Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Change in Lebanon: Evolution or Revolution?

Evolutionary biologists have long argued over whether change and speciation (the birth of new species) in biological evolution occur in slow gradual increments over long periods of time (gradualism) or in abrupt catastrophic changes that happen infrequently and are separated by long periods of stability (punctuated equilibrium). 

The advocates of punctuated equilibrium cite the example of the sudden disappearance of dinosaurs and other species at the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary event some 65.5 million years ago. It is generally believed that the suddenness of the event can only be explained by some catastrophe (meteor striking the earth, climate change that changed the food supply, etc.). This event opened the earth for re-settlement by surviving species that diversified and speciated into millions of new species, including the modern mammals.

What does that have to do with this blog's general proclivity for political polemics? 

At this time, now nearly three weeks after the election of Michel Aoun to the presidency of the Lemon Republic (which itself was 2.5 years in the making) and his appointment of Saad Hariri as Prime Minister, we do not have a government, yet. Like all their political fights, the Lebanese almost always reach a stalemate because of disagreements over process, not substance. In this they are like all Arab and African countries, where not a single leader leaves office willingly or according to the laws. There is always unrest, fighting, leaders insisting on staying in power against their own constitutions or the will of their peoples...

For example, in the US Barack Obama is leaving office and transferring power to Donald Trump without a fight. The rules of the game are set in advance, and everyone plays by the rules. In Arab and African countries, the rules of the game are set, but then when the game starts, everybody starts challenging the rules, and mayhem ensues. 

Prime Minister-designate Hariri has been trying to form a government for the past 3 weeks, without much success. Before answering the question of WHY has Hariri has so far failed, one needs to know that the election of Aoun as president was accompanied by an effusion of patriotism and unity and goodwill. So what happened?

What happened is that the show of primitive political traditions must go on, particularly on the part of Nabih Berri and Hezbollah who, railroaded as they were into electing a President they hated, are now seizing the opportunity to put stick in the wheels and defeat Aoun before he even begins his term. It took a mere few days, and all the beard-kissing, back-patting, fake effusions of patriotism, and grandiose declarations about the higher national duty that were on display in the Lemon Republic when Aoun was elected by parliament, have vanished into thin air. As has been the case for the past 3 decades, governments in Lebanon must always be governments of national unity, i.e. you put the winners and the losers together in government. Not only is this counter to the claims of Lebanon being a democracy, but all these governments end up in stalemates, impasse, incompetence and ineptitude. They never achieve anything of substance, except sign memoranda of grants donated by the US, the EU, and the UN. The Lemon Republic of Lebanon is a sovereign beggar. The Lebanese governments function only insofar as they accept money from outside with which to line the political bosses' pockets.

And so now, the tribes, religious sects, families, regions... are haggling over ministerial portfolios. They in fact have "sovereign" ministries (Defense, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance) where political and military power rests. Then they have second class but fat "service" ministries (Public Works, Telecommunications, Power, etc... ) where money is to be had. And third down the ladder is all the other "useless" ministries (Culture, education, tourism, environment...) So you see where the priorities of the "educated and civilized" Lebanese are. The big fight is obviously over who gets the sovereign and service ministries.

We thought that all the goodwill and the "reform"-minded Aoun and Hariri would somehow avoid the fish-mongering show, but alas, we are back to the stinking fish bazaar as usual.

Hariri and Aoun have two options:
1 - Ditch Berri, Hezbollah, Frangiyeh etc. and form a one-sided government. Let Berri, Hezbollah and consorts become a genuine opposition and fight their filthy battles from outside the government.
2 - Ditch all the traditional parties, families, bosses and their corrupt ways, and appoint a government of technocrats - people with decency, integrity, education and expertise - who would begin the long haul process of rehabilitating the Lemon Republic. 

I want electricity, water, decent roads, Internet, clean air, garbage pickup, protection of beaches and forests from political scavengers, end the endemic corruption..... I don't care what religious or tribal or familial cocktail the government is. I just want a government that works.

Watching the bazaar made me think if there is ever hope that this country will change and evolve from its backward ways and into modernity. If there is change, then can we assume that it may happen by EVOLUTION, slowly and gradually getting better? Or do we need catastrophic change - a REVOLUTION - to clean up the filth and begin anew?

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