Over a year ago brave young Lebanese took to the streets in protest against the government’s corruption and incompetence, but a wily and entrenched political clique has prevailed, so far at least.
The horrific Beirut Port explosion proved that the political elite who has ruled Lebanon for the last few decades has failed to build a nation and instead succeeded in making Lebanon a failed state. We can write volumes about political corruption and public money squandering, but it is time to assess the civil society movement and the groups who were calling for a change.
Shaming, trolling and posting videos on social media are effective in shaping the public opinion, but is it enough?
As things stand, the opposition movement has so far failed to pose a serious challenge to the rotten system due to a lack of vision and internal squabble among groups.
Most Lebanese and the international community have reached the conclusion that a change is almost impossible with the current political clique. A classical popular revolution is difficult to envision in Lebanon due to the complex confessional make-up of the country.
Only through elected representatives the current political elite can be changed. Calling for early election is not enough, and may bring the same faces given the current balance of power within the government and the tailored-to-fit electoral law. But this should not stop the civil society movement from preparing the ground and embarking on an out vote campaign from now. People are ready to change but need to see credible faces with realistic visions. They need to convince people that change can be achieved if they participate in a meaningful political uprising.
Corruption is a human right violation and sanctioning politicians by the international community is not a national sovereignty breach. After all, this is a country that has gone through a destructive civil war, whereby warring factions lured foreign interventions to gain leverage over their fellow Lebanese.
If the international community wants to intervene to call on corrupt people, then let it do so. It is better than nothing. The international community has the right to stand by and support civilians who are deprived of their basic rights while their government’s incompetence is causing death and threatening their children’s future and wellbeing.
The performance of groups and civil society organizations has disappointed the genuine rebels and protesters.
Those who are organizing the protest and consider themselves the opposition have failed to reach a consensus and reach a unified platform that people can rally behind. Engaging in futile debate has eroded public support. Debating issues is healthy, even the thorny ones, but bickering and exchanging accusations can lead to people
losing faith in the ability of the Oct. 17 revolution to bring about the desired change.
No issue should be considered a taboo. If sectarian protection and weapons under any banner are used to shield corruption and theft of public funds, they should be shamed and called upon.
The ruling elite are entrenched and still cling to their privileges but the world is no longer passive and the Lebanese public opinion is aware. Bullets cannot keep people from casting ballots. Intimidation cannot defeat undaunted activists and police state measures can never succeed in stopping determined people from reaching their objectives.
On a positive note, charity organizations, NGOs and individual initiatives have proved their effectiveness, especially in the wake of the Aug. 4 explosion. They have replaced the government’s duty to help its own people. Organizations like Dafa, Lebanon of Tomorrow, Arc-en-Ciel and Impact Lebanon, to name a few, have showed that Lebanese civil society is still healthy and vibrant. With limited resources they managed to provide substantial relief in time of hardship and economic distress, while others are paralyzed and unable to reach a common platform.
It’s time to move from crowd leading to leading by example. The opposition’s futile debate of issues that have divided the Lebanese can only help maintain the status quo. The opposition should unite while keeping its diversity. The issues that can unite them outnumber the points of contention. It is time to act and show political maturity.
If you can’t hit the target, don’t change it but aim better.
Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut.