Guest author Johnny Kairouz writes about his concerns regarding the #YouStink movement
What started out as a peaceful demonstration demanding a solution to the trash crisis has now turned into a myriad of demands that one cannot keep count of: demands for something as vague as “our rights”, the government’s resignation, a revolution, a coup d’état (to be carried out by the same armed group that shot at the crowd during Saturday’s protest…), etc. This demonstration is starting to sound more like a collective rant rather than a collective call for specific action.
Most of the demands are legitimate and most of the demonstrators are decent citizens with genuine concern for their country. Not only do I consider myself an activist and proud member of the Lebanese civil society but I also believe that it is and will be the driving force behind a better Lebanon. We have a long way to go and proper action is needed to get there.
The government has dealt with the trash issue in a very reckless way. Instead of calling for an emergency meeting to find an urgent solution, they took their sweet time while the garbage was piling up shamelessly and dangerously. This demonstration needs to remind the government of their duties and responsibilities and invite them to act promptly.
However, the current movement is starting to lose focus. If the prime minister gives in to the demands and resigns, his government will automatically turn into a caretaker government – which has already been the case since the end of President Michel Suleiman’s mandate – and since we do not have any president to consult the MPs and form a new cabinet, we will go back to square one of the issue: a president needs to be elected.
Ironically, some ministers who are both part of the government they are criticizing and also part of political groups preventing the election of a president are supporting the demonstrators. The movement has been hijacked by the cause of the problem and by troublemakers. The civil society’s response has so far been a good one by asking them not to interfere since they are part of the problem.
However, by attacking the whole political class, the image is actually being blurred and helping the real culprits get away with it. What needs to be done instead is to single out the real responsible for the current paralysis situation that the state is going through and take appropriate action. An imminent danger would be if those groups will eventually reap the fruits of this movement.
From Chaos to Anarchy
Our initial problem is that we live in a failed state. Instead of attacking what is left of it, we need to improve it and make sure that our state becomes efficient and functional. One of the main causes of the failure is the presence of armed groups who have repeatedly intervened in the democratic course of our country. The only way to tackle our issues without beating a dead horse is to call things by their name and face them.
We need a lot of work, we need radical change but it must be done democratically. Change should be done at the top in order to achieve what we want. But by sending out a simplified call of revolution without any viable alternative plan, demonstrators are just attempting to take us out of the organized chaos that we live in to throw us into a total state of anarchy. Ironically, the sectarian system in Lebanon will prevent this anarchy from happening.
In the meantime, one can only hope that demonstrators are enjoying this general state of euphoria – out of their collective rant – and that it will push the politicians to take immediate action concerning all of the pending issues: from collecting trash to electing a president.
Needless to say, the security forces should protect them and their right to express themselves while avoiding the same disproportionate reactions of Saturday the 22nd of August, because of few troublemakers. The case for the state’s full sovereignty without any paramilitary partner will be part of a subsequent round.
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