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.