I unfortunately cannot post the link because the article was published yesterday and L’Orient le Jour think that they are so interesting as a read that they make their archives payable (although without an online system to view it), but there was a certain Elie Fayad who wrote a horrible article unleashing his wrath against none other than Michel Aoun (leader of Christian opposition group). Funny how the most vitriolic charges against Aoun are written by Christian proto-fascist culprits. And L’Orient le Jour has been the most important platform (much more than Annahar interestingly enough I would argue) to make it a duty to criticize Aoun everyday (two days ago it was the decadent made-columnist Ziad Makhoul). Without reviewing all of the non-sense these guys propose, I just want to stop at one idea articulated by Fayad that is quite symptomatic of the intellectual thinking of the political right not only in Lebanon, but also in any produced political depiction of the Middle East, and that is the idea that today, the Arab world is not anymore in a struggle to assert an ‘Arabist’ face (as it was supposedly the case from the 1950s till the 80s) but is actually struggling to deal with the internal demon of the ‘Sunni-Shia’ divide. He uses this historical development to explain why Christians (because it is always about the choices Christians should make at L’Orient le Jour) should change their point of focus.
The following is just a parenthesis of thoughts derived by this reading (I will try to elaborate these ideas at much greater length in later posts). In this simple statement, you have decades of symbolic construction (elaborated by intellectuals, political actors, etc.) condensed to produce the best example of an ideological statement. It is as if when you talk of a ‘Sunni-Shia divide’ there are such entities in reality as ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’ beyond the political interest of a few who instrumentalize and create constantly re-drafted boundaries for what we should understand when we say ‘Sunni’ or when we say ‘Shia’. Of course, Fayad may know this, may be able to do this deconstruction. But if he’s conscious of the political manipulation, he nonetheless uses the available discursive form thus complying with the dominant discourse, reiterating something essentialist about the ‘Sunni’ or the ‘Shia’ beyond the material basis for such labels. This is the crux of the ideological: some hidden meaning in the word that does not really exist in the Real, that is nonetheless used to make sense of reality, even if conscious of its non-existence (i.e. that the subject is conscious of the fact that the concept of a ‘Sunni-Shia divide’ is not really existent across all of the Arab world).
Take for example the concept of ‘the Syrian’ or ‘the Palestinian’, and see how the pervasive ideological element (the idea that there is something lodged in the idea of a Syrian or a Palestinian, something synonymous to ‘the other’, ‘the enemy’, ‘the manipulator’, or the one who pulls the strings for example) has foreclosed the possibility of genuinely interesting inquiry about political developments in the past couple of decades.