New moralists, that is what we needed

That is really funny. A Lebanese NGO is filing a lawsuit against Lebanese political leaders for “violating article 317 of the country’s penal code prohibiting incitement of violence”.

The accused include party leaders Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah, Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces, Nabih Berri of Amal, Saad Hariri of the Future Movement, Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement, Amin Gemayel of the Phalanges and Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party.

Ambitious innit? Most important for me is that it is just absurd and ill-directed. See the reasoning:

“It’s not just about people going to the street and fighting each other,” said Rabab El-Hakim, another CHAML member. “It’s the inner feelings of people toward each other – the hatred between different sects and political parties increases after these speeches.”

I beg to differ with this NGOist. This jump from on one side, practical measures taken to incite violence to, on the other, creating feelings of hatred, is a sweeping step. Looking for “inner feelings” can be very perverse.

First of all, this assumption of ‘provoking’ hatred through a mere verbal statement undermines the capacity of people to think for themselves: if people pay attention to what leaders say it is through a more comprehensive approach to their discourse. People try to make sense of the overall. How it fits into the grander scheme of things through time, albeit through their representation of things. And evidently enough their representations of the others have also to do with their daily practices, their lifestyles etc. Confessional and other divisions in Lebanon are socio-economic. “Hatred” whatever that means has nothing to do with it. It is this urge to moralize the conflict that helps the segregating ‘differentiating’ process between groups.

The real issue at stake is that Nation-building going hand in hand with a process of moralizing, and thus framing notions that may be way more complex in reality. For the ethical nation to strive it needs culprits. Hatred needs to be defined and pointed at: “This is incitement to hatred”. Lawyers are here to back it up. There is a process of deliberation and interpretation in order to decide if this or that means incitement to hatred. Do you realize how vague the quest here is? We are not trying to know who killed or tortured or commanded such operations, but really if the statements made do incite to this vague sentiment called hatred. This is probably one aspect of fascism (or liberalism for that matter).

Do we need to remind ourselves that modernity is built on this constant strive to spell out, define, and categorize “inner feelings”, so to domesticate him better, make him more servile to the ‘rule of law’ to the dictate of the nation-state by the sole use of his own ‘consciousness’? Embrace the modern man.

There is no State in Lebanon ok? Fix your conceptual frameworks

Yet another analysis of Hizbullah very sneakily undermining the functioning of the State of Lebanon, this time by none other than the only Muslim writer of the French Colonialist-nostalgics, chauvinistic and socially elitist Lebanese newspaper L’Orient le Jour. I don’t understand this guy by the way, Mahmoud Harb. Doesn’t he realize how anti-Muslim this newspaper is? Is this some new kind of ‘gentrification’ occurring here in the Middle of the East? Ironic innit?

It may never become boring to emphasize that these analyses assume very comfortably that there is a State in Lebanon. This trend of thinking assumes that if some political actor changes his behavior then the State would re-institute its ‘rule of law’ that it is dying to perform. Which means that Hizbullah should just ‘play by the rules’, here rules being the textbooks rule emulated from State-practice in the West. But here, the rules are different, indeed have nothing to do with rules elsewhere because there simply is no State in Lebanon and there is no rule of law because ALL the actors on the Lebanese scene undermine the possibility of having a State by their VERY presence and specific political activity in this delimited geography.

Hizbullah is neither a culprit nor a Samaritan in this game. They face the same problem others political actors would face which is the fact that the State cannot give them what they want. Because it is simply not functioning, and that even if they want to make it function they would clash with the interest of others.

Indeed friend and relatives, this is why every political actor in Lebanon constantly balance between having sudden drives of taking-over the State and establishing centralized decision-making, which would create more sense of talking about a ‘State’, and just letting things go and try to carry on with what is available, using that semblance of a State when possible, and using parallel structures when one has to. It is not a joyful decision, but one that is made out of frustration. This last statement is key to the discussion.

Writing Hizbullah

An excellent article today in Al Akhbar by a friend of mine deciphering the various media and other type of intellectual production in the “Lebanese” sphere that came to shape how Hizbullah was and is written. In so doing Raed Charaf goes through a very detailed account of the various types of intellectual activity that shaped how Hizbullah is perceived today and the different political actors backing these discourses, and thus making these discourses possible. At last, someone taking a step back and understanding the formation of discourse in its socio-historical context.

Hare Krishna Inc.

The London School of Economics is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in the world where a tremendous amount of “international” students flock in to receive the benediction of the neo-liberal priests, from the capitalist-technological temple otherwise known as western academia. They then go back to their countries to preach the new religion. They enter a symbolic economy that directly throw them in the sphere of the elite simply because they know the jargon. It does not mean they understand ‘reality’ in a better way, it is just that they speak of it with particular words, a particular syntax, a style, they ‘name’ things in a way, they diagnose the ‘symptoms’ which permits them to act accordingly in the economy.

In any case, this is not the subject of this post (if this topic interests you, you can read this illuminating case study, or simply that). In front of the main building of LSE, there is a little carriage held by a guy who give away free vegetarian food to the random passerby. Tapestry of hare krishna slogans with facts about how pacifist and enlightened it is to eat vegetarian food, how it inspires a spirit of giving to the to other, of caring for animals, etc.

I seriously wonder, why are these guys giving food to those whose thirst is quenched? Why aren’t they taking their carriage to where the hungry is and to where the poor resides? No doubt that the poor would rather have eggs and bacon at the average coffee place held by a mix of poles, turks and other pariah of the London economy.

Watching the queue of very fancily dressed students coming from the economic and social elite of all over the world, waiting for their karma food, was really something disturbing. Except for Islamic movements I have yet to see emerge social action performed by movements deriving from traditions and specific readings of history preaching to other people than the rich. It may be that the particularities of the European nation-state system does not let emerge interesting social action outside the official party system in place with its affiliated syndicates and pressure groups.

Actually, it is the idea of nation that has been stolen from what is today referred to as ‘religion’, and its sanctioned claim to write history. But more on this later…

Christians back at it

Muslims had the upper hand in this, but I guess this Polish priest understood how it works in the age of modernity-print-capitalism-economy.

Je parle de toi: Une interlude avec Edmond Jabès

Je parle de toi
non de ma lampe d’ombre
de mon pas de lévrier
le vent dans le talon de l’or
le vent dehors dedans
l’on ne s’entend plus

Je parle de toi
Une foule répond
Des fourmis sans voix sans cris
Et pourtant
le silence tue comme la mort
le silence règne seul à naître

Je parle de toi
et tu n’es pas n’as jamais existé
Tu réponds à mes questions
L’araignée se heurte à l’haleine des monstres
à l’aiguille des robes pressées d’en finir
Le taureau incendie l’arène
où le roi mendie son royaume
Tache de sang socle de douleur

La plus haute ce n’est pas toi
Tous les fils de tes prunelles
noués au soleil
Le monde se dépouille
et la face de l’homme hurle au centre
rien que toi colonne de cendre aux bracelet de jade
et le turban des îles inconnues qui te coiffe

Je parle de toi
de tes seins à l’avant-garde des prairies
de l’eau claire de tes seins endormis
et des rives qu’elle noie

Je parle
du miroir de tes yeux secrets
toutes les sentinelles du désespoir
toutes les vrilles du versant embaumé
La rue se vide la ruée s’abîme

Je parle de qui je ne connais pas
de qui je ne connaîtrai jamais que les mots
pour toi poupées défigurées

Ici personne
Ibis du songe mort-né
papillon arraché au lierre

que le cuivre battu des ailes

que le givre du métal des peines

que l’empire des spectres inavoués
ombrelle de salive pour crapauds

que la nuit prisonnière se lamentant
sans cesse et crachant des loups

Et tu émerges doucement sûrement
comme le rocher aux cheveux de laine
comme l’oiseau au bec de plume
et la mer te lave

Je parle pour ta peau salée
pour le sommeil de ta peau brune
nuit dans la nuit
pour ta peau tatouée à l’infini

Rien qu’une planche de chair ivre
de sa frigidité que les vagues emportent
qui de nuque en nuque d’eau rude
voyage dans la mort

Rien que celle que tu rencontres
au passage et salues indifféremment

Je parle
pour les grappes d’yeux verts
collés aux fenêtres
pour la colline de poussière
que le vent pille

Rien qu’un nom
que le besoin contenu de te donner un nom
de vigne ou de lave

Rien que le croissant brûlant de quelques lettres
au dessus du monde

Du sang sur nos mains calleuses
du sang sur l’épaule du hibou
du sang sur les joues rondes du printemps
que l’harmonie du sang sur nos lèvres jointes

Je parle sans raison
dans les couloirs des maisons
hantées des cygnes
sur la terrasse harassée des palais
debout contre le temps

Cavaliers à l’antique broche d’épaves
sur vos monture de poudre sonore
Le cœur y est il bat fermement
dans l’aimée qui approche
Cavaliers des régions basses
déchirant d’un bond l’espace

que le jour aux raies d’orageuses semailles

que l’attrait du jour sur une ombre ensevelie

que ton sourire serpent de paille
que ton nom d’emprunt velours des cités

Au murmure
des lointaines cataractes
A l’appel pressant
des lys ensorcelés
poissons des toisons glauques

que la chute des meutes engendrées

que la chute du feu
sur une graine de cristal
La rose de fer frétille
dans le délire consumé
après nous après toi

Lucarnes c’est que l’on se connaît mal ou pas
La main nue est à l’épreuve
tendue comme pour se rendre
Le paysage est sans pudeur

Je parle
pour les premières cerises hagardes
pour les gares de cerfeuils au bout des naufrages
pour les images de plomb des danseuses fendues en deux

Je parle
pour l’orée des rames lourdes dans le corps

O je t’aime
fille de fontaine démente
sœur d’eau éclaboussée
ma soif nage sur mes veines
cruelle à force d’être à tes trousses
fidèle soif de forçat

Je parle pour le ruisseau au front de pierre
pour le cratère pour le hâle des monts
pour l’envie au costume de paon
pour ne plus te perdre mon amour

Je parle pour le plateau des oriflammes
pour la critique aux naseaux de brousse
tous les coquillages et tout le sable des nacelles
pour ne plus te perdre mon amour

Je parle pour l’églantine des pluies
pour le paratonnerre des saules
pour les pleurs des émigrées battues
pour ne plus te perdre mon amour

Je parle pour l’esplanade des ruches
pour le dortoir encombré d’aigles
pour la nappe de servitude grise
pour ne plus te perdre mon amour

pour ne plus te quitter mon amour
je parle je parle je parle pour la mouche
pour l’écorce des pins pour l’ardoise des algues
pour le vent dans la mer mon amour

pour le sel dans les narines mon amour
pour la tomate pour la boue filandreuse des mages
pour la girouette aux gaietés d’écharpe pour une page
blanche pour la durée du geste pour rien mon amour

que pour te distraire

que pour te plaire

que pour te clouer vive
à mes côtés

Rien que pour peupler ton souvenir
A cause de l’ombre qui monte de la terre
A cause du ciel qui se désespère
A cause de mon cœur mon amour
A cause de mes bras à cause de ma bouche

qu’une fois

qu’une seconde

A cause du vent
qui te hante

A cause du sang
qui t’agite

A cause du temps
qui te presse

O patiente attends
Le jour est à portée de nos doigts le soleil mord
A cause de mon amour à cause
du filet aveuglant de mon amour
jeté ce soir sur le monde

A plea for treeworship

Take this post as a series of open-ended unanswered questions.

In the history of monotheistic religions, as we call and categorize them, there is one particular approach to God that I wish to ponder upon. But first things first, whether god ‘exists’ or not whether this statement has any ‘substance’, or whether it ‘means’ anything is really not what I am after. But given that thinking about God is an activity humans like to indulge in, God is an idea, it is at the image of the spirit, it is the abstraction of thought, so to speak. The existence of God has nothing to do with humans thinking about it. Ok, I haven’t revolutionized theology and this is far from being a revolutionary call, but a benign plea.

One could read through the history of these theologies a certain approach to the idea, to the “ideational”, one that favors a complacent narcissistic understanding of God as emanating from inside, from the spirit. God is the abstraction of thought, etc.

As Kafka says cryptically: “We are nihilist thoughts rising in the head of God”, meaning a whole bunch of things, but probably one of them, as I like to read it, is that God is the logos, the thought, the verb, etc, and we constantly challenge the boundaries of how we think, we have these anti-thoughts in the thought. We try to derail the system that we erected for ourselves. It does not mean it distances us from God, it may actually do the contrary.

The great Sufi Ibn el Arabi proposed that in order to approach God you have to enter a state of bewilderment. You have to lose yourself, to be confused. God misleads. Approaching the divine can only take place when you destroy intellectual path, you deframe speech. You get out of the ideational. You probably go into the cult of ‘appearance’ like Nietzsche nicely put it.

Some currents in religions have intellectualized, or rendered the approach to God user-friendly. I do not know if we can escape from this platonic understanding of God as Idea, that even some Sufi currents developed (as we have read them through Orientalist writing mind you). But my suggestion is to re-introduce a Pagan element into this.

I may be fooling myself and still be dependent on the ideational, but when I look at a tree, I am amazed by its robustness, its entrenchment in the earth, its majestic spreading of branches its soft leaves and delicious fruits, this serenity it projects. But there is something that transcends this intellectual process. Something experiential. There are many lessons to draw from looking at a tree, and although I tend to humanize the tree (or Godify it), I want to refrain from thinking that there is something more abstract from it. Can the immediate ‘presence’ of the tree supersedes the idea of the tree? I have no answer to that. But if I did then I would have derailed the classical notion of God.

One thing is sure: being all too confident in the platonic world of ideas as a field for the divine is missing something of this divine. Although it may be political useful to shape the imaginary of communities. More on this later, but Happy Daggers sums it all here.

Campaign ads again

I see that Al-Akhbar has finally picked up on blogs’ favorite topic and decided to publish a feature article on campaign ads uncovering even more rebuttals coming from March 14.

How do you find this one for example:


Reflections on campaigning

Watching the heated start of the legislative elections 2009 campaigning-marketing initiatives I could not refrain myself to remarkzz a couple of points, although quite disarticulated here is a draft for those who are crazy enough to read:

1- Election campaigns have totally new techniques (as I said earlier much better imbued with advertising brand-empowering), away from the cult of the figure, and into the elusive world of concepts. The striking transitive example is Amal that has its own brand empowering (Al Amal Youwahid, Hope unites) along with a logofied picture of Nabih Berri. this kicking in of advertising techniques are really something compared to previous elections in that flooded the country with people’s faces. Portraits should start appearing now, although I am not in Beirut to testify.


2- Battles occur at the symbolic level where one idea of the nation prevail in reaction to what the other propose. At this level, and without taking actual intentions into consideration (meaning that I don’t care if these guys do ‘mean’ what they say), Hizbullah and Amal’s campaign are unifying symbolically, whereas LF and and Kataeb are reactive border-lining resentfulness. Tayyar campaign is a bit pompous I must say, looking overly confident and it kind of goes well with the projected character of its leader General Aoun (see here for an example). I say projected because it is how he is perceived that counts and because it mirror well with its Christian constituency social practices (Lebanon is the Switzerland of the ME, fashion, pubs etc.)

So in a sense, campaigns are reactionary, and even more so, they stigmatize quite well who is ‘more at ease’ in the perception of his political presence on the Lebanese scene. It also represents quite well the different historical perception of the different confessions of the Lebanese state. Anyway, when Kataeb Insurance-product-like ads (al Barlaman silahouna, the Parliament is our weapon) make a clear allusion to Hizbullah’s weapon, Hizbullah has a rebuttal to Kataeb newcomers (Sami Gemayel and his Loubnanouna, on which I vented), with their “Loubnanoukom, loubnanouna, loubnanouhom” (Your Lebanon, Our Lebanon, Their Lebanon) barred and “loubnan watan wahid li jami’ abna’ihi” (Lebanon, one nation for all its people). The strong is all-embracing, not out of some murky sentimental love mind you but just out of his position of power, while the weak is isolationist and resentful. I did not invent that, the last guy to elegantly conceptualize this timeless fact is Nietzsche with his morality of master and slave.


3-So the fight is clearly conceptual. But that’s what advertising is all about. And the Lebanese advertising ‘community’ has been working on its slogans for decades now. These are the real nationalists. And its inclusion in the political ethical discourse is rather new in the Lebanese setting. But this goes hand in hand with the idea that TV, newspapers, ads, etc. are the new temples of this ‘religion’ called the Nation. And here friends and relatives, I just look from one angle of what the term religion could actually mean. These media devices are producers of morals, in the Nietzschean sense, they are the protectors of the liberal tradition: the idea that man as an individual is free and a utility-maximizer. This tradition can only exist when is erected through the new moral boundaries in which this freedom is incarcerated: “You’re free but you have to behave this way, consume this or that, be Lebanese, or Palestinian or French, etc.” My point is surely not that man could be free and is enchained once again. My point rather is that the liberal tradition has made people think they could be free in a rather novel way (from previous traditions), to conceptualize freedom as such and really believing that it is a worthy, if not the number one goal to achieve, in order to crystallize even more so the imprisonment of man in the capitalist-eco-technological-commodifying system whatever you want to call it of today.

4- I will glimpse on my last point and think about it for another post. Hizbullah’s biggest competitor on the Lebanese scene is tayyar because it is the only party that people defined confessionally as shi’a takes somewhat seriously. Here competitor can involve a constructive process. It is the challenge of the presence of Tayyar and its popularity throughout its Shi’a constituency, that will push Hizbullah to move more and more away from a politico-religious discourse, here religion means a specific reading of a  socio-historical tradition to a more national-political one. It does not mean that Hizbullah will do away with Islamic idioms, far from it, but this political ‘islamicity’ will develop quite differently (and has already been evolving in different directions for quite some time). I must say that whether you want to call the State “secular”, or “religious” or what have you, the important point that will never change is that the State is here to stay with its projected imaginary sense of a nation. Political slogans such as the liberation of Jerusalem, may well invite for new types of political solidarity pushes, but at best it will facilitate a drive to better regional integration (EU style) more than anything else. Breaking from the boundaries of the nation-state even for movements that emerged at the antipodes of it is going to be quite difficult. it does not mean that all local movements are ‘nationalists’ whatever that may mean. It just means that these group want to play the nationalist card because that’s what works and counts politically.