Democracy for you

What is mostly fascinating in Lebanon is that it presents an excellent example of the fictions of democracy. It renders visible the inherent tension between power/authority necessary for rules and decisions to be taken and people’s ‘bread and circus’ the democratic processes where unlike the Roman setting, here, we are made to believe that ‘everybody has an opinion that has to be taken into consideration’.

But authority discriminates inherently. State (and Nations) are built on this fundamental principle. Language, histories, territory, etc change based on this inherent violent founding act.

People are quite content to talk about democracy, liberalism, and the right to choose a leader, when the most basic violation has already happened: that people are defined by the very authority they think they are choosing, the very way authority is structured in the first place. In this case, people never choose, they are born and grow up in a conditioning state, established by the local legislative contexts and the relation to a history, a past they inherited from others before them.

Do you choose to be an American, a Lebanese, or anything else that authority sanctions before you are even born?

And in effect, Lebanon is a flagrant example of this because it has several layers of conditioning hierarchies while championing the discourse of democracy and rights et al. First there is the absurd positing of Lebanon as an entity with a State that barely functions. Today, no one questions this fact. Second, the confessional system which in the way it was established here (I will draw your attention to the radical difference with the Swiss case in a later post) precludes the possibility of building a State. Democracy here (the actual act of voting in the legislative and municipal elections) is set to strengthen this status-quo by renewing the acceptance of this newly conceived ‘society’, or ‘civil society’ (another absurd term), of the prevailing divisive and discriminatory system (to the different ‘confessions’ of the territory, and to who is conceived as ‘non-Lebanese’).

Democracy, in the case of Lebanon, has this added element that it fosters, year after year, the schizophrenia of people that must answer to the jurisdiction of that State.

3 Replies to “Democracy for you”

  1. Bech, your long posts always articulate what I am thinking. I’m so envious! As it happens, I teach a class at AUB in which we try to analyze the inherent contradictions of liberal democracy. I am far less convinced of it than my students are. Term after term, I try to bring out some elegant summation of the problem, which always seems to elude me. And here you are in six short paragraphs encapsulating it.

  2. Hey ‘semi-expert’, thanks for the appreciation I actually think am having a really hard time fleshing out my argument, and I still feel it is way from being clear, because there are so many angles you can look from in order to capture these contradictions.

    But it is good to know that your students are engaging in these types of debates, and it does not matter if they stay open questions, because in the first place there are no definite answers! Liberal democracies have their good sides too, I personally try to point out that there are some fictions/myths on which they rest just as much as religions, monarchies, or whatever social fabric we as humans came up with.

    Let me know what you think.

  3. Agreed. These are open questions, and in the discussion of them and their implementation, we may come up with viable improvements to the way democracies are organized and pursued. There are certainly favorable aspects to liberal democracies. We can hope for progress.

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