Three major questions appear from this report: has there been any progress in the building of collective memories for the rising generation? How can the position of Lebanon be strengthened in the regional context? How can the negative impact of nepotism be limited?
Oblivion, memories and denial
As regards the strengthening of national repentance memories for the rising generation, the report shows that “today there is no fear for civil peace, contrary to threats made by politicians”. However there is deep fear among the young born after the war that internal conflicts should break out again. The civil war is nothing but “a small street in the numerous wars that devastated Lebanon”. Historians will tell of “Lebanon’s” history according to rulers and diplomats instead of telling the real story of the “Lebanese”.
Establishing the new History curricula under the direction of Professor Mounir Abou Asli (decree no 3175 on June 8, 2000), is a positive step. However, the forming of a new commission to review these programmes instead of using them according to their spirit reveals unconsciousness and lack of prospects.
We had made a proposal of putting up a memorial in Down Town for the war casualties from all regions and communities, from all parties or without any political affiliation, to remind us of what people endured. Nothing was done, “so as not to reopen old wounds”! The policy is one of “denial” not of oblivion or of keeping memories.
Parallel peace and hostage
The breaking up of the Arab security system, the constraining regional context and external interferences keep Lebanon in parallel peace as arguments keep coming up as well as political groupings and speeches that maintain a “verbal civil war”. It seems attempts are made to show the Lebanese are “unable to govern themselves” and that the Arab – or even world – security needs after the 11 of September 2001 events a “policeman” for Lebanon that is according to the words of President Carter on the Lebanese crisis since 1975 “like a porcupine, one doesn’t know where to hold it from since it has spines all around.”
This justifies a need to reconsider the concept of a “weak state” in the American concept of international relations. Many events since 1975 namely the Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation make this need real not to mention the 11 of September 2001 tragedy that shows how fragile the great powers are with the surge of new war systems.
As to the Lebanese – Syrian relations, they are often subject to controversy and the differences are often given a “communitarian” aspect in order to maintain “a hypothetical civil war”. One needs in fact to differentiate between strategic Lebanese – Syrian ties that no Lebanese denies – and a network of influence and nepotism woven by the leaders at the expense of common Lebanese – Syrian interests.
This same nepotism rules in the country encouraged even by the intelligentsia with no distinction between national pact, Constitution and governance. No matter what happens, one turns to the Ta’if National Agreement whereas this agreement sets forth general principles. Any “new pact” may lead – as shown by a historic secular experience – to interferences from brothers, cousins, enemies and other real or equivocal kin. So, as long as the Ta’if Agreement is not regarded as the last national pact “to enrich and not to cancel” (mâ yughnîhî wa-la yulghîhî) according to an expression by Rachid Karami in the early 1975, the risks of internal wars persist for lack of political wisdom.
The report shows that the Lebanese political system is undergoing constant confessionalism. This tendency is not due to the system itself. A politician is reported to have said: “As long as the system is confessional, we want our share”. The rule of the quota is not… without rules! It is subject to judicial and administrative conditions often exceeded under the cover of the “confessional system”, now an easy way to nepotism. So one should denounce not so much political confessionalism but rather a “policy of confessionalism”.
What are the actions to be undertaken? The 2002 report of Monitoring Civil Peace in Lebanon gives a number of proposals that can be sorted out on four points.
1. Collective memories: one needs to face the unconsciousness and offhandedness the new History and civic Education curricula are being dealt with. The new curricula require leadership, follow-up and a consensus among the social active forces in order to use them not as far as the administration and offices are concerned but with regard to their spirit.
Some effort needs to be undertaken to set up memorials, places and ceremonies to commemorate the past: “Let’s forget, but recollect”, “leave the trauma and fatalism of repetitions through resilience”.
2. Pragmatic public programmes: concrete programmes need to be promoted in every street, neighborhood, town, school, university, etc., field programmes that mobilize people around daily and common vital problems. All problems even the most earthly are politicized. In most villages, oratory ceremonies are held but never a “local debate” on vital and daily problems. If “a narcissism of small differences” is developed it is to recognize the difference. This strategy is to recognize what gathers and what differentiates, “seeking more to communicate than to conciliate”.
3. Overcoming the debate on identity: It seems that the country’s intelligentsia, media, historians, politicians, the homo libanicus, etc. are programmed since the twenties to perceive dual confessional visions whereas inter-communitarian aspects are more and more real. The former vision maintain Lebanon hostage of a hypothetical internal war. The intelligentsia that does not “denounce what ideologies hide” does not show Lebanon as an example to deal with pluralism and does not promote Lebanon’s role for an Arab renaissance.
4. Dealing up-front with governance problems: the report shows that Lebanon today doesn’t have any major constitutional problem and that the gaps reside in unbridled governance. Accusing this or that article in the Constitution is trying to close eyes on politicians and legitimizing illegal behaviors. A control of good governance requires a “less lazy or nepotist” approach to problems, citizen awareness, advocacy mechanisms other than the conventional legalism.
The report’s conclusion quotes the American poet, Walt Whitman, in 1860: “Stand up, obey very little… As soon as you stop questioning submission, you will be entirely enslaved.” It also quotes Nadia Tuayni: “My country tells me: Take me seriously!”.