Anyone having lived within Lebanon, even for a short time, can easily attest to the conflicting interests and political divisions that inhabit this small country. Like in any country, you will find your political groups, such as Republicans and Democrats of America, however in Lebanon, the political groups take it to the next level. Rather than merely having an opinion, you will notice they have an amount of control on areas and religious sects. Each political leader, rather than representing a point of view of government, are in fact representing their religion. A reason why this has occurred is from the age-old agreement in the Lebanese government that only an individual from <faith> may be in charge of <this ministry>, simply to satisfy each of the numerous faiths found in Lebanon. Many of the time, the individual in charge will not have their Ministry even be taken into consideration in debates and discussion, but merely their faith. You will find scores of people lined up, generally of that corresponding faith, cheering for them whenever they make a speech, which rarely has to do with their actual job reference.
What does this make Lebanon? We are sliced and divided into small communities, distrustful of each other and many a time thinking each are plotting against the other. Sectarianism has turned the country against itself. I do not mean to say that Lebanon is a land filled with violent feuding mobs, but rather a divided land filled with distrust. How can a government truly function if every piece wants their own reward? Simply answer: They cannot.
Lebanon is famous for not being able to advance in decision making or progression in project, simply because “Group 1 and Group 2 Disagree”. It becomes a standoff with each stubbornly refusing to take a step back and the entire proposal is drifted away. An example is Lebanon’s electricity crisis. Since 2006 (after the summer war with Israel), Lebanon has had difficulties with its electricity production and thus the country has had rolling blackouts since. It is far better in the capital city of Beirut, but outside it, the blackouts are horrendous to live with. Why has nothing been done? Simply because the leaders of the nation refuse to come to a compromise. Each argues over funds, exploits, payments, you name it. The country itself has been offered assistance several times by outside neighboring countries for its electrical problems, but you will find the leaders refusing from varied emotions to that nation itself. Thus, here we are, in the year 2014, still with rolling blackouts, simply from indecision.
The worst of it comes when clashes occur between ‘Followers’ of each sect leader who are at odds. Civil war is quite common in Lebanon’s history, with the worst having occurred roughly around 1975-1991, lead to the deaths of over 130,000 citizens. General clashes will mostly happen when a public argument has recently occurred over an issue. There is always tension in Lebanon, as citizens worry over ‘Group 1’ and ‘Group 2’ clashing over any recent drama and the spark of another civil war. Worst of it is when the famous Lebanon command of “Go down to the streets!” from any sect leader is given, which is usually the end-all act when that leader wants to make a statement through rough action, the “Red Button” of disagreement.
The sects also are compromised of several different flags and colors expressing them. It is sad to say that these flags are far more seen than the Lebanon Flag. Colors are associated with each group, to the point that at times you’ll be questioned for wearing a certain color, thankfully this seems to be diffusing over time.
So here we are, divided and yet somehow carrying on. That has always been a Lebanese trait, to ‘carry on’. I do believe that survivability is perhaps our best trait. Perhaps one day we will be able to see that our survivability also depends on our unity.
Lebanon: A Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon, Revised Edition Picard, Elizabeth (2002).