The raft that still carries us

On Sunday, the legislative elections take place in Lebanon. Despite the country’s catastrophic situation, and despite all the misfortunes that have struck it, these elections could be the occasion for a popular upsurge that would be the distant echo of the 2019 uprising. However, it seems that a significant part of the population thinks of abstaining from going to vote.

If abstention is an increasingly frequent evil in democracies, in Lebanon it takes on an exceptional meaning. It is not a sign of weariness or disappointment but, more seriously, the expression of the feeling that the whole country, whatever we do from now on, has become ungovernable, that its problems are so profoundly structural that they do not no longer have a solution, that the political system put in place seventy-five years ago and constantly renewed is no longer relevant or reformable, that the famous Lebanese model is no longer viable and has reached its final limits.

Formerly, a famous sentence was often repeated to neophytes who tried to see clearly in this model: “If you have understood something in Lebanon, they said, it’s because it was explained to you badly. » At each moment in the history of this country, this sentence will have in fact designated different complexities. During its years of opulence, between 1945 and 1975, what left perplexed and, often also, admiring the foreign observers vis-a-vis the Lebanese building, it was mixtures and the fruitful contradictions between communities, social classes, political affiliations, a whole superposition of strata of allegiances which overlapped, interpenetrated and which required an expert eye to unravel the skein: a community democracy, half-ethnic, half-national, an administration and a distribution of functions on a denominational, a hyperliberal economic system and a system of family and clan solidarity, a political scene shared between denominational and family parties and modern parties, a culture and lifestyles from which one could, depending on the posture one adopted, as in quantum physics, sometimes seeing the strong oriental and Arab component, and sometimes the significance of an extreme westernness, without being able to determine ner if one or the other of the two components could be considered as dominant, both playing to create singular and fascinating syntheses.

With the outbreak of the civil war, this famous phrase took on another meaning. The incomprehensibility of Lebanon began to relate to the complexity of the alliances between parties, to the foreign interventions, to the internal wars within each camp, to a whole series of factors which finally made quite opaque the reasons and the finality of those thousand wars which for a time made up what was called the war in Lebanon.

Today, and after thirty years of a new era of entirely deceptive peace that has allowed an oligarchy made up of former warlords and unscrupulous financiers to seize the resurgent state and the billions of dollars of reconstruction, the famous phrase takes on an even more terrible meaning. The incomprehensible Lebanese complexity seems to refer to the interweaving of all the crises, which feed each other in a despairing squaring of the circle: economic and social crisis, structural crisis of the political system, crisis in the definition of the role of the State faced with the coexistence of democratic pluralism and the presence of armed militias, crisis of citizenship faced with the permanent resurgence of fears and community withdrawals. Each of these crises finds its source in the previous or the next one, which means that to resolve one, the others must be resolved before it, and vice versa, and that no one agrees on the priorities, because everyone sees the priorities according to their position in relation to reality, as in quantum mechanics.

Hence the very strong temptation to abstain from a large number of harassed and scalded citizens, thereby expressing despair and renunciation in the face of the insurmountable difficulty of the work to be carried out to revive this country. Except that if we do not tackle the monstrous web of these difficulties, they will only increase further. By doing nothing, we will all sink with the raft that still carries us.


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