Hazem Saghieh

On the Resistance and Jargon of Lebanese Militants’ Rhetoric

When a senior Lebanese Hezbollah official talks about the criteria that make a president of the republic acceptable to the party, he mentions phrases and terms like: "American pressure does not scare him," "Israel fears him," "he defies...", "he stands strong... ", "he confronts..."

The fact is that this language brings to mind a good boxer or a wrestler more than it does a good politician. Very rarely do Hezbollah officials say anything about the positions of the president they want on the country's economy or education system, his views on social issues, or how he sees the world, nor do they mention anything about his integrity or even his readiness to abide by the constitution. These are the matters on which a politician is questioned and held accountable.

This cannot be attributed to the fact that Hezbollah is a "resistance" force and can thus only see the world from this perspective. To refute this idea, it suffices to give the example of the French Resistance. It included some of France's most prominent intellectuals, both the Gaullists and Communists, and fostered intellectual and creative contributions that came to be seen as pioneering works of the 20th Century, not only in France but across the globe.

Thus, being a "resistance" force does not excuse those behind it. In principle, this does not explain why it sees nothing but violence in the world around it, especially since this view does not only apply to its criteria for endorsing a president.

The fact of the matter is that everything the resistance sets its sights on or puts its hand on is violence or violent. And if living on the brink of death and in constant danger engenders contemplation about life and its conditions, then we will have found no contemplation whatsoever.

If giving one’s life for a cause is a source of tension that raises questions about relationships to love, the body, and desires, then this is all nothing more than an unfulfilled aspiration in our case. Thus, we find ourselves, over 40 years after the founding of the resistance, without a single novel set within its context, nor a single creative work, neither literary, artistic, or any other.

However, if watching Hezbollah’s broadcaster, Al-Manar TV, gives us all the evidence we need of this glaring lack, then the output of the media apparatuses that support the resistance share Al-Manar's narrow, belligerent view of the world.

Nonetheless, this tendency peaks in discussions of the "enemy," both American and Israeli, and in the epithets used to describe it. The enemy is often "panicked," "its teeth chatter" and "it trembles" in fear, and "its vulnerabilities are exposed;" meanwhile, those confronting him "are martyred", but they "humiliate" him, "teach him a lesson," "warn him of dire consequences," "threaten him, forcing him to retreat," and they "thwart his aggression" and "rattle him with their strikes" as well...

Militaristic rhetoric, with its singular focus on war and its wealth of psychological and clinical introspection, as well as epic paintings, does not only lack works of literature and art. It did not produce a single military theorist either: as far as we know, we do not have a Sun Tzu, the Chinese general who lived around 2,500 years ago. Nor do we have a figure like the Prussian General Von Clausewitz or the Vietnamese general Nguyen Giap...

What this "vocational" deficiency suggests is that those lacking, like a wrestler, assume that strength is an organic trait that some are granted a priori, and that it is thus self-sufficient and does not need to be thought about or honed.

On the other hand, what we only have is a mix of what we call "man talk," that is, the lingo associated with "tough guys,’’ and the leftovers of the rhetoric of security and military regimes in the Arab Levant. Like the village tough guy, the resistance fighter says that he could do this and that to his opponent, because this opponent is "more frail than a spiderweb," as the Secretary-General of Hezbollah once famously put it. We know that, in a past era, village "tough guys" had rituals and symbols that signaled their raw strength (such as lifting troughs) or their commitment to their word (twirling their mustaches with their fingers after they pledged to do something).

As for the rhetoric of the regimes, especially the Baathists, it presents their countries as functions rather than homelands. These countries live in a perpetual state of steadfastness, resistance, and confrontation, constantly foiling plots and thwarting agendas. However, very rarely do they say anything consequential about their economy, education, or the health of their children, and when talk of these matters does come out of their mouths, they are inevitably lying.

Moreover, "man talk" is not equipped to address any public opinion whose support is sought. On the contrary, it alienates the public. Indeed, using force when it is necessitated by occupation or injustice is different from using it because we are strong and mighty and seek to exert power. In the same sense, while strength draws the understanding and sympathy of others when it is a necessity, it is a source of fear and cause for mistrust when it is presented as an inherent predisposition.

Here, we find a crucial distinction between politics that is served by force, and force that it is intended for politics to serve, which leaves us with a universal generalized sense of fear and being afraid until God decides otherwise.