A Team of Rivals

Why the formation of a new Lebanese government is a cause for celebration

lebanese-government
Photo: Dalati & Nohra

You have to give it to the cynics. They are exceedingly creative in the ways they express their derision and disgust at the formation of a new government, snorting their dismissals in creative and pithy status updates on Facebook and Twitter, where they count the many reasons why this government is the worse thing to hit humanity since the plague.

Pick your favorite gripe: The politicians are selling us out, inciting their popular bases only to eventually strike a deal behind our backs. There is only one female minister, and apparently she’s a zionist agent. The ministers are only in it for embezzling our public funds. This is a conspiracy of the rich to protect their privileges at the expense of the working class. We have waited eleven month and we ended up getting a replica of the government before it. The list goes on.

I suppose even the ministers themselves are not celebrating. Gebran Bassil is not going to enjoy his chit-chats with Ashraf Rifi, a famous FPM Bête Noire. Sejaan el Azzi is definitively not going to make a habit of inviting Hussein al-Hajj Hassan for drinks and arguilehs in his ministerial office. Each half of this government believes that the other half is literally trying to kill it. These guys are holding their noses to work together.

Raise your glasses

I for one, am going to celebrate. Not because I think our ministers are good men who came together in a moment of national salvation to guide the country to safety. Not because I have high hopes and expectations of what they are going to achieve. Not because I particularly enjoy Tammam Salam’s smile and charisma or because I miss Nabih Berri’s gavel. I am happy because holy-shit Lebanon still has the ability to form governments!

To understand how important that achievement is, take a step back and try to give Lebanon a bird eye’s view: This is a country that has only two neighbors: One is an enemy and the other is in open civil war, a war that brought us a million refugees, killed our tourism, blocked our export routes to arab countries and exacerbated the violence between our national factions. This is a country where nothing works: lights don’t turn on, sewers don’t drain, cars blow up and water is facing a catastrophic shortage. Our country is the very definition of a sinking ship. Commentators are wondering whether Lebanon is still a viable country, analysts are speculating about new borders and rating agencies are wondering about our solvency. Everyone was asking: Can lebanon still form a government or will it forever languish in a headless limbo? Today we got our answer.

The important realization here is that our political parties did not form this government because they’re greedy. They formed it because they really are panicking. Even thieves don’t want their country to fall apart. They’d have nothing left to loot. It is tempting to judge things through the lenses of politics, cult of personality and ideology. But in the end, the regular man and woman on the street will always prefer a government over no government. At least now they’ll have someone to blame.

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7 thoughts on “A Team of Rivals

  1. myra says:

    but it is precisely because the ship is sinking that you need a GOOD government, and after 11 months you’d imagine they would come out with the best option there is.
    is it really the best option there is when (as far as i can tell) only 2 of the 24 ministers are specialists in their fields? let us not forget those are not elected representatives, they are government employees and as such should have a minimum of qualifications.
    also the fact that the only woman minister was the judge presiding over the military court that let go a man found guilty of collaborating with israel is not apparent speculation but a fact that merits to be commented on, from a political and a feminist point of view.
    i don’t think it is empty cynicism. i think most people criticising are actually genuinely disappointed. i personally want to believe in lebanon, and that’s why i refuse to rejoice over a cabinet that seems a result of petty political and sectarian deals rather than an actual will to save the country, fix the electricity, manage the security issues, avoid the water crisis, etc.
    and what’s more? i think it’s the cabinet’s job to earn my trust, and not just by its mere existence.

  2. Fadi Chahine says:

    A couple of centuries ago, Thomas Paine wrote a treatise on government in which he said “a republic is supposed to be directed by certain fundamental principles of right and justice, from which there cannot, because there ought not to, be any deviation. It is executed by a select number of persons, who act as representatives, and in behalf of the whole, and who are supposed to (govern) as the people would do were they all assembled together.”

    Can we claim this self-empowered new government or the many before it were true representatives of the Lebanese people and their ambitions? I for one cannot say support this claim.

    How could I, when successive governments have ONLY represented their own interest over the national interest and members outdo each other in fleecing the country of everything that has value.

    What this government and the government before it represent is unbridled excess gone awry. An economic system built on a foundation of greed and fraud. Threatening the country with insolvency and ruin. Bailing out criminals and rewarding fraudsters/murders with public funds.

    For the Lebanese citizen, what they represent is lack of security and the basic right of protection of life and property. And I can go on.

    This country which is built on sectarianism will never become a viable state nor will it ever prosper unless the root causes of the nightmare that the Lebanese have been living in are addressed and changed to reflect a republic imagined by Paine.

    Let the corruption & pilfering continue and the fleecing to reach new levels. Let them continue to be dismissive of public welfare and squander our national resources; exploit and underpay the working class (which they label as low lifers) and impoverish millions of people.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely brilliant. Mustapha, hats off. I really mean it. You hit the nail on the head. This is the most precise analysis of the whole thing. “Even thieves don’t want their country to fall apart” is also why we’re not in a civil war. Those who can create a civil war today are more or less the same who made the last one, they are still in control and made so much money from it and its fallout over the years that they are now too worried they might lose their loot. If anything, we are lucky their corruption made them too fat for a fight.

  4. Mustapha says:

    Mira & Fady,

    I understand perfectly where you’re coming from, and God knows I empathize. But I once heard a great metaphor on TV and I think it applies here: You’re in a kitchen cooking and you realize that your food is burning. Then you look at the other end of the kitchen and you discover that the curtains are burning. At that point the right thing to do is say: “to hell with the food even if everyone starves” and attend to the curtains because those are the ones that can bring the house down.

    It is only after the fire is controlled that you will face the accountability of burning the food. Thinking of good food while your house is on fire is simply wrong prioritization.

    • Ziad M says:

      I think what upsets everyone is that we are yet again compromising on quality for security. Makes you wonder whether this country can even improve when existential threats are finally gone, if they ever will go, and if those in perpetual power due to these threats will actually do anything to make them go away.

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