Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Archive for May, 2010

Blogging: Searching for a better format

Posted by worriedlebanese on 31/05/2010

As many might have realised, I’ve been forcing myself to blog for many months now. And it’s not because I have little to say or don’t have an opinion on any particular subject. I’ve often come across as an opinionated person, and even an arrogant one, for a good reason. And it’s not because I lack the time for it; I struggle with every word when writing, but still:  when there’s a will, there’s a way!

So what’s the problem? Frankly, I’m a bit bored and tired of rambling on the Middle East. I’m weary of hearing my own voice and knowing its inconsequentiality. This “regular” exercice isn’t really meaningful and certainly doesn’t bring anyone (including myself) much. As one of my (recently deceased) professors hinted to me years ago using Blaise Pascal’s terminology, I belong to the second category of people, the half-clever people (demi habiles): I’m blessed with the capacity to “discern” (perceive or recognise matters) but instead of working with that knowledge, I rebel against the order that I recognise as being flawed. Such an attitude is expected of a teen or even a young adult (or a socialist come to think of it), but it becomes ridiculous after a certain age.

A quick glance at my posts should bring anyone  to the following conclusion: they are not informative enough to be journalistic, and they are not precise enough nor methodologically driven to be academic. This is quite normal for a blog, but I was trained as a journalist and I work in academia… so what’s my contribution to the blogosphere?

I believe my posts do give an informed and non conventional view on matters relevant to the Middle East (and more specifically to Lebanon). But once you’ve heard it, how useful is it to keep on hearing it? The more it is repeated, the more it borders on ranting.

I’ve seen bloggers use their blogs for academic purposes, and have followed others who used them for journalistic purposes. I’m not using this blog for any purpose other than blogging. And this type of blogging isn’t what we need in Lebanon. Most articles in our newspapers resemble blog posts. And the views you come across in the academic world are extremely conventional (and frankly detached from reality, at least as I see it). So my challenge is to find a way to make my writing more meaningful.

As the title of this post clearly states it, I’m looking for another format, a new approach that would make my modest contribution meaningful and useful. Here are a couple of ideas I’m rolling around.

  • Create or integrate a collective platform that focuses on the Middle East or Lebanon. Does anyone know of any interesting existing platform? Or is anyone interested in participating in such a platform?
  • Link my blogging to the my involvement in Peace and Diversity education. I have been involved in this field for 4 years now. I have actually followed several platforms on Ning (Mepeace, Ipeace, PalestinianMothers) for 3 years to see what is done, how it’s done, what is missing and what can be done.

Does anyone have ideas on that subject?


Posted in Blogosphere, Communication, Culture, Personal | 4 Comments »

Why isn’t Mitchell on our side?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 04/05/2010

Please excuse me for sounding childish, but I’ve been around a lot of children lately and their influence is starting to show on me! And so I ask myself and I ask you. Why isn’t George Mitchell on our side. You’ve certainly noticed the US’ envoy to the Middle East criss cross the region trying to rekindle the flames of peace. And you undoubtedly know that Mitchell is of Lebanese descent. His mother was born in the southern tip of Mount Lebanon, and his adoptive father seems to have  also been Lebanese. The former Senator from Maine was raised a Maronite and served in a Diasporic Lebanese catholic church as an Alter boy; St Joseph Church in Waterville is attended by some 150 Lebanese families. So objectively, his ties with Lebanon are very much there. However, it doesn’t seem to influence much his approach to peace in the Middle East. He doesn’t speak much of Lebanon’s interests and I believe Beirut is the capital he has visited the least in the region. Why is that so? and can anything be done about it? Maybe you can help me answer these two questions. I can’t help but think of another person who held the same post as Mitchell a couple of years back: Dennis Ross. Dennis Ross was raised in a secular atmosphere with a non religious yet religiously diverse family but became religiously Jewish after the 6 day war. He never hid his zionist leanings and now works in a think-tank financed and operated by the Jewish Agency. The contrast between the two men is striking, don’t you think.

Can Mitchell defend Lebanese interests?

Now this is a difficult question. I don’t see why in theory he cannot do it. Didn’t Dennis Ross defend Israeli interests saying that they coincided with American interests. But when we look at the practicality of that defense we notice huge difficulties.

  1. What are Lebanese interests? No higher authority has ever defined Lebanese interests. Actually, one had… President Chamoun in the late 1950s, and President Frangieh in the early 1970s but on both occasions hell broke loose. After the first occasion, the Lebanese neutrality doctrine was established. If you look into it, you will undoubtedly find better adapted qualifications for that foreign policy doctrine (such as passive, incoherent, vacuous, fearful… and not really neutral: the state is directly envolved in the most destructive regional conflict and serves mostly as a willing punching ball or a coy catalyst). It seems impossible to define Lebanese national interests and even more difficult to determine what authority determine it. So how can George Mitchell defend something that isn’t even determined?
  2. Who promotes Lebanese Interests? The answer is rather simple: No one! A quick comparison with the israeli case is quite revealing: IPAC, the Jewish Agency, the Israeli government and the Israeli security apparatus all contribute in defining and promoting “Israel’s interets”. This is made simple by the fact that they invest much time and ressources in conflating Israeli and Jewish interests, and do it quite convincingly. Now if you look at the Lebanese picture, things appear much murkier (and messy).
    • On one side, one finds five strong communal perspectives (Christian, Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Armenian) supported by influential organisations. Each communal perspective has its own definition of both communal and national interests. These five perspectives are distinct but not necessarily contradictory. These different perspective influence both communal and cross-communal figures and spaces, be they local or diasporic.
    • On the other side, one finds state institutions that still haven’t found a way to cope with this diversity and put it to its service, and a political class and consciousness more interested in political bickering and winning in a zero-sum game.
  3. Can anything be done about it? Maybe you can help me out on that.

Posted in Geopolitics, Identity, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Peace, Religion | 5 Comments »

Resuming after a long break

Posted by worriedlebanese on 01/05/2010

Hello Reader(s). I will be backtracking today. I will be publishing two short posts that I wrote sometime ago (one on April 14th and the other on April 25th. And I will be developing the notes I took while visiting three cultural event in Beirut last week. I hope all this will be visible in the following 2 hours. And expect an article on the municipal elections tomorrow. Be good!

Posted in Blogosphere, Personal | Leave a Comment »