From watching the news lately, I come to think that the Lebanese media simply does not recognize that there is a population in the country. For the past couple of days, I heard Geagea, Seniora, Jumblatt, Frangieh(s), Nasrallah, Aoun, a plethora of bishops and sheikhs, and I may be missing many, attacking each other on the issue of Paris III and the imminent general strike that will take place tomorrow.
There were talk shows showing economy and finance ministers (former and present) assessing the pros and cons of Paris III and the “Development Plan”. To that effect, I am still working on a translation of Corm’s arguments, but I got severely sick since I am here so I am basically writing one paragraph a day and comatozing (I’ll spare you the time to search, this verb does not exist) in front of the TV occasionally waking up to the sweet sound of the different protagonists’ voice.
Just a parenthesis, the “Development Paper”, has nothing in it that touches developmental issues. At least, from what I saw of it when I worked at the ministry of economy last year (at the time drafting the paper for a hypothetic Beirut I). The whole rationale of the plan was to prepare something that looked serious enough (in terms of IMF, and Club de Paris standards) in order to get the funds required to service the debt. What’s even more funny is that initially the ‘social’ component of the plan wasn’t even considered, until the international instances advised the government that if they plan to push taxes that high, they must include what is called in the neoliberal-washington-consensus jargon “minimum social safety nets” as its absence would backlash on the whole project of “development” (because it would create unemployment and widespread poverty thereby hampering consumption). So, reluctantly the minister of finance included it. I actually assisted on its work with an economist (that I won’t name) and when he presented his paper, most of it was scraped as ‘not feasible’ because it needed to have administrative and legal reforms in place, and that for now the government was looking only for quick short-term solutions in order to get money.
In any case (I’ll write more on economic issues in upcoming posts), just to go back to my initial question, the media fed us with all the various declarations, press conference, rally calls, warnings, etc. voiced by the leaders. But not at any point did we see any investigative work at the people’s level. I mean if you think about it nothing interesting can happen tomorrow if the people don’t go out on the streets. So to say the least, the people are the most important variable in this political deadlock. Whether people would decide to close their shops and go on the streets, or will stay in their house, in both cases, they are highly instrumental to the unfolding of events. Ultimately, the leaders’ agendas are all conditioned by how the various constituencies will behave. But when the leader base all their hope on the people, the media (and public opinion) takes them for granted.
And so nobody, from the average citizen, was asked what he thought. For example, some journalist could have went on the street and asked some shop owner what is he going to do tomorrow, as simple as that. The media assumes that what the leaders say the people will do blindly. I always have l’Orient le Jour as an example (because my mom gets it every morning at home so I get the macabre delight to read this piece of toilet paper) they had two editorials today treating the people as “backward” and “regressing” and that paris III is a blessing because it is in some ways (not really understood by the authors themselves, related to the West which is good because they are superior. Of course, they are only repeating concepts voiced by arch criminals like Geagea or simple oligarch employee like Seniora, so no praise for the originality, but just to tell you how the fascistic tendencies (i.e. the total disregard for social issues) are prevalent and become unquestioned paradigms. The way to obliterate discourse is to say that what’s apparently economic has political ramifications (and regional extensions).
But whatever you say, whether somebody decides to close his shop and go down on the streets, is a matter of a thought-of decision due to a specific social and economic condition in which he’s been living in since who know when. And this is something no one tried to understand.