Can a country that is so strongly divided over sectarian lines when it comes to almost everything be called a country? That’s what I ask myself after being in Lebanon for three weeks. As long as the identification with ones own group or sect is so strong, and is enhanced and strengthened by the institutions in a country, it’s almost logical that the other groups are perceived as a threat, right?
For me, this is the situation in Lebanon in a nutshell … the constant fear of things getting out of hand; intensifying sectarian differences. If you just walk around and talk with the lovely Lebanese people, the partying young people you almost forget that underneath society a lot is happening, a bubble that can burst any second according to the people I spoke with.
It does explain the situation and status quo of Lebanon. Every step forward of one group is perceived as a threat or loss by the other groups/sects. In theories of international relations, and political science this is called a ‘zero-sum-game’. A situation in which everyone perceives the ‘wins’ of the other, ones own ‘losses’. From what I’ve seen, heard and read, this is the basic attitude of Lebanese society, meaning that progress is not likely. For example: the Lebanese political parties cannot agree upon the national Lebanese budget, this has been going on since 2005. An important reason for this is that politicians do not grant the other parties such political success, c0nsidering it a threat to ones own position.
For me it was unbelievable to read about the possible reform of the electoral system. It comprehends that people from different sects will only be able to vote for politicians belonging to their particular sect. Meaning that Shia will only be able to vote for Shia; Sunnis for Sunnis; Maronites for Maronites…etc. Although I do not yet know the exact ins- and outs of this proposed system it seems to me that such a system will only re-enforce the existing sectarian lines and increase tensions in Lebanon.
Nesser, A guy I talked to, ensured me that although the civil war officially ended in 1990, the day to day reality is still so divided that for him that war never ended. I can only imagine how frustrating such a thought must be.