Nationalism, sexism, and other evils

I just learned something that is mostly fascinating, and may shock some of our beloved readers.

Everyone knows that a Lebanese woman cannot pass its nationality to her kid (if the father is not Lebanese, while the opposite is possible).

But did you know friends and relatives that a Lebanese woman married to a Palestinian man cannot even let her kid inherit her? (While if she was married to a man of any other nationality then she could actually make her child inherit).

You may ask what is fascinating about it. Well it is the fact that you can be sexist and chauvinistic at the same time and enclose it in a law. Beware that if I use the term sexist that does not at all mean I believe in “Women’s rights” in the liberal tradition. More on this later.

Campaign ad revisited, for women

And just to be fair, a counter attack:

3053_169365435709_672930709_6694575_892960_n(Be clever and don’t vote, no one cares about your rights)

Grand, petty concerns, and other electoral events

I am soon going to write a comprehensive post about electoral campaigning in this place that came to be called Lebanon. But I can’t help myself not to send you previews such as the one in the last post. It is quite amazing how far imagination can take one to uncharted territories.

Check for example this potential independent candidate in Jbeil:


So as you can see, Mister Abi Younes, apparently an environmentalist, has a very interesting electoral program. First, Abi Younes wants to plant trees all over Lebanon. Great. Second, Abi Younes wants to “revive the memory of Adonis and Ashtarout”. Now, what that is supposed to mean, except for being a call to paganism (which I rather like in a sense) is I fear going to be forever lost in translation. So for those who don’t know, Adonis is a character from Greek mythology, and this wikipedia page enlightens us quite further on a very interesting aspect of Adonis’ story:

there is no trace of a Semitic cult directly connected with Adonis, and no trace in Semitic languages of any specific mythemes connected with his Greek myth; both Greek and Near Eastern scholars have questioned the connection (Burkert, p 177 note 6 bibliography). The connection in cult practice is with Adonis’ Mesopotamian counterpart, Tammuz: “Women sit by the gate weeping for Tammuz, or they offer incense to Baal on roof-tops and plant pleasant plants.

Regardless of the fact that there may be no connection between Adonis and Tammouz (Alas for the Phoenicians), reviving the cult of Adonis could explain why Abi Younes would want to plant trees ‘all over Lebanon’. He probably should think of planting trees from here to Mesopotemia if he is really serious about reviving the cult. And here for Ashtarout.

Third, and here is the most problematic point of his campaign: Bringing back the sarcophagus of Ahiram to Byblos.. ahem.. Jbail. Now, you would excuse my ignorance, but I did not know where this sarcophagus was. For a second, taken by a semi-nostalgic semi-nationalist fever, I browsed the net to find out who were the bastards (surely some colonial power) that took it from us. It seems that the sarcophagus is actually in the national museum of Beirut. So Abi Youness wants to plant trees all over Lebanon, because he’s a nationalist you see, but he needs Ahiram to rest in Jbail. He needs his Ahiram in his little provincial city. He needs to revive the cult of a figure only discovered less of a century ago by some French archaeologist who for some reason left it in Beirut (Maybe he did not feel that it was worthy enough for it to be paraded in the Louvre or some other post-colonial voyeuristic place in the West). There you have it, colonial powers whether they want to or not end up messing things up!

I have called this the politics of grand, petty concerns, because it situates itself between a complex mythological history encompassing vast geographies, people, etc. (Hebrews, Mesopotemians, Phoenicians, Greeks and what have you), and a very narrowly defined, petty indeed, city-state, canton-style, lubnanouhom type of politics.

Winner of the best electoral campaign Ad

It is the Tayyar, one must admit…

tayyar1(Just be beautiful and vote)

A Christian, a Lebanese French language newspaper, and a date to remember

Not long ago was the 13th of April. And in the age of nationalism, we celebrate particular dates that symbolize an imagined common, communal experience, inscribed in time, Lebanese remember in this case the beginning of the ‘civil war’, in 1975 of this date.

I have nothing to say on this date. I prefer to scrap dates, lose time markers once and for all. But nothing can make my ulcerous side boil up more than articles that profit from this occasion to remember their narrowly defined interests.

Not long ago, I have started with a friend a new blog, in French, to try to point out the neo-colonialist and socially distinctive practices of the French speaking (mostly Christian, if not Muslim turned gentiles) community in Lebanon. I have a special relation to that as I come from this environment and have fought ambiguous battles with the French cultural heritage in Lebanon (if not in any post-colonial political creation). I speak French and read sometimes passionately some French writers as you could see on this blog. But I deplore the fact that this language became a source of social distinction, and the advancement of chauvinistic views.

But let’s go back to the subject of this post, a Lebanese columnist, Fady Noun, writing in this pathetically elitist newspaper called L’Orient le jour (on the 15th of April 2009), in French about the 13th of April. I wrote a lot on L’Orient le jour media practices, previously. Noun writes about history as if it was Christian history. Lebanon is Christian imagined sense of belonging. Some people called Palestinians emerges at some point in this honorable history and caused disruptions on their haven site. Noun relentless asks for justice to made “rendre justice” as he says, for this noble cause that is a “free Lebanon”. But at no point does he explain how to do justice. Worse than that, after being falsely compassionate with the “Palestinian people” who got stuck in this swamp with the “Lebanese people”, we see emerging a third type of ‘people’ that subjugated the first two. But you should read him yourself:

Et puis, en sommes-nous vraiment sortis ? N’avons-nous pas tous deux été manipulés par un troisième peuple, qui cherchait à nous soumettre à sa volonté, à ses plans, à ses visées ?

Gee, I wonder who is this third category of ‘people’? Can it be that he means the Syrians? So the Syrian ‘people’ have a ‘will’, have ‘plans’, and ‘objectives’ my friends. Yes yes, believe it or not. It is a battle of people. In the age of nationalism, it is politics turned upside down. People carry out their destiny and they differentiate themselves in this fictitious and shallow way. The political process is inverted. People have wills and elites are merely complying with their goals. If we could theorize that ‘fascism’ as a cultural phenomenon exists, that may be an excellent example of this type of process, even though I don’t like using a historical phenomenon quite specific to European political experience in order to explain something in this region, but the parallels are striking.

Fady Noun never clarifies his point instead goes into abstract consideration of, again, justice urged in order to save some type of blood spilled, etc. Needless to say that his Christian centered considerations makes me want to vomit. Come to think about it, the relation between the 14th of March culture of justice-seeking based on blood spilled (falsely  cross-sectarian because each community re-appropriates its martyrs) but devoid of actual social causes is highly reminiscent. A clear contrast is the nationalism of Hizbullah that has some form of social consideration. This becomes highly clear in the electoral campaigns as I will show in a coming post.

Fady Noun keeps on repeating that confessionalism is not the main problem behind the ‘war of people’ in Lebanon. While I tend to agree with the fact that confessionalism in itself as a concept is not something to be dreaded (especially compared to other forms of nationalisms), the Christian experience of confessionalism, in practice, has evolved from being very ugly (with the establishment of the state of Lebanon) to totally pathetic and pitiful today with the rise of other confessions as main players in the Lebanese artifact. The Christian argument is always reactionary whether Aounist, LF, Kataeb, or what have you. They all fall back to this attitude of “what can we do so that we remain special, as Christians”, or worse “what can ‘the other’ do to make us remain this prodigy child”. This perception of a lost prideful past, and this perception of a gloomy present or a bleak future will not take Christians anywhere.

Electoral philosophical injunctions

This tiny chunk of land that came to be called Lebanon is entering in full force its circus legislative elections. It is highly re-assuring to see that indeed the Lebanese advertising culture is now using its long-worked on branding concepts for the benefit of the various political factions. But from the Lebanese Forces who play it dirty or the Kataeb and Tayyar doing word games, I have to say that the ones that impressed me the most, that puzzled me to the extent of fascination is the Mustaqbal’s party campaign.

Mustaqbal decided to propose certain philosophical reflections, on the concept of.. well, the future. For example one billboard says “the present is a time that only exist in the future”. I have to say this one made me think for a while. It may be that someone in the marketing team read Bergson’s theory of time, and it may well be that he just came up with that intuitively. To that I would retort quoting Edmond Jabes (and I may come up with that on my own) that “the future is the past that comes”.

There are many different linguistic twists that these billboards carry. Very interesting yet disputed statements such as: “the future is where you spend the rest of your life”. But by far my favorite one is: “They asked the time, “where to?”, he answered: “I’m going to meet my future”. Priceless.

Understandably one should focus on his future so as to work and make a better life. Thus: “For every person who has ambitions, the door of the future is open”. Or this one: “It is nice to have history behind you, but it is even better to have a future”.

But I have this urge to tell Mustaqbal dudes that their fixation with the international tribunal, with the death of Hariri, with their martyrology culture they have been promoting in competition with Hizbullah is a regressive obsession with the past blowing up all their ‘philosophical’ reflections on the future as the driving force of political, social and economic change.

And with that I would end with another beautiful statement by Edmond Jabes: “Death is the past that persists” (La mort c’est le passé qui persiste).