The salience of the concept of martyrdom

Instead of a tree (as used by Hizbullah), the army seems to use its logo as a kind of schema to portray some of its combatants that died during the recent battles.
The concept of doing skeletons of martyrs if I may call it this way has the peculiar effect of constructing collective imaginaries (nationalism, etc.) around the crystallization of the militant deeds of these actors for the sake of the common cause.
Of course it does not mean that the army has exactly that in mind when doing it. It just signals how modes of expression travel well, and are empowered (given meaning) at various points in time. And here as this liner suggest (Lebanon triumphs thanks to the union of its army), martyrdom helps to create the idea that the Lebanese army is a living organism on its own feeding on the memory of those who died, strengthening the image of a unified institution, an image mirroring the projected dream of a nation.

By the way, I was at the Arabic book forum a couple of days ago, and saw that the Internal Security Forces had their own stand there, selling a huge book full of pictures about (and detailed account of), the ISF’s martyrs from the creation of this institution (before the independence and creation of the Lebanese state, during the French mandate) to this very day practically. It made sure to include the last year.

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a final note on caring

I take the liberty to update my fellow readers on what Al Manar is airing, as I am sure few of you (and you are already quite a few) watch the channel. From today onwards there will be on Al Manar TV a daily film (at 2h30pm) on the life of Al Sayida Mariam (the mother of Jesus), and in the previews I am sure I heard people talking about… the messiah.

More caring and some pedagogy

Manar TV (Hizbullah related) ran today a series of interviews with priests and Christian activists from and in Bethlehem (it was a live show), interpreting the birth of Jesus (that is commonly confused with the capitalist commercialized Christmas) as a communal celebration with the current state of affairs in Palestinian. It seems that this particular Christian celebration in Bethlehem takes a little militant turn and is used as a platform to denounce the racist and apartheid-like policies of the Zionist state.

There was an interesting priest talking from Al Manar’s studio with the host of the show. I could not get his name and whether he was Lebanese or Palestinian but he sure knew how to speak. Ironically, a socially militant Christian should turn to al Manar as a source of inspiration. I mean what can he get out of these wanna-be aristocrat Lebanese Maronite (and other) bishops for example? When did we ever see any of these conservatives talk about Palestine and other oppressive environments on a day like Christmas? Their Church sermons that are all over the Christian related TV channels are all about either some vague interpretation of the birth of Jesus as a source of peace, of God’s message of love. The only political undertones in Church’s sermons revolve around nationalistic self-preservation and elitist discursive articulations.

The original, not the fake (الأصلي مش التقليد)

Caption says: this is the “original”, el Asli (the one and only, unique, true) general

People often ask in Lebanon, when you buy a pair of Levis Jeans or some ‘famous’ brand, whether it is the original or some copy of the brand. It is not hard to guess what was thought to be the fake in this case. The one who can guess wins a special candy. Interestingly enough, nobody is claiming to be behind this new personality marketing campaign in Lebanon and according to this article nobody knows who’s doing it. It seems that the Lebanese army is out of this one.

R.I.P.

Angry Arab wrote:

The Obituary of Kahlil Gibran (we call him Jubran Khalil Jubran in Arabic). I looked up last night the obituary of Kahlil Gibran in the New York Times from April 1931. The headline went like this: “Khalil Gibran dead; Noted Syrian poet.” The subtitle said: “Wrote in Arabic and English–Native of Palestine, He had lived there for 20 years.” The text later said that “He was born in Mount Lebanon, Palestine.”

Jubran (the pride of Marounistan Lebanon, that probably does not understand much of maronite Jubran) wrote of himself as a Syrian from Mount Lebanon which was until the declaration of independence of Lebanon (in 1943) considered to be part of a region called Syria (or Sham).

It starts somewhere between Chile and El Salvador

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salador, was gunned down before his congregation while celebrating mass, by a right-wing militant (allegedly a member of a group called the White Warrior Union). Two weeks before he told a journalist the following:

I have often been threatened with death. Nevertheless, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. Martyrdom is a grace of God that I do not believe I deserve. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be a seed of freedom. Let my death be for the liberation of my people.

Some twenty years before that a Columbian priest Camilo Torres organized a United Front to link together peasants, slum dwellers, workers, and professionals to work for social change and joined the guerrilla Army of National Liberation. After meeting fierce opposition from Church instances, Torres finally renounced his priesthood and was quoted saying:

I took off my cassock to be more truly a piest, (…) the duty of every Catholic is to be a revolutionary, the duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution, (…) the catholic who is not a revolutionary is living in mortal sin.

On February 16, 1966, in an army ambush and counterattack, Torres was shot and killed.

I have been working on what was called Liberation Theologians for some time now and refrained from writing anything on the subject. I don’t want to bore you with all the theoretical considerations this entails when comparing with a movement like Hizbullah, but I wish to make two remarks here:

1- What I find amazing is how an age old considered-conservative establishment such as the Christian Catholic Church was turned and lived for a couple of years as a socially revolutionary institution. Interesting theoretical debates were taking place from the Vatican to Latin America. From its initial organizational spread, ‘red bishops’ as they were called were collecting victory after victory and although the conservative turn taken by Jean Paul two (we-love-you) has severely undermined the clerical foundation of the movement, they still are a powerful force to consider. In the case of Hizbullah, the various schools in Iraq and Iran have hosted the dialectical elaboration of a new class of clerics, and then the backing that emerged from the Iranian revolution has all contributed to this explosion of socially-oriented activism.

2- The State institutional setting in Latin America differ greatly from the one present in the Middle East. In the former, nationalist movements bear more on the construction of imagined communities, whereas in the Middle East, Islamic idioms are much more salient. And in parallel Latin America has a legal system directly installed by the secular tradition whereas in the Middle East, the secular tradition had to navigate its way through an age-old legal Islamic tradition that was sometimes badly integrated and sometimes totally compromised. This means then that Liberation Theologians and Islamic movements work in completely different institutional environment and have totally different agendas in their relation with the State, their conceptualization of secularism, nationalism, the role of religion (a word that needs to be defined).

2- Cultural idioms follow paths set by their institutional background when expressing a social reality. See for example how the idea of resurrection in the first citation is linked to a victorious act in turn assumed by the people at large. This articulation of victory through self-annihilation for a social purpose is dictated by a particular ethical stand though framed through institutional age-old elaboration: In his case the person is “being Christian”, in the other he is “being Muslim”. The term Christian or Muslim is void of signification except through the particular historical reality that empowers these terms in the militant Act, action (الفعل), that is political par excellence. Being then is a social process.

But more on this later.

Caring

I love it… Al Manar TV station that is close to Hizbullah has a very recurrent ad about the celebration of the birth of the prophet Jesus (Yasu3), son of Mariam, inviting viewers to pray and ponder on the event over the same type of fairy music they air for Eid el Adha, Eid Moubarak, and other related events.

Somebody should tell them that he is the son of God for crying out loud…