Reverting to Lebanon
As I continue writing my book (or more accurately, as I continue wrestling with the ideas that my book will contain) I find myself consistently reverting back to Lebanon.
Lebanon, my home country, has become the theoretical proving ground of my political philosophies. It has become a gauntlet in which my ideas are forced to run through if they are to earn their place in the book.
I don’t think that this is completely surprising, I’d assume that we all have a natural tendency to relate our ideas to what’s familiar. But this is proving to be an interesting challenge in a different way, as I’m not familiar with looking at Lebanon through the lens of a political philosopher. If anything, I’m used to looking at it through the eyes of a discontent citizen — one discontent enough to leave.
Running my ideas through the gauntlet of Lebanon is however not only forcing me to reconsider my ideas, but interestingly also helping me change the way I see Lebanon altogether — a result that’s exciting and scary.
An interesting reversal
Lebanon for me is the reason that I never pursued writing or politics with the fervor I do today. It was far from the fertile ground one needs for exercises of the mind where social conservatism imposes itself on every crevice of your daily life and a politically volatile environment means that involvement in politics, through political parties or NGO’s, means either sitting on the sidelines trying to avoid politics itself to make impactful humanitarian change, or fully embracing or fighting against the corrupt and sectarian system that is the Lebanese government — all the while trying not to get assassinated.
In this way, Lebanon became, and still is, the embodiment of all that is oppressive and unkind, the perfect deterrent.
Under those conditions, and having no intentions or plans of leaving the country, I decided to cut my losses and move away from the field all together and perused a business degree and career, where, for a while, I was wildly successful.
To now find myself increasingly reverting to Lebanon as I go through my mental exercises is not only an interesting reversal, but is also a frustrating one. One that is inseparable from a feeling of of disappointment, as if after all this time, I am still unable to move on from Lebanon, to actually escape it.
This has left me feeling as if I have gone full circle over the past 4 years of my life, coming back to exactly where I left. It’s here where this reversion becomes scary, with this idea that it has taken me 30 years to accept and start realizing what I already knew ever since I was a child in Lebanon, that writing and political philosophy are my passions. More so, that my ideological leanings after all this time have not only been left unchanged, but have become even more intense.
This has all left me wondering, have I as a person even changed? has anything really happened within me?
But it’s the very issues that had made Lebanon such an oppressive place on a personal level that make it such a worthy gauntlet for my ideas.
Lebanon presents itself in an interesting intersection dealing with raw questions of moral and political philosophy.
The country’s illiberal confessional “democracy” has meant there is no separation of state and “church”. This has meant that citizens and the government continues to wrestle with ideas of personal freedom and social responsibility.
A weak state also gives an interesting lens into the sort of power structures that arise within a society in the absence of a state — and the injustices that come with them. Questions of legitimacy become harder to tackle in a state of lawlessness and it becomes easy to see where Liberal philosophers find their praise for benevolent dictators.
This type of statelessness, coupled with sectarianism, also brings in an interesting study on the theories of nationalism and identity creation on a national and an individual level. This consequently reflects on the countries international relations and involvement.
Economically, Lebanon also presents a dramatically diverse picture. Capitalistic images of progress and order have gained capitalists significant sway and political power leading to the establishment of monopolies (private and public). A large agrarian and even feudalistic section of society goes largely ignored as does poverty in general with the onset of escapism or political/secterian opportunism where labour and intellectual movements have been reduced to mere reflections of the larger fragmented society.
Finally, the question of the role of violence is significantly more palpable. In a state of social and political insecurity what is considered justifiable use of organized violence? Especially where a history of occupation and resistance exists.
These are but a few of the challenges that allow me to ground my conceptional ideas into a reality of a frayed and embattled population.
More importantly than these “time freeze” analyses though on the state of Lebanon is the critical analysis of how philosophical concepts need to be staged to lead to a lasting transition. How do we go from point A to point B?
In a society where sectarianism is still largely the dominating social force, can we think of an Anarcho-Federalist “state”? or is the transition through a liberal “bourgeois” democracy a necessary first step?
In a country where feudal relationships in agrarian populations is still respected, is collective management through syndicates a possibility?
How does one raise class consciousness to instill the democratic principles necessary for the creation of a workers emancipatory movement?
Home sweet home
On a personal level, I think I will continue to be faced with the impossibility of seeing Lebanon beyond its political and philosophical dysfunction that have driven me away from it. But I think it’s interesting that through these dysfunctions, and the difficult questions that they pose, I have been able to reconnect with my “home” — albeit in a somewhat unconventional way.
But perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong, maybe it was Lebanon all along that has been preparing me for a life dedicated to writing and political philosophy, maybe Lebanon has pushed me away so that I can come back to it a better person.