And into the dustbin of history…

Who hasn’t heard of “the dustbin of history.” It’s a place you would wish actually existed, to which some people, ideas and events eventually end up or are pushed into, unaware that their time under the sun has come to an end, never to come back again. When it comes to the true sense of the word, I am biased towards the Arabic version – مزبلة التاريخ (maz’balet al tarikh). Even though it’s a literal translation of the English term, it’s more descriptive, whereby dustbin implies so much more dirt, filth and decay than its English equivalent. It even sounds nastier. And it is this exact expression, with its full implications, that hit me when I saw this video (in Arabic).

Sonia Frangieh Rassi is the daughter of former Lebanese president Sleiman Frangieh (1970-1976), and aunt of current head of..well, let’s just say she hails from a family of feudal origins, those whose existence should have ceased with the Middle Ages and of warlords, whose political existence should have also ended with the end of wars of bygone eras. In this video, Frangieh Rassi represents not only herself, but a small yet still powerful class of feudal lords and warlords active in social and political life in Lebanon. They have all re-branded themselves into 21st century politicians, whereby employment is now traded for loyalty, military fatigues exchanged for shiny black suits and rifles replaced with Facebook and Twitter accounts to widen their appeal to the masses. Others of her type and that of her family are well-known (including the Jumblatts, Al Assad, Gemayel, Pharaon and Skaff) and may not be as vocal as she is, but undoubtedly think the same. Even though she seemed convinced of her feudal talk, given that all the criticism was aimed at Gebran Bassil and Michel Aoun, it raises questions of the extent to which this was just a political attack more than anything else. It may have been partly so, but no, no, this was as feudal as it got…

“These are our people [implying ownership],” or “Who is Michel Aoun? The Frangieh family is far more important than he is,” or “Can you envisage to take orders from someone who was, one of our people [again, implying ownership].” And in case the audience still didn’t get the message,“The Frangieh family is a feudal family…and I see things as they are.”

For non-Arabic speakers, I would be more than glad to give you a more detailed readout of the video clip. You could try emailing Mrs. Frangieh, who’d be delighted to send you a copy, but she’d probably have to buy you before you’d be able to listen to it.

Some people make history, while some slowly fade away and are history. There are still others, who struggle to remain relevant and significant beyond their time; those are relegated to the dustbin of history…

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2 Responses to And into the dustbin of history…

  1. Robert Haddad says:

    Wow. That she actually has no notion of a mental filter and speaks what she thinks is revealing and frightening. I like her constant mingling of French and English words in her speaking–just enough to underscore her high culture and worldliness, especially when compared with her illiterate serfs, n’est-ce pas, habibi?

    What is unfortunately missing in the interview is the banana discussion. After all, if she is that proud and open about her feudal roots, her current feudal identity and the inevitability of her family’s glorious feudal future, surely she ought to be well versed about the banana republic she represents. Then again, calling Lebanon a banana republic would be an inult to bananas.

    90% of Lebanon’s (and the Arab world’s) problems stem from this neo-feudal mindset. “Family” and “tribe” precede the “state”. There is no concept of civic education, or state institutions, except as mediated by the tribe/family.

    At the end of the day, the sad truth is that the Franjiehs, the Jumblatts, the Gemayels, the Salams, (like the newcomers to the game of Feudal-opoly such as Berri, Aoun, Geaga, Nasrallah etc.) have more in common with each other than with their constituents. It is also an even sadder truth that without the blind support of “their people” their positions of power and privilege would be untenable. Look at the interviewer: if I was in the interviewer’s seat I would have been throwing up all over that anachronistic windbag. Instead, she went along betraying only slight unease that reinforced the notion that, in Lebanon, this IS the way, and we should all put up, and shut up!

    Thank you or sharing this revealing video clip.

    • ” “Family” and “tribe” precede the “state”. There is no concept of civic education, or state institutions, except as mediated by the tribe/family.” Indeed, if we can go beyond this, so much change could happen.. Thanks Robert.

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