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Goodbye to a Debased Patriotism

Goodbye to a Debased Patriotism

Wednesday, 17 February, 2021 - 12:45

When it comes to major forms of social association, be they religious, national, or familial, a kind of reticence that represses criticism pervades. There is a longstanding history of sanctifying these links and considering that breaking them or the confrontation of other in-group members to be an aberration. When life in its totality is defined as one of conflict and enmity, endeavoring to offend “our people”, those who share our allegiance to these groups, becomes akin to a great betrayal.

From reticence and the repression of critique aimed at creating the appearance of alignment comes denial, and from denial comes lying. As for those who benefit from this reticence, they are those who have designated themselves as fighters, jihadists, or representatives of the interests of everyone who belongs to that group.

Some Lebanese decided not to lie or be reticent early on, that is, to frankly express their opinions about the country, patriotism, and cooperation within them. While this phenomenon has been growing at an accelerating rate over the past few years, it began in the 80s. At the time, many felt that the clearest manifestation of the liberation promised by Hezbollah was the southern suburbs’ independence on all fronts, including that of deciding to kidnap foreigners and use them as chips in the Iraq-Iran War. In the 90s, some became weary that the promised liberation implied a defective, or indeed a debased, tradeoff.

This is because retrieving part of Lebanon could be met with Iranian expansion that goes beyond political influence to reach the way of life itself. Thus, it became feared that such liberation would be accompanied by our transformation into two peoples with two ways of life, whereby we would have won territory but lost everything else. After liberation was actually realized in 2000, the tradeoff’s debasement was more severe than had been anticipated: in exchange for the Shebaa Farms, which militant literature had claimed we aspired to retrieve, we would pay a heavy price, the rifles were to remain in their bearers’ arms but not those of any of their other Lebanese compatriots. Then came the assassinations of 2005, increasing the number of dissenters, especially as the assassinations had affirmed the unity between Hezbollah and the Syrian security forces, which were supposedly responsible for the security of those who had been killed. After that, the lie of a “consensus on resistance” turned into a joke. Were it not for Michel Aoun, who rescued Hezbollah by agreeing to the “Mar Michael Understanding”, the national erosion of confidence in the party would have seemed much greater.

In any case, this is precisely what happened in 2008, with the storming of Beirut, which lost the party a wide segment of its supporters, and the same thing recurred with its intervention in the war of occupation in Syria. In 2015, for the first time, Nassrallah was mentioned as “one of them,” that is, one of the figures of the ruling clique being denounced in Lebanon. It seemed like a necessary explanation for the slogan “all of them means all of them,” one whose audacity surprised the party’s supporters, who became infuriated and repressed it with force. As for today, after the revolution and its defeat, and after Lokman Slim’s assassination, the slogan “all of them means all of them” seems to be unjust and of little boldness, because the bearers of arms seem worse than “all of them,” especially since they proved to be the ruling clique’s last line of defense.

In general, it has become clear to an increasing number of people that changing Lebanon and Hezbollah’s maintenance of its forces are two paths that will never meet and that Lebanon remaining poor, plundered and submissive is among the requisites for these forces’ existence and vice versa.

But this decline on the national scale, which is certainly felt by Hezbollah more than any other observer, should be extremely worrying to any political organization functioning on a national scale. With that, the party is not worried, and this is for one simple reason: as the party liberating the homeland’s territory, it is not interested in the “homeland” and its inhabitants. Its concerns lie exclusively within its ‘’religious sect.’’

In parallel with the path of national decline mentioned above, Hezbollah certainly flourished and expanded within its sect. The events previously named as having led to that decline had the opposite effect here, strengthening its position in the religious sect: the war in Syria began as a defense of the Sayyida Zaynab Shrine and developed into the containment of the “takfiri threat.” Before that came the 2006 War, which became enchanted with the boasts of the “victory” that “all the other Arabs” had failed to attain.

In this case, it would be no exaggeration to say that the patriotism Hezbollah is selling us today is the greatest threat to what remains of patriotism in Lebanon. That is why we find many Lebanese disregarding their reticence and becoming emboldened to criticize this large social link they are supposedly part of. Neither liberation, nor dignity and the enemy’s humiliation, nor Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, mean more to the rest of the population than they do to the slogan’s vendor, Hezbollah itself. Because of the abandonment of reticence and lies, we find the debased patriotism’s advocates condemning those who survived their ruse as foreign agents and making various other vulgar charges.

The only thing that is certain, in this case, is that the commodity up for sale has lost its appeal. Insults and accusations will not give it back the appeal it could not regain with barricades, bombs, and rockets.

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