Call for discussion: Us & Them

So, now that they're gone, where go we go from here? In trying to reflect on the past several pivotal weeks in our history, several issues come to mind. One thing that concerns me is that fissure in Lebanese society that came to the surface after the assassination of Hariri and was perhaps at its climax during the tense days of "counter-demonstrations": namely, the Lebanese Shiites vs. the rest of the Lebanese. Before you jump down my throat, I am a Lebanese Shiite, or as I prefer to put it, I come from a Shiite family, since sect is one of those things that are dictated on us, the Lebanese, upon birth, regardless of faith. In any case, my interest in putting up this call for a discussion came after a comment my brother left to a post on my blog. The post was about an article in Slate magazine online by Elisabeth Eaves entitled "Camping in Beirut—A Revolutionary Act". Here is the comment; I thought it would be a good way to spur discussion:

When I read this article, I felt, well, sad.

I do not know why I am writing this, it does not relate much to the article, but I need to express it somewhere, this feeling that I have of perpetual guilt.

I am a Chiite Lebanese and I support the cause of the camp/revolution that is going on, and I did not take part in them. I was not willing to sacrifice my semester for something I knew was good for my country.

It might not be about sectarianism, and it might bring nothing out (though it has), but, if for anything, it was (and still is) about citizen contribution to the democratic process. That is all.

At times, when I discuss politics and ethics, I realize that I am not practicing what I say.

I once did a project about corruption in Lebanon. One of the steps that I claimed would function against corruption was taking part in protests, gatherings, strikes, and sit-ins. They make politicians aware of the fact that we are watching, I said. What am I?

Someone answer me.

I appreciated that comment--not only because it's my brother's--but especially because it brings to the front another issue, that of civic responsibility, and gives voice to those of us who didn't, or simply couldn't, be part of the making of this history. Perhaps many of us have become jaded in our part of the world about our power as a people, but I am sure more than a few people expressed cynicism at what was happening and its outcome. And perhaps this cynicism prevails still. Perhaps it is well-founded and perhaps it has been proven wrong. Whatever it is, it is a new set of givens that we grapple with at this point. It is perhaps not a very focused question that I am asking here, more of an attempt to incite reaction to these issues and this new order.

And in the end, congratulations to all of us, at home and abroad!


At Wednesday, April 27, 2005 2:28:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

Hey Arch memory,
A lot of Lebanese people, whether Chiite or not, did not take part in the protests going on. Mostly because of this feeling: whatever we did, and no matter how much we cried out, nothing will ever change! So, it's not about being chiite and abstenting from participating. Anyway, being Chiite does not automatically means you're affiliated to Amal or Hezbollah.

At Wednesday, April 27, 2005 5:42:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

That is obviously true, Eve (or I should hope that it is obvious that "being Chiite does not automatically means you're affiliated to Amal or Hezbollah"). However, it is that feeling that "whatever we did, and no matter how much we cried out, nothing will ever change" that I think has been challanged now. Or has it (as the caricature below seems to suggest)?

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