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Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Curse of Lebanon: Religion, Now as in 1870


William M. Thomson visited Lebanon back in 1870 and wrote a book to tell everyone how backward the place was. 1870! Here we are in 2015 - 145 years later - and we are still backward, not to mention no electricity, no running water, no decent roads, plus the pollution and the plastic garbage everywhere. At the heart of Lebanon's eternal problems is RELIGION. The Lebanese share the same genes (check Peter Zallouh's work on the Phoenician gene, done in collaboration with the National Geographic), but religion, superstitions, backward beliefs, and the religious establishment keep them chained like brainless sheep, taken to the slaughter every generation with massacres and unfathomable violence in the name of God and religion. 
 
The worst part of it all is that the Lebanese never learn. After each slaughter, they go back doing the exact same behavior that led them to the slaughter a mere generation ago: Worship their feudal bosses, believe in their religious leaders and assorted saints, gods, imams, and such other holy fantasies from the Bronze Age, hating the other Lebanese because they "believe" in another holy fantasy... until the next blowup, the next massacre, the next exodus, the next war, the next tragedy.... And then they wonder why many Lebanese  emigrate, fleeing this disgusting cesspool of backwardness called Lebanon, never ever return and finding their own fulfillment and glory in faraway lands of exile. They wonder, even as they brag about Khalil Gibran or Amal Alamuddine or Salma Hayek or...... being Lebanese, why only Lebanese emigrants who escape this Gulag succeed, while those who stay behind remain mired in filth and backwardness.

Here are William M. Thomson's own words:

"Lebanon has about 400,000 inhabitants, gathered into more than six hundred towns,   villages and hamlets...The various religions and sects live together, and practice their conflicting superstitions in close proximity, but the people do not coalesce into one homogeneous community, nor do they regard each other with fraternal feelings. The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiites - both hate the Druse, and all three detest the Nusairiyeh. The Maronites have no particular love for anybody and, in turn, are disliked by all. The Greeks cannot endure the Greek Catholics; all despise the Jews.

And the same remarks apply to the minor divisions of this land. There is no common bond of union. Society has no continuous strata underlying it, which can be opened and worked for the general benefit of all, but an endless number of dislocated fragments, faults, and dikes, by which the masses are tilted up in hopeless confusion, and lie at every conceivable angle of antagonism to each other. The omnific Spirit that brooded over primeval chaos can alone bring order out of such confusion, and reduce these conflicting elements into peace and concord.

No other country in the world, I presume, has such a multiplicity of antagonistic religions; and herein lies the greatest obstacle to any general and permanent amelioration and improvement of their condition, character, and prospects. They can never form one united people, never combine for any important religious or political purpose; and will therefore remain weak, incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners. Thus it has been, is now, and must long continue to be a people divided, meted out, and trodden down."  

From: W. M. Thomson, "The land and the Book", 1870. 

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