Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Commemorating what?!

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/04/2010

“You should do activities that have to do with the memory of the war. The most important thing is to remember what happened during the war”, that’s what a socially very active woman said the other day when she learnt about the activities we were doing in the peace organisation. A few years ago I would have congratulated her for her stand, but now, I wasn’t so sure how to react. Why is remembering the war so important? Are people forgetting what happened during the war? Is this dark experience not being transmitted to the younger generation? Would this knowledge prevent future wars from happening. I’m not so sure about that any longer. I’ve been interested in that topic for a long time. I remember back in college a teacher in anthropology launching a large research project on that. I remember the many authors and books he suggested I read. I remember reading them, I remember them. And yet I’m not so sure that “remembering” the war should be everyone’s priority.
I’m not saying that the war should be forgotten. Quite the contrary. I firmly believe that we should preserve some of its physical traces. I also think the work many organisations and individuals are doing is crucial. They are collecting the traces of this war, trying to understand what happened and why it happened. They are gathering data, providing narratives. But all this isn’t enough to prevent a new war from happening. However, it is more than enough to condemn the perpetrators: the politicians, the militiamen, the hate-mongers… Oddly enough, this elements is usually overlooked by those who work on the “memory of war”. Those on the “left” still believe that Kamal Jumblatt, or Yaser Arafat were good blokes (and absolve them of all criminal intent and behaviour), the few that are on the “right” have the same feelings for Bachir Gemayel or Dany Chamoun. If these men and their wrongdoings are not condemned, is it really worth remembering or commemorating the war? and what exactly is being remembered?

4 Responses to “Commemorating what?!”

  1. If people are “remembering the war” without understanding the responsibility of the perpetrators, maybe this means that it’s not being taught properly. Do Lebanese schoolchildren study the war in history classes? If so, who writes the textbooks, and who determines how the war should be presented?

    • The civil wars of the 18th (1711) and 19th century (1840, 1860) are not really taught in history books. They are hardly mentioned. The perpetrators names are not indicated, and what actually happened is only alluded to. The first is attributed to tribalism (and its socio-economical and demographical consequences are not mentioned), the other two are attributed to “confessionalism” and “foreign medling” in Lebanese affairs. Convenient, isn’t it?

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