L'anthologie of Global Inestabilidad Transpuesta - Political Instability - Lebanon (Part 45)

Transposing emblem by Ghadir Younes 
Lebanon is one of a few countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to have an immensely diverse religious population. Our government recognizes 18 sects, 12 of which are Christian; 4 Muslim, and then come the Druze and the Jews (Shelton). Lebanon’s political system is based on a formula that distributes political and administrative functions among the major sects. This system has historical roots but was mainly institutionalized by the National Pact which followed independence (Krayem).
Beirut, Lebanon - Modern buildings

The National Pact was an unwritten agreement between the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon in 1943 and involved two major groupings: the Maronite Christians and the Sunnis (Krayem). Among the issues settled by the pact was the ratio of Muslims to Christians in government positions, like the parliament (5 to 6; later changed to fifty fifty), and the assignment of the offices of President, Prime Minister and Speaker of House to the Maronite, Sunni and Shia sects respectively (Krayem). This method of power distribution aimed to decrease conflict between different parts of the Lebanese population. However, in reality, it only further enhanced sectarianism, was not successful in preventing the eruption of a civil war in 1975, and continues to be the major reason for political instability across Lebanon (Krayem).
Beirut, Lebanon - Corniche seaside

Today there are seven main political parties in Lebanon, and it is no secret that all of them are based on a sectarian identity (Ballout & Bradley). These parties are organized into two main groups: the 8 March alliance and the 14 March alliance (named after dates of their formation). Recently some secular parties were gaining momentum – but not enough to be able to actively participate in political life or be a source of change. The sectarian mentality is not the only factor that hinders the growth of new political parties; the sectarian electoral laws also do not encourage unaffiliated or secular figures to be elected to seats in parliament.

Our country is often regarded as being the “oasis of democracy in the Middle East,” a saying that is not quite accurate. As one previous prime minister put it, “the system has always had plenty of freedom but suffered from a lack of democracy” (Krayem). It is true that, compared to other countries in the region, we have much more freedom when it comes to the right to protest and speak up against our own government, but these freedoms never seem to bring any change. This is mainly due to the lack of responsibility and accountability in the system, combined with the method by which political parties deal with their base of followers (Krayem).
Beirut, Lebanon - St. George Church next to Hariri Mosque in Beirut

One word can characterize politics in Lebanon: corruption. It is often well known how a certain political figure makes illegal profits – yet it seems so hard to fight these politicians. This is a somewhat complicated issue, however it can be summed up as follows: even though many politicians are corrupt, they tend to offer services to their community or sect. What we call the ‘wasta’ ((واسطة – using a connection with people in your political-sectarian party to acquire something – can sometimes be the only option for citizens to fulfill their needs. These needs (or sometimes, privileges) can be a long-term office job, an illegal license for construction on public land, an academic opportunity, or even free medical services in a certain “party’s hospital” if you happen to be a follower (dying at a hospital’s front door because you can’t afford the fees isn’t too rare here either).
Beirut, Lebanon - Palestinian children in refugee camp

Add this to the general support that many political figures enjoy due to followers in their sectarian base, and you get what we call institutionalized corruption. If anyone points fingers at a certain “political leader,” their followers will respond by saying, “why our leader? The other one is ten times worse.” Another sentence we often hear is “they all steal.” Hence, when any serious effort is directed at any corrupt politician, the followers can’t help but feel targeted. Unfortunately, many believe that leaving things as they are is better than fighting corruption – because the second choice might actually lead to another civil war.
Beirut, Lebanon - Playing board games

This is why Lebanon cannot have an Arabic Spring – there isn’t one single group that leads the nation, and no specific side to get rid of in order to eliminate the injustice. Some protests did erupt during the waste crisis in 2015, but they failed to make the Lebanese unite against corruption. The waste crisis was a result of closing a major waste dump in Naame, an area in which residents have protested for years to close the landfill that endangered public health (and was also supposed to be closed years ago) (Kanso). One day, the protesters could no longer take it and the government was forced to shut down the dump. The waste management contractor, Sukleen, was not to take waste there anymore. The decision came without a single plan for how else to deal with the garbage. The trash literally piled up in the streets of Beirut; and the famous “river of trash” made headlines in the media.

The garbage was eventually dealt with through halfway solutions – the preferred method of politicians in Lebanon - and the civil movement under the name “You Stink” eventually left the streets without being able to cause any significant political change. The crisis was also an ugly opportunity to reveal some of the sectarianism still alive within the population: politicians would discuss dumping the garbage in certain locations, and residents would respond by saying they will not approve of dumping a certain sect’s garbage in their area.
Lebanon - Woman carrying bag

The garbage crisis is only one example of the incompetence of our government. The Lebanese people still lack many services which could have been easily provided by the government if only an effective plan was devised. During the past decade, we received hundreds of promises from successive Ministers of Energy about how close we are to having electric power for 24 hours a day; still, electricity shows up only 12 hours a day for most people, which leaves them at the mercy of expensive local generator owners the rest of the time. Other issues we suffer from include a high rate of unemployment, increasing numbers of citizens living under the poverty line (around 27% of the population was poor in 2011), and a high cost of living (UNDP). It is true that the Syrian refugee crisis placed a heavy burden on our small country’s resources, but it’s not like any serious solutions were being implemented in the first place (Nader).

Political instability is also very evident inside the government walls. After President Michel Suleiman’s term ended in May 2014, the country spent more than two years without a president. The Lebanese President is elected by receiving a majority of the votes in parliament, which has 128 members belonging to different sects (Al Jazeera). The position remained empty for a long period of time because the major parties that make up parliament could not agree on a Maronite Christian to lead the country. On the 46th attempt to elect a president, and after numerous political maneuvers by the different parties, parliament finally elected General Aoun as president in 2016 (Al Jazeera).
Lebanon - Mountain landscape

One very essential step seems to be necessary to stabilize the way our country is ruled: changing the sectarian mentality that is still strongly present in our society. People want to improve their standard of living, but in order to do so, they must understand that they have to fight against the corruption that is present in every corner of Lebanese political life.

Ghadir Younes

Postcard version of The Emblem of Instability at 1080 Wyckoff

Works Cited:

Al Jazeera. Michel Aoun elected president of Lebanon. October 2016.

Ballout, Dana & Bradley, Matt. 5 Things to Know About Lebanon’s Government. August 2015.

BBC. Lebanon: Michel Aoun elected president, ending two-year stalemate. October 2016.

Hume, Tim. Lebanon: 'River of trash' chokes Beirut suburb as city's garbage crisis continues. February 2016.

Kanso, Nour. Lebanon Waste Crisis: how it all started? January 2017.

Krayem, Hassan. The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement.

Nader, Sami. Will religiously divided landfills solve Lebanon's trash crisis? November 2015.

Shelton, Tracey. Why Lebanese Politics are so Messed Up. February 2014.

Taylor, Alan. Lebanon’s #YouStink Anti-Government Protests. August 2015.

The New Arab. Lebanon Marks Longest Period Without a President. July 2015.

UNDP. Rapid Poverty Assessment in Lebanon for 2016. 2016.

Postcard version of The Emblem of Instability at 1080 Wyckoff


Credits

Photo 1: Sidon, Lebanon - by Jametlene Reskp

Photo 2: Beirut, Lebanon - Modern buildings by kateafter

Photo 3: Beirut, Lebanon - Corniche seaside by kateafter

Photo 4: Beirut, Lebanon - St. George Church next to Hariri Mosque in Beirut by Homeros

Photo 5: Beirut, Lebanon - Palestinian children in refugee camp by Homeros

Photo 6: Beirut, Lebanon - Playing board games by michail dinos

Photo 7: Lebanon - Woman carrying bag by Jametlene Reskp

Photo 8: Lebanon - Mountain landscape by Anna Om


Parts of the Emblem of Instability

Alvisi, Andrea. Political and Social Instability: The Brexit Mess. May 2017.

Bahras. Unstable Air Pollution - Unstable Solutions: Mongolia. June 2017.

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Çakır, Peren. On the Road in Search of Stability: Argentina and Turkey. June 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D'Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Ellie. Angry Folk: Korea. June 2017.

Farid, Isis Kamal. Stability Is Not An Option - Egypt. August 2017.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability - Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Konbaz, Rahaf. The Castaways: On the Verge of Life - Syria. August 2017.

Korneeva, Ekaterina. Instability... or Flexibility? July 2017.

Larousse, Annabelle. Legal and Emotional Instability in a Transgender Life - Ireland. August 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Lobos, José. Political Instability: Guatemala. May 2017.

Mankevich, Tatsiana. The Absence of Linguistic Stabilнасцi: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Nevosadova, Jirina. Whatever Happens, It Is Experience. May 2017.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Protić, Aleksandar. Demographic Instability: Serbia. July 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Sekulić, Jelena. Нестабилност/Nestabilnost in Language - Serbia. August 2017.

Sepa, Andreea. Instabilitate vs. Stabilität: How Important Are Cultural Differences? - Romania and Germany. September 2017.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Shalunova, Marina. Language Instability: Russia. June 2017

Sitorus, Rina. Instabilitas Toleransi: Indonesia. May 2017.

Skrypka, Vladyslav. National нестійкість: Ukraine. July 2017.

Staniulis, Justas. Nestabilumas of Gediminas Hill and the Threat to the Symbol of the State: Lithuania. July 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Yücel, Sabahattin. The Instability of Turkish Education and its Effect on Culture and Language: Turkey. July 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.

To follow: emblems by Syrian, Romanian, Lebanese, Argentinian, Moldavan, British writers and translators
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Further reading

Azazeal, Alex. Отражение Spiegelt Reflection. 2014.

Friedrich, Angelika. The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Sub-Under-U-метро-Bahn-Ground-Way. 2014.

Gergiev, Vladimir. Street - Straße - Улица. 2014

Metivier, Anthony. Kunstart. 2014.

Smirnov, Yuri. Art de streetулица. 2013.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part I). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part II). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part III). September 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Forward to Next Transposing Emblem. January 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Changes to Transposing Emblems. November 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Excerpt of new emblem transpoзиция on trash. September 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Müll trashed мусор. 2013


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