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The War... Criminals

So it's the big day. It's the day everyone talks about in Lebanon. Every year. I missed the 30th anniversary, not being in the country at the time. But I did not feel I lost out on much, and here I am, on the 32nd anniversary, hearing the same "warnings", the same "never again"s, the same... all the same. I have not met a people so stubbornly self-deceiving as the Lebanese are. Every year this circus of April 13 repeats itself, as the country slides ever closer to a civil war. Every April 13, in the midst of the loud and repetitive "never again"s, I look through the photos of the civil war, I look at the people today running after their self-assigned leaders, I listen to this guy on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the civil war, who says "Nasrallah is afraid only of Walid beik; we can wipe out the Shi'a in less than 24 hours", I watch all the hype on the news attached to the groups and individuals who have transformed April 13 into a ritual, and for whom the remaining 364 days are good for a kill, I watch all the people insisting that it is the new generation that does not know the horrors of the war and may end up making the same mistakes, but then I see that the older generation, the war generation, is ever ready to engage in blood-baths, at a mere signal from their self-appointed leaders.

On the 32nd anniversary of the eruption of the civil war, virtually all the war criminals, all the fighters, all the butchers, are on the loose. And what is worse, many of them preside over political parties, and hold political office. Then I hear someone say that Lebanon is unique, that it is civilized, and Western -- the latter two descriptions used synonymously. I will not go into a debate on Phoenicianism, or any other ism. Lebanon, at this point, resembles the war-torn African states where tribalism is rampant and every once in a while, erupts in a civil war. This comparison is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the racist, supremacist rhetoric aired by the likes of one FPM supporter who mourned that "even Kuwait is better than us, and heck, even Congo is better than us". As true as this placement may be, there is something unsettling in that "even". It assumes that Lebanon ever was better than the rest of the countries plagued by authoritarianism, tribalism, racism, civic unrest, and so on. The truth of the matter is that casinos and hotels, and tourism, do not make a country "good" or for that matter "civilized", despite the insistence to the contrary by Hariri, Inc., and for all I know Patriarch Sfeir... The "Paris of the Middle East", that phrase that just keeps popping up out of nowhere every once in a while, is only in the empty minds of those whose pockets were full, and are now overflowing. And since I stuck my nose into this subject, I must give them a piece of my mind: if you cherish Paris so much, my advice to you is to visit the Paris. I mean, the one in France; it saves the time and effort (and money...) you invest in planting Parises in different parts of the world for your touristic, gambling, and sex slavery agendas.

I truly and honestly do not hold any sympathy towards anyone in this regard, except for the Palestinians, whose experiences in the war and in its aftermath have been far more catastrophic than those of any other group or sect; to put the icing on the cake, their place in the discourse on the civil war is now at best marginal; marginal not in the sense that they are not discussed enough (they are discussed and blamed more than enough), but rather in the sense that they have no say on the manner in which they have been portrayed (as the representation of all that was evil), their involvement in the war used as a tool and manipulated to falsify history and weave a mythology around it. As Karim Pakradouni put it today, "the first two years of the war were good, and I do not regret them, because they united the Lebanese".

I had decided against writing on the occasion, as I am not a big fan of such artificial commemorations and marking of dates and events (especially ones that one has not learned from, and in fact seeks to repeat). What made me change my mind, however, is the fact that everywhere I went today, everything I saw, and every single individual I talked to, was so appallingly sectarian, so appallingly the exact opposite of what the Lebanese try to market themselves as, that it became impossible not to write anything about this phenomenon of mass-delusion and this mass-marketing campaign embarked upon by the Lebanese. I have been informed of a number of organizations and groups that have sprung up recently, which claim to be secular and working towards the advancement of civic society (and so on); most of the people I have met and talked with claim they are non-sectarian; some even say they are atheists. Yet in the heat of the debate (and I do love playing the devil's advocate), the vicious sectarianism and hatred (thickly-coated with the so-called Lebanese nationalism, the so-called "civic" culture, the so-called open-mindedness, the so-called acceptance of "the other"), rears its ugly head.

I also decided against posting any pictures (from my rather large civil war photo collection). I have grown to despise the routine references to the destruction, which are often coupled with scenes of "Beirut reborn". In fact, I despise the emphasis on Beirut. And again, which Beirut is it? The Beirut of the refugee camps? The Beirut of the rubble of the dahieh? What about the impoverished north and the Beqaa, and the devastated South? I suppose these do not fall within the scope of the project for erecting a Paris (or a second Dubai) of the Middle East.

The mythology of the civil war needs to be destroyed. Not dismantled, but destroyed. There are those who insist, despite what experience has shown, that pampering will lead to the dismantlement of this mythology. That merely "encouraging" people to discuss the civil war is enough to actually get them to do it, and do it in a way that would be more than merely parroting the official version approved by the sect's self-appointed leader(s). The attack on this falsified and prettified record must be brutal, uncompromising, merciless. To use war terminology, there should be road blocks on each and every single road. Not even alleys must be spared. Leaders and their blind followers are, to use the Dickensian phrase, "artful dodgers"; naturally they will try to find a tiny gap, and slip in through it. As for how this can and should be done, that is not my specialty, although I could definitely get quite creative (and at the very worst case, very distasteful). I am, however, granted my rather violent activist background, of the opinion that this is a much broader and complex task than to be entrusted merely to academics. Research and documentation are important and worthwhile tasks in and of themselves, but they are not enough. Books are not enough to educate people and break the myths that have been planted in their minds. What has been done so far can be described as gathering the fruit of those plants and at best throwing them away (and sometimes eating them). What needs to be done is to uproot those plants.

But so long as the efforts are hijacked by so-called secular groups claiming to work on enhancing civil society, and which do not do anything, and often do the opposite of what they claim to do, there is not much hope.

The mainstream must be dumped. Or else we will all be duped into the mainstream.

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posted by Angry Anarchist @ 4/13/2007 07:13:00 PM,


At April 16, 2007 at 7:55 AM, Blogger Puppeteer said...

The more I read about Lebanon, the more I find similarities with Romania. You can't even imagine, except for the secterian part, but which is strongly replaced with party or "interest groups". Because otherwise, alla iestor!
I didn't know Lebanesse are so eager to portray themselves as "unique", which they're not, as you pointed, there are loads of similar African countries, and Romania, to begin with.

At April 19, 2007 at 7:11 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Are you Romanian?? Or are only familiar with the country?
My family is from Romania (!).

Yes the Lebanese claim they are "unique". This was specifically a typically Maronite (sorry for the generalization, my dear Maronite readers!) phenomenon, but the plague seems to have spread onto other sects. In fact, the dominant discourse on Lebanese nationalism and identifying "patriots" and "exposing" non-patriotic Lebanese has largely focused (and continues to focus) on this so-called Lebanese uniqueness argument. So if you criticize this, your patriotism/nationalism is automatically in question.

Oh, the tales I can tell you about such accusations!!!!


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