Many Lebanese take pride in the fact that their country is a country of “action.” Not where actions are taken, but where action takes place. There is always something to keep us busy not bored. Something always ready to take the news headlines by storm, breaking yesterday’s breaking news as quickly as it will be broken by tomorrow’s new story.
During the past months, if it wasn’t about the adventures of Sheikh Ahmad Al Assir in Saida, it was the dilemma of the temporary and exploited workers of public utility company Electricité du Liban (EDL). If it wasn’t about the burning of tires by citizens to express their frustrations for the lack of electricity, it was the public and private school teachers calling for an improvement of their pay and working conditions. If it wasn’t about the stream of Syrians fleeing the violence in their cities and the Syrian regime’s attempts to export its conflict to Lebanon, it was about the way the Lebanese imported Syria’s conflict for free, out of their own volition into Tripoli, North Lebanon. And of course, shortly after an entire country was stunned by the case of Michel Samaha, for the boldness of his capture and the incredible accusations against him and those he collaborated with, we are now all equally taken back by the latest of the so-called military wing of the Mokdad clan, taking the law in its own hands to free a captured family member on its own terms. All the “action” we have been witnessing has been escalating, that’s for sure, and it won’t take long until some other development will take over, overshadowing all the other news that preceded it.
And so our problems pile up and the only way one problem is solved is by having another problem take its place. Problems are never solved only replaced. Nothing is dealt with only postponed. And you wonder why people ask how come we have a political crisis every now and then, security incidents always waiting to happen, civil war around the corner, and a lack of a national identity that ensures we are permanently on the verge of collapse?
If only by looking at the two latest developments unfolding, we can extract several lessons to be used, for us to take meaningful action to bring this place, if only somewhat, back to being a genuine country.
In the Samaha case, and if the accusations against him are proven to be true, one of the most important developments is that “collaboration” with Syria has been finally put on almost the same level as collaboration with Israel. Mind you, those behind Samaha’s capture and accusations, and those behind them, are as guilty of such collaboration. Almost nobody on both sides of the aisle, whether March 8 or March 14, cannot be accused of collaborating with Syria. What’s even worse, they have never even apologized to their people for years of colluding with Syria for their own interests against those of the people. But then again, if this whole case is proven to be true, this realization is a step in the right direction if it is only seen through, for Lebanon to come to terms with its bitter past with its neighbor. We will always have a, dare I say, special or rather interdependent relationship with Syria. We will always be neighbors, yet we must find a way to become sovereign vis-a-vis Syria. The road for that is long, and the start is to begin to come to terms with the past 40 years of blood and tears between us.
In the Mokdad case, it has been hard to get over all the jokes made around this surreal development, hard to get over the fact that a family can now have a “military wing” to take care of its “military affairs.” But it unfolds like a tragicomedy of lawlessness, with the potential to disintegrate into pure chaos taking the entire country down with it. However, it does serve as a reminder of how highly qualified this country is to enter the ranks of failed states. And how petty are those who believe the current government is the only one to blame for that. In fact they are all the governments, political actors, and non-state actors since the end of the war in 1990 that are to be held responsible. The only thing that has kept them together and what they share in common is their interest in protecting this failed state; to be a state enough for them to hold its reigns and failed enough for them to bleed it dry without being held accountable. This is what keeps the political class together.
If only some of the above is remembered beyond what it takes for the next big thing to happen, we may aspire for change. If only some of the above is acted upon, we may realistically aspire for a better tomorrow. But of course, we will all forget about it soon. More tires will be burned on some unfortunate road in Beirut or somewhere else, and we will continue to boast about Lebanon being a country where you never ever can get bored. This is the action we are known for. And the lack of reaction, of genuine reaction in terms of truly dealing with issues, solving our problems, extracting lessons and using them not to make the same mistakes again is what we will someday regret not having the courage to force upon our little world and those who claim to govern over us…