Civilization and Hatred
By: Elias Bejjani
LCCC Media Chairman

People conduct their day-to-day life according to a set of social, moral and religious beliefs . We have all been influenced and shaped from our young age by our family values, habits and traditions. As a result, any deviation from the acquired characteristics exposes us to conflicts with our mentors who hope to benefit from the seeds they have sown in us.

The individual is greatly influenced by his social environment while his influence on this same environment is more than often quite limited. History teaches us that societies that impose on their people teachings of religious hatred, ethnic intolerance, enmity, and aggression in the name of religious or other extreme doctrines were vanquished and ended up in oblivion. Such societies have always lagged behind. Other more open-minded societies where individual rights were protected and respect for the Human Rights Charter prevailed succeeded and flourished. Furthermore, social behavioral science has proved that when a community disseminates in the mind and soul of its people hatred, oppressing fundamentalism, and a sense of superiority, it encourages them to become counter-productive, rejectionists and anti-social individuals: They become potential candidates for brutality, social disturbances, destruction, world-wide terror and chaos.

Why do some of the Lebanese prominent leaders and groups demand that Lebanon's 19 communities change their skin and roots, camouflage their cultural beliefs, renege on their religious values and traditions, declare their ultimate enmity to Israel and the Jews of the world, surrender to the Syrian occupation, and stop calling for independence? Why do they want to build a partnership with their fellow Lebanese on hatred and hegemony?

Why do I have to shout out loud my " Arabism" and allege that Lebanon is an Arab country, when I am not an Arab and Lebanon is not an Arab country, although many Lebanese are of Arab descent? How about imposing "Arabism" on a big proportion of the Bahrainis, Kuwaitis and Iraqis who are Persians and still communicate to this day in Farsi? How about the Omani tribes that originated from Baluchistan and do not even know how to properly speak or write Arabic . How about imposing "Arabism" on the Somalis, and the Moroccan and Algerian Berber populations, or on the southern Sudanese etc.  Although all these countries are members of the Arab League, so is Lebanon. If this logic is applied in Canada, USA and Australia, all the people of these three countries would be expected to change their skin and claim they are English.

Or may be our fellow compatriots are implying that « Arabism » is synonymous with « Islam ». How about the great majority of the one billion plus Moslems who are not Arabs? From the ex soviet republics, to Hindustan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Burma, Nepal, China etc. We wonder if with such logic we will ever succeed in putting Lebanon together again. Lebanon, the land of the mosaic of cultures and different ethnic minorities, Lebanon the land of peace, co-existence and respect for each other's cultural and religious diversity. Lebanon, the home for a large Armenian community, as it is for the Kurdish Lebanese community.  Lebanon is as much the home and country of the Assyrian and Chaldenian minorities as it is for the Maronite, Shiaa, Sunni or the Druze communities.

Lebanon is this unique land where minorities with their ethnic values, deep-rooted traditions and specific languages or dialects have always co-existed in peace and harmony. Haven't we learned yet the lessons of failures of some political systems and the lessons of successes of others? Two opposing social, cultural and political experiences have demonstrated to history what is right from what is wrong: The ex-Soviet Union and the European Union. The « iron fist » experience of the first « regime» ended up in disintegration and the « open-minded » experience of the second has been and still is the success story of the century. Oppression of basic freedoms backfired on the Soviet Union and defeated it from within. The greatest two powers of this planet, "The European Union", and the "USA" succeeded and continue to flourish because they were built on solid foundations. Safeguarding freedoms, honoring human rights and respect for human diversity.

My fellow Lebanese compatriot, don't you think that 27 years of war which left its scars and human toll on all of us ought to make us revisit and review what went wrong?  Don't you think that « the war of others on Lebanese soil » should deter us from falling in the same traps that « others» keep laying viciously in our way? Don't you believe it is time that we sit down and examine where you and every body else did go wrong?  Never mind if we disagree, we can still work out a civilized solution as long as all of us believe in Lebanon's 10452 Km2 as the ultimate home for all of us? Let us review the basic rules and understandings that governed our destiny on a land called Lebanon. Let us undertake a thorough spring cleaning of our hearts and minds. Let's start by rejecting the failed theories from the dark ages and espouse the modern and proven principles of governance: Human Rights, Democracy, and Independence from any foreign power. Only then we can work out the details, survive the hard times, and prosper whilst others wither.

From thereon we can reclaim the Lebanon that each one of us aspires to.  A land embellished with its different cultures, religions, traditions and multiplicity. A land that we can claim to deserve because we would be taking the oath to preserve it and to defend it against foreign usurpers and wolves . Together we will proclaim allegiance once and for all to no one but the great Land of the Cedars .

It is a choice we have to make; either continue allowing hatred and backwardness control our destiny and destroy our country, or learn from the rest of the civilized world and start pursuing peace, knowledge and  civilization. Fellow compatriot, here are some alarming facts, figures and conclusions that appeared in a recent report dated July 1st, 2002 and published in Cairo by the United Nations Development Agency.

The Arab population has benefited the least from freedoms, worldwide, during the nineties; this has been the major impediment for economic growth and development.

There are three major shortfalls that are refraining development in the Arab countries: shortfalls in freedom, women's involvement and general knowledge. 

As for women's involvement and participation in political and economic life, the report confirms that the data for Arab countries are the lowest compared with other nations. Even when compared to the African continent, Arab women's participation in political life is very low: An average of 3.5% of parliament seats in the Arab countries are held by women against 11% in African countries.

The indicators for political participation and accountability that the report uses confirm the low degree of freedoms enjoyed in the Arab countries. Some of the indicators used measure different aspects of the political process, civil and political rights, independence of the media etc.  The report confirms that the ranking of the Arab region is at the bottom of the worldwide list. According to the same report, political participation in the Arab world remains below the worldwide average despite some positive achievements in certain Arab countries over the last quarter century . The report blames, among other things, the "bureaucracy" of public authorities which controls all aspects of civil and family affairs.

Information technology is almost lacking in the Arab world according to the same report . Internet usage is 0.6% and personal computer ownership is only 1.2% of the Arab population. Science expenditure was 0.14% of the Arab GDP (1996 data) whereas the figure is 1.26% in Cuba, and 2.9% in Japan (1995). Research and Development expenditure in the Arab countries was 1/7th of the worldwide average.

We call on the Lebanese people all around the world to support an ideal Lebanon for their children, their future, for all their loved ones who have died in the name of a "Free Lebanon", for the regional milieu and for the whole world. A Lebanon that will be erected on mutual respect, tolerance and equal partnership among its people. A Lebanon that will be distanced from any attempts of any one community to impose hegemony on another. A Lebanon in which each of its different ethnic communities will advocate for its integrity, identity, sovereignty, and humanity in other countries, and not a representative for other countries in Lebanon.

We feel that we should progress if we learn from the experience of others. We should refuse to live in isolation. Isolationism and stone-age religious or non-religious doctrines should not be allowed to surface in Lebanon. It is time for all of us to focus on our country's genuine needs and refrain from promoting the interests of other countries. It is time to recognize that we are Lebanese and only Lebanese, but of different roots, cultures and origins. It is time to stand against whoever wants to use us as tools to achieve his own questionable interests, especially those who are abusing "Arabism" and using it as vicious tool to intimidate, subdue and divide the 19 communities of multicultural Lebanon.

Let us carry together the Lebanese flag of knowledge and legality, the flag of Human Rights and respect for the "difference" of others. Let us move forward, away from backwardness, counter productive fundamentalism and aim again, together,  for the heights of tolerance, freedom, sovereignty and independence. Let us all remember that with the end of  the Israeli occupation of the Southern border strip (Security Zone), all the cheap and deceptive excuses and fraudulent fears fabricated by Syria's regime to justify its own occupation of Lebanon became resoundingly null. Let us all work together to see that Syria implements UN Resolution 520 that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the respect of its sovereignty, independence and free decision-making.

The people of Lebanon have enough self-confidence and are capable and qualified to face all circumstances, under any given condition in a civilized and democratic manner.They have great confidence in their fellow citizens, especially in those with whom they do not see things eye to eye. No matter what religion, denomination or political group the Lebanese are affiliated with,  they all share Lebanon's ideals and beliefs of freedom, sovereignty and independence.

We the people of Lebanon can establish this ideal free, democratic, human, and civilized Lebanon through an open dialogue without any foreign custody or guardianship. The nation that is built with a free will can establish peace and healthy relations with itself and its surroundings.

Long Live Free Lebanon

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