Tuesday, September 8, 2020

History, Karl Marx, Thawra, Sulta, and Abou Saada

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce - Karl Marx
I wonder at what stage Lebanon is. The tragedy or the farce.
Zealots are on all sides, all sides. What everyone seems to want is a black and white no gray zones in a world where everything is full of nuance. Strange how lately several people called me optimist or full of hope when pessimism and day to day rationalism seem to guide me (side note: I still believe, one way or another the money in the bank - the Lollar - will be given back in the long run, this is not optimism, this is the long view of things).
What is sexily called "sulta" (authority - regime) is clinging on to what is has always worked (and I must stress that not just politicians and warlords made it work, it is the average Joe as well) - a post-feudal, clientage-based (wasta) system, and lately argued that no one found its interest in changing the current equation (read here) no matter what Thawra (revolution) doe-eyed youngsters playing revolutionary games seem to think.
Naturally, the August 4 explosion only added to the impasse. But also to the division. The narrative that people are breaking free from their political affiliation shackles is a fallacy (again, read here), no matter what you read on Instagram. A certain person I know, who holds a Ph.D. no less, read in his far left view, that the people who went out manifesting after the explosion had already burried the old regime, in a scene right out of the Communist manifestations with "power to the people" and what not.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent analysis I have read about the situation was detailed in Charles Al-Hayek brilliant Heritage and Roots Instagram account (here):
In the turbulent mid-nineteenth century years, Halil Pasha, an Ottoman admiral, was sent to inspect the turbulence in Mount Lebanon following the end of the emirate system in 1841.
Before setting sail from Istanbul, he paid a visit to the exiled emir of Mount Lebanon, Bashir Shihab, who ruled from 1788 until his fall and exile in 1840.
After the usual compliments, he turned to the emir and asked how he had managed to rule Mount Lebanon for so long and what could he tell him about the nature of the region’s inhabitant.
He replied: “It is true that I ruled for that long, but every three or four years the inhabitants would rebel, although they never succeeded. I would kill, hang, imprison and beat without opposition to make them submit”. As for their nature, he said “there is a bird in Mount Lebanon called Abu Far, which hunts mice. He is bigger than a falcon and perches on a high tree. When the sun rises, he looks to his shadow and sees it larger than it actually is and so he tells himself, today, I must hunt a camel. But as the sun rises higher, his shadow grows proportionally smaller until the sun looms over his head; then Abu Far looks to his shadow and sees it smaller than it actually is, and so he settles on hunting mice.”
The emir who has two male descendants, was known as "Abou Saada" ("Father of "- the customary nickname for married men, and instead of the name of his eldest male descendant (Amin) he was called after his eldest daughter) was wise indeed. Russian writer Alexander Heren did say "the departing world leaves behind it not an heir, but a pregnant widow"... If there is any transition, it will be painful, and long.
Abou Saada for president!
Case failing, Abou Fouad!