Pity our Nation ? (II)

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh (Red Lips High Heels)

I published ‘Pity our Nation?’ in August 2013 and this is the second part…

Yesterday’s suicide bombings resulted in one of the many massacres occurring in the land of what was once called ‘The Switzerland of the East’. Another physical and psychological wound… Another brick in the wall of hatred – the Lebanese Wall of Shame… Another threat to the spirit of dialogue and conviviality…

Two questions could be raised here:

What are the usual reactions to physical carnages in Lebanon and do they contribute to peacebuilding?

Is there a possible way to end violence or is violence the nature of Lebanese?

1)       The usual responses to massacres and physical conflicts are the call for a consensus between the major political parties/leaders/coalitions – i.e. the warlords -; the mutual blaming speech – ‘YOU are responsible! NOT US’; the denial posture – ‘This is nothing. We are used to it. Tamsa7na! Anyways we cannot change our situation. This is Lebanon. Others export tea, coffee and petrol, we generate and export terrorism’; the ‘sauve-qui-peut’ attitude: ‘I cannot live in this country. I will leave as soon as I get a visa and never look back’.

Surely, these responses/reactions do not pave the way for sustainable peace, but add fuel to the fire of violence and twist the knife of war. Peace cannot be built with old horses in the stables, especially when the horses are the actors of war. Peace cannot be built with the same logic used in the past decades – even if it is true old habits die hard -, i.e. ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ (al 3ayn bil 3ayn wal sinn bil sinn).

2)      There are ways to end violence, or at least stop the vicious cycles of physical/psychological clashes and create larger spaces of peace. As I see it, there should be first the recognition of the violence inside every one of us, as individuals and communities, the internalized violence. Most Lebanese were (and still are) subjected to decades of wars, local, regional and international on their land. Giving the fact that there was never a reconciliation process, nor the implementation of mechanisms of sustainable peace, Lebanese  internalize/d the violence that is used to control them and this violence reproduces within families from one generation to the next. This internalized violence produces lateral violence – and vice versa! -: oppressed people retreat to their groups (sectarian community, political party, tribe, family…), refuse to interact positively beyond the borders of these groups and reflect this internalization of violence in different forms of societal violence.

However, can this violence be called ‘natural’? In other terms, is violence the nature of Lebanese? Yes if one just listens to and believes the stereotypes and awful statements about Lebanese: ‘Lebanese are only victims’, ‘Lebanese are only terrorists’, ‘Lebanese are only followers’, ‘Lebanese will never be free’, ‘War is our fate’, ‘Violence is the only valid approach to problem solving’, etc. Violence is certainly deeply embedded in the Lebanese culture but it is not the nature of Lebanese people. Violence may be a virus Lebanese caught – refer to Adnan Houbballah who develops a psychoanalytical reading of the Lebanese war and traumatic neurosis in his books ‘Le virus de la violence’ and ‘Destin du traumatisme’. Violence may have become part of our genetic heritage – but even genes can mutate! Violence may have been rationalized and even considered ethical in some cases. Many Lebanese have become addicted to violence on every level of society, and this addiction pervades our culture in language, media, sectarian/political/national celebrations and even children games. Many Lebanese believe that weapons provide a sense of security… a false sense – the ‘security’ of weapons is a hallow attempt to preserve one’s power and ultimately one’s sense of self!

However, I refuse to think of violence as the nature of Lebanese and their ‘qadar’ (fate), their alpha and omega. There are Lebanese believing in peace and trying to build it. There are Lebanese living together, respecting their differences and managing their diversity on a daily basis. There are Lebanese who experience the exorcism of violence and remind us of this possibility. There are Lebanese who challenge the societal norm that violence is a normal part of life. There are Lebanese who ‘think’ a culture of peace and ‘do it’, ‘live it’! There are Lebanese who truly believe that nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit, who not only refuse to shoot a man, but also refuse to hate him (quoting Martin Luther King Jr.). Those Lebanese are found everywhere, across all sectarian branches and social-economic stratifications, living in Lebanon or in diaspora, in cities and villages, in our workplaces, neighborhoods and within every family. Those Lebanese are to be found in every one of us, with peace as their first article of faith and the last article of their creed!

 (To be continued…)

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  1. Thank you Dr. for this fine post! A delight! You give us hope! We should begin with ourselves indeed if we ever want to see something change in this country!

  2. I agree with Amani and i thank you Dr. Since yesterday we just listen to people blaming each other, and hatred speeches. Sick!

  3. There is no people naturally violent! I also refuse this label!
    Praying for peace, internal and external…

    1. As Tony said, I don’t believe that peace is our fate as Lebanese. I think we are doomed. And i am certainly am leaving this country. I cannot stand explosions, and people dying for nothing. I cannot stand those so-called political leaders. All puppets and criminals. I don’t want to live in a chaotic environment. enough is enough! ‘JE ME CASSE’

  4. Excellent post! Uplifting!
    i believe in peace and peace will ultimately prevail, even if it will take generations.

  5. Love those two quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” (Mother Teresa); and “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” (Mahatma Gandhi)

  6. The never-ending clash between peace activists and war makers… akhhh…
    Will there ever be a final solution?
    I don’t think so…
    We will always have to deal with violence but the challenge is indeed how to enlarge spaces of peace.

  7. Je lisais cet article concernant les traumatismes de guerre chez des enfants libanais, publié en 1991… on se rend compte combien il est difficile de pouvoir s’en sortir vu que des générations entières sont imbibées de la violence!
    Assessing War Trauma in Children: A Case Study of Lebanese Children*
    Center for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University
    This paper describes war related traumas experienced by a sample of Lebanese children.
    A questionnaire on Childhood War Traumas (CWTQ) was devised and distributed to parents of a selected sample of 2220 cfhildren (three to 16 year olds) living in Greater Beirut.
    Results indicate that on average a Lebanese child has experienced five to six different types of war related traumatic events during his or her lifetime, and some events were experienced several times. Exposure to shelling or combat, displacement, extreme poverty and witnessing violent acts were the most common traumatic experiences faced by Lebanese children. In contrast, involvement in military activities, being a victim of violent acts and suffering from serious physical injuries were less common experiences. In addition, the number and types of traumatic experiences varied significantly by age, gender, socioeconomic status and region of residence.

    1. Growing sectarian and religious hostility, indoctrination by many political parties and, in some cases, military training, increase the risk that children and young people will be drawn into violent conflict.
      Children live in constant fear of potential violence, and young people are frustrated about their situation. Hundreds of thousands of children and young people are subjected to harmful forms of labour, are exploited in various ways and experience abuse, including sexual abuse.
      High levels of distrust and negative opinions about “the other” are commonplace and even furthered by political leaders, contributing to growing sectarian and religious hostility and to a self-perpetuating cycle of seemingly endless violence.
      This is definitely not a country safe for children!

  8. The end of a war is generally expected to be followed by an end to collective violence, as the term ‘post-conflict’ that came into general usage in the 1990s signifies. In reality, however, various forms of deadly violence continue, and sometimes even increase after the big guns have been silenced and a peace agreement signed. Explanations for this and other kinds of violence fall roughly into two broad categories – those that stress the legacies of the war and those that focus on the conditions of the peace. There are significant gaps in the literature, most importantly arising from the common premise that there is one, predominant type of post-war situation. This ‘post-war state’ is often endowed with certain generic features that predispose it towards violence, such as a weak state, criminal elements generated by the war-time economy, demobilized but not demilitarized or reintegrated ex-combatants, impunity and rapid liberalization.
    And in Lebanon, we do have all these features and many more!!

  9. Hezbollah is responsible. Shouldn’t have gone to Syria. Our borders should not be open. Too many refugees. And we can’t even take care of ourselves. The worst is yet to come

  10. Finally someone – and not anyone – speaks differently than all the clowns on TV !!
    Sick of listening to endless speeches with empty words and generic content.
    Time for a revolution yes!
    But what about the Lebanese youth? Where are Lebanese university students? How come they don’t move things? Yes there are Lebanese who are fighting for peace but it’s not enough until now. We need more !!

  11. Thank you all!
    the following messages were published on the Facebook page of Red Lips High Heels:
    Norma Saleh Ferneine nos “violents , sont bcp moins nombreux qe ceux d autres pays — les libanais subissent la violence et ne l exercent pas – a ne pas confondre
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 6 hours ago
    Red Lips High Heels Norma Saleh Ferneine la violence fut internalisee. Les études psychanalitiques de Houballah et de l’équipe psychiatrique de Deir el Salib, ainsi que les nombreuses études sociologiques le démontre. La violence revêt plusieurs formes. Ne pas oublier que la violence domestique en fait partie. Or les récentes statistiques font état de plus de 60 % des femmes au Liban ayant subi une forme de violence domestique dont 80% le viol marital aussi. Ne pas oublier ce que des libanais se sont fait subir mutuellement dans les années 70 et 80, et les 17000 disparus dont la plupart aux mains de libanais. Et encore, à ce jour, la violence psychologique à travers les médias, les discours des politiciens, dans les clubs sportifs, etc. Ceci dit, je ne partage pas l’opinion de certains experts pour lesquels les libanais sont de nature violente. Une grande partie a intériorisé la violence subie, une autre l’exteriorise en différentes facettes et une autre aussi a pu l’exorciser.
    Like · Reply · about an hour ago
    Red Lips High Heels Mus Tafa, yes… this is why there is a need for alternative thinking and doing
    Like · Reply · about an hour ago
    Mus Tafa My dear Lady, when you contrive a formula where a person does not benefit from violence, in 24 hours it will be out of your DNA.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 9 hours ago
    Red Lips High Heels Thank you!!
    Like · Reply · 17 hours ago
    STOP Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 18 hours ago

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