Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The hand of fitna

Sometimes what you hear or read is so different from your expectations that it makes you stop and listen more closely.

I turned to the Joseph Samaha column in Al-Akhbar this morning (Thursday November 23) because I expected he would explain the post-assassination details, what happens next, why this, why that. Instead, what he writes this morning is something completely different. First he says there was a sense of foreboding leading up the assassination, a sense that Lebanon had formed into two equally-matched groups, with equally matched sense of self-confidence, headed for a confrontation with frightening speed. People thought the danger lay in what could happen during street demonstrations. Then he writes this:

"But the hand of fitna was faster than that. It wanted to take the public mood and turn it to its advantage. It understood the fragility of the situation and it knew that the fire would catch and spread. ... The hand of fitna aimed to cut the road to what had been about to be, no matter what, overruling the citizens."

The hand of fitna. I was expecting "Who did this" or "What should we do right away to cope with this". Reading on:

"Another way-station of blood. But this one a way-station with a special character, because Pierre Gemayel was assassinated at a moment of dangerous national division, representing a new crisis-point in the process of disintegration which began some time ago, and which the Lebanese people have not been able, and still are not able, to stop. [At the moment of the assassination] the crisis was growing, and the solutions were becoming ever more difficult and more complicated and more in need of historic decisions, something that was beyond the technical abilities of an administration of the traditional type".

Here was a process that even though people realized what was happening, they were unable to stop it. Reading this is quite a different experience from, say, reading NYT columnists telling us in their technocratic way what needs to happen. We are definitely in a different realm. Reading on:

"And when the Israeli attack came, some said the Lebanon that emerges from this will not be the same Lebanon they attacked, and to be sure there was [after the war] a different and deeper crisis, there was increased foreign pressure, but there was also a greater range of possible solutions. But unfortunately, at the same time, the Lebanese receptivity [to the new situation and the new possibilities], or at least that of some Lebanese, was lacking in wisdom and lacking in responsibility. And what happened yesterday was the shudder of awakening. It seemed as if there was a person looking into the abyss, trying not to throw himself in, but really the whole fear is just this shudder that comes when you realize that the parties are going to continue their struggle which was stopped only under pressure of the crime and of the requirements of condolences".

Finally, Samaha turns to the question what to do.

"After the grief and the condemnations of the crime, perhaps there are a couple of things we should focus on that could bring some comfort. First of all, there isn't a traditional solution to something that isn't a traditional problem. Lebanon is not in need of 'statesmen' in the usual sense of that expression. Lebanon needs historic leadership, it needs people of stature, someone able to look up first, and look to his base only secondarily. Statesmen improve the administration of the state, but what he need is someone who can invent the state. Secondly, there isn't any solution available from outside. Either there is a Lebanese solution or there isn't any solution. [For instance agreeing to the international court isn't a comprehensive solution]. Because Lebanese society, in this troubled region of the world, and in this pressurized international environment, isn't going to be stabilized via any formula of coexistence that doesn't include satisfactory solutions to the legitimate requirements of each segment of the population, and that doesn't include those solutions in the structure of the government".

"Being realistic in Lebanon today means being pessimistic. The question for every Lebanese person is going to be their ability to not lose sight, in the face of this pessimism, of those social requirements that they know to be just and that they wish to be able to implement."

That's it. The hand of fitna. The way-stations of blood and the demonic processes that the Lebanese themselves have been unable to stop. The abyss and the shudder of awakening. And finally, the legitimate requirements of each segment of the population, and not losing it in the face of pessimism.

You might say: What the hell is he talking about. The simple answer is he is talking about culture. He is saying: These are our experiences, this is what we have been through, which others may or may not understand, this is what we haven't had the stature to do, this is what we need to do.

For us non-Lebanese, it takes a little listening to.


Blogger annie said...


2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd pay you 5 dollars for each Joseph Samaha article you translate.

8:20 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Its hard work, I couldn't do it for that

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what nut offers $5 when he translates for w/excellence for free?

2:22 PM  
Blogger badger said...

he was being funny !

4:31 PM  

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