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…)