Faces of Christian culture in modern Lebanon

I hope that one day we will have a detailed historical and social account of the rise of a chauvinistic culture among the Christian constituency of this newly created state of Lebanon. It mustn’t stay in the generalities, like ok they were rich and all (because that is not accurate at all) or privileged, but it will have to really go deep into an analysis of their changing lifestyles, educational patterns, different placement in the economy, material and spiritual expectation, the dynamics of colonial and post-colonial influence etc. But until then, and for fear of repeating myself I will continue pounding in this direction.

So in another post away from this blog, I quoted this Lebanese Parliamentary member’s very luminous political convictions. I thought that was it, but I don’t know why his words got stuck in my mind for a couple of days. As it was part of a nice article written in French and published in L’Orient le jour on the lifestyles of the parliamentary members that were locked in the Phoenicia hotel and because I wanted to comment further on these words, I translated the haunting passage:

From his first [Bassam Chab] words we understand that he is against all type of compromise, “because it could be the prelude of the end of Lebanon”, he thinks. “There should be no concession in our decisions because we are not waging a political war, but a battle against an ideology that refuses to be in phase with its epoch, an ideology that will sink the country in the darkness of the Middle Ages and ring the tocsin of a free and modern Lebanon. We are struggling with a system of the past that is fanatic and mediocre; against a foreign culture that has nothing in common with our cultural heritage.” Chab even refutes the principle of “neither winner nor a loser”. “Either I am a winner and I live like a free man or I am a loser and I leave this country. A country where it is enough for a person to put on a robe to crown God and decide to humiliate me in public [too bad I can’t translate the word he uses here: gémonies] because I drink alcohol or because I am Christian. I want a definitive solution to the Lebanese problem. I don’t want to see my kids to live what I am living now. They (Hizbullah) liberated the south? So what? The Communists have fought the Nazis, but this is not a reason to accept a system that has violated human rights and has been responsible for 10 million death.”

Ok breath in slowly, and breath out even slower…

See, every single word, clusters of words, are a sign of so much prejudice and ideological content. I won’t even mention the style in which this paragraph was written (the particular French syntax), but this betrays the practices of two agents, the journalist and the deputy. Instead of commenting lengthfully on each, I am going to list a number of points that comes out of this paragraph:

1- The ‘Middle Ages’ metaphor (imported from the West) to symbolize ‘backwardness’. The other is the enemy and the enemy is inferior. (Post-Colonial rhetoric of social difference)
2- We have a ‘cultural’ heritage, ‘the other’ does not. Superiority is always established through symbolic struggle, the power to name or to set the terms of speech (Sahebna Bourdieu)
3- Demonization of the enemy through the ideological. Hizbullah is like “Communism” (the idea) because on the ground, Communist was ‘responsible for so and so’, so Hizbullah must surely be the same thing, no need to judge Hizbullah on the ground. The alcohol example goes in line with this type of reasoning. (Shrikna Zizek).
4- The idea that ‘we don’t compromise’, patriotism is either I win everything or I get out. What follows from 1 to 4, is a chauvinism and a complex of superiority that precludes the possibility to negotiate, to engage ‘the other’, the other has been abstracted as an idea. In turn this signals no real capacity for diplomacy and engagement.


4 Replies to “Faces of Christian culture in modern Lebanon”

  1. you’re assuming that Hez are Lebanese. I can assure you, even though they played a part in Liberating the south, they are more Iranian than Lebanese, and as you know – their culture is much different…

    I see no prejudice in the paragraph you quoted, if you do, then, that is a different issue altogether… perhaps you should examine your own predjudices..


  2. I am still debating with myself whether I should answer you directly (take seriously what you just wrote). Because judging from the ideas fleshed out in your comment, you did not get much of what I said, and so I don’t see why you would understand anymore of what I have to say.

    I could propose to you (while I am debating) that you re-read carefully what I meant in this text (see how it can apply to the processes inherent in the text of your comment), and then give you the chance to modify or erase your comment.

    Word of advice: look for what you meant when you said “culture”
    Look for what you thought when you said “Lebanese”, “Iranians”. Focus on the difference between the idea you have of a phenomenon, how this idea develops different realities in your mind, and the actual difference it may have with realities on the ground. Look for the ground. Also, try to see how these ideas are actually blinding from looking at the reality (the ground).

    And get back to me. Best of luck.

  3. Allah yse3dna 3a bechir… Hopeless. Just hopeless. My hope relies on the “rassasiement” that you’ll feel eventually, after turning and turning and turning and turning and turning and turning .. (breath out, breath in), and turning and turning and turning and turning around this issue … then you’ll take a good look around you and realize that “the other side” (that is the other side in someone else’s head – whose ?) is exactly the same. There’s so much worse I have heard or was told than this poor guy stupidities.

    Sandrinette qui va, je le sens, se taper une sale réponse.
    Akh ya allah.

    Ah, une question : le hezb a-t’il une idéologie selon toi ou pas? Et si oui, laquelle selon toi ?

  4. sandrinette desole je n’ai plus repondu.

    Hizbullah a des ideologies, dependemment d’ou tu regardes.

    On a tous des ideologies n’empeche.

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