In Times of Universal Deceit…

As I prepare myself to leave Lebanon for good, I face certain qualms that I thought I have dealt with earlier. I have never felt comfortable with the ‘Lebanese’ civil society. However, at some reactionary points, I found myself intuitively joining their protests, sharing their messages and sometimes endorsing their claims, for several days. Even worse, I have joined earlier movements and attempted movements to topple the sectarian regime. I suddenly had to face the dramatic truth that the ‘Lebanese’ people do not really want to topple the regime.

I have been accused, just like any other person seasonally contributing in the civil society, as a reactionary who does not walk the talk. I have been accused of being a virtual revolutionary (in the sense that I would only revolt on Facebook).

So, as I prepare myself to leave, I come to judge my citizenship and my commitment to whatever I preach. I admit I have minimal belonging and patriotic sentiment towards Lebanon. I have failed to clearly identify a ‘Lebanese’ and I have failed to identify my own country, its history, its historical figures, its people and its venues. When I used protest, seasonally, I was standing for my principles and the smell of Jasmine in the corner of our house in the village. I was standing for the rich soil of Southern Lebanon. It is not the richest soil in the world, but it is my favorite. I was not standing for the sake of the country, possibly for the sake of its people. I belong to the land in southern Lebanon, stretching to the occupied land which I have never seen but I’ve always felt. I belong to the causes that tie those lands together. This does not necessarily mean I am confident with those parties holding this cause as theirs, to the contrary. Belonging to an idea, a cause, or a naturally existing land and environment is much more appealing, to me, than belonging to an artificial incoherent nation.

Before confiscating my ‘Lebanese’ passport, I might as well defend myself. As an exception to my earlier seasonal activism, I have willfully and wholeheartedly been the chairperson of the Alternative Student Movement at the Lebanese American University for almost a year now. We have launched an unprecedented electoral campaign at the university, won a seat in the student council and took the presidency. In other words, the student council’s president is a secular independent ‘Lebanese’ student. We organized lectures and panel discussions on feminism, secularism, and activism. We sought to expand the secular circles in the student society at the expense of sectarian ones; believing that change comes from within, and any top-down secular approach imposed on the people is ineffective.

I did not commit myself to this movement because I had any hope in a radical change. At some point, I had no hope at all. I simply did commit myself because it is the duty of conscious people to say the obvious in times of universal deceit (inspired by George Orwell). In other words, I didn’t do it because it will get anywhere. I did it because I had to. But, ironically, this concept itself gave hope! When conscious people commit themselves to spreading the truth regardless of their expectations, change is inevitable.

Even if the money coming from ‘Lebanese’ expatriates will keep some ‘Lebanese’ passive, even if others are benefiting from clientelism and sectarian favoritism, even if some others are making fortunes out of fraudulent system and laws, even if those left not benefiting from sectarianism need consciousness to rebel and can only become conscious when they rebel, hold on to the truth and spread it wherever you go. You do not have to be ‘Lebanese’ to seek change; you just have to belong to the land, and to those occupied.

Ibrahim Halawi

Published in Mish Jareedi June/July 2013 Printed Edition – click here to view original publication