December 19, 2006

When will Lebanese become... Lebanese?

By Abu Kais

Posted by Abu Kais at December 19, 2006 07:52 AM
Comments

Beautifully done piece. Gave me the chills. Does anyone know who produced it?

May God be with us all.

Posted by: Ko at December 19, 2006 09:08 AM

Excellent. It's very clear!

Posted by: Catherine at December 19, 2006 09:25 AM

Exactly. Great ad.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 19, 2006 09:53 AM

You ask “When will Lebanese become... Lebanese?” I say when the Lebanese accept the other without wanting to change the other. It’s tragically ridiculous that such an ad receives so much airplay and so much support all the while the vast majority of the Lebanese belong to traditional parties and factions (that are now in a deadly dispute in what it means to be Lebanese mind you). It’s idiotic to scold a Lebanese for identifying with a culture that’s associated with his religion, it’s a natural tendency.

The question is bullshit and its impact in Lebanese circles is bullshit. The people that “got the chills” from that ad, might want to comment as to why don’t they belong to the few Lebanese parties that advocate diversity and pluralism as part of their doctrine. The fact that such groups have low memberships proves first and foremost that the Lebanese is dishonest with himself. We all want everyone to be Lebanese as long as everyone is Lebanese according to our (or our group’s) definition.

And the most ironic thing is that those people that trumpet about “Lebanese Nationalism” are the ones most opposed to an explicit definition of said diversity that would enable the Lebanese to drop the defensive schizophrenic attachment to their faction and allow a safe transition into a national allegiance. As long as we refute the Shiite’s kinship with Iran, the Maronite’s non Arab identity, the Sunnite’s kinship with Arab nationalism and Saudi Arabia, as long as we refute or reject the Shiite’s demand to live under some form of Islamic law etc. etc. we will be asking that question for a very long time.

Simply pathetic, keep “getting chills”, romanticize about Lebanese unity and while you’re at praise secularism (el 3elmaniye, my 2 year old nephew can now converse about secularism) and denigrate the Lebanese system. All of that has worked so well for the past 80 years.

I thought Kais was above that BS and understood the Lebanese complexities a little bit better.

Posted by: Rami at December 19, 2006 10:14 AM

Sometimes it takes a few images to say so powerfully what cannot be said with many words. Yes i got chills too & I am not Lebanese nor have I ever been there... yet.

For me, having grown up in Northern Ireland this comes really close. Both communities look to the outside- to Britian & Ireland for their security & identity.

I understand somewhat your attitude Rami & your passion for change. I can only surmise that it is way easier to just "keep your head down" in your respective communiites, not create a scene & go on. To challenge the status-quo not only requires guts but the certain knowledge that threats will come to not only you but your family too. Its easier to step back into the clan/tribal/religious grouping for safety.

Sometimes folks need to be away from the source of their angst to really change. For me I can honestly say it took a good 5 years living in the US to deal with some of the anger, mistrust & hatred of N.Ireland. I didn't see myself changing until I saw the "template" of my family, relatives & people during trips home. Now 15 years later i am a changed man. However I look on in despair at my homeland, at a people stuck in the same old sectarian rut.

I do have hope in that I know that change can come in a persons life. For me it was the desire to see my own children walk free from the bondage of hate that had ensnarled my family upbringing for a couple of generations.

I will continue to pray for your amazing land & precious people.
David

Posted by: cincinnatidave at December 19, 2006 10:46 AM

Dave I’m getting misty. Without a doubt living in America would have that impact for this is the bastion of cultural relativism and true acceptance of people’s identity. That’s the liberal tradition of America.

Oh yeah, it becomes really easy to be Irish and ask others to be Irish first when no one accuses you of being a papist, or someone from the other side accusing you of being a English lap dog.

Same applies here, when someone gets in your face and attempts to negate thousands of years of history, when someone attempts to change the very ethos of your being (under the rubric of modernism, Islamism, Arabism, or what have you) then it is really easy to revert to your shell. Instead of asking people to contend with that abuse you should ask the offender to stop such abuse. Instead of following the negating traditions of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia let’s follow the liberal tradition of the US. Instead of saying conform, let’s say accept the other, unchanged.

A fellow queen city resident such as yourself should have a distinct appreciation when it comes to acceptance and respect.

Posted by: Rami at December 19, 2006 11:59 AM

wow!

Posted by: Nancy at December 19, 2006 12:31 PM

My great grandfather was a Polish person in America. My grandfather is Polish-American. My father is American with polish, french, hungarian and irish roots. I am American.

I think the mixing of religions and nationalities was not really a concious decision made by my ancestors; they just thought the opposite sex was attractive and worth the trouble. How does it work in Lebanon? Doesn't the Sunni-Muslim guy in the video realize how freakin' hot the Christian Marionite woman is? Or worded differently, why have the different confessionals (right term?) maintained their distinct identities in the face of pressures that have tended to homogenize the world's human population since the earliest days of our evolution?

Disclaimers: I don't mean to imply that the US is somehow better, I am just using it as a comparison because that is what I know. Using the Sunni-Muslim/Maronite-Christian example is random (well, almost; she is hot).

Posted by: Keith at December 19, 2006 01:39 PM

Ironic: I'm just now reading "A House of Many Mansions" by Kamal Salibi and just finished Chapter 1, about the creation of the Lebanese state by the French. I knew the French officially created the Lebanese nation, but I didn't know that the Maronite Christians were the ones who pushed the idea, or that the Muslims of the rest of the "nation" were opposed to it.

It makes sense that citizens of a country that was created, effectively, by only one part of its population would have difficulty identifying with said country.

Still, I do hope one day all Lebanese can identify themselves with the nation in which they live.

Posted by: Tania at December 19, 2006 02:04 PM

I found it ironic that the happy music was played when the Palestinian made his pronouncement. Does anyone think that Palestinians are much better off than Lebanese? Doesn't the Palestinian case present a perfect counterexample to the simplistic message of this video, which is that great things happen when a group exhibits national unity, and that horrible things happen when it doesn't?

Posted by: david at December 19, 2006 03:36 PM

Powerful video - the fact that the Lebanese seem happy identifying themselves with their respective sects displays their allegiance to the sect, and not the nation, as the main social unit.

Perhaps the threat of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon will prove to be the galvanising force necessary to transcend these sectarian boundaries.

And yes, david, I was inexplicably shaken by the Palestinian - he does not have a state of his own, but still he can identify with the concept of being a citizen of a nation - though I'm not entirely convinced if that was a genuine or insidious smile. Pardon my scepticism.

Posted by: harrison at December 19, 2006 06:35 PM

It was a bit of a shock to me that they included the Serbian and the Palestinian, as if to imply that Lebanese are doing even worse than those awful places. I mean the war in Yugoslavia is over, so I suppose you could make a case, but there hasn't been any genocide in Lebanon, after all. And that proud Palestinian has a less functional state than Lebanon to be proud of.. Though I suppose his sectarianism is less obvious so there is a point to be made there.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 19, 2006 07:22 PM

I should correct myself, there has been SOME genocide in Lebanon, there was a christian village that the PLO massacred, then Shatila and Sabra... No doubt Lebanese people could list more than I could.

Although the Serbian state was guilty of genocide, it didn't try to share a state with those people afterwards, so the suggestion that Serbians had no problem solving sectarianism better than the Lebanese is falacious.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 19, 2006 07:26 PM

“When will Lebanese become... Lebanese?”

When “unity government” means a single government controlled military within Lebanon’s borders and no one has a rocket launcher in his garage.
When citizens consistently express their point of view by ballot rather than by bullet.
When the omnipresent portraits of politicians and martyrs disappear from the streets.
When all children attend schools with curriculums that exclude derogatory religious teachings.
When one's race, creed, and gender are inconsequential in the laws of the land.
When the Lebanese flag is the ONLY one carried within Lebanon’s borders by law and in fact.

Posted by: JAS at December 19, 2006 10:03 PM

THEY WILL BECOME LEBANESE WHEN THEY GIVE UP HATE
Hating is boring and unoriginal. Every group on earth has been victimized, but hate is a choice. Those who hate, clinging to it as an addiction, passing it on to their children, cherishing it inside themselves, using it as the centerpiece of their lives, are finally left with nothing. It is a waste of time and energy, like other addictions. If you give up your brain to it, reason is pushed aside by constant anger, paranoia, righteous indignation, dreams of revenge, and self-justification. Thoughts and words are obsessively repeated again and again, day after day, with nothing to show for it, no progress, no change, just like other addictions. People do not just have hate – hate also has them.

Democracy has always been under attack, and the attackers have always been full of hate. Fascists, Communists, Islamists, to name a few... No one has a right to spread and incite hate, to teach hate in schools, holy places, religious meetings, street demonstrations, or even community picnics. I offer you a demonstration: go into your room, alone, and spend the rest of your life hating Israel, or the Sunni, or oxygen. When you die, we will put on your epitaph: “he hated”. A wasted life.

Many want to wallow in hate, but they don’t want to pay for it. Hate is not free, it’s very expensive, like all addictions. Hate is a stepping-stone to war, and others know that when you begin to spout hate, encourage it, teach it, and justify it, they feel that conflict is imminent, and they feel threatened. They react and take measures to confront you, and if they are simple, they react with their own hate. Meaningless conflict follows, where people die, but hate does not, and war follows war. I give you the Middle East, for more than 5000 years.

Hate can be confronted. Accept it from no-one, point it out when you see it, disagree with it, refuse to listen, refuse to apologize, fire haters, jail them, sue them, vote against them, and forgive them. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA: "Sherif Ali, so long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people; a silly people; greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are." Lawrence loved the Arabs, risked his life for them, helped them reconquer their lands from the Ottomans, but the hate thing really bothered him. I hope that the democratic forces in Lebanon will truly exercise their most fundamental power by uniting in a common front that rejects hate.
______________________

Posted by: DemocracyRules at December 19, 2006 10:22 PM

To answer Ko's original question, the ad was produced by Grey Worldwide.

The idea was the work of a very talented Lebanese creative, Mounir Harfouche. One of the purposes of such an ad is to create debate; the evidence here suggests it's working.

Posted by: Derek at December 20, 2006 12:37 AM

I don't think Nationalism is any better than religious sectarianism. They both lead to wars.

The government of a locality or region is simply a matter of convenience for those who happen to live in that area. Things work better if suitable people can be elected to run the highways, sewage, water, education etc. There is no real reason to wave flags about.

The question should be, "When will we all become human beings?"

Posted by: Don Cox at December 20, 2006 03:00 AM

Anyway I think this ad is a very good idea.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 20, 2006 03:02 AM

Just after reading this discussion, I found this story on the BBC site.

Nkrumah seems to have got it right. Lebanon, Iraq and other places should try a similar system.

Posted by: Don Cox at December 20, 2006 03:34 AM

Nationalism is better than religious sectarianism. Lebanon is the proof.

Nationalism is what allows many different types of people to live together. Provides perhaps their only bond. America is the proof.

Posted by: bptk at December 20, 2006 05:43 AM

I don't think Nationalism is any better than religious sectarianism. They both lead to wars.

I dunno if nationalism is the right word for the concept of '[people not like us] are lesser beings who we can kill or conquer with impunity'. It's not necessarily sectarianism, either.

The government of a locality or region is simply a matter of convenience for those who happen to live in that area. Things work better if suitable people can be elected to run the highways, sewage, water, education etc. There is no real reason to wave flags about.

Flying a flag tells other people what group is the legal authority in that area or to whom a group is loyal. Those are both useful things to know.

The question should be, "When will we all become human beings?"

We are human beings. All of us. From the most jaded and perfumed socialite to the most ignorant and brutal taliban, all of us are human, and all of us are capable of cruelty and barbarism.

The real question is when we will all become civilized.

Posted by: rosignol at December 20, 2006 05:56 AM

ps: I didn't get a good look at the Lebanese/marionite/whatever chick (camera was kind of out of focus), but the South African woman was wow hot.

Posted by: rosignol at December 20, 2006 06:10 AM

Michael Totten!!! Where are you? Please come back. You didn't say you were going to leave for a month! What is happening?
Please explain your absence. We are getting worried. We have no idea what's happening in Lebanon without you.

Save us from Abu Kais ;)

Posted by: leb at December 20, 2006 06:38 AM

I think you got more problems than this one as far as righting the ship.

Not on topic of the video but as far as emerging American policy is concerned vis a vis Syria, it is a significant threat.

If you want a take on "realism" in respect of American policy vis a vis Lebanon have a look at this and in particular skip down to the "carrot" option for Syria:

http://www.theconservativevoice.com/articles/article.html?id=21184

According to the writer contributing a 'conservative' medium, offering up Lebanon is indeed on the menu and a new consideration of U.S. policy in dealing with the threat of Iran.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at December 20, 2006 06:40 AM

According to the writer contributing a 'conservative' medium, [...]

So?

The right in American politics is no more of a monolith than the left. There are many points of view, more opinions, and even more ideas- some good, others bad- and they tend to be discussed and argued about in public.

Just because one 'conservative' says something doesn't mean most conservatives agree with it.

Posted by: rosignol at December 20, 2006 07:22 AM

"Just because one 'conservative' says something doesn't mean most conservatives agree with it."

The point is that with the recent release of the Iraq report by "conservative" James Baker III and the junkets to Syria by American congressmen, the statements made in the article about serving up Lebanon to the Syrians are entirely plausible as a recent and significant movement for the change in American policy in the region.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at December 20, 2006 11:33 AM

To Jas....nicely said, and absolutely 100% correct.

To Derek, thanks so much for the info, being a creative myself, I was wondering who was behind such a moving and well produced piece. Mounir Harfouche...I'll need to do some research on him.

Posted by: Ko at December 20, 2006 12:02 PM

Too bad that these people all full of desire to see a united lebanese national identiy couldn't include Israel in their list.

Posted by: Yisrael Medad at December 21, 2006 12:13 AM

First for Lebanon to become lebanese is to get rid of this absurd sectarian allocation of electoral votes.

one man, one vote.

And of course, stop accusations that other factions are puppets of the West, or Iran/Syria.

Posted by: NM at December 21, 2006 12:17 AM

First for Lebanon to become lebanese is to get rid of this absurd sectarian allocation of electoral votes.

Nope.

The sectarian allocation is what gives each faction a stake in the system and a reason to work within it. It is far from ideal (personally, I think it's very poorly designed), but I don't see a better alternative.

one man, one vote.

...leads to what is known as 'the tyrrany of the majority'.

Does Lebanon have a Constitution that explicitly states that all citizens have the same rights regardless of religion, ethnicity, or tribal affiliation, that the legal code will not be based on any religious text, and that these things cannot be changed by a simple majority or via executive fiat?

And of course, stop accusations that other factions are puppets of the West, or Iran/Syria.

Even when it's true?

The freedom to say what one thinks is not dependent on if other people like what they hear.

Posted by: rosignol at December 21, 2006 02:00 AM

This type of thinking is essentialist even if it has some good intention of redeeming the image of Lebanon. Also, it is reactionary in the sense that it is produced as an answer to "others" gaze, and not as a way for self-understanding by discussing issues within the country. My major concern with these clips however, is, the apparent lack of courage to take a stand on an issue and defending it with logic. Lebanon is subject to the most ruthless and vilest attacks by a Hmmas-Syrian-Iranian-Hizballh alliance, which is determined to destroy whatever hope the country had to build a civil society that addresses real problems of economic and cultural progress rather than the oft revived Arab delusions of fighting Israel and the West...the persisting culture of hate and resentment of "the other"....

Posted by: aboujahl at December 21, 2006 10:50 PM

Thank you. Finally someone that grasps this issue beyond the cliches and nostalgia.

Posted by: Rami at December 22, 2006 04:29 AM

Thank you Rami. And for those who might confuse my use of the term "essentialist": in this context, it denotes the type of thinking or behavior that considers a people as posessing a fixed identity, a whole, to which all the parts (individuals) must conform!!!

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