A Decade of Turmoil and Hope: An Expat's Writings on Lebanon and the Arab World (2000-2012)

by Wissam S. Yafi


The Lebanese are going to have to make some hard choices going forward: Do they want to be ruled over or do they want to rule themselves? Do they want a truly competitive democratic system; or do they want a sham, which obstinately sidelines the wishes of millions of citizens? Do they want a segregated system, or one which gives all citizens equality and opportunity under the blind eyes of law? Do they want a transparent system, or do they want a system where there are so many preconditions, hardly anyone can decipher let alone be held accountable? Do they want a system based on merit, or do they want a system based on archaic tribalism and clientelism? And finally, do they want a system which unshackles their tremendous global potential, or do they want one curtailing them back ad infinitum?

All this means that tweaking the current political system with this or that election gerrymandering law, as is seemingly being contemplated, is no longer going to cut it. Nothing short of a social contract revamp will do. If this means, eliminating sectarianism, then so be it. If this means unifying executive positions and having direct executive elections, then so be it. If it means having two parliamentary bodies—one permanently sectarian and one not—then so be it. If it means creating secular parties, then so be it. If it means neutralizing Lebanon’s foreign policy to disconnect the nation from regional turmoil once and for all, then so be it. If it means institutionalizing Lebanon’s resistance, then so be it.

Do the Lebanese have the will to take the brave step of drawing a new social contract commensurate with their new realities, or will they continue to constrain themselves to mediocrity and a highly charged destiny? While the answer to this question remains uncertain, what is certain is that only the Lebanese themselves can answer it, and no one else—not their leaders and not the international community.


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