Where is our Voice?

The self-extension of the Lebanese Parliament’s term yesterday did not come as a surprise to anybody. It was yet a further nail in the coffin of Lebanon’s democracy, albeit its own special tailor-made brand of consensual, whatever-you-want-to-call-it democracy, where nobody ever goes home a looser.

The self-extension of the Lebanese Parliament’s term yesterday did not come as a surprise to anybody. Busy in preserving their ill-gotten wealth, waiting for regional and international powers to be told what to do is a time-consuming job. Ensuring the sustainability of a system that weakens the state and preserves their positions as indispensable leaders, poisoning communities with corruption and sectarianism, left little time (or interest) to develop a better electoral law that would fit the national interest and hold elections on time.

A handful of protesters take to the streets on May 31, 2013 protesting the Lebanese parliament's extension of its term. Protesters threw tomatoes at a canvas of the 128 MPs. Picture by http://www.beirutreport.com/ - Habib Battah
A handful of protesters threw tomatoes at a canvas of Lebanon’s 128 MPs, protesting parliament’s extension of its own term in Beirut – May 31, 2013. Picture by Habib Battah (www.beirutreport.com).

However, what has and continues to come as an ever-growing surprise is what the Lebanese people are doing and what they are not doing about this.

What we do is complain, what we don’t do is do anything about it.

What we do is blame the system, what we don’t do is see how we can contribute in changing it.

What we do is blame sectarianism, yet promote it with our words and deeds in our daily lives.

What we do is dismiss any action to express our anger towards politicians (such as taking to the streets) as futile, what we don’t do is stop supporting them, continuing to get into fights with our friends over them, and voting for them, believing they are the only alternatives we have.

What we do is mock our Arab neighbors for their revolutions and the results they have produced, yet what we are not doing is taking our own first step towards change, in denial that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

We are a people with talent, yet waste it on making a name for yourselves with our rooftops bars and Guinness records.

We are a people with vision, yet it is always our vision that has no future.

We are a people of courage, yet bow to our petty sectarian fears and affiliations.

We are a people who have a voice, yet consciously allow it to be silenced, trampled upon and mutilated, making you wonder whether we truly deserve this voice and deserve the viciousness of our fate.

There is a revolution going on in Lebanon, in virtual Lebanon, with likes, shares and retweets. But how will this ever be translated into the real world. People have become self-sedated, apathetic, convinced that change happens in the movies, revolutions happen in other countries and that someone else will fight on their behalf to achieve their most basic national aspirations.  But that isn’t the way things work.

I have taken to the streets, shouted at the top of my lungs, truly believing that I, along with thousands of others, could make a difference and could make our voices heard. Major change didn’t happen because we become easily bored, wanting our one-shot demonstrations to result in immediate rewards but they don’t. Change didn’t happen because we resigned ourselves, yet again, to the fact that nothing will ever change.  Change didn’t happen because we didn’t fight for it hard enough, to tell our politicians, members of parliament, sectarian leaders, religious leaders and anybody in Lebanon and abroad who has any interest in the status quo or part of it, that we have had enough.  And given our inaction, why would they really believe otherwise?

I do not believe we can say this enough:

It is time to Occupy, to protest, to shout and act, as Lebanese, not as Christians or Muslims, nor as March 14 or March 8.

It is time to dismantle our fear of change, and translate our disgust of our democracy of sectarian dictatorships into change, refusing complete disrespect of our democracy by postponing elections, no matter how flawed our democracy may be.

It is time to stop finding excuse for our sorry selves and pathetic state of affairs, think about the absurdity of our past and hopelessness of our future if we remain as we are today, if we shout today and go about our business tomorrow as if everything were never better.

Yesterday, only a handful of people went down to parliament to express their anger at parliament’s arrogant disregard for the rule of law and for our intelligence. A feed up Lebanese citizen decided to put up a tent in front of Parliament, becoming a symbol of a population that has had enough and a symbol of a minority that truly has the courage and the motivation to fight for what it believes in. But a silent majority is worth nothing and a vocal minority can start change but not sustain it.

This tent was brought down, the man arrested and later released. If our MPs were afraid of one tent, what would happen if we all stood in their midst?


11 Replies to “Where is our Voice?”

  1. Good post. I do think people have had enough but too many also accept things in a sarcastic way, which feels like a coping mechanism to justify apathy. It’s true that only a few people showed up, but the media impact was huge. I think this proves that a loud minority–at least on the ground–can have a significant impact, enough so to influence others.

    1. Thanks Habib! We both know that people are tired and have had enough, but our challenge is to channel this into change, because we should aim and can aim for a better more functioning, and more just government. I still believe that regardless of the media presence, we must find ways to get our message across and keep the pressure on those who continuously disregard the people and do as they please, partly because we let them do so…

  2. Same story, different version. I’ve heard so much about the revolution that everybody is preparing for, but nobody had taken any action yet. Im still looking for the group of people that will take serious action so I can join. I tried by myself but want able to reach out to the right crowd.
    If u find anyone who’s available for the position of “revolution leader”, I’ll be the first to interview;)

    1. Indeed, there are many reasons stopping deep-seated change from taking place, one of the most important of them being sectarianism and everything that entails. Many share the same view as you, waiting to find the right grouping to join, someone to lead. However, I’m usually skeptical of leaders in this part of the world, especially here in Lebanon, and would have my doubts about rallying around him/her. Maybe we should consider alternative ways, a leaderless movement, from which a leader would later emerge…just a thought 🙂

      1. In Egypt, after they created a leaderless movement, it waas hijacked by political men of god. If we’re to revolt, we need to agree on what we’re revolting against, and how we will achieve this, and what will happen AFTER.

  3. Enough! Is the perfect outcry! Enough!!

    If Anarchy is the first step (which might well be) so be it. The status quo must fall (is falling, de facto). The so called world system is falling, even with all their technological advances; the developed nations (not us) have no immediate formula (model) to be ‘the answer’, the imperial and capitalist empire and by extension their farms (our countries e.g. Lebanon) is crumbling and is not sustainable.

    The socialist / secular model use to be the ideological substitute, but today that answer is not so acceptable or obvious. No doubt the future will evolve to the model that will have core elements of secularism, liberty, (true) democracy (representation), and socialism, progressive, and environmentalist.

    People of the advanced nations, developed nations (as usual) represented and lead by a minority of activists are already revolting on the system that is getting more unjust and tyrannical by the day (starting in the U.S). Their countries are heading to failed states; period of turmoil will ensue, and a new system more equitable must and will evolve.

    From India, Brazil, America, London, Greece, Ivory Coast, Luxor, to Tunisia it’s the same story, all of us have the same fight. The quicker we spit on and revolt on anything (anything) that helps prolongs the status quo, the better, including (dare I say, especially) religion and their popular taboos. The anarchy in the Arab world currently is a great step, those current opportunists will not last a blink of an eye (relative), they have nothing to offer, recycled garbage is more useful.

    Looking forward to more Anarchy, what can I lose!? I have everything to gain! And by the way anarchy is a political expression! Especially deliberate anarchy, do not underestimate it.


    Love you article, thanks for leading! Keep your brave voice alive!
    Thanks for the opportunity to rant!

  4. Apologies for the technical error, your comments didn’t appear here at first….

    Ryan: You certainly have a point, but in Egypt one of the problems was also that the opposition didn’t benefit from the financial and wide network of support the Muslim Brotherhood had been sowing for years, albeit underground.

    In Lebanon, sometimes my fear is that this so-called leader hijack a movement of change for his/her own purposes. Therefore, I would prefer to have a somehow leaderless movement, with a strong network across the country, specific objectives and take it from then. Then again, we really do not have anything to loose at this point.

    Hassan, no worries, we all get to rant sometimes, although yours, if we can ever qualify them as such, are very precise and backed-up rants 🙂

    But indeed, I think times have shown that the political/economic model followed by many developed countries lacks the justice, equality and indeed genuine and sustainable democracy we so desperately long for. That’s why I am very much interested in the Scandinavian models of social democracy, which I believe we have a lot to learn from.

    I don’t know about anarchy, but a little wake up call and challenge to the system, similar to what is happening in Turkey today, is always needed.

  5. Totally agree on the Scandinavian models Sweden and the like.

    About the ‘leaderless’ and ‘leaders’ or a ‘leader’, truly transformational movements, revolutions or any form of change do not need to be personified, on the contrary if they do, that is a sign of heading in the wrong direction (or the same) which would be wrong 🙂

    I really like the fact the Arab movements are just that mass movements, and the hijacking will not last, it’s about results (and they don’t look good to say the least). Sooner rather than later the pressure will reinvent itself with more vigor and awareness.

    The aim should be a bottom up force that drives the establishment of Laws, transparent public institutions, independent judiciary system, national unions, free media, and civic society… etc

    At that point the public and its institutions would make any public ‘servant’ accountable! From the teachers, to the doctors, the priests, policemen, the business men, the army general, the minister, the president (whoever) … accountable! for the motive always is …the public interest.

    It continues…

  6. Epic reply by Hassan:
    “The aim should be a bottom up force that drives the establishment of Laws, transparent public institutions, independent judiciary system, national unions, free media, and civic society”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: