most corrupt systems in the world, despite having the same corruptive speaker of a malfunctional parliament for more than 20 years, who embezzled more than USD 2 Billion of state funds, despite having Solidere eating-up our heritage and providing an elite-only district in the center of Beirut, despite the blatant and outrageous levels of poverty in the country, despite the enormous costs of getting a good education, despite not having a proper healthcare system, despite sky-high unemployment and skilled emigration rates, despite not having basic access to proper electricity supply and water supply, despite having fake drugs in our pharmacies and sky-high housing and living costs, despite the traffic, despite the malfunctional public institutions, despite the arms spread in every neighborhood and the occasional mini-wars we have to hide in our bathrooms from, despite.
No revolution. No major movement. Zip. Na-da.
Are people happy? The striking answer is No. How do they put up with such a deeply-rooted corruptive and sectarian system then?
When the Lebanese people are hungry, and need to find employment, getting their basic needs becomes the priority. We then go and beg politician X to give us a job in this system that is abusing everyone. We ask for food from politician Y who is taking all the “food” through the fortune piled-up behind his chair. We go ask politician Z to give our neighborhood more electricity supply, the same supply that we have paid billions of dollars for a year before, after being promised a shiny 24/7 supply.
We might get what we want. Politicians X, Y, and Z might throw at us a small piece of meat and keep the fortune to themselves. Afterall, that is how they survive. They want people to be dependent on them, and not on the state, since it is in this method that they keep power. I’ll pay you $100 to vote for me on elections day, while I keep your electricity supply, access to healthcare, jobs, and education to myself. See how good I am?
I don’t understand. If this is the case, why don’t all the people just unite against those leaders and end the struggle?
1) Because I am protecting my religion this way, and serving God.
Yes, I am serious. The political leaders have thought this system through. Fueling sectarian struggles would further weaken the poor class, allowing it to be caught-up fighting itself rather than fighting the corrupt leaders who are the deep cause of all their struggles.
You are a Maronite? The Shiites are evil and want to burn all Maronites and they are supported by Iran! Save yourself and vote for leader X who is “protecting Maronites”.
Oh you’re a Shiite? The Maronites are conspiring against you. They support the Americans and want Israel to take over your land. Vote for leader Y who is “protecing Shiites” from all those evil, evil, invisible hands.
Does being Maronite, or Shiite, define an identity, similarly to how having blond hair or brown eyes define identities? How is this leader even protecting anyone but himself if you have to live in all that corruption and poverty? All those are good questions, but with sectarian fueling that gets spread all across the media and in society, irrational fiction becomes reality, and citizens get lost among all the claims that they eventually submit.
2) Because the system will never change.
The Lebanese political octopus strives on disseminating a feeling of helplessness across the population. You depend on me for your son to be employed and for your daughter to enter college. Come kiss my feet.
The media attention focuses on whom politicians X, Y, and Z are meeting, instead of the deteriorating social structure. It contributes to idolizing the leaders, and undermining the power of the people. The average Lebanese does not hear about any other major movement. He/she complains about the deteriorating situation of the country, then goes and votes to politicians X, Y, Z. People who cannot put up with it anymore either emigrate or accept the tyranny as normal.
3) Because there is no alternative.
The political system has strived in the past to weaken all other significant movements. The syndicates became affiliated to this politician or that, if not totally disintegrated. The initially “secular” parties were swallowed-up in this sectarian political party or that. The current secular movements are not present all over the Lebanese soil, and do not have the capacity to mobilize with huge numbers yet. The politicians keep addressing each other and do not address any significant secular movements, thus undermining their power and giving an impression that they are weak, and that they would stay weak.
Any heroes out there? Any hope?
Throughout the past few months, a significant portion of people was “sick” of the current political structure, and many secular movements were gaining momentum. Several protests were organized, especially the White March and the protest against parliamentary extension organized by civil society and student groups. These groups are the current heroes of Lebanon, and one of the few, if not the only, sparks of hope left in a country controlled by sectarian rule. These groups are mobilizing and increasing in momentum day by day, although on a small-scale. If the current corrupt Lebanese sectarian system stays, with its immense rotten grip on the lives of its citizens, and if more and more Lebanese people stand-up and say “No” to their corrupt sectarian leaders, we might witness a growing movement which would either yield political representation or political change. That change does not appear to be anywhere too close, but that is what the Lebanese people should be aiming for if they want to, ever, live dignified lives in their own country.