How to understand Gemayel’s assassination? A Christian perspective

I want to talk about a very simple idea I have in mind. I think killing Pierre Gemayel has many repercussions that we already talked about but the most important repercussion is on internal Christian feuding. I think this is where the core problem lies.

Just to make a long story short the traditional Phalangists were either for a State – where Christians clearly dominates the decision-making process – or federal structures. This is partly why they had a militia in case the turn of events got awry. Later on Lebanese Forces represented the abandoned hope of monopolizing the State (although the Hobeika branch of it represented the possibility of using the state as a cash cow just like most of the politicians who prospered during the post-war era). The brief period when Bachir Gemayel was capturing the presidential seat could have created the possibility of capturing the state and thus resolving the security dilemma of falling back on cantonized structures. But it soon fell into disarray and Amin Gemayel could not (and maybe did not really try) to create a strong State (and even if he would have succeded it would have been a strongly Christian dominated one, and this would not have lasted long).

Killing Pierre Gemayel is only a useful thing to do if such perception of the Lebanese state exist in the Christian Psyche. Why Gemayel? I would say why ‘a’ Gemayel? Because Gemayel is a highly symbolically charged name. Gemayel represents the perception of some kind of Christian glory. If Bachir Gemayel had really seized power then we would have probably had a couple of years of Christian ego boosted to the fullest. In reality all we were left with after his sudden assassination (Bachir’s) was a memory of longing for this Christian pride one day materializing (so much more ego boosting because present on fantasized level so much stronger because not realized). This is the ultimate danger, this is the ultimate dead end in which many Christians immersed themselves willingly or unwillingly during the past years. And it was transmitted from one generation (the war generation) to the other (the post war one).

The act of killing Gemayel has material repercussions (alliance shifting, stopping mobilization here and there, pushing for this or that political decision, weakening or strenghtening parties, etc.) but ONLY through the SYMBOLIC content it is charged with. This content would not have been existent if the Christians did not cultivate the myth of the prideful lost past. Only because of the material instrumentality of this symbolic content, the guy was killed. Do you realize, you bunch of egomaniacs that while you were fantasizing about the glory of a groups lost past, you made the killing of one of its product much more likely?

Christian weak points are being manipulated (I know, I sound like someone from the Lebanese Forces, but hear me out). It is only when the Christians will abandon the ego trip, that they will have everything to gain (a region!). But I reconfort myself in the belief that many Christians have understood this point. Let’s see what happens next.

4 Replies to “How to understand Gemayel’s assassination? A Christian perspective”

  1. Good post. I find the generational aspect fascinating, within Christian circles and without. Mustn’t it be a proud past if hopes are unrealized … Who would a sound accounting of that past benefit, surely not the current elites, and what political structure would facilitate such a political consciousness. Even the so-called moderates 😉 seem to have little interest, or perhaps incentive is more accurate, to formulate a new image based on the realities, rather than the fictions of the past … Please answer, if I have made myself clear …

  2. Yes, nobody benefit from it. Only what I would call the “isolationist” Christians (those who look in Europe and the US as the true reservoir of their pride) think that it lift their morale. Plus it gives them a political rationale for existing.

    I was focusing more on the effect at the bottom level. the meaning for identification created at the popular level. It’s not really a question of interest per se.

    Those elites (especially Christians) who have understood the lost bargain that represents the Gemayel paradigm, and who you can call moderates in this case, do not elaborate another image of how should a Christian think of himself. I think this is the second biggest mistake made by Christian politicians, the first one being the one we talked about in this post (clinging to the lost pride).

    Now we can say that Tayyar is elaborating this ’embracing’ culture more corcibly. It has to be met with material changes and practices on the ground, and this is already occuring, but it takes time.

  3. re the generational transmission of this set of images and meaning for identification, I would like to add that it is precisely the fantasy (i.e. not lived in the real) that creates the strength of the entrenchement of these beliefs. Older generation who sympathized with Gemayel and lived the war are much calmer in outlook even if they still think the dream exist. It’s just a question of having lived part of the reality.

    When you live the real you’re already more moderate than when you’re just fantasizing. The real (the material) has a moderating effect in all aspects of life I find.

  4. The lived may be more moderate themselves but they are directly responsible for the transmission of very different story to their offspring. This may be human nature, but it is also a question of the larger political culture.

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