Arab Politics, Lebanon, Syria

Lebanon and the Arab Revolutions

Several months ago, I found myself in a group discussion on Facebook about the Arab revolutions. Egypt and Tunisia had recently toppled their dictators, and the freedom train seemed poised to roll into Yemen, Libya, Syria, and beyond.

It escaped no one during this season of political transformation in the Middle East that Lebanon was a strange study in stability. Usually a magnet for civil unrest and ideological fervor, the country felt oddly insulated from the waves of popular dissent that threatened to fashion a new Arab political order in the space of a single year.

True, Beirut had witnessed the odd ragtag anti-sectarianism march, but no sign of the enormous public demonstrations seen in Benghazi or Cairo. This was evidence, so my Facebook interlocutors suggested, of Lebanon’s political immaturity, its parochialism and fractiousness, and perhaps even the artificiality of its claim to nationhood. While the people of Egypt and Tunisia had demonstrated remarkable unity and bravery by standing as one to break their shackles, the Lebanese remained hopelessly mired in a rut of sectarianism and petty divisiveness.

Something about this reading struck me as simple-minded. This is not to say that I subscribed to the chauvinist ‘been-there-done-that’ argument that one regularly encountered among many Lebanese (who gestured gallantly toward the events of March 2005 by way of explaining why Lebanon had no need to partake in any revolutionary activities in 2011).

Rather, what I found problematic about the discussion on Facebook was its assumption that Egypt and Tunisia had reached the finish line in their struggle for democracy and self-determination, when it seemed fairly straightforward that these two countries (like the rest of their regional compatriots, the Lebanese included) were still very much at the starting line.

There’s certainly no question that Lebanon’s politics are crippled by sectarian institutions and the false idol of consensual governance. However, sectarianism is surely not the only flavor of social divisiveness that can undermine democratic processes and institution building. Economic inequalities, ethnic and tribal divisions, religious fundamentalism, etc. represent other major challenges. As inspiring as the events of the last year have been, they hardly represent a litmus test for the viability of a national identity, much less a certificate of sovereignty and self-determination.

I was reminded of this discussion recently by an excellent article in The New York Review of Books, by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley. They argue that the Arab revolutions have been effectively overtaken by the Arab counterrevolution, the primary agents of which include entrenched economic elites, military leaders, former regime operatives, and foreign powers, all of whom are now seeking to shape events in their favor (and are largely succeeding).

The essay is worth a close read, but I thought I’d draw your attention to an excerpt that struck me as relevant to the question of Lebanon’s membership in the Arab Spring club.

Revolutions devour their children. The spoils go to the resolute, the patient, who know what they are pursuing and how to achieve it. Revolutions almost invariably are short-lived affairs, bursts of energy that destroy much on their pathway, including the people and ideas that inspired them. So it is with the Arab uprising. It will bring about radical changes. It will empower new forces and marginalize others. But the young activists who first rush onto the streets tend to lose out in the skirmishes that follow. Members of the general public might be grateful for what they have done. They often admire them and hold them in high esteem. But they do not feel they are part of them. The usual condition of a revolutionary is to be tossed aside.

“The Arab world’s immediate future will very likely unfold in a complex tussle between the army, remnants of old regimes, and the Islamists, all of them with roots, resources, as well as the ability and willpower to shape events. Regional parties will have influence and international powers will not refrain from involvement. There are many possible outcomes—from restoration of the old order to military takeover, from unruly fragmentation and civil war to creeping Islamization. But the result that many outsiders had hoped for—a victory by the original protesters—is almost certainly foreclosed.

I am very rarely optimistic about Lebanon’s short-term political prospects. We seem to go from one election to another pinning our hopes on the notion that the next crop of plutocrats will not be as feckless as the last. However, reading over Agha and Malley’s prognosis, I could not help but think that Lebanon’s problems seemed somehow more manageable than its neighbors’.

Consider the fact that of the three major players shaping the future of the post-Arab Spring states, only one (the members of the old political class) possesses any real political muscle in Lebanon. The army enjoys widespread  support but is not a major political and economic force, as it is in places like Egypt and Turkey, or in Iran, where the army controls entire industries and maintains its monopolies with the assistance of the state.

Lebanon has Islamists, but there is no mainstream movement calling for the creation of an Islamic state. A recent Pew Research poll found that only a small minority of Lebanese Muslims (second only to Turkey) were in favor of harsh punishments for adultery, theft, and apostasy.  Meanwhile, it is rare that one meets a Maronite today who believes their country should be a Christian homeland in political and spiritual communion with France.

Finally, even our politicians, as odious as they are, hardly constitute a unitary and hegemonic “regime”. For all of Lebanon’s problems — a weak central authority, political and economic corruption, clericalism, foreign influence, sectarian structures and mindsets, patronage networks, etc. — it remains a multi-polar arena, with all the “self-regulating” mechanisms that such a structure engenders.

Would I trade this brand of dysfunction for the challenges facing reformers in Egypt, Libya, or Syria? I don’t think I would. I’ll take entropy or centrifugality (or whatever physics-inspired euphemism one might use to put a positive spin on our chaotic system) over the deeply rooted political, military, and economic structures of a post-dictatorial regime.

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96 thoughts on “Lebanon and the Arab Revolutions

  1. Well said. I’d go even further. Lebanon is doing quite well on several levels.

    I’ve seldom mentioned – nations “need and will always have” problems/ameliorations to settle, but ours have reduced from life and death, to solving the 24h electricity and high speed broadband, problems with roads being asphalted during working hours…

    I think the decade ahead will place Lebanon at an advantage, my only worry is how the Special Tribunal will proceed.

    Posted by Jester theFool | September 26, 2011, 10:43 pm
  2. A societal make up like that of Lebanon; free elections, right to dissent, and freedom of expression among other gaurantees of personal freedom is not a society that needs a violent revolution a la Arab Spring . The people of Lebanon are not forced to worship a dictator , live under a one party system and be constantly terrorized by security forces for no reason. The people of Lebanon have tremendous problems but they have brought these problems about. They have the chance to go to the poll and choose their representatives. They have no one to be forced out of power since those in power were installed by them. Violent changes do not occur in a democracy, as dysfunctional as it might be at times, since all what needs to be done is demonstrate ones disagreement and wait for a year or two or three in order to change the rascals if we genuinely do not approve of them. The Lebanese have no one to blame for their problems but themselves and they have the power to change Lebanon with the ballot box. The fact that we do not is a reflection on us. We are badly in need of a revolution but a different one than that of Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. We need a revolution in thinking, a revolution of responsible citizenship, a revolution of respect for the law, a revolution of establishing secularism by not voting along religious lines. We need a revolution that brings young blood and that rejects political feudalism.That is the miracle of democracy; to bring about change without any violence.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 26, 2011, 11:24 pm
  3. QN-

    How would you classify Hizbullah – Islamist or not?

    Posted by safarji* | September 27, 2011, 1:08 am
  4. Thanks QN for tackling the Arab Thing, it took you some time , but then, as Zhou Enlai would have said, it is almost always “too early to say” when you need to assess a Revolution. I expect a rich and long debate ahead.

    Posted by mj | September 27, 2011, 3:01 am
  5. Interesting that you found Malley and Agha’s article “excellent.” I thought it a particularly unpersuasive piece by the usually persuasive duo–more a clumsy, often contradictory rehash of received wisdoms than a fresh and rigorous take on unfolding events. You seem to suggest in your post– as they do, in fact, in their piece– that they are skeptical about the face of the future. But the verdict, for them, is actually already out: the counterrevolution has killed the barely five-week old “revolution” in its crib. The deed is done and the consequences, whatever shape they take, are all bad.

    Counterrevolution, alas, is a powerful regional trend, but Agha and Malley, perhaps because they are so convinced of it, don’t give it the serious attention it deserves.

    In any case, here’s a totally different reading of Malley and Agha’s analysis ( that I think does more justice to it.

    As for Lebanon, ironically, I will have me some of that Malley and Agha dead sure pessimism: the deed is done, the country is gone. The situation you describe is not dysfunction; it is a slow death.

    Posted by Amal | September 27, 2011, 3:07 am
  6. All these countries (syria, libya, yemen, egypt and Tunisia) have/had only one bogeyman. It makes it simple.
    Lebanon, on the other hand, has an infinitum of Bogeymen. It makes it pointless.

    Posted by Kubbeh | September 27, 2011, 5:32 am
  7. Hi Amal, thanks for the link. Will have a look.

    I don’t share their pessimism (or at least not all of it) about the revolutions. In certain places, like Tunisia, things look like they have changed for good. In other places, like Egypt, it’s hard to see what has really changed.

    But I’m more optimistic than you are about Lebanon.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2011, 6:05 am
  8. Safarji

    Whatever Hizbullah is, they are not, for the time being, all that dedicated to imposing an Islamic state in Lebanon. That’s the salient distinction. Of course, they are a religious party that espouses conservative ideals on many social and political issues.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2011, 6:09 am
  9. lebanon has always been doing well in the region. it has food, water supplies, a fair industry and is a financial and logistical hub for the region. despite our sectarian and religious differences, we all like being lebanese in the end and all those plutocrats dont really bother us, we like them in a twisted way, they make us feel safe and at least we can put a face on our misery.
    that is not the point I think.
    the main issue is that since lebanons Independence, israel has fiercely undermined lebanon in its internal structure. first, it bombed the railway in the 70’s. then the various electricity attacks every now and then. then they bombed our history in the south literally erasing old towns and villages. along with the highways, the bridges and everything that makes lebanon internally cohesive and strong; infrastructure, culture, heritage…
    for those who think lebanon’s problem is its politics and corruption, dig deeper into history and take a look at what has been done to undermine its integrity. no one seems to be aware of this and I do not understand how this can be.
    its only a matter of time until hezbollah is used again as a excuse to attack something much deeper in lebanons vital organs as a country.

    Posted by sil | September 27, 2011, 7:30 am
  10. sil, here we go again; blame israel, shed any personal and collective Lebanese responsibility and fanaticism.
    Lebanon can be the Switzerland of the ME and Beirut the Paris of the ME, but Heaven forbid we use common sense, exercise civic sense, or fail to adopt ignorantly blind allegiance to every losing argument in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Keep up the brainwashed and brainwashing practice and see the country eternally doomed. Wake up and see the light, smell the coffee, taste the hummos, and maybe there’s hope à la QN.

    Posted by honestpatriot | September 27, 2011, 9:22 am
  11. I don’t trust any political party, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise, which bases politics on religious beliefs. Without separation of religion and politics, true statehood is impossible. This applies conversely as well, as in the former Soviet Union where politics was anti-religion. The two have to be separate, linked neither in causality nor in mutual exclusion. This was, in my opinion, a key to the success of the U.S. I hope it stays that way, resisting the push by the likes of Gov. Perry and Senator Bachman.

    Posted by honestpatriot | September 27, 2011, 9:30 am
  12. Try bring a woman in Saudi Arabia, or, for that matter, a Jew.
    Systemic discrimination, in Israel, against non-Jews is no better, despite protests from Israeli patriots.
    The root of the evil is the same and I don’t care if you call it religion or tribal belonging. Once it mixes with politics true evil follows. It IS black and white.

    Posted by honestpatriot | September 27, 2011, 9:36 am
  13. ~being a woman, not bring

    Posted by honestpatriot | September 27, 2011, 9:37 am
  14. All:

    I’m back!


    What exactly is an “Islamic state”. Your response to Safarji seems so binary.

    Posted by Gabriel | September 27, 2011, 10:28 am
  15. Gabriel,

    What exactly is “so binary”? Your response to me seems so vague.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2011, 10:30 am
  16. HP to the rescue clearing up the fog that results from the coupling of left and right brained folks.
    Binary means with only two outcomes, 0 or 1, black or white. So, Gabe is implying that QN’s take judges whether a State is Islamic or not with no in-between. Sort of like GWBush’s attitude of “you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” (as an example of binary attitude, not equating the two beyond their style.)
    QN’s answer tags Gabe’s thinking as vague, perhaps implying a lack of decisiveness, too many shades of gray. So their two positions are consistent, albeit irreconcilable.
    Carry on…

    Posted by honestpatriot | September 27, 2011, 12:06 pm
  17. I must be the only one here who strongly disagrees with a lot of the bullshit I just read (no offense).

    This statement, from the original post, rings perfectly true to my ears:

    Lebanon’s political immaturity, its parochialism and fractiousness, and perhaps even the artificiality of its claim to nationhood. While the people of Egypt and Tunisia had demonstrated remarkable unity and bravery by standing as one to break their shackles, the Lebanese remained hopelessly mired in a rut of sectarianism and petty divisiveness.

    Of course, I agree with QN and others that Lebanon presents a very different scenario than the ones in Egypt or Tunisia or Libya. And that it’s almost Apples/Oranges.

    In my mind, however, that does not place Lebanon “above” the other Arab countries in any way. In an ideal world, stability trumps revolution. But I would argue that in the case of Lebanon, stability is actually status quo and stagnation. Sometimes, revolutions, with all the violence and instability they bring ARE a necessary evil, a bump on the path to evolution and renewal.
    While the countries of the Arab Spring are not out of the woods yet, in my mind, there is hope that they may, in time, progress from being at the bottom of the totem pole. The unity displayed by the people of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya (speaking in general terms) is actually a very good sign and an indicator that these peoples do view themselves as more than divided tribes, and that the notion of a state is at the very least, seeded in their communal psyche, flaws and all.
    Not so in Lebanon, IMHO. The Lebanese have demonstrated to be quite a bit less patriotic than any of the other Arab countries that I’m aware of. They have demonstrated their clinging to antiquated feudal ideas, whereas their brethren in Egypt and Tunisia have shown they understand more modern ideas (even though they haven’t arrived quite yet. These things take time).
    I think the argument of “choosing stability over progress” that QN makes here reminds me a lot of our old friend Alex’s similar argument when it came to defending the Syrian regime not too long ago. It’s the same argument dictators have used since time immemorial to justify oppression (“Better my enforced stability than chaos!”). Granted, QN makes this statement from a different point. Lebanon has no dictator, etc…I get that. But deep down, it’s really the same argument. Lebanon’s dictator is not one person, but it’s quite real. It’s called “sectarianism”, “status quo”, “feudalism”. Suffer no illusions, my friend. Lebanon is a dictatorship, in a sense. It’s a dictatorship of ideas. It’s a dictatorship of a collective, a political class. It’s given a sheen of democracy. We have free(ish) elections – where only the “ruling political elite” gets to run (essentially unopposed). Whoop-dee-doo.
    I think choosing stability over revolution is a mistake when the status quo is so pitiful. The “regime” (make no mistake, we do have a “regime”, even if it’s not run by one man or one party) will not step aside on its own.

    As to those who said we’ve evolved from “life and death” to “electricity”. Give me a break! May 2008 was not life and death? People didn’t die?
    There’s just as much “stability” in Lebanon as there was in Syria pre-2011. By those standards, I guess the Syrians should’ve been applauding the stabiltiy the Assad family brought them for 40 years. After all, the Golan was peaceful, Syria was peaceful. There was no life and death struggle for 40 years!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 12:23 pm
  18. lebanon has always been doing well in the region. it has food, water supplies, a fair industry and is a financial and logistical hub for the region.

    Wow. That’s a pretty good one.
    Actual facts, statistics and studies show otherwise.
    Let’s see how prosperous Lebanon really is by checking the unemployment figures, the GDP, the poverty ratio and levels.
    Let’s check our food/water/supplies numbers please…Pollution index, actual food/water production (vs. imported). Supplies? What supplies? We’ve stripped the country barren.
    I’ll give you the “financial hub”, but IMO (and i think Ghassan will agree as an economist), this is precarious, despite the appearances to the contrary.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 12:29 pm
  19. QN, GK et al, I agree that Lebanon is different and won’t have a violent revolution.

    That’s it, other than that, Amal is right: the country is brain dead and about to die period.

    That’s the only conclusion I can draw from seeing that ZERO has been learned by 99.9% of people, after a harrowing civil war, and double occupation.

    If the catastrophe trauma of the past 40 years have not taught us anything, nothing ever will.

    Most recent case in point: Patriach Rahi stance on Syria, and now Walid Jumblatt, asked why the change of positions, saying today “what would you do if you had a gun to your head? (Naharnet). These are the smart “leaders” of a dying people (who follows them willingly).

    Posted by OldHand | September 27, 2011, 1:26 pm
  20. Oldhand. Well said. I agree 100%.
    Brain dead indeed. That’s actually the best description I’ve read so far.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 2:47 pm
  21. I agree with Old Hand. I think the glue that held the random pieces together has just reached its expiry date.
    There never was a nation called Lebanon. Just a conglomerate of communities that tried to coexist.
    Winner takes all! It was and still is a dumping ground of region’s extremely toxic “waste”…

    Posted by danny | September 27, 2011, 4:14 pm
  22. My original point was that, as bad as we may have it — poliically, developmentally, economically, environmentally — we don’t face many of the tremendous structural obstacles that reformers in places like Egypt and Syria face. This, I think, is maybe an obvious observation but an important one nonetheless.

    Just out of curiosity: when was the last time that the regular commentators on this forum spent some significant time in Lebanon?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2011, 4:29 pm
  23. Has anyone heard of the rumor that Ghazi Kanaan has been killed in Syria?

    Posted by bob saget | September 27, 2011, 4:34 pm
  24. *rustom ghazale not ghazi kanaan

    Posted by bob saget | September 27, 2011, 4:43 pm
  25. QN,

    See, i still disagree. I think the obstacles faced in Tunisia or Egypt are less than ours. They may seem bigger obstacles from a micro point of view, because things are currently in flux there due to revolution. But the fundamentals of nation-building (which in the end, are what matters most) are there. Or at least, they’re a lot more present than in Lebanon.
    Sure, from a superficial point of view, Lebanon may give the impression of having fewer obstacles, but i remain convinced that is a very superficial view of things. The fundamentals are truly and completely lacking in Lebanon.
    The “structural obstacles” they face in Egypt or Tunisia are really not all that complicated. In fact, I’m at a loss at what you mean by “structural” there.
    Lebanon, on the other hand, is a complete failure when it comes to “structural”. It’s a complete systematic failure. There’s no sovereignty. No state with any power. An entrenched sectarian system that shows no sign of going away (now THAT is what i call “structural obstacle”) and a people who have shown absolutely no desire in changing any of that.

    So…yeah. I really don’t get where you’re coming from.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 5:02 pm
  26. Oldhand/BV/Danny…
    We have known each other for a few years , thanks to cyberspace; and as you may recall I might have posted one of the first 100 word post about Lebanon R.I.P and about how dysfunctional it is. I still maintain the same beliefs. What I am saying, and I am repeating myself, is that in a country such as Lebanon, there is no need for a violent revolution. I keep repeating this since many Middle Easterners do not seem to realize that regime change in a country such as Libya can be achieved only through an armed rebellion but France might change its regime next year by electing a Socialist and by giving the Socialists a majority at the parliamentary level. The same is true of the US which went from Reagan-Bush Sr. to Clinton to Bush Jr. to Obama (Conservative right to liberal to fundamental conservative to moderate liberal without even a demonstration.
    Lebanon is in dire need of a deep radical revolution and not only one that changes those that are in charge. We need a real revolution and not an evolution in the thinking, values, mores … Do we have the right to expect that to happen? All signs point to the fact that corruption and incompetence are so well established that one is forced to accept the status quo as destiny. I beg to disagree with that view. I believe that the greater is the dysfunction then the greater is the friction and the more likely is the change. As to the how and the when, no one knows. A revolution takes place once it does. Everything else is idle gossip.
    I believe though that certain measures can act as catalysts. If I was to choose such a measure then I think that a modern electoral system that will remove all challenges and obstacles that face those that do not belong to established parties could open the flood gates. We need young representatives who run on a platform and who will be held accountable for the decisions that they make. How likely is this to happen? Odds are against it but had it not been that way then revolutions will not be so important and so rare.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 27, 2011, 5:13 pm
  27. Ghassan,

    I think you and I agree on this. I don’t think I ever used the word “violent” when talking about a revolution in my prior posts.
    And lord knows I’ve gown blue in the face, repeating in this forum that the Lebanese people are to blame for most of their ills, and that they have the ability to “revolt” by withdrawing their blind allegiance to the feudal and sectarian lords.

    My point, however, stands.

    Lebanon IS in need of a revolution (we agree).
    Lebanon is NOT “better off” than other Arab countries cited here (Tunisia, Egypt), just because we have this alleged “freedom”. And this here is the sticking point. We are worse off, I argue, because we do not have the fundamentals needed for this peaceful revolution you speak of. We do not have a cohesive sense of belonging to the same nation, etc.
    The Tunisians/Libyans/Egyptians may have had to resort to violence, to some degrees, to topple their regimes, but they did so because they held a common belief in their nation. The Lebanese people have not displayed that common belief and common goal. So it matters not whether their revolution is peaceful or bloody. Simply because, they have NO INTEREST in a revolution of any kind (despite claiming the contrary to anyone who would listen).
    I remain convinced that a large large percentage of the Lebanese people (and i mean, above 90%), while never admitting to this publically, are actually content with the sectarian system and the status quo. Each one has his selfish interests at hand, which are catered to by this or that zaim, and has no interest in rocking the boat. So they’ll continue to elect the Jumblatts and Gemayels and Aouns, while complaining bitterly to their neighbors about corruption and instability and whathaveyou.
    It’s such a degenerate system, self-maintained by a degenerate populace, that it needs to be wiped off. We agree that it needs a revolution. And the saddest thing is that we’ll be the last to get a revolution, if we get one.
    THAT is why if I were ranking the Arab states, I’d still put Lebanon well below Tunisia and Egypt.
    Sometimes, it’s not about superficial appearances, but it’s about fundamentals. Specially when it comes to aspirations of freedom, equality and dignity.

    Not to wax poetic/romantic here. But can you actually picture a Lebanese fruit merchant setting himself on fire to galvanize the Lebanese people against sectarianism and corruption?
    Can you picture Lebanese civilians by the thousands standing firm while being assaulted by thugs on camels (or whatever other mode of transport)?
    I can’t.
    And it’s not because we don’t have camels in Lebanon either…It’s because I don’t see that spirit in the Lebanese people.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 5:43 pm
  28. Are we witnessing the Lebnanonization of DC ? Just stop to consider the debt ceiling fiasco, the initial response to Tarp, the potential government shut down and the Tea Party stands on anything and everything.

    The Lebanese virus hits the US: Witness this headline on CNN:

    Stupid voters enable broken government.

    Welcome to Lebanon west:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 27, 2011, 6:07 pm
  29. Good one Gus!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2011, 8:18 pm
  30. I double Bad Vilbel.. My point, however, stands.

    Lebanon IS in need of a revolution (we agree).
    Lebanon is NOT “better off” than other Arab countries cited here (Tunisia, Egypt), just because we have this alleged “freedom”. And this here is the sticking point. We are worse off, I argue, because we do not have the fundamentals needed for this peaceful revolution you speak of. We do not have a cohesive sense of belonging to the same nation, etc.
    The Tunisians/Libyans/Egyptians may have had to resort to violence, to some degrees, to topple their regimes, but they did so because they held a common belief in their nation. The Lebanese people have not displayed that common belief and common goal. So it matters not whether their revolution is peaceful or bloody. Simply because, they have NO INTEREST in a revolution of any kind (despite claiming the contrary to anyone who would listen).

    Posted by Noha Abd El Raouf (@NouRaouf) | September 27, 2011, 8:34 pm
  31. and where do you expect the people to look if the political ruling elite and the Zuama get taken out of the picture? The Government? Lets be serious. It is only natural that this sectarian division is rampant in Lebanon. Once the Government stops subcontracting all its projects to political/confessional parties and starts to act like a true government erecting a shelter across all groups and individuals…then maybe the people/s will have a bit of courage to step out of their confessional/cultural prisons and embrace a wider grouping.
    Where the Arab Spring called for decentralization of Power, Lebanon is in desperate need of the opposite.

    Posted by Maverick | September 27, 2011, 10:28 pm
  32. Surprisingly, I agree with Ghassan, Bad Vilbel and Amal on this issue.

    1) Amal is right that Malley and Agha are a bit hasty in their conclusions, basically because they are only looking at “agents” (established groups such as political and economic elites, army, parties, etc) in a structural analysis of something they call revolutions. They do not study the processes of change that could accompany the latest Arab Spring. To be clear, anti repressive movements and reformist movements are not the same as revolutionary movements. What we are all focusing on is the antirepressive and reformist trends in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere, but it is still possible that a revolution may still happen, and something new emerges.

    2) A revolution is closer to what Ghassan describes as his hope for change in Lebanon, although voting is only one tool of change. Anyone who read Hannah Arendt knows that revolution is social transformation, and its kind of freedom is not reformist or antirepressive but a creative freedom. One needs to assess transformation based on institutional, legal or constitutional, and most importantly, imaginary levels (collective and individual needs, desires, hopes, dreams, goals, etc) to understand the revolutionary potential of the Arab Spring. While it is true that the dominant politics of the elite is neoliberal and aims at establishing better ways to control the masses (indirectly through economic and biopolitical forces), the popular uprising and its possible consequences is not set or fixed yet. If select new political elites in Egypt or Tunisia (which are not similar to the Lebanese feodal, corrupt and repressive and controlling elites, as pointed out by BV and GK), can still reshape constitutional, legal, cultural, political, and economic institutions of their states and forms of government, then there is stilll revolutionary potential. Keep in mind that, culturally, social justice (as an ethical obligation and not just as an economic or political equality or equity), is foundational in Arab Islamic imaginaries, so maybe a new universal revolutionary Outlook may be generated through the Arab Spring and the current search for political meaning in various Arab countries and regions…. Maybe even in Lebanon.

    3) just looking at “agents” of change as the thugs in power (because they control economic, military, political, and even social institutions) will not reveal what is happening at the cultural level or at the imaginary level. There are processes at work ( I won’t go into trans-individuation and social and political ontologies here) that may deliver a revolution, a new way of living in political communities. Of course, there are methodologies that are as enslaved to authority as slavish individuals, and we can’t just rely on centralized and categorized breakdowns of events based on old social action theories…

    P.S. QN, did you really bring up essentialism, asking us how many of us have been to Lebanon lately!!! How is that relevant to our discussions? The primacy of experience? Is knowledge primarily imbued by breathing the indigenous culture??? I know that you are joking, but I visualized the idea that only natives understand their own cultures…. Oh, well, and who is truly or really Lebanese, or who are the natives???? cheers!

    Posted by parrhesia | September 28, 2011, 1:27 am
  33. Parrhesia # 29, I agree with QN’s question, and I don’t think he meant any “essentialism”, but more a journalistic approach to reality, a necessity to smell the air of a place in order to talk about it.

    I see more “essentialism” in certain comments around here, constantly protesting the lack of Lebanese patriotism (what else is a “sense of nationhood”?) and unity…when Lebanon was created precisely to absorb some of the region’s stiffness in its complicated ethnic and religious build-up. I’m appalled by the simplistic thinking that a system has to be like this or like that to work or to deliver acceptably equal rights to citizens. Who said most Middle Eastern countries of the XX century where made for being nation-states anyway? It is easy, in hindsight, to criticize the Lebanese system today, when it is in shatters (or in its extreme form, which is the same), and to blame the Lebanese for doing nothing about it. Actually, they prefer to emigrate in mass than to touch to the system. That should say something to us, shouldn’t it? My reading is that some nations are never to be a solid block and an example of unity, because parts of it fear that unity precisely, they fear it more than they appreciate the advantages of more coherent, less troublesome, structures. Maybe the next years (since I’m convinced that the Lebanese fears come from the regional build-up) will prove me wrong, but I don’t think Lebanese will ever go forward for a political system that endangers the “autonomy” of whatever group they feel they belong to. On the other hand, and thanks to its abnormal configuration of power, Lebanon has been, all these decades, the only place in the Arab neighborhood where one could breed in its own country, and that is something you easily forget when you live in Washington or London. (As for the non Lebanese Arabs that I have met there, they where often full of despise about the “fawda”, lowlessness, etc, but they all tried hard to set a stable foot in the country).

    Because of the different set-up, Lebanon is not, and will not be the place of a revolt like today’s in its neighboring countries: those are primarily for oxygen and freedom from sheer oppression and institutional murder of citizens.

    Posted by mj | September 28, 2011, 3:53 am
  34. I don’t think the choice is between revolution or not. The Arab uprisings will likely have different outcomes in different countries, and these outcomes might not be felt immediately in all places. All over the region, political activists have been inspired by what has happened and are discussing how they can build on that within the context of their own political situation. In places like Lebanon where the situation is complicated, this might take time and the activists might need to mature before they are able to have some amount of success.

    Many people have been ever so willing to dismiss the anti-sectarianism protests in Spring as irrelevant and ‘ragtag’ (Qifa’s word). But that’s not completely fair. The success of other protests movements have been that activists and the disenchanted joined forces, and this actually also happened – even if on a smaller scale – in Lebanon. Busloads of people came in from the countryside (as far away as Hermel) to join one of the first marches, obviously inspired by what happened in the region.

    If Lebanese activists act cleverly and build on the small successes they had in Spring (and they are actually trying to do this), they could perhaps build a solid movement. It will not seek the fall of the regime but to achieve specific goals that could open up the political system and make it more accountable. This could be single issues such as shortages of water and electricity or it could be wider issues such as electoral reform.

    The Lebanese might have the right to vote, but the political class are able to work the system in their favour and prevent change. Something is needed to break the deadlock. If tens of thousands of people protest regularly and succeed in occupying both physical squares and news broadcasts, the system will have to react. The results might not be huge, immediate changes but in the long run it could perhaps open up the system to new political players and alternative visions for the country.

    One should always remember that even if a revolution like the Egyptian seemed massive, proportionally it wasn’t. According to polls, only 27 % of the Egyptian population took an active part during the 18 days. At most times there were a couple of hundred thousands in Midan al-Tahrir, the central square of a city of around 20 million people. It doesn’t take a majority to mount serious pressure on a government, it takes an effective minority.

    Posted by Razzmoose | September 28, 2011, 4:29 am
  35. Nice response from everyone; it deserves a follow-up post rather than individual responses from me. In the meantime, carry on.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2011, 9:16 am
  36. This discussion is interesting but probably irrelevant since what happens in Syria post Assad will determine what happens in Lebanon to a large degree. Being a pessimist about the middle east, I see ahead a few decades of Islamist rule in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. What exactly does this mean for Lebanon, I am not sure but it will involve major changes that Lebanon will have to undergo.

    Posted by AIG | September 28, 2011, 10:04 am
  37. I would argue that “freedom” in Lebanon is not based on any kind of principled base, but instead is based in the neo-liberal foundations of the country, meaning, as long as “freedom” does not interfere with profits, then it’s a go, with a nominal balance given to the rights, luxury, privilege, and abilities that are afforded to groups based on their class standing, with this overlapping sect in very particular ways.

    This is similar to the “freedom” of the United States, now teetering toward the fascism that its similar neo-liberal underpinnings foresaw as soon after the so-called Revolution there that the dictates of The Treason Act of 1795 could be made American law. For this reason, we can look at the American Revolution as more of a hostile corporate takeover–we want our own King, basically–and the dubious Cedar Revolution is rather similar to that.

    What I mean to say is that the problem in Lebanon is that the counter-revolution is built in; systemically, as in the United States, true resistant discourse is channeled into existing parties, or else is co-opted, undermined, or outright assassinated, instead of finding any actual ability to come to the fore.

    This is in marked contrast to our neighbors, where revolutionary pasts and ideologies are actual practical memories in peoples’ minds, instead of theoretical constructs to be debated in Barometre or wherever. This leads to the active praxis of these countries, from the strikes in Egypt to the demonstrations in Idlib where a true communal nature exists and exerts itself.

    Here in Lebanon, individuals loosely assembled into “groups” supposedly wanting to support the “cha3b suri” define themselves class-wise as “intellectuals, artists, and writers”, and ignore the working population in their midst for their boojy Chami compadres far away; at meetings for the anti-sectarian sect that recently cropped up, people managed to state, with no irony at all, that what was being proposed was “offensive to them as capitalists”.

    It’s time to give up hope in Lebanon. We can either pray for a tidal wave, the rising up of the 90% of the country that is not given any sense of being part of the actual polity here by the elites of this so-called state, or else the percolation up and over the border from someone’s revolution that actually ends up taking hold and moving forward.

    That is, if they can stand dealing with this place.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 28, 2011, 11:11 am
  38. Razmoose,
    A large number of studies seems to have concluded that the magic number for a tipping point is about 10%.
    This means that the task of accomplishing a paradigm shift in the current environment must have become easier than what it used to be say 30-40 years ago. It is easier to organize around an idea that it has ever been and it is easier to advocate for an idea that it has ever been. That is one reason that I keep hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel is that of salvation and not a freight train 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 28, 2011, 11:23 am
  39. I just want to respond quickly to Parrhesia’s question about essentialism, because I won’t address it in my follow-up post.

    My point was certainly not that one needs to be a native to understand something about a place. I simply feel from time to time that a lot of the bitterness, anger, and pessimism that I hear in the responses of certain commentators on this forum may be driven by the experience of following a country’s affairs through the news, which is a very strange thing to do (as I know first hand). When your daily interface with the Lebanese people is through the press releases of their leaders, how could you not be driven to utter despair over the future of the country?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2011, 11:28 am
  40. Daniel Ibn Zayd,
    Would you care to elaborate on how the US is teetering on becoming fascist? Where do you see any signs that any of the parties is looking for a single party system dominated by a totalitarian individual? How does a revolution become affected by an act that is imoplemented 20 years after the revolution takes place? So you do not think that self determination, egregious Parliamentary acts, mercantilist policies not to speak of republicanism and social contracts are to be dismissed? In my opinion that paragraph does not add anything to your argument about Lebanon but distracts from the point since it strikes as being at best a strange explanation of historical events .

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 28, 2011, 11:42 am
  41. Have you ever tried to get a third party on any ballot in any state? That you speak of “parties” in the plural is the first mistake in your question—there is one political party, a corporate one. Self-determination for whom? The landed gentry? You are aware of the rebellions of the farmers and workers after the coup-d’etat in 1776 that were violently put down, yes? The foreign war debt of the American merchant class fighting its economic war was squeezed out of the pockets of those who gave up most to see that the King Washington would assume power. The rest has been a downhill slide since then.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 28, 2011, 11:55 am
  42. I find it interesting that Daniel Ibn Zayd describes himself as working in Beirut, Greater Syria.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2011, 2:31 pm
  43. QN,

    FYI, I visit there regularly, I do enjoy a friendly face and a good meal, but really when I think and/or take in the scene as it were, I really want to puke and get the God damn %%*$$$ hell out of there. Unfortunately, I do have to visit regularly.

    For the record, my pessimism comes from:

    Reading the paper (and listening to “leaders” and “intellectuals” and other losers)
    Talking to my friends and relatives
    Dealing with government employees and feeling I have zero rights and no physical safety whatsoever

    Posted by OldHand | September 28, 2011, 2:34 pm
  44. You wear your prejudice on your sleeve; I’ll wear my prejudice (of wanting a way to describe something other than the ongoing colonial delimitations of this region, the bogus nationalism of this place, the ridiculous hubris and pride of the place I just happened to be born in and trafficked from) on mine.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 28, 2011, 2:49 pm
  45. Fair enough.
    You have the right to describe it however you want. The terminology, however, is telling and lets others quickly pigeonhole you. Whether that is the desired effect or not, I don’t know…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2011, 5:59 pm
  46. Daniel #41,
    Are you saying that the US should have stayed as a Colony and that neither the American Revolution nor the French Revolution played an important role is promoting human rights and contributed to the downfall of mercantilism? You cannot be serious to speak for the Crown after all these years . You don’t think that the Navigation Acts, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act , the special treatment of the East India company, the Intolerable Acts… played a role. You might not like the fact that America has not lived up to its republican promise but that does not give you the right to paint with the broadest brush that I have encountered to attempt to score some superficial points that have been made a long time ago by Howard Zinn and others but in a more appropriate context.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 28, 2011, 6:46 pm
  47. I think it was pretty clear from the previous posts that Daniel’s comments were typical cliched generalizations, Gus. I wouldn’t bother.
    Fight the man! Down with neo-colonialism! Corporate America! etc. etc.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2011, 7:29 pm
  48. Ghassan,

    If I were you I would stay away from people who think they are “pseudo intellectuals” by blowing away in the wind. Good job Daniel trying to impress us with your articulate dissertation.

    QN waiting for your next post to see how you see Lebanon in a “better place” then the other Middle Eastern countries…

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2011, 8:19 pm
  49. Am I saying that the United States should have stayed a colony….now that is a stupefying misreading of what I wrote.

    I probably shouldn’t rise to words being put in my mouth, or accusations of being a pseudo-intellectual, especially when I completely derided the local boojy progressive class for their self-proclamation of intellectualism. I make no such claims, and the tactic of smearing me personally instead of responding dialectically is as tired as the claims that America ever represented anything that counters tyranny or crowns of any kind in any way.

    I do not think the U.S. should have stayed a colony, no. I am curious, though, what might have happened if, after the coup d’etat of breaking with the British took place, the actual popular rebellions had been successful, instead of being put down, and the coffin nailed shut on such insurgence by the Act that banned any kind of criticism of the New Crown. Howard Zinn got it half right in this regard.

    That you feel it necessary to defend this new Empire, or the so-called Enlightenment, says more about you than my choice of words concerning the regional effects of these foreign powers says about me, and since this is the dominant mode of discourse, you get to make light of what I say; and despite what I say pigeon-hole me as you wish and as you will. But so be it.

    This doesn’t change things on the ground for the desperate majority of the population of this failed state we refer to as Lebanon. You might actually engage with them, and ask them what they think of, say, the U.S. and/or France and their “revolutions” and their “rights”. And then we can pray that their revolution—not that bogus mediated event sponsored by USAID and Saatchi and Saatchi in 2005, but an actual revolution—might actually take place.

    Or else we can wait for that tidal wave.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 29, 2011, 12:34 am
  50. Ibn Zeid, I will take you for a revolutionary when you put your mother, sisters and wife(if any) and all the other women around you in the first line of the beneficiaries for the next Revolution. Until now, no tidal wave of protests, no class fight has produced the equality among genders. Therefore, as a woman I could dismiss, as you do, all the progress made so far, on matters of social benefits. I think your analysis is a backwards looking one, and

    The French Revolution, all the others that preceded it, and the ones that followed, are really a thing of the past. They are not models for tomorrow. There is no model for tomorrow, because the world has changed so much ever since, and it will change in ways we can’t even imagine. Everything alive evolve in new conditions, human collective actions will adapt to new times as well. The recent big events in the World, French, Bolshevist and Chinese Revolutions, the Independence Wars, the more recent anti colonial movements, have been idealized and rewritten ever since, the blood has dried, the howls have silenced, the crimes and the stumbling have been forgotten. If we were looking at them in real time today, wouldn’t we call them civil wars? Who among us would be in the barricades?

    Nevertheless, those centuries gave birth to things that we have enjoyed and taken for granted: secular societies, more egalitarianism (even if it were only in the minds, that’s where everything starts), if only at the price of sanctifying nation-state structures, so be it. It is certainly frustrating that about the only instrument in the hands of the newly empowered individual, the power to freely vote in or out the ones in power, every 4 or 5 years, was in fact the possibility to delegate his very power. Still, that seemed to be too powerful a weapon to put into other kind of people’s hand, and in the same France of the French Revolution, it took about 150 years for the women to get the right to vote, for Eve’s sake! Not to mention the apartheid laws, the racist crimes that “free” and “socialist” societies alike accepted into late 20th century.

    I think of all of that to keep things in perspective and to stay sober. So, I will say that Arab revolutions have taken place when I see change coming from and for women. I won’t take seriously any Lebanese political program that doesn’t tackle the equality of genders before the law. In the meantime, I will try to recognize, not dismiss, the efforts of the people, men and women, for seeing right from wrong, and acting for a better society in their own way.

    Posted by mj | September 29, 2011, 3:36 am
  51. Sorry Ibn Zayd for misspelling your name (and for all the other errors in my comment, I hope some of it is still understandable).

    Posted by mj | September 29, 2011, 3:41 am
  52. I appreciate your comments. I am analyzing backwards to understand historically moving forward (I am taking your comment to mean “backwards looking”, not retrograde, but correct me if I am wrong.)

    I am with you 100%. In fact, I go even further, and claim that no law, or legal third party, will ever be able to bring about rights that are not part of the given social contract of the time. For all the talk about the right to vote, only a small percentage of the population ever goes to the polls, for reasons of apathy but also continued disenfranchisement. For all the talk about the “rights” of women in the West, the basic facts of lack of salary parity, the role of husbands and partners in domestic abuse and outright murder, the continued lack of empowerment in the mediation of women, all point a damning finger at those who claim the exact opposite.

    The first woman that I think about that drives much of what I do is the woman, my mother, who I don’t know, who was forced, or coerced, or convinced to give up her child to traffickers and baby sellers, acting under the guise of religious charity organizations in this country. I think about her strength and fortitude, matched by the women of Egypt whose protests in the textile factories, whose feeding of the masses in Tahrir Square allowed for a revolution, and yet a certain chattering class wants to give credit to the Twits on Twitter and the Faceless on Facebook. I think about her loss, like I think of the loss of the women in Gaza, and Iraq, and Lebanon, etc., ad infinitum. I think about the women in my neighborhood that I speak with everyday who are basically the slave labor of a Third World country, and imagine what will happen when they put down their cleaning tools and tell Madame to go to hell; when the women in Yemen and Egypt etc. are acknowledged for their role in their revolutions; when mothers the world over stand up and demand the repatriation of their sons and daughters trafficked out of their arms.

    I am with them, and I am with you. 100%.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 29, 2011, 3:53 am
  53. QN:

    Not being facetious. Just wondering when something is qualified an “Islamic State”.

    Take our buddy Iceman, who loves “The Law”. Many elements of Lebanese laws comply with “The Law”. Is Lebanon an “Islamic State”.

    Or is there a lazy assumption that a state can’t really be “Islamic” unless they decapitate murderers (Saudi), or pelt adulteresses with stones (Afghanistan) or criminalize blasphemy (Pakistan).

    I don’t know what is going to pop out of those Springs galore. And I am not so sure Lebanon is all that different from other countries in its hood. I don’t know if we should pigeon hole developments as though their outcomes are such absolute yet nebulous concepts as an “Islamic” state.

    Posted by Gabriel | September 29, 2011, 10:37 am
  54. Gabi

    These are all fair points. I was playing fast and loose with my definitions, as I often do for the sake of fluency.

    I don’t have a clear definition of an Islamic state, but certain people obviously do, and there are lots of them in Egypt as recent demonstrations there showed. There is a segment of the population in Egypt that wants “an Islamic state, not a liberal state, not a leftist state”… their words, not mine. What do they mean by that? I’m not sure. A few recent polls have showed that something like 80% of the population want the country’s constitution to be based on the Qur’an. Now, even that is an ambiguous idea, but why can’t we just admit that there is something different at work in Egypt than in Lebanon?

    More on this later…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 29, 2011, 10:52 am
  55. Ibn Zeyd,

    We agree on one thing, apparently: Lebanon is a failed state. No doubt about that.
    As to the rest, well, no I can’t say I subscribe to your view of the world and your view of revolutions.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2011, 12:15 pm
  56. Daniel,
    No serious observor/analyst of world history would ever claim that an event or a social movement is ever pure, perfect and is wart free. That is why we find legitimate and profound criticisms of essentially any and all institutions or developments . That much is clear essentially not controversial.
    A problem however arises when a defect is blown out of all proportions to describe a system/institution and paint a picture of that event as if it had no other redeeming features. A good example of the above is the total negative description of the American Revolution since it failed to live up to the ideals of total liberation. Has a revolution ever succeeded in liberating its people or have the oppressed often become the oppressors as Paulo Freire describes so well? Anther example of the tendency to allow the negative aspects of an issue to act as if the subject area has failed to show any progress can be seen in this statement:

    “For all the talk about the “rights” of women in the West, the basic facts of lack of salary parity, the role of husbands and partners in domestic abuse and outright murder, the continued lack of empowerment in the mediation of women, all point a damning finger at those who claim the exact opposite.”

    Again no one has ever claimed that total gender equality has been attained but to not recognize that some major changes have taken place and are still taking place ,including salary parity and domestic chores , is to be exceptionally selective in telling a story. Acknowledging the good and then critiquing the bad would be a more effective and truthful storytelling. A hakawati will lose his/her audience once the audience learns that the stories are full of inaccuracies.

    On a different matter that I would have not raised had you not spoken of it personally I am wondering whether you are on good terms with your adopted family and whether your views on adoption have been influenced by your own personal experience? If you would care to clarify also whether you are opposed to any and all adoptions or is it that you are against the abuses that have arisen as a result of the traffiking in adoption? I grew up in a village in Lebanon with an orphanage that is over a 100 years old. It is run by an order of Sisters who at times wake up in the morning and find a bundled baby at the gate to the orphanage. The sisters take care of these orphans, provide them with food, shelter and education ( I am sure that they try to also indoctrinate them about Christianity) I have known a few of these orphans after they had grown up and all speak rather fondly of their experience and actually dread to think about what they would have become had it not been for the orphanage. Had these Sisters allowed some wealthy Germans, Japanese, Americans to adopt a few of these orphans when they were still babies would that have change the humanitarian role of this orphanage? I am not sure that it would have even if a few lawyers mange to make a living by getting honest loving Westerners to adopta child born in a different culture.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 29, 2011, 1:00 pm
  57. Back to Lebanon vs. the Arab revolutions.

    Another (retroactive) symptom of the difference or another way to say it:

    Lebanon, to it’s credit, never silently abided by a tyrant for years on end. All the others did for 40 and 50 and more years. So, yes, I applaud their courage today, but it has to be said that they kept their mouths shut for years (and will probably again).

    So kudos to Lebanon there. Where I draw my pessimism, is that we do not know what to do with our freedoms and remain beholden to failed ideas (including the Palestine albatross).

    Where we have failed, and the others as well, is for the great scholars to explain.

    All yours QN.

    Posted by OldHand | September 29, 2011, 1:49 pm
  58. OldHand,

    Wouldn’t you say that the Lebanese have abided silently to a multi-headed tyrant for more than 40 years as well?
    Just because our tyrant is not a single individual, but rather a coterie of feudal lords and thugs doesn’t make is a whole lot different.
    How does one define “tyranny” in this case? Does it necessarily have to be that of one man or family?
    The Lebanese have tolerated the loss of their rights (some would claim we never had any to start with) for far too long. Our sovereignty has been trampled on by various groups and armies. Our security has been threatened and taken away at every turn (how is that different from a tyranny?)
    Just because we have been at the mercy of random kidnappings, bombings, shellings, etc doesn’t make it all that different from those who are at the mercy of a secret police. Violence is violence. Being disappeared or repressed is not all that different from being terrorized by car bombs or street thugs, in the end.
    To me, this distinction you make is very cosmetic. Different kind of tyranny perhaps. But the end result is the same: A populace that’s allowed itself to be manhandled over decades, and put its fate in the hands of various powers-that-be.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2011, 2:30 pm
  59. The American Revolution at no point was meant to “liberate” anyone; it was meant to allow for the landed gentry in the United States to consolidate their own interests without an interfering outside entity, the one that allowed them to establish their colonies in the first place. It was a rupture of the Crown, a hostile corporate takeover, and the bifurcation of the colonial process; it was the dawn of a new era of American Empire. The mythology of the Revolution was the selling point to get the poor and the landless to fight on the side of what they would later be violently punished for, and continuously punished to this day, along with most of the planet.

    And so I think it is fair to say that like the above example, much of the world is Voiceless, and much of the energy of those with Voice is spent making up mythologies to keep the Voiceless down. This is a particularly obnoxious trope to defend, and it boggles my mind that thinking people manage to defend it endlessly, mostly because it is the “received wisdom”. It’s like calling the crumb that fell of the table that some rich man allows you to eat “not nothing”; it’s like saying that some slaves were happy on the plantation; it echoes Michelle Bachmann’s suggestion that the segregated South reflected a “mutual understanding” between races, one of which was “saved” from pagan Africa (implying that this “greater good” made slavery worthwhile). It assumes a status quo without questioning the systemic inequalities at work, the imbalance between classes, and the negative life incentives that this brings out. It intrinsically disallows anything that questions its Truth.

    In terms of my adoption, my relationship to my adoptive family is perfectly fine, and I have to say that most adoptees really bristle at this accusation that somehow we are “bent” or broken which thus explains our worldview. This is really insulting, and is a tactic that frankly I find deserves no answer. Nonetheless, I will say that I have found out things, I now know things about trafficking and the sale of children that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And if anything, my trafficking and adoption has clarified for me notions of displacement, dispossession, and distinction between haves and have-nots. (Click on my name for more; I don’t want to hijack this thread with this side topic.)

    The point is that these myths only get so many so far, and then they break down. All of these myths, including that of adoption, are breaking down. All of the narratives that the media and pundits and leaders keep trying to spin, this dominant discourse, is falling apart. The Voiceless have grown wise to this mediation, and it is their unmediated Voice that is now coming to the fore. This has nothing to do with Thomas Jefferson and his ilk, and his arrogant statement that (paraphrasing) “the tree of liberty needs the shedding of blood of patriots and tyrants to grow” (said while in France I believe, while Shays’ Rebellion was taking place). The question now is whether we repeat the history of those so-called “liberating” Founding Fathers in their active crushing of this rebirth with all of the tools at our disposal, including weapons but also media and technology, or do we step down from our class position and perhaps participate in something truly revolutionary?

    Today in going over some readings for a class of mine, I came across by chance this quote which I think is pretty relevant to the discussion. It is from Vandana Shiva from India. She says: “…democracy is not just casting a ballot once in five years. That’s not freedom, that’s not democracy. Democracy is the defense of people’s rights and the ability to shape the economies and political systems in which they live. If you can get a handful of corporations and a handful of politicians to ride roughshod over 80 percent of India, you’re not going to have democracy. And the end of democracy means for the state, fascism; for the people, violent uprising.”

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 29, 2011, 3:25 pm
  60. Daniel,
    I have been a fan of Vandana Shiva for a long time. She is also required reading in three different courses that I teach. Maybe our views regarding deep ecology are more in tune:-)
    When I decided to respond to your original post I had a feeling that we are essentially in agreement regarding the goal and the absolute need for a global paradigm shift. We do however disagree on the method and the presentation. A revolution, a transformation will not happen only because we wish it to happen it takes place if the requisite conditions materialize. That is why I find the utopian descriptions just that unless they are accompanied by a plan, a road mapa rationale and a compelling reason besides that of a dream.
    In that vain the American Revolution was a revolution against mercantilism, against an old established order, a monarchy. It was a revolution based on the teachings of Locke that a social contract is a must and that the rulers need the consent of the governed. The preamble of the Declaration is profoundly liberating , it represented a paradigm shift in societal and governmental structures.
    Back to the initial thread. Lebanon is sorely in need of a revolution, a paradigm shift. The unfortunate thing though, is that the current dysfunctional regime seems to have mastered the ability to reinvent itself and act as the ultimate counterrevolutionaries. No better example than Jumblatt and the so called Cedar revolution. He and others coopted whatever little and genuine revolutionary spirit the occupants of Martyr square might have had at the time.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 29, 2011, 6:05 pm
  61. QN,
    For three days I have wanted to ask about the name of the creator of that outstanding image of the childrens kite hijacking the Arab world. How is it ?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 29, 2011, 10:16 pm
  62. But BV….

    The violence in Lebanon is sporadic and happens at certain points on a timeline. In other words, you can graph it. Whereas in most of the Arab world violence is a constant,or to be more precise the marshal law and the secret police, the sentencing without trial, political prisoners, torture and abductions was the norm which allowed for greater control, hence little violence or unrest.
    The recent popular movements attest to this. The street was the only place to vent ones frustration with the system, to express their political opinions.
    Lebanon, in contrast, to use the silliest of examples, had comedy sketch shows mocking the political elite on a daily basis, citizens expressing themselves on live air through an array of media outlets.
    What Im saying is, the Lebanese had some sort of vent to take out their frustration and so it was never pent up silently and painfully as it is in Syria for example.

    Posted by Maverick | September 30, 2011, 1:19 am
  63. We’ll agree to disagree then. What you are seeing as a “shift” in terms of the American Revolution I maintain is simply a fine-tuning of the old order of business. This is similar to Obama’s election, which is simply a “new and improved!” face on the old order of things. Nothing has changed fundamentally speaking.

    Here is the only time I make reference to Agamben when he talks about the polis (those invested with power) and zoe (those of “bare life” who are left over); there is no whitewashing the fact that only a percentage of the population at the time of the American coup d’etat was afforded any sense of validity, politically speaking. 1776 is a nice musical, but it is hardly the truth.

    Having said that, I reject completely this notion of “utopian dreamer” that I sense I am being labeled with here. Local praxis is of course paramount in any activist stance, and the paradigm shift you are talking about also requires that we let go of the received wisdom that would hold us back. For example, when we started up our artists’ collective here in Beirut, we were presented with a template for bylaws and charter based in French legal concepts of hierarchy, rules of order, and validity of membership. I rejected all of this, and spent two years writing up new bylaws and charter documents based in consensus, non-hierarchy, community outreach, and mutual aid. Amazingly, it passed muster not only with our lawyers, but with the government ministries, and has been adopted by other groups looking to avoid also this built-in trap of the hegemonic mode.

    We further limit ourselves as much as is possible to the lowest common denominator of our locale. By this I mean to say that there is no point teaching any kind of revolutionary ideal if it is not lived, and if the systems of power in place—the educational, academic, legal, mediated, NGO, social, cultural systems, etc.—are not examined for whom they allow to speak out, or indeed act. Here is the fundamental flaw of local “progressives” marching down to Martyr’s Square, supposedly in support of the Syrian people, when in their midst are workers whose notion of public space, access, ability to maneuver the city, etc. are extremely limited in this regard. They do not give a sense of “polis” to these workers, and this is the issue. How do I hold a march in support of people who don’t even have the right to attend said march?

    The question in a nutshell: “Do I allow myself the privilege of going into a pub, restaurant, university, cultural center, beach, park, area, etc. knowing that the people who perhaps work there, or live nearby, or else share this place with me are not allowed, overtly or otherwise, access to it?” Breaking down this line, these barriers, would not require much but an acknowledgment of our class luxury and privilege, our status and position in society. And thus words into action, and thought and praxis together. Not as a dream, but as a lived paradigm shift.

    This is when you most see the ravages of what Shiva refers to as corporate globalizers; and this is where Lebanon most fails the test, being nothing more than a neo-liberal experiment gone horribly awry. I’m curious how you “come to terms” with the truth here, but still manage to be a bit “starry eyed” when it comes to the U.S.? Let’s call a spade a spade. And I would only add that waiting for the “time to be right” is no longer an option, and that those who have been relegated to the non-existence of “bare life” are not going to wait for anyone’s permission to rise up.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | September 30, 2011, 3:11 am
  64. Maverick,

    I know Lebanese have selective memory…but amnesia? How is/was Lebanon as you suggest:
    ” The violence in Lebanon is sporadic and happens at certain points on a timeline. In other words, you can graph it.
    “Whereas in most of the Arab world violence is a constant,or to be more precise the marshal law and the secret police, the sentencing without trial, political prisoners, torture and abductions was the norm which allowed for greater control, hence little violence or unrest.”??

    Wow! I could take you back to 1975 and guide to 2005…Then take you on a tour of the six years hence. Also, if you would like details on how Lebanese have emulated the Ostrich mentality; I am more than happy to provide on little “incidents” that happen in Lebanon daily and how the police enforce the law!

    Posted by danny | September 30, 2011, 9:04 am
  65. An IMF held seminar about the Arab Spring, with many speakers from the Middle East and Pakistan, concluded that 3 items are crucial for the Arab Spring to succeed:


    Good Governance

    Strong civil society.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 30, 2011, 10:58 am
  66. Gabriel ….
    A few; Gabriel in particular; has been raising the question of ‘what is an Islamic State/” for a the past ten days or so. Surprisingly NYT was reading your posts and has provided its answer on page one written by Anthony Shadid.

    Please keep in mind that NYT links do not stay alive except for 7 days, I think.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 30, 2011, 11:06 am
  67. The last paragraph in the NYT article is a real gem.
    They still don’t understand the true meaning of Democracy, and that is a source of great worry.

    Posted by htj | September 30, 2011, 3:30 pm
  68. Daniel Ibn Zayd,
    Let me say that I’m in total agreement with your views concerning Lebanon and the US empire.

    The topic is about Lebanon and the Arab Revolutions. In this respect, the classical Marxian theory of class consciousness is not missing in a country like Lebanon, but the Lebanese have been unable to translate their consciousness into collective, organized power. Family and sect interests, not class interests, dictate the political course of political rivalry. For those advocating a different revolution or change under the current political superstructure is impossible to happen. As we all know, elections in Lebanon have always been a complete farce, and it confirms Marx’s views that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent them and repress them the same could be said about the American political elites.
    Today there are two major political parties in the United States the Democratic Party and the Republican party and they are both funded and serve the interests of the corporate America. Politicians on both parties are simply courtiers to the financial aristocracy dominating both parties. Could we deny this?

    Posted by Sebouh Akharjalian | October 1, 2011, 9:04 am
  69. I’m with you 100%.

    I’m adding that the “farce” extends to those of the intellectual class here who might claim to be progressive, or even Marxist for that matter, whose consciousness is still poisoned by the protection of their own class interest. Hence the challenge to limit oneself to what makes for the LCD of public space in a given locale, or to include those one claims to champion into one’s midst.

    I might also argue that family/sect and class overlap in particularly complex ways here; I don’t think class interest is that absent. The difference being that it is a globalized “cosmopolitan” class vs. local class structure.

    I see two ways forward from here, and these negate the concept of Lebanon as well: Local empowerment of what I refer to as the Voice of those who have no outlet for their Voice, and bridging this Voice to others currently doing the same thing.

    To bring it back to the Arab Revolutions, this is where you see (to me) hopeful revolutions where flags of many nations are raised (I’m not a fan of the national flag, but bear with me) vs. those where one flag is raised, based on indoctrinated nationalisms. Reaching out vs. insularity.

    But definitely, Lebanon is a lost cause and a hopeless case. We are the poster child for Capital, who is so blinded by its own depredations that it holds us up as some kind of beacon to the region. This is the height of Orwellian dystopia, if you ask me.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | October 1, 2011, 9:39 am
  70. Gents, can you give an example where this utopian system you speak of is practiced on earth? Except in the pure minds of prophets, intellectuals and mine when puffing the magic dragon here in the Florida room!

    Posted by Vulcan | October 1, 2011, 10:51 am
  71. Is it the absence of utopia that allows you the luxury and privilege to puff away? Or is it your higher place in the dystopia that you don’t want to change? Do we so readily dismiss all those who have worked along these lines and who keep the utopian ideal in mind as a goal? What else would you put there or discuss? Some halfway point? Which is indeed more ludicrous than this, those who would aim for something better, or those who accept the status quo as long as it serves them just fine? This is straw man construction at its finest.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | October 1, 2011, 11:15 am
  72. The Empire strikes back

    Living in the US Empire here i don’t feel oppressed!
    i am not a Democrat or a Republican nor do i have millions invested in Wall Street. My son went to public school and now in a great public university, i enjoy my freedom of mowing the lawn on Sunday and i dunno what you guys are referring to when you describe the US as a repressive 2 party system. It’s not perfect nowhere is perfect but at least 200 million people like me are enjoying this system with all its troubles and ” inequality”

    Posted by Vulcan | October 1, 2011, 11:25 am
  73. Forgive me Daniel, i am not trying to dismiss you or anyone trying to achieve a system with noble ideas of equality, I have a lot of respect for your thoughts, no true human being doesn’t suffer from watching the suffering of billions on this earth and i am humbled by those who try to do something. but in my case having to care for a family i cannot afford activism except on a personal level to my close circuit and my neighbors. i try to give, help and do something good.
    In my simple mind i don’t see it happening it will always remain just that, noble thoughts and ideas
    I admire your commitment but i have given up hope on Utopia

    Posted by Vulcan | October 1, 2011, 11:36 am
  74. It is the absence of utopia that makes me wanna puff away ! the repressive Empire is always trying to stop me 🙂

    Posted by Vulcan | October 1, 2011, 11:38 am
  75. May I remind you that Marx as never interested in a utopia, that is precisely why he dismissed the utopian socialists as dreamers. Unfortunately the same can be said about anarchists whose aim is to achieve that utopian vision of a non hierarchical society but they do not have a plan how to get there. Any goal that is not accompanied by at least the general outline of a plan is essentially a wish.
    Allow me to give you an example from environmentalism. As an idea and a principle I find myself very much in the camp of Social Eco;logy , a field developed by Bookchin who was known as the Dean of Anarchists at one time.. I do not agree with some of his ideas but even those that I like and support are predicated on a fictious socviety. Note the irony: Bookchin and other progressives critique the dominant paradigm essentially for having constructed models that are not realistic , and they are right, but then proceed to propose an alternative that is even more unrealistic. That is a major reason most of these progressive ideas have not accomplished much beyond criticism of the dominant paradigm which is an accomplishment that is not to be dismissed but neither should it be misconstrued as having offered an alternative . Dialectically the revolution/paradigm shift will occur when the conditionjs are ready. To push for a shift when the conditions are not right is to court disaster on a grand scale. Rosa Luxemburg disagreed vahamently with Lenin regarding the 1917 revolution. She argued that Lenin was forcing a revolution on a society that was not ready for it and she predicted disaster. Sevent years after the revolution disaster struck..

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 1, 2011, 1:01 pm
  76. Excellent analysis Mr.Karam,

    Mr.Karam, You have been a strong advocate of paradigm shifts. Now my question in regards to Lebanon is how can we see a major paradigm shift since both opposing political movements are degenerate this is in reference to the so called March 14 and March 8.
    Normally, paradigm shifts apply to both natural and social sciences. An example that comes to mind is the Keynesian Revolution which is typically viewed as a major shift in macroeconomics.

    Posted by Sebouh Akharjalian | October 1, 2011, 3:33 pm
  77. Sebouh,
    A paradigm shift is an idea that was originally introduced by Thomas Kuhn in his Structures of Scientifc Revolutions. . It is essentially an epistomological concept that speaks of always running into an anomaly as one is articulating the current paradigm. That is not materially different that Hegelian dialectics. As you can see in both cases you would need two parties in order to create either a synthesis or a paradigm shift. I have often suggested that my view of history from where I stand, dictates that the ideology, and beliefs of HA cannot succeed in the long run but neither can the narrow , reactionary and even subservient views of Al Mustaqbal. That is why I have often been opposed to both on practically all levels, although in some instances I find March 14 to be marginally more acceptable. Ultimately none is the future since both belong to the past. They are the problem and soi they cannot be the solution. The solution is a synthesis of both or a paradigm shift i.e. a visipon that will reject both and erect a viable society that will be the natural and logical next step. That society however will not be perfect by any means. If it were then we would be at the end of history and I maintain that we are in prehistory for that matter.

    May I make also a personal observation? Daniel is a Professor at the AUB and has undertaken a few projects and collectives that I think that you might be interested in . Send him a personal noteand see if your interests fit into any of his project. Contrary to the impression that the few exchanges that I have had with Daniel on this space, I think that my vision and his are not materially different. He is more of a praxis person than I am and I salute him for that.

    BTW keep in mind that revolutions, major ideas and paradigm shifts do not take place a a result of the work, energies or ideas of the old. They are totally dependent on young people. You might be too young to be familiar with a popular expression of the 60’6: you cannot trust anyone over thiry. Your youth and that of many of the readers and commentators is very much in your favour since you can afford to question and you do not have to act as the priests of normal science. That is one other reason why the best thing that can happen to Lebanon is to write an electoral law that will bring forth a wave of young people at the expense of the tired and old feudal political class.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 1, 2011, 4:27 pm
  78. Ironic how we paint Bookchin as removed from reality, when many here are thousands of miles and dozens of levels of mediation away from the streets of Lebanon, or Idlib, or Cairo. Will you tell me when the time has come? How will you even know it has come? Perhaps, just perhaps, it has already occurred, and you are actually on borrowed time….

    In the meantime, enjoy the bread and circuses while they last.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | October 1, 2011, 4:29 pm
  79. I too think we are on the same track, with praxis being the missing aspect, and with an understanding that we are working against or resisting something that is systemic. Praxis, stepping down from one’s class position, working absolutely locally with complete engagement, these are my parameters. This is on the Gramsci side of the equation, more or less, informed by the local. Giving up everything I had Stateside to return here is perhaps in some strange way a luxury of sorts, but after decades of activism, I am actually more hopeful now, whereas I used to constantly say to students especially, “I may not see it in my lifetime….” Now I’m convinced I will see it in my lifetime, inch’allah. Especially given the response here in terms of young people which is pretty inspiring on all levels. Anyway. Time will tell.

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | October 1, 2011, 4:39 pm
  80. QN interesting subject, even though your bloggers get of the rail and go wild with their thoughts sometimes I wonder. There is a lot that one should realize about these acts that are going in the Arab world Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. These countries have gone through socialism in a way or another in their history. political ideology based on an amalgamation, Arab socialism is distinct from the much broader tradition of socialist. Arab socialism represents a political trend in the Arab world. The intellectual and political influence of Arab socialism peaked during the 1950s and 60s, when it constituted the ideological basis of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, of the Arab Nationalist Movement and, to a lesser extent, of the Nasserist movement. Lebanon always has ben more on the capitalist side did not join these movements. In other words who ever pays more gets a Lebanese politicians attention. If you like the Egyptians and Tunisians did not have fractions of religious politics but they always had lords and peasants which got the class system which did not have as much effect on the Lebanese society. There was always a middle class that added some balance to the weave of the society.
    With all respect to you all I would like to remind you that the hardship that the beloved United states is going through it is not much better than tiny Lebanon that suffers the same corruptions and indifference. The average American is not any better state from the average Lebanese they both like to boost about their freedom of speech and going to elections so on… but how much of that is real….

    Posted by kt | October 2, 2011, 12:49 am
  81. Exactly; this is the flip side to what was said about Lebanon being a neo-liberal experiment—there is no memory here of anything else. It takes me a whole semester of discussion with students to get them to mention the word “class” with any sense of getting what that means; meanwhile, my friends in my neighborhood who are all migrant workers from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, etc. already have these concepts as part of their vocabulary. So it begs the question: Who exactly is not ready for revolution? And why? I have much more faith in the liberation potential of the “street” here as it were than I do in anything that might come from Europe, or the States, or their colonies, like Lebanon, if only because at least this “street” a) has a full vocabulary covering a full spectrum of political understanding and b) knows very well what the Powers That Be want from them.

    In terms of the situation in the U.S., it is more and more argued that the “gains” made by the street there were simply in the face of a competitive entity, namely, the Soviet Union. That again, the dominant mode was able to take on characteristics of its rival in order to quell any desire for that model locally. This makes more sense, to speak of Capital in its own terms—competition, individuality, etc.—than to project any beneficence onto it. Because we saw with the fall of the Berlin Wall a “return to form” and the dismantling of the social safety net that continues today. The problem now is that the youth there have no vocabulary, no framework, no underpinning mentally speaking to Voice what they would want to say; interviews with the occupants of Wall Street are painful to listen to in this regard. They are like my students, in this way. They need to be taught from scratch a bit of the old-school ways, updated for today’s reality….

    Posted by Daniel Ibn Zayd | October 2, 2011, 1:35 am
  82. The thing with these revelations they are born of stress and not much thought was put into it. like okay get rid of the dictator fair enough…. But what is the after effect. Who is next how is next to executed. Here the scavengers take advantage of situations. Those in the form of politicians or groups of fundamentalists or form of stats, neighbors, regional so on. We watched the Egyptian young generation with their internet connections they said they have been preparing for this movement for 2 years underground. But no leader in the sense of the socialist movements for example or the war lords it is a general acceptance of what all is suffering off. It could not be compared with what the young computer generations in Lebanon, they do not worried about suffering they all still live at home with mom and dad trying to recuperate from a war that has left them spoiled to bits. And the ones that are poor and have to find food do not have time for revolutions. Plus there is a lot of parental influence in Lebanon which holds on their dependence on the family in general.

    Posted by kt | October 2, 2011, 10:53 am
  83. Praxis is theory and Theory is praxis! Anyone who hides behind an invented dichotomy between thinking and doing is hiding from something or escaping reality__which is fine, as long as such an individual position is not reified into an ideological one.

    There is so much to read about revolutions, and maybe acting and participating in debates is more appealing than studying text and history, but if either Daniel or Ghassan had bothered to read Arendt’s ON REVOLUTION, they would have found out really interesting answers about their debate on the American Revolution and its revolutionary potential.

    The question is about The Arab Spring and Lebanon. Is there a revolutionary spirit at this particular social historical intersection? Yes, and not only in MENA but also in the US (occupy Wall Street,..). But will that translate into a revolution, or a radical transformation of not only social institutions but of the way we constitute our lives (affects, meanings and values, needs, desires, etc.) and our communal ways of relating to each other? This requires the praxis of thinking, analyzing, and actually reading about political theory, and especially contemporary theory (not just Marx, Gramsci or Agamben but especially people who have been studying Capitalism and the current social and political ontologies, like Maurizzio Lazzarato, Zygmunt Baumann, Bernard Stiegler, Judith Butler, etc.. there is so much out there that deals with praxis, revolutionary or otherwise, with the academic world struggling to provide a place for continuity of reflecting on our world in order to transform it. But the academy is under attack, both from politicans who want to create the right conditions of control and domination by transforming academic institutions into work preparation units or ideological factories for the dominant neoliberal cultural paradigm, and from people who believe that the academy is not “practical” enough or from social scientists who have been trained in categorizing and in calculations but not in thinking or in deep critical analyses.

    I do not mean to offend anyone, but sometimes, it is important to remind ourselves of our limitations and of our potentialities.

    Posted by parrhesia | October 2, 2011, 3:11 pm
  84. Just for the record , so to speak, I value the book “On Revolution” by Hannah Arendt an awful lot. In a sense it was in the back of my mind when I was responding to Daniel. Again just for the record, I disagree with her evaluation of the French revolution although I am totally on her side on “the banality of evil”.
    Ideally every one should live their beliefs but my point is very simply that the structure of society does not alow individuals to live totally according to their beliefs, we inevitably wind up with a compromise. I would even go as far as to say I have never met anyone who can live according to the tenets of say deeo ecology. The fact that we dont is nothing to be ashamed of. I am very strongly opposed to the idea of “acorns” i.e. change one individual and you have changed the world. Bull, change one individual and you have another 7 billion to go:-) One is to use praxis where it can be productive but to work to change the architecture of the system since if that is not changed then we would be soinning our wheels. I do not want to dismiss those that are “occupying wall street” but these individuals are not the vanguards of a revolution. Very few , if anyone is listening. They are blowing in the wind. If the problem is a systemic one, which I believe that it is then micro changes never amount to much. They make the individual participant feel good but that is about it.

    As for Lebanon I have been on the side of a major radical change to throw the rascals of both parties /blocs out. Realistically though I know down deep that it just ain’t gonna happen. We still identify ourselves in terms of our religious beliefs instead of mwatiniah/citizenship. Why to the hell do I have to worry about whether the head of state belongs to this religious group or the next. In my world there are no minorities based on rights and citizenship. We are all equal and so the mere fact that we think as the top clown , Patriarch Rai, that we have to condone what is against our beliefs as humans in order to guarantee the safety of co religionists is sickening. He is supposed to be above this, or is he? Religious leaders who enjoy being politicians are the problem. In a sense we all are because we listen to them and give them power. Where would they be without us? But can you honestly see a Lebanon, in say 1 or 2 decades that does not identify itself lin terms of religious practice? I hope that will happen but I am not holding my breath.
    We live in a rotten society where we are the problem, each and every one of us, and unless we recognize that we we are the problem and thus we need to uproot the whole system then no revolution is imminent, at least not a real one. ( I remind the reader of my original point , made many posts ago, that Lebanon does not need a violent revolution since we have chosen the current system. It is us and so what we need is a transformation of our visions of reality.)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 2, 2011, 8:33 pm
  85. As many of you either know or expect I am not a fan of either the Patriarchate or the latest position of the Patriarch Rai. I am trying to build an argument against his latest political blathering and I would like to try one argument , you be my sounding board:-)

    Christians are lucky that Patriarch Rai wasn’t around 2000 years ago . He would have struck a deal with the Romans in order to save them from being thrown to the lions.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 2, 2011, 10:22 pm
  86. #85 LOLLLLL. 😀

    Posted by danny | October 3, 2011, 9:26 am
  87. Thread too heavy on the name dropping and a touch off topic for me.

    One thing caught my eye when DIZ says:
    “It takes me a whole semester of discussion with students to get them to mention the word “class” with any sense of getting what that means; meanwhile, my friends in my neighborhood who are all migrant workers from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, etc. already have these concepts as part of their vocabulary theory for me.”

    Like “class” is a good thing portending positive change. I’ll submit it’s the exact opposite. The “class aware” non-Lebanese people picked it up in their countries screwed up political cultures and THAT IS THE VERY THING that produced these sick totalitarian-authoritarian regimes. And if these people are the deciders going forward, the poor Arabs have another 50 years to go to shed those crappy ideas and figure out what Arendt and others knew 50 years ago.

    Lebanon sort-of was different BECAUSE at any point in time, half its people did not fall for Arab-socialism-class-whatchamacallit crap. (And those who know me here know I am no apologist for Lebanon nor the Lebanese.)

    Posted by OldHand | October 3, 2011, 12:05 pm
  88. Hi
    Sorry to step into this very learned discussion with such mundane question. Can you please tell me what is Iran doing on your map? At least Israel is in another color. Thank you.

    Posted by Rani Hazbabi | October 3, 2011, 4:20 pm
  89. Rani,
    I think that this might be the most creative illustration about the Arab/Middle East Spring. Iran is in Light blue which means it is one of the countries that have not yet experienced the Spring effect. I understand why Israel is a different colour but I have had a tough time explaining to myself why the UAE is the same colour as Israel and why Lebanon is not even recognized on the map. I assume that the artist is saying that Lebanon is a part of Syria.

    I did not choose the name dropping, I was only responding to various posts. Sorry about that.

    What about if one adds to #85 references to the Sermon on the Mount and the story about Jesus going to the temple and challenging the orthodoxy. (Rai’s master did not compromise on the essentials.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 3, 2011, 6:32 pm
  90. With my apologies to all I would like to suggest that Rai is nothing but a buffoon. In his futile attempt to extricate himself from the shadow of Sfeir he has been blurting absurdities. He has made a mockery of the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. Another clAoun in robes!

    As for the revolution comparisons…I’ll wait for QN’s next post to address. I would say that Lebanon is controlled and manipulated by the FEAR FACTOR!!

    Posted by danny | October 3, 2011, 6:40 pm
  91. Maverick #62

    Sorry for the late response. Was out of town.

    I can’t believe you are telling me that we have more sporadic violence than the rest of the arab world. While theirs is constant repression.
    That’s the most absurd argument I’ve heard in some time!

    So. By this kind of logic, the Syrian should be glad to have had 40 years of “stability” and almost no violence (well, for the large majority of people who kept their head down and stayed out of trouble). They didn’t have their cities bombed to the stone age like we did, repeatedly (but sporadically). I suppose they must consider themselves a lot luckier than us.

    My point stands, i think: Tyranny is tyranny. Dress it up as “constant repression coupled with stability” or as “Short outbursts of intense violence, but a little bit more freedom”, it’s still the same pig. Different color lipstick.

    Besides, Lebanon has its share of intimidation and repression. It’s just not always organized from the same head source as it is in Syria, say.
    Go tear down some posters of Khomeini or Nassrallah in Dahyeh and let me know how that works out for you…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2011, 7:11 pm
  92. Vulcan says:
    The Empire strikes back

    Living in the US Empire here i don’t feel oppressed!
    i am not a Democrat or a Republican nor do i have millions invested in Wall Street. My son went to public school and now in a great public university, i enjoy my freedom of mowing the lawn on Sunday and i dunno what you guys are referring to when you describe the US as a repressive 2 party system. It’s not perfect nowhere is perfect but at least 200 million people like me are enjoying this system with all its troubles and ” inequality”

    This, i think, goes to the heart of the matter. I think everybody who isn’t a complete nutjob will freely admit that the USA is not a perfect utopia, anymore than any other place on this planet. But the fact that a large majority of people living in this country can feel the way Vulcan feels, should mean SOMETHING.
    We may complain about this or that. We may live in an imperfect system, where 2 parties monopolize power and cater to the corporate interests, etc. but the bottom line is, we don’t feel repressed.
    It’s a subjective criteria, to be sure, but i think it falls in the “i’ll know it when i see it” category. There’s a difference between living in the USA and living in Lebanon, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia. It’s not necessarily quantifiable, or easy to lump with one simple word, but it’s there. And those here who have tried living in some of those countries will probably know exactly what difference I speak of when they see it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2011, 7:17 pm
  93. Lebanon is controlled and manipulated by the FEAR FACTOR!!

    That is actually a very astute observation.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 3, 2011, 7:21 pm
  94. i’m a little late to the table here, but isn’t it obvious that after most revolutions, the state falls into the hands of the most organized (i.e., the most fanatical) faction — and not into the hands of the starry-eyed and well intentioned idealists that started it?

    i think of the French, the Russian, the Iranian….

    Somehow, I do not think Iran is ruled today by the Iranian students who marched before the gates of their American universities in 1978 with paper bags over their heads, protesting the shah.

    It is difficult at this moment to imagine Libya, Yemen or Syria (if the revolution there is successful, which i doubt it will be) winding up with anything other than a tyranny worse than the one the revolution ousted. Egypt is 50:50. i have not heard much about Tunisia lately, and perhaps no news is good news.

    Lebanon, in the meantime, should count its blessings. It has bled out its tithe of killings and assassinations steadily over time — rather than suffering a massive hemorrhage — and will likely continue to do so.


    Posted by samadamsthedog | October 3, 2011, 8:43 pm
  95. I do agree Tyranny is what it is…but surely you must see some sort of contrast between say, for arguments sake, the Lebanese and Syrian systems. Ive had the chance to stay in Syria for a few weeks on a few occassions, and without disrespecting anyone, I have never seen so much backwardness in my entire life.
    The Fear factor is present in both countries, but Syria takes it one step further. The moukhabarati are prevalent and omnipresent. You dont even dare speaking your mind to a family member incase you get linched, thrown into some underground dungeon, tortured and kept missing indefinitely. It is worse than some of the countries of the communist bloc around the 60’s/70’s.
    At least, the Lebanese can express themselves a bit more openly, have an array of media outlets to choose from, and watch politicians getting mocked on a daily basis.
    This absolute choke hold on the citizen remeniscent of George Orwells 1984 is the real reason why these brave souls are throwing themselves bear chested towards the indiscriminate firing of the Shabiha and the goons of the state’ apparatuses.
    The Street is the ballot box, the media, the peoples assembly , all in one. That is how desperate it has become.

    Here, the Syrians, along with the Egyptians,Tunisians et al are fighting against the Government, a centralized power structure that has strangled them for too long.
    On the other hand, Lebanon never had a despotic Government, despite its limitations, that terrorized its people on a daily basis through authoritarian rule and restriction of freedoms and basic rights. Instead the Lebanese fought themselves for reasons studied ad infintum.

    So, although they share many common denominators, in the end, the weakness of the successive Lebanese governments is what saved the people of Lebanon, as opposed to the Arab regimes who exercised their might and their prowess on their very own people through control, manipulation and the Fear factor.

    Posted by Maverick | October 3, 2011, 8:43 pm
  96. Not a fan of some his usual conspiracy theories, but here is a good outlook from Sate3 on the fear of minorities generated by the current “revolution”ساطع نور الدين

    Posted by Vulcan | October 3, 2011, 9:17 pm

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