Lebanon challenges the status quo…

by Hazem Saghieh
20 May 2008
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London - "But it spins," said Galileo Galilei in reference to earth, contrary to the belief of the Inquisition that the sun revolved around the earth. Galileo uttered those words with the penalties of death or life imprisonment looming ahead.

Early in Italy's 17th century, that statement was true. And it still is in the early years of the 21st century in Lebanon. It spins even if some authority, an authority that lacks neither force nor prowess, says otherwise. It spins even when certain wrongs are forcibly made sacrosanct.

It spins in the sense that Lebanon cannot be ruled by one group or one ideology. With its 18 confessions and subcultures, Lebanon cannot tolerate an absolute truth imposed in the fashion of official ideologies. It spins in the sense that this Lebanon is strong, not by the resistance and its force, but with its model deemed more pluralist than its neighbours', with its press, parties, ideas, books and trade unions. It spins in the sense that Beirut, the city of languages, cultures, universities, hospitals, banks, hotels, and nightclubs, defies one-party rule or a single "national front". It spins in the sense that the airport and the port are two concepts rather than two locations.

It spins in the sense that this Beirut, a platform for Arabs, the Mediterranean, and the whole world, is rich in the diverse races and mixed identities it groups. It spins in the sense that Beirutis, and hence all Lebanese, are far more complicated than is thought at first sight. They defy any attempt to coin a specific binding definition. A song there is far dearer than an anthem, and the word is far stronger than the gun. Every one of the communities there demands respect and attention from the others. Otherwise, they will be all swept by a destructive red-hot hatred.

It spins in the sense that ignoring Lebanon's complexities and believing that the country can be taken by force will take all parties to annihilation. It spins in the sense that eliminating the moderates in one confession only allows the more radical and suicidal elements to thrive. It spins in the sense that Lebanon's strength lies in its weakness and its weakness in its strength.

It spins in the sense that no matter how new things may seem to be, they cannot make a new start nor end whatever preceded them. For the wisdom and experience of previous generations can never be forgotten. It spins in the sense that every revolutionary novelty in our world soon reveals what turns out to be older than that which it accuses of oldness. It spins in the sense that every revolutionary novelty that rules by force eventually collapses or loses the passion that once made it seem so new.

It spins in the sense that the values of modernity will prevail in the end, and if they do not, then the level of decadence will rise to drown all of us, one by one, and one community after the other. It spins in the sense that the world is made of states and boundaries; that politics rules within states, and international law serves as the referee amongst them even if this truth was difficult to see or was delayed. It spins in the sense that any state that was not meant to rise or may never rise has the jungle as its only alternative.

It spins, in Lebanon and elsewhere, in the sense that accomplishment is not violence and that violence is often a phoney compensation for the failure to accomplish. And indeed, it spins….

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* Hazem Saghieh is senior commentator for the London-based Arabic paper Al-Hayat. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Al-Hayat, 13 May 2008, english.daralhayat.com
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
 
 
 
 
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Turkey's turning point by Christina Bache Fidan
Historical accidents and collective learning in Iran by Ahmad Sadri
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