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Political Garbage RecyclingIf you haven’t heard yet, there is a garbage crisis in Lebanon. No, we are not talking (yet) about political garbage but about real garbage. On July 17 the landfill at Naameh closed. It was supposed to be a “temporary” solution but by the time of its closure, it held more than 8 times the forecasted amount of garbage. It was overflowing. Fair enough, but then what is the garbage collection company Sukleen expected to do with the garbage they collect? Rationally enough, they stopped collecting everything and this triggered a gigantic crisis because garbage began to pile on the streets. Now, this is not the whole story; there are opinions stating that the company was simply increasing pressure on the government to get new lucrative contracts. There are points of view talking about “garbage mafia” taking over the contracts are ludicrously high prices. The next province (Akkar) selected to be a dumping ground, refused. Political assurances were given but protests continued. And on and on and on and on… Blah… blah… blah… blah…

And so why is this important? Because it is a reflection of what you get from governments. You get mismanagement, crisis, carelessness, arrogance and stupidity all tied-up in a nice package. It is absolutely clear to any viewer that garbage collection (as with any other service) is simply a matter of planning. Yet, the Lebanese government seems completely unable to do so. Why?

Excellent question!

Consider the following facts.

Lebanon has a 128-member parliament who are still trying to elect a president. That’s right. Lebanon has been without a president since April 2014, only 26 attempts ago. That’s OK. Maybe they will get it in the #27th or in the #28th or, most likely, never. But that’s OK because parliamentary elections have been postponed twice already… why waste valuable resources to elect different incompetent people if the current ones are doing an excellent job! Besides, not having elections leaves parliamentaries free to do… what exactly?

It is patently clear that Lebanon’s government is useless. But why is it so? Because Lebanon is stuck between stages in their political evolution and as such and until they get rid of their political garbage, they are going nowhere. Traditionally Lebanon was part of the Ottoman rule. Sectarian points of view were already rooted at that time. The most predominant sects are: Maronites, Sunnis, Shiits and a mix of others. As such it is clear that Lebanon is not a patchwork of different beliefs and points of view isolated in their own mini-territories, but more of an intermix of such beliefs sharing the same land. As such they are forced to co-exist. They tried the “other” way (i.e. to destroy opposing points of view) in the civil war that lasted between 1975 and 1990 and got nowhere. What a surprise. Thus, in the best spirit of self-interest, they reached an accommodation, a contract. It was called the “Taif Agreement”. This is exactly the sort of self-interested agreement that we described in our article Contracts Are The Key To Coexistence, and this is good.

In order to understand Lebanon we must look at the way people think. Most Lebanese belong to one sect or another. It is the natural thing to do. They don’t link this association with government operations. They believe that their government is an independent organization which although constitutionally speaking must abide by sectarian political power, it should nevertheless operate smoothly. And therein lies the problem. It can’t.

The Lebanese political system is trapped between two steps of political evolution. Lebanese people belong to sects and thus they believe in them. However, grudgingly, they have also accepted a pseudo-democratic system… which is diametrically opposed to the sectarian system. Every sect in and by itself is the highest authority and people accept this. But, the parliament, the prime minister and the president are also the highest authorities. And people sort of accept this too. Obviously these two systems are incompatible with one another. As a consequence of this incompatibility, we get general stagnation. This is not surprising at all, what is surprising is why is that people believe it is surprising.

In order to progress in their political evolution, Lebanese people need to get rid of their political garbage, which is centered around the idea that this current political system they have can work. It can’t. They only have two blunt choices:

  1. They can go back to sectarian practices, split Lebanon into geographically-controlled sectarian mini-countries or
  2. They can get rid of sectarianism altogether and fully embrace democracy.

Those would be the “standard” options. It is absolutely clear that they are unable and unwilling to do either one. So, how do they move forward? They need to realize that sectarianism does not work when it comes to politics, but they are not ready to take this step yet. When are they going to be ready? When the economic calamities produced by these types of governments and sects reache a point of absolute intolerance. When things are so bad that they literally can’t get any worse. And, there must be a widespread recognition that neither a sectarian nor a pseudo-democratic system work. And, there must be a plain third option on the table. That would be a full-blown democracy with minor sectarian arrangements. Why these arrangements? Because as we explained previously, any political evolution is transitional in nature. Every “next” political system always retains elements from the previous one.

Then, and only then will Lebanese people evolve politically. Until then, they are without hope and Lebanon will continue to drift into nothingness.

In the case of Lebanon, their current political system is transitional but it is non-viable because it attempts to join non-jointable political systems. It is not a political system but a brute-force union of two such systems. Nice try but it won’t work. They are literally attempting to recycle political garbage; the idea that several opposing control systems can work coherently under one organization controlled by one person.

Political evolution is something that “just happens” but it is also painful and distressing. Nothing we can do about this, other than spreading the word that it is possible. That it will happen sooner or later. That it is unavoidable, whether we want it or not. But if this is the case, why delay the inevitable? Because people are not ready. It is our job to make them more ready to understand the changes they need to do and how they need to do them. We can and we will teach, but it is up to them to implement those teachings.

But then again, there are “democratic” forces “out there” that are absolutely dedicated to the preservation of the “democratic” way of life. Fair enough. If this is your point of view, we forecast more pain and more suffering for you for as long as you remain a dedicated supporter of democracy. Enjoy!

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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