Before the concept of Independence!

As some of you know, today is ‘independence day’ for what came to be called the “Lebanese”. This time I won’t bother you with my sentences. I’ll just translate Ziad Rahbani’s column that sums well my point of view (bear in mind that the joke is made in the Arabic language and that the gist is completely lost, but the idea I want to arrive at is fortunately not, so yes I prove again that I am desperately boring):

– Ok but before the Israeli planes, dad, who was violating Lebanese airspace?
– Nobody was violating it.
– You mean that our sky was free and clean?
– no, it was not our sky
– How come?
– It was the British planes violating Syrian airspace
– What has Syria got to do with it?
– Son, do you at least know that today is independence day?
– Yes I know
– Fair enough, but apart from that, it does not seem you know much.
– What do you mean?
– Because before this celebration day, we were at rest from all the meanings of independence and from its skies, and from the violation of our sky by Israel, and the skies of the school I send you to, and from your sky! Do you understand my son?!

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23 thoughts on “Before the concept of Independence!

  1. ……………
    Bech ? What dyou think about kosovo ? The kurds ? The palestinians ? Why do they want a state of their own ? Do they have the right aw kess emmoune ?

    S.
    Oh, and another question, how many times have you been to Syria ? (I know you think you already live there, but I’m talking in what those called the “lebanese” call Syria)

  2. kess emmoune ekhwet el manioukeh you mean?

    My trips to the capital cannot be divulged on this blog i’m sorry 🙂

    On a more serious note, I don’t understand what is the point of your comment?

  3. The point of this comment is get off our back for once.
    Stop hinting to the fact that we’re an artificial people. Who gives a fuck ? What’s natural ? What frontiers ? What peoples ? What are Americans for instance, then, except the descendents of a bunch of creepy bastards teaching their children they kindly stripped the indians of their land, then shared food? (Actually, yeah, what are they ? lol) Get over it. Frontiers exist. And if you feel EVERYTIME the need to criticize this crime we made to have a country, then I’m asking you about the same need the people of Kosovo express, or the kurds. And I think you understand my question very well. The world is already fucked up as it is, clocks don’t go backwards, and lebanon will never be part of syria(“again” if you prefer), because the trend is going rather the opposite way.
    wou ta3 zourna fi bériz, chta’nelak.

    S.

    Oh…. Wou chedd halak (I missed that)

  4. S. I sometimes sense that you have very little faith in your own state’s “right to exist”. You pull accusations out of left (or perhaps in your case, right) field and attribute them to the author of this blog. What would your opinions be if they weren’t always attempting to be diametrically opposed to Bechir’s? That might be very unsettling for you.

  5. And there are no natural frontiers. Not a single fucking one. Are some more artificial than others? Is that to be measured by their functionality, national identity, a binding narrative? If so, Lebanon doesn’t fare well, does it? Although as one other blogger likes to say, occasionally your contempt for Palestinians, Srilankans, Syrians and love of tabouleh and Fairuz pulls you together. Personally I think Lebanon could have an identity if it was part of Israel. All the chosen people together in one stinking sectarian place! Just kidding of course.

    Respectfully yours

  6. Just asking again : reading what you said : “contempt for Palestinians, Srilankans, Syrians and love of tabouleh and Fairuz pulls you together.”

    I’m not sure you sense anything except your own contempt and conviction that you detain the whole truth and know everything about other people. I don’t actually care about what you are, because my questions were definitely not asked to make another fucked up racist “sense” anything about “us” fairuz and taboulé people, whoever the hell you were referring to…

    Ah, one more thing : I’ll try to repeat it so you can comprehend it : the point of the comment is the opposite of discussing discussing the right to exist for any state. The point is there is no point in discussing it.

    And I also think the author of the blog is perfectly capable of defending himself and explaining his point of view, which he did by the way.

    People like you need everything to be symetric so their simple minds can comprehend it : If I disagree with Bechir, it doesn’t mean that I’m on the opposite side, or that I disagree with everything he interprets. If I disagree with what he thinks of what he calls “christian culture” (and that is racist btw, especially if pissed when others speak of muslim culture), it does not mean I have contempt for palestinians or syrians. But I’m sure you don’t even get what i’m saying.
    Get out of that PC of yours and meet some real people.

    Respectfully yours.

    S.

  7. Dear S.

    In a sense I agree with you that there is no point in discussing what one might call “the original sin” of the founding of a state (and in a way– even though I consider myself an anti-Zionist, I don’t think the founding sin of 1948 is the primary reason for opposing a one-race/religious state.)

    But I do think that a state’s functionality is perhaps related to a binding narrative for all its inhabitants– i.e. a history that everybody can agree on, more or less, at least shall we say on the level of elementary school history books. Lebanon lacks that. Questioning the “right to exist” not only relates to the borders of a state but the doctrine/constitution/governance. If one calls into question the confessional system i.e. the foundations of the republican system, is one denying Lebanon the right to exist, in your opinion? In the case of Israel, if one does not support a Zionist state, i.e. one that represents and favors Jews over other inhabitants, this would be in fact considered to be against the state’s existence.
    Those comments about Fairouz and tabouleh were only meant to emphasize the lack of a binding narrative. I’m personally fine with the lack of a national identity. In many cases I prefer it. But I do think that when systems of ruling fail (as I think they do for example in the US where Congress has become a rubberstamp institution and the Administration can get away with gross abuses), the fundamentals of the state need to be reconsidered. In my opinion, this is the only thing that would make a difference in Lebanon.

    As far as your irritation at Bechir’s tendency to bash “Christian culture”– I tend to believe that one’s outrage is always best directed at what we can affect and what we know best and by what we are collectively represented (sometimes against our will.)

    Respectfull yours

  8. Hey

    I completely agree on the necessity of rewriting the “systems of ruling” in Lebanon. And it is true that we lack national identity. We have none. And to be more direct : I like it, it used to smell like freedom of mind at some point. That’s what made it livable.

    That may be a reason why so many people are so attached to 14th of march, or to 8th of march : because for once it’s big enough and it goes beyond religious considerations (at least, that’s what they think) so they really perceive it as a collective movement for the sake of Lebanon (…)

    As for my irritation against Bechir’s definition of “Christian culture”, it’s basically because I hate being labelled or put in a “case”. I am christian (and seriously, whatever), I’m not at all conservative, I’m not a lefty either I guess, so what irritates me everytime is the need people have to put others on some opposable side because a disagreement with a specific point of view might relate to that side. I’m pro-palestinian, even if I don’t agree on Bechir’s opinion of the phalangists, I’m not pro syrian, not anti at all either, I simply think we should be smarter with the relations we have with policy-makers in Syria. Basically, I’m nothing colourful with my opinions. I just hate it when people talk about “Christian culture”, as much as – and trust me on this – I hate it when sunnis speak of chias, jews speak of muslims (…)and others speak of jews. That’s my problem with Bechir. He will argue to the death with people who will put all people from a same religion in one category, except one : the lebanese christians.

    Anyways, sorry for the long post, thanks a lot for explaining the taboulé people thing :), and sorry for being disrespectful earlier.

    S.

  9. Sandrine I totally understand your opinion but you are misreading me sometimes.

    Just to make it brief. I don’t think there is a rigidly defined Christian culture. But there are several types of cultures that evolved along different and sometimes contradictory paths in Lebanon depended on schools, families, social status, experiences of all sorts.

    When I try to point out some general remarks on it I am focusing on form available not on how people actually think. I don’t claim I know how people think, far from that. this is very important. There is not a ‘christian type’. But there are forms of discourse that are prevalent that people use differently at different time and place.

    For example, I am a Christian of Lebanon. or let’s say I am born and grew up in the midst of this social categorization. Although I am not at all ouet or what have you I still re-act to a specific common heritage of meanings that will be different from what a Shi’a would re-act to for example.

    And this is why I don’t think Christians are an exception, but all sects in Lebanon have different cultural spheres. I am not saying here that culture are ‘values’ far from it.

    Culture are all these meanings and images we use to make sense of things in our social surrounding and that depends on it.

    Now in the case of Lebanon, SOME FORMS of Christian cultures have been detrimental to the setting up of a viable political system. Ok no need to explain what it is all over my blog. I focus on it because it is important and it is very much present today, as illustrated by this parliamentary member I quoted.

    It is present also because I see it arising where I live, how people talk and make sense of things, how they perceive others etc.

    I sometimes write about other types of culture, especially the Shi’a ones because I am actually studying it.

    Basically I write on what I have time to write on. and what comes to mind. I actually would love to write on changing Sunni cultures as when I write about hariri i only focus on the economic per se.

    Anyway, I don’t discriminate but I do think there are things that asks for more priority.

  10. Bech, I am sometimes shocked by the same things that shock you.

    I criticize the harshness – and sometimes the lack of projection- or the moral judgement you put in your arguments.
    They make people completely blind to your arguments, however good they might be.

    I know the object of the blog is not to be a tool “pedagogique”, but sometimes I just can’t shut it. And you know that the only people who stand to read some of the articles are people who completely agree with you or who know you. The others hate it too much to be able to discuss things. That’s what I criticize mostly.

    Bref, enta z intellectual, wou ana Z sales person

    S.

  11. Hey S.

    Thanks for clarifying your perspective.

    You wrote, “…even if I don’t agree on Bechir’s opinion of the phalangists.” What is your opinion on the matter, and how does it differ from Bechir’s?

    I sympathize with your distaste for being categorized based on factors beyond your own will or choice (ironically, I think we agree, that this is one of the fundamental flaws of the Lebanon we now know) but I also agree with Bechir’s point that “SOME FORMS of Christian cultures have been detrimental to the setting up of a viable political system.” I tend to think that this is largely overcome now since the majority of Christians (sorry to generalize here) no longer aspire to a 10,542 Christian-dominated state and have much more realistic expectations (in a way, its even sad how many Christians I know can’t conceive of living in a Lebanon that is majority Muslim, because this would alter the very identity of what they conceive of as home.)
    I would go so far in my generalizations as to say that part of the Sunni political spectrum is now in a similar position to the Christian body politique before 1975 and in a way they are the most reactionary and opposed to certain fundamental changes (out of fear of being dominated by the Shia, like in Iraq.)
    Anyway, still curious about your opinion on the Phalangists. I also wanted to say that its inherent to this blog format to spend more time and emphasis on one opinion or point than another.

    Respectfully yours

  12. Hello again

    about the christians living as a minority in Lebanon… It would bother me to live in a lebanon dominated by one or other religion. Could it be that you confuse between their dislike of living as a minority with a muslim majority or their dislike of them having “home” being dominated by an “islamic” culture. What I mean by islamic is rather clerical domination. I’m not at ease with it myself. I wouldn’t be at ease with a christian dominated country either (clerical, again).

    About the phalangists … Tough one. My opinion is evolving still, but I won’t get to the point bechir got to, meaning that they were bloody murderers period.
    I think both parties were manipulated by their respective leaders. I can’t agree with bechir who says there was never danger on christians, there would have been no ethnic cleansing, etc, etc. because there is this dark part for me : why would the mufti of the republic at the time say, when palestinians attacked positions of the lebanese army then, that he would not recognize that army, that palestinians were the army of Islam. Why did palestinian factions and the Mourabitoun fight and slaughter people on the sole basis of their religion, their compatriots? Why did Arafat say that the road to jerusalem passed by jounieh, on his dying bed, that he ruled lebanon, Why did (excuse the generalizations), everytime the sunnis had the chance to chose a country or islam, they chose islam, etc., etc., etc. (the list is very long)…

    Bechir’s “point de départ” : christians ruled, racists, murderers, so there was war,ie to him, revolution from the people.

    My opinion differs in that : why did Arafat act like that ? Why did he try to fuck up every country he went to before he ended up in lebanon ?
    Are we absolutely sure, 100%, that it was the christians’ fault and sole fault, that the war happened ? Were they really paranoiac (or manipulative, depending on which layer) or was there really a threat which could explain better their behaviour ?
    Was it only their responsibility or should we try to review the behaviour of other communities in lebanon & outside lebanon at that time, that may have lead them to be that paranoiac ? Let’s not forget that arabs from many countries came to lebanon to fight the “jews” in lebanon. Why were things communicated like that ?
    Finally, what was the role of Syria, the United States, KSA, etc., etc. A US congressman came to Lebanon with a delegation in the 70’s and proposed to Frangieh that “christians” could be shipped to Canada or Australia (Frangieh kicked him out of course).

    What I think of the phalangists can’t be the same as Bechir. Because I’m not as sure as he is how things were or would have turned out in different circumstances. And that’s another thing I deplore about Lebanon : no collective memory, no nothing. Different schools, different religions, different teachings. and if this goes on very longer, to me it’s the same as having federations. Bechir Gemayel was narrated as a trator for more than 10 years, and today with 14th of march, he is practically painted as a hero. Even Nasrallah referred to the famous 10452 once in a speech. I actually discussed some politics with two sunnis I met in leb last summer, who found very interesting to tell me that they adored Bechir Gemayel but despised the “shias”…

    Basically, I’m not very clear because I don’t have a clear opinion on that matter. References, narratives are too different. Yesterday, some didn’t want lebanon and fought the lebanon-makers-trators-christians-whatever, today their children see Gemayel as a hero.

    The only conclusion I venture myself with so far for my own balance of mind, is that both peoples were fooled. Like today, geopolitics. And again, the best way to fool a people is to make them perceive another people/ religion as a potential threat. So what came first? Arafat+ mourabitoune or the lebanese christians ? We can’t put it all on the phalangists. That is a fact for me. You can’t isolate an element of its environment. People are not born racists or paranoiac. So if they were, what lead them to be like that ?

    The one thing I know for sure is I wish the “christians” integrated more what the palestinians were going through andd were smarter in dealing with them. How, I don’t know. Again, too many narratives of that period.

    On a more personal levels, lots of my family members used to be phalangists
    but I know they are not bloody murderers and they are definitely not racists or fashists. Really not a wishful thinking, just a simple observation.

    Ouf…. Does any of this make sense ? I don’t have the courage to review it…

    S.

  13. Sandrine,
    again you simplify a lot what i say.
    I never said that everything is caused by the phalangists. to make a long story short, the Palestinians did constitute a political challenge for the Lebanese political system. But the main point of tension arose because Christian elites wanted to preserve their dominance over the political system (and subsequently failed miserably). The Palestinians played a destabilizing role among many other players (like the Syrians subsequently).
    The main problem was an internal Lebanese ones. We could have solved the “palestinian problem” differently.
    Anyway that’s really a long discussion and has not much to do with what I talk about.
    If you think I should stop thinking that I know everything about how people think, then you must do the same especially for me.

  14. bich boch,
    encore une fois je dois arrêter de squatter ton blog.
    (Language of the empire) it’s not only related to you, but also to what other people sometimes say, mostly moroccon taxi drivers I chit chat with in Paris 😀
    I guess I mentioned you, achta, because it’s your blog and a recurrent subject, and as both of you guys said, some subjects are more of a priority than others here, that’s all. at least, for once, I get to explain why I go completely nuts over here sometimes.
    Machina :’

    S.

    PS I promise I’ll shut up for at least a couple of days to compensate

  15. bich boch,
    encore une fois je dois arrêter de squatter ton blog.
    (Language of the empire) it’s not only related to you, but also to what other people sometimes say, mostly moroccon taxi drivers I chit chat with in Paris 😀
    I guess I mentioned you, achta, because it’s your blog and a recurrent subject, and as both of you guys said, some subjects are more of a priority than others here, that’s all. at least, for once, I get to explain why I go completely nuts over here sometimes.
    Machina :’

    S.

    PS I promise I’ll shut up for at least a couple of days to compensate

  16. just asking again :

    I’m curious about what you think of the phalangists too btw.. Any insight to bring to my very confused version of history ?

    S.

  17. Aah, Sorry S. I’ve been hiding from the Internet in general and this blog in particular, in the hope of getting some work done (for once) 😛

    My position on the Phalangists is probably closer to Bechir’s, although I’m unsure to what extent I blame the people rather than the leadership (I tend to lean towards the latter). I do agree with you about the treatment of Bechir Gemayel first as a monster and now as some sort of extension of M14’s culture of elite martyrdom. I find that quite sick and just another element of how dishonest and shallow that “movement” is. I find nothing to like about a veiled Sunni girl carrying a poster of Al Hakim.

    One point that I do not see addressed in your response however is the issue of Christian ambition for control in the early years of the republic and the related neglect (or denial) of demographic realities which contributed to (or is perhaps largely responsible for) the messy confessional quagmire we still find ourselves in.

    So ultimately– given that we agree that the lack of a binding narrative for “all Lebanese” is detrimental to the consolidation of a functional state– do you think that the confessional quota system should be abolished, and if so replaced by some sort of federal state with autonomy? This is a question that I ponder a lot, not the least because a secular state appeals to me most, but also because I realize that minorities require guarantees that they will not be subjected to the will of the majority (in this case, eventually at least, a Muslim one.) Can you envision a secular state that would guarantee constitutionally that the Christians, Druze, etc. do not feel alienated? As is, I’m not worried that Hezbollah will create an Islamic state (because this would not be popular with even the majority of Shia, I suspect) but I know a lot of people who do fear this.

    Are you still there or has Bechir posted so many new items that this will be lost somewhere in the archive?

  18. No, no I’m still here 😀
    Was waiting for your reply, and I’m trying to moderate comments on bechir’s other posts otherwise he’ll find a way to kick me out!

    So…. Definitely a secular state for me. I’m not really comfortable with a federal state at this point. But maybe someday, there will be no other way. Right now, it would be too bad, because no other solution would have been tried. That’s a last attempt solution.

    But a secular state is not feasible today. And probably not before 10 or 15 years. Too much work to be done on the lebanese, and the way they conceive lebanon and religion before it can be done.
    My favourite recipe would have been a dictatorship actually.
    Well, not a real one and the focus would be on social and economical questions. Religion banned from public issues. Not possible today.
    So one last thing is left until then and maybe to gain some time: communication, NGO’s and lobbies.
    They would lead to intermediary soft reforms like for instance, the educational system. Force schools from whatever region to have a mix of students. The only people I’ve met who sincerely didn’t give a shit about religion, which shocked me (in a positive way) at the time : collège protestant (the lycée français too). I have a huge group of friends from there. And seriously, I think some don’t even know what the others’ religion is, after like 15 years of friendship !

    Anyways, the lebanese are not barbaric, history proved they have a really short memory and are not that enlightened. Changing them shouldn’t be too hard.
    So only thing I’m waiting for is some kind of movement. Aoun launched something but I’m not sure it’ll get far. I don’t know how democratic the movement is, so I don’t know what happens when he’s gone.
    Until then, I’ll hang around the blog and piss bechir off until he says he adores geagea 😛

    S.

  19. No, no I’m still here 😀
    Was waiting for your reply, and I’m trying to moderate comments on bechir’s other posts otherwise he’ll find a way to kick me out!

    So…. Definitely a secular state for me. I’m not really comfortable with a federal state at this point. But maybe someday, there will be no other way. Right now, it would be too bad, because no other solution would have been tried. That’s a last attempt solution.

    But a secular state is not feasible today. And probably not before 10 or 15 years. Too much work to be done on the lebanese, and the way they conceive lebanon and religion before it can be done.
    My favourite recipe would have been a dictatorship actually.
    Well, not a real one and the focus would be on social and economical questions. Religion banned from public issues. Not possible today.
    So one last thing is left until then and maybe to gain some time: communication, NGO’s and lobbies.
    They would lead to intermediary soft reforms like for instance, the educational system. Force schools from whatever region to have a mix of students. The only people I’ve met who sincerely didn’t give a shit about religion, which shocked me (in a positive way) at the time : collège protestant (the lycée français too). I have a huge group of friends from there. And seriously, I think some don’t even know what the others’ religion is, after like 15 years of friendship !

    Anyways, the lebanese are not barbaric, history proved they have a really short memory and are not that enlightened. Changing them shouldn’t be too hard.
    So only thing I’m waiting for is some kind of movement. Aoun launched something but I’m not sure it’ll get far. I don’t know how democratic the movement is, so I don’t know what happens when he’s gone.
    Until then, I’ll hang around the blog and piss bechir off until he says he adores geagea 😛

    S.

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