The People Want a Newspaper and a TV Station

Image Credits: Maria Kassab.

First of all I would like to apologize from the organizers of, and participants in the #Feb27 demonstrations for not having joined their crowd of 3000. As a consequence of that, my account of this day will always be second-hand, and lacking on an essential quality: an understanding of the participants’ energy. However, I will do my best to articulate what I think of the whole deal.

In principle, I am as committed to secular values and institutions as every other person who actually participated is. Nevertheless, I feel that there is some mixing-up in the demonstrations’ demands. Corruption, economic fragility and lack of social justice are not the products of our political confessional system. They are the products of either our confession-based political fetishism, or (to grant ourselves the benefit of the doubt) a lack of political choice. Let us keep this point in check and move on to the real argument.

3000 participants is not bad at all for a count, but compare it to the crowds who gather in speech feasts in Martyr’s Square or in Dahiyeh and you will be reminded of the bitter truth: We ARE sectarian. Unlike citizens in Tunisia, Libya or Egypt, we are not oppressed. Those demonstrating on that rainy day are the idealist, leftist fringe, not the mainstream. And without the impetus of the mainstream, no change can happen. The problem is with us, not with our political elite. Two rounds of elections and we’ve brought the same elite to power, because it is in their protective shells, or acid sectarian speech, that we find refuge for our deeply sectarian psyches. This is why, please allow me to repeat it for the nth time that what we need at this stage is a reform at more fundamental levels: education, media, and certain laws.

We cannot be liberated from our own-induced plight without a real change of consciousness. And this will not happen when today’s change agents are stuck with dependent media that publish and broadcast sectarian-poisoned content 24/7, and without exception (No, Al Akhbar is no exception). Change is also unlikely to happen when tomorrow’s change agents are stuck with an educational system that treats scientific truths on equal footing with Biblical phantasm, and when logical frameworks on seeing the world are delivered in many cases under the hoods of clergymen. Today’s and tomorrow’s change agents cannot dream of effecting any change when hate speeches and gibberish are freely delivered to their ears on Friday sermon hautparleurs. Today’s and tomorrow’s change agents will always be alien to change when our Muftis and Patriarchs have a (deeply seated?) influence on politics, and when our elected MP’s run to them for benediction as a matter of protocol, brand-building and public appeal. In our existing void of true political vision, and once the bubble façade of consistent political agenda of reform explodes, our politicians and their media vehicles implode to sectarian discourse. In other words, this is our lowest common denominator. Not so flattering, eh? So what change can we think of in the house of our own beast, my fellows?

That said, I am not being a pessimist, I am just saying that instead of parading panels screaming ‘The People Want To Bring Down The Sectarian System’, we should really be whispering to ourselves ‘The People Want To Bring Down Their Own Sectarianism’. Consequently, my friends in Laique Pride and #Feb27, let us be more concrete with what we want:

1- The People Want Educational Reform because we cannot inflict the intellectual injustice of creationist protectionism on children anymore.

2- The People Want Political Alternatives in the form of new political parties with secularist and reformist agendas, who are consistent, and who have clear commitments with measurable results, and who will hopefully run for the next elections in 2013 and hopefully win the majority in 2017.

3- The People Want a Newspaper and a TV Station, Real Ones because what matters is the motivation of the mainstream, not that of the intellectual elites, the leftist circles of Hamra, the activists of social media, or the information-exposed of the Internet in general. Because we have the right to media outlets that perceive us as clients of objectivity, rationality and truth, not as flag-waving marionettes.

4- The People Want Whatever Last Year’s Laique Pride Wanted because we should not forget the basic that is achievable as of now: a proper civil code.

So friends, may we detach ourselves a little from the zeal of the 2011 revolutions, and observe our own particularities (and thus requirements) not to end-up needing another (even more difficult) revolution in 2021?

  1. Ya3ne, I donno what to say except that you took the words from my mouth and wrote them in this post. I agree with every word even the punctuation in this post. I don’t have anything to add 🙂

    Being realistic is far from being pessimistic. When I criticized this campaign I was labelled as someone who doesn’t want change and who isn’t for secularism. WRONG. how can you call to end something that ends with “ism” and then label others?

    Sectarianism is in our hearts, whether we’d like to admit it or not. It’s everywhere, in jobs, in relationships, in the country, in the divisions, on the roads, in the streets, in our names! So before we pretend we are a secular country, why don’t we start to admit that we have a problem and start working on accepting people the way they are, and not ask them “where are you from”.

    The point is to get to a point where we don’t even notice to differentiate another person by his/her sect. And sadly, our generation, coworkers, friends and family, we all still do it, as much as we like to pretend that we dont. MEH BLEH DUH! i see it everywhere around me!

  2. Wonderful post! thank you.

    • maha_a987
    • March 7th, 2011

    What you wrote is so true. But I have some few points to mention:
    1- regarding the socio-economic demands, i believe that problems regarding corruption and social injustice are a product of this system, as people keep covering for their “zo3ama”s, not to weaken them in front of other “zo3ama”s
    2- It is true, that secularists are not a majority, but this fact is result of a continuous marginalization of this stream, practiced by countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syrian, dating back to the pre-Independence. But I believe, that once this stream expands it will have wider and wider echoes in our society, easing up the tension of many Lebanese against other sects.
    3- The demands you are calling to are already mentioned in numerous articles and posts, and we all agree on their necessity. Besides, we are trying to activate the role of social media in Lebanon.

    Thank you very much.

    • maha_a987
    • March 7th, 2011
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