The survivors of the 2015 Today,
By Bahjat Rizk.
Here we are in 2015 and in just over a month, on February 14, we will first commemorate in Lebanon, the first decade of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and two months later, on April 13, the fourth decade of start of the Lebanese War (1975). Of course, there will also be other celebrations during this year, the centenary of the Armenian Genocide (April 24, 1915) and other dates to celebrate or to remember, dates of birth and death, conquest or defeat. People advance in life marking shocking moments, happy or unhappy. In fixing those moments in our memories, we believe in keeping or overcoming them, in order to build or rebuild ourselves.
The first decade of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and the fourth decade of the beginning of the war in Lebanon unfortunately reveal that we are still in the same place, as if with the shock or rupture, time froze. Do we understand what happened in our lives?
We are still here, identical to ourselves, in a non accomplished quest for identity. We are again in a presidential vacancy (which happened in 1975 with the setting aside of the president in office at the time). We always have paramilitary training alongside the official army (after armed Palestinians and the Lebanese Forces, it is the Party of God who is importing the Syrian conflict into Lebanon). Our system always oscillates between a system of active community federation and a paralyzed consensual parliamentary democracy.
Suddenly I’m back to my recollection of this year, 1975, when I was barely emerging from childhood, with the rise of violence, first diffuse and confused and then more and more deaf and concentrated after the explosion of April 13. There was this latent tension, especially after the events of the camps in 1973 and we knew that the political class was divided and outdated and that it could not manage the conflict when it occurs. Things seemed to start an irreversible process, which continued without our knowledge and against our will, suddenly this unpleasant and binding sensation that things are inevitably escaping us. It is as if our living environment had exploded. How, then, forty years later, to rebuild the Lebanese framework and re-establish it within ourselves? How to define a country concretely, other than in a literary way? A real and not imaginary country, a country shared and not divided?
Will we ever overcome our cultural differences and prevent them from turning into suicidal political disputes? And what of this latent anxiety, which rises gradually and inexorably, and this fear of being trapped again in a cycle of relentless violence, pointless and endless?
Certainly, our parents are 40 years older, our grandparents are gone, other generations have come, but we still feel that things are blocked and will not change, but risk degenerating again as a nightmare, which does not dissipate. The cost of the war was too heavy and we are not sure that it is behind us.
What we lack most is the belief that things have gone and that our present is different, open to the future and we are not going in circles.
Having spent 40 years of one’s life in a broken frame, which we still cannot manage to durably define, suppose we keep lying to ourselves, to want to save time, be in decline, and flee forward.
What should be expected of a new hypothetical president?
That he opens a new page and buries the past, and not that he continues to stall and delay the dismemberment.
A reassuring and calm president who can reconcile us with our history and with ourselves.