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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lebanon's "Democracy" Crisis: The Token Christians

Can you have a democracy when the constitution requires a 30% minority to pretend to be 50% of the population?

Can you have a democracy when people's religious identity prevails over their national identity?

Can you have a democracy when each of the 18 constituent religious communities is more like a concentration camp ruled by un-elected God-appointed religious tyrants, and in which a citizen is born and brainwashed to fear and hate the other 17 communities?

Those have been the eternal questions that the lemon Republic of Lebanon has been trying to answer for close to 200 years, and has so far failed as it revolves from one vicious cycle to another. As soon as a generation tires of warfare and massacres and finds a haphazard ill-conceived solution, the next generation raises the same questions and challenges the previous solution, a crisis erupts, a civil war ensues with its package of massacres, foreign interventions, killings, kidnappings etc...until this new generation, in turn, tires of the killing and cooks up yet another ill-conceived solution that everyone knows is a temporary patch, and the cycle repeats itself.

Today's electoral law stalemate is precisely an illustration of that cycle. The question is: How do you configure an electoral law that produces a truly representative body (parliament) by asking the Christians (30% of the population) to pretend to be 50% of the population and elect 50% of the representatives, and ask the Muslims (70% of the population) to pretend to be 50% of the population and elect 50% of the representatives? Obviously, the math is not there. Democracy is by definition a blind exercise of rational numerical majorities and minorities... By definition and by every measure of reason, a 30% minority of the population cannot win in elections against a 70% majority. But the Lebanese, in their "genius", are supposedly working hard to disprove this logic.

The Lebanese Muslims say they agree to give the Christians the fake 50% the latter demand, because apparently the Christians are a token lure that draws tourists and investors seeking money, alcohol and women, and thus contribute to giving a cheap imitation of an "advanced Westernized" image of the country, in contrast to the Muslims who are hemmed in by their religion against money, alcohol and women. So, without the Christians, Lebanon would cease to exist as we know it. So the Muslims want the token Christians and are willing to give them token, but not real, attributes of power, and even as they agree to the minority Christians acting as if they were 50% of the population, the Muslims do everything in their power to scuttle any mechanism that grants the Christians real power.

Right now, the Muslims agree that the Christians elect only 30% of their representatives, since the Christians are 30% of the population, but insist (the Muslims) on electing the remaining 20% of the Christian representatives, in addition to their own 50% Muslim representatives. The question is, how truly representative is a Christian member of parliament who is elected by Muslim voters? It may not matter in a a secular democracy, but in a sectarian system like the Lebanese, this is the crux of the issue. What is the point, say the Christians, of giving us 50% of parliament by having Muslims elect 20% of our representatives?

And this is where we stand right now. The fundamental question, however, is: Does it make a difference who is sitting in parliament if that very parliament has never been able to build a decent road, provide a decent electrical or Internet grid, deliver drinking water, eliminate rampant corruption and grand theft of public funds, stop the rape of the environment, etc.? Lebanon is a genuine Third World gem of pollution, garbage everywhere, a driving hellhole, a monstrosity of incompetent dysfunction governance... So does it really matter if the Muslims elect 20% of the Christian MPs who are, just like every other MP, as corrupt and incompetent as the next MP? Do I care if this or that MP is circumcised, or if he fasts on Lent or during Ramadan, if he worships the Messiah of the Mahdi, .... Why is it that people's religion matters so much in our perception of things, when the practicalities of governance are so abysmal to begin with?

And this is where the "reform"-minded President Michel Aoun and his acolytes come in. They are trying hard to raise the Christian numbers by begging really skeptical immigrants who themselves (or their parents or grandparents) fled the cesspool long time ago, to seek to obtain citizenship (so they can vote). Reform in the mind of Aoun and Bassil is not a forward-looking reform of a bad system, but rather a re-entrenchment backward into the very ills that plague this country: Plunge yet again a new dagger into the religious chasms that have been tormenting this country for decades.

And the message to all so-called "Christians" who are falling back into archaic religious identities in reaction to Muslim fundamentalism: You do not fight a Muslim Daesh by resuscitating the Christian Daesh of old. We must not repeat the crime of Zionism which resurrected archaic religious arguments that have become a license for genocide and religious terror. We must move out and away of the religious concentration camps in which humans have been herded by centuries of ignorance and backwardness from the Bronze Age.

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