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On Moods and Boredom in Lebanon’s Latest Elections

On Moods and Boredom in Lebanon’s Latest Elections

Sunday, 22 May, 2022 - 10:30

There are countless reasons, in theory at least, for the Lebanese to change their allegiances: the economic crisis, the evisceration of their bank deposits, the explosion at the port of Beirut, political and security instability... But other factors that most established political analysts do not refer to also play a role in this regard. These factors- which are more prominent in environments in which closed sectarian loyalties are less pervasive- can be grouped under two headings: boredom and a public mood or sensitivity.


We know, for example, that a revolutionary mood took hold of Europe after the French Revolution, especially after Napoleon and his wars. We also know that the sixties spoke to a mood that spilled over from politics to culture and music to gender and sexuality... Indeed, we now have what is known as the study of public mood, whose results politicians and opinion-makers seek and whose causes university departments and research centers focus on. Some of these reasons are conscious and tangible, tied to the development of machines, technology and knowledge, as well as income and unemployment rates. Others are unconscious, with values, images and the influence of others playing a central role.


Those who hate recognizing the existence of a mood, usually adherents of eternal ideologies and immortal causes, seek to trivialize it: it is a trend- though trends are not frivolous, even if they are vulnerable to being invested, manufactured, or exaggerated for profit or some other end. However, the social landscape nevertheless reflects shifting trends: we see this in the streets, clothes, songs, communication tools, and the words being added to or removed from languages... Some things become obsolete while others rise. Using a feather to write today, or indeed a pen, instead of a computer, is gradually becoming like using a horse to move around. While the feather and horse are now romanticized after having been retired, raising a sword in the face of an opponent or an enemy is a comic material resembling black comedy.


Politics is no exception: in the 1960s, for example, posters of an angry-looking man with a bushy mustache raising a rifle or a Kalashnikov with his veiny fist were commonplace. Today, a similar poster would invoke pity for the illustrator and the illustrated. The term “comrade” is now used ironically or as a joke. The term “militant” is related, in a way or another, to those over seventy. The issue becomes even more ironic when advocates of change and “a better future” adopt terms from this pastist stockpile. Slogans are not immune to changes in mood either: dying for one’s homeland or so that new generations can prosper has lost much of its appeal as individuals’ sense of self grew; life, in the end, is short, and is cherished.


Of course, the shifts in public mood that arise in light of a culture and economy in crisis could leave us with worse options than those we currently have. Populism’s consistent rise over the past three decades is a blatant example. However, this potentiality should not hinder us from recognizing the changes so long as they are happening. This recognition has the potential to open the door to breaking with custom and a broader array of options: since this approach has failed time and again, let’s try a new one.


The same is true for boredom. It could also push those who are discontent or dismayed with the status quo to take extreme, misguided positions. However, boredom is an unavoidable human emotion that pushes in divergent and contradictory directions.


Just as dogmatic doctrines, claiming control of history’s mind and progression, are not concerned with changes in mood, political inheritance is not concerned with boredom. Power being handed down from one generation to another is as boring as it gets, precisely because of its repetitiveness. For this reason, it is extremely hostile to any recognition of boredom’s political implications.


In one of Lebanon’s environments, an abundance of boredom has been exacerbated by a lack of recognition: people have become weary of politicians who inherited their power- most of whom are not able to compose a single useful phrase- of politicians who, decade after decade, maintain the same “fundamentals,” at the forefront of which is loyalty to the security regime in Damascus and fighting in its corner. People are bored of their aesthetics, names, clothes, fancy titles, tinted cars, and televised vulgarity. Another boredom stems from four decades of resistance, occupation and liberation, blood, ripped limbs, martyrs, threats, speeches being yelled at us, fingers being waged in our face, and fighters who will liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque being paraded without anything being liberated.


If consistently achieving success is boring enough, what can be said about consistent failure that is costing the Lebanese extremely dearly.


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