Martyrs’ Day Is Not a National Holiday!

Culture, History, Politics

Featured photo:

http://www.alexhoffordphotography.com/node/2189

By Farah K. Yachoui

May 6, 2016

How is the commemoration of the Lebanese martyrs not enlisted as an official national holiday? Are we losing the battle against social amnesia? This collective forgetfulness is mainly caused by either ignorance or intentionally oppressing painful memories. Sadly, in our case, ignorance is more likely to get the better of us.

Are we even aware of the reason why or how this memorial day came to exist in the first place? May 6, 1916, was the day twenty-one patriotic men lost their lives for promoting and embracing unity. All as one, they sought for reform to obtain autonomy within the declining Ottoman Empire at the time.

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Martyrs’ Square Before

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, we started to embrace a new collective memory that highlights sectarianism. Martyr’s Square has transformed drastically from an oasis of national heritage to an arid grave.

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Martyrs’ Square Today

Collective memory is a shared memory or knowledge between two or more people. It can be of actual events or of constructed stories, known as legends, told from one generation to the next. These memories are better remembered through images than through words. They are best represented in erected memorials, art and architecture. Public memory is preserved in libraries, museums and monuments or erased by their absence.

Martyrs’ Day should be a day that hosts a state ceremony during which the national flag is lowered to half-mast as a symbol of respect and mourning, giving patriotic speeches and visiting gravestones or memorial sites. It should be a day where all Lebanese citizens stop whatever they are doing and stand in silence at that specific moment in time when all traffic lights turn red and a classical instrumental version of our antheme is broadcasted across the country on national TV and on every local radio station!

It should be a day where families get together and feast at one table with their martyrs. When forgotten, they will no longer be martyrs. They will merely be dead men. A nation plagued with forgetfulness will soon dissolve into a herd of mindless creatures and empty souls. Where do you stand? Where do you feast today?

Let us know what you think. Click on leave a comment to share your ideas below or simply share it if you like it!

Thank you for reading!

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Look Who’s Back : A Political Reality

Culture, General, Politics

By Farah K. Yachoui

April 28, 2016

Random scrolling through Netflix accidentally ended in watching the German comedy “Look Who’s Back”. Although based on Timur Vermes’s political fiction where Hitler in flesh and bone returns to our modern world, this movie strikes me more as a portrait of a political reality. (Watch the trailer)

What fascinated me about this comedy is how it proposes the idea that a conciderably strong federal republic with a democratic form of government, as opposed to commonly targeted non-democratic unitary states, is presented as a fertile medium for the rise of a charismatic figure with nationalistic pride and possibly a metamorphosed form of totalitarianism. J.L. Talmon called it totalitarian democracy, an oblivious and self-inflicted subjugation where the citizens of such a state support their government even when recognizing its uselessness. Vermes suggests that the people are tired of sedating politics. They are ready for leading politics. It is a popular belief that totalitarian regimes cannot be born from democracies. How true is that?

When interviewed, the author Vermes said, “most people wouldn’t think it possible that if they would have lived back then they would have thought he was in some way attractive too”. How did Hitler become popular again in a world that condemned him a criminal of war?

He studied the situation at hand. He gathered knowledge, toured the country, observed and interviewed the people. He listened to their stories! Among the things he noted were child poverty, old age poverty, high unemployment rates, lack of social harmony, opportunistic politicians, some form of public conformity and a dormant nation that is seemingly sedated by the non-sense that is continuously broadcasted on television and mass media. How many of us can agree that this is a reality we are more or less all living in? Is modern politics paving the way for a new Hitler?

In “Look Who’s Back”, Hitler shifts focus from investing in the military body to invading the minds of the people, mainly our youth. They are the future of the nation. Any nation! He becomes an overnight TV sensation! They mistake him for a comedian, but it didn’t matter. He only needed the raw minds of the people who have been in the dark for so long, who have been washed into forgetfulness and who are willing to listen. Who is the modern world Hitler? Is Hitler an individual, a societal force, a non-profit organization or a political institution? Or is he all of the above?

let us know what you think? What are your thoughts on the modern world politics in relation to totalitarian democracy? Is the Forth Estate an independent body that is spiraling out of control?  Click on leave a comment below.

 

 

National Unity: An Automatic Response

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachoui

April 23, 2016

What do politicians mean when they call for national unity? It is unclear whether the Lebanese politicians are asking the people to reunite or are lecturing themselves on creating national unity, but let us assume they are reaching out to the people and asking them to come together to reunite. It seems that our leaders do not fully understand the depth of this phenomenon and rather expect an automatic response to this demand, like shivering when a chill goes down your spine! To unite the people of a nation, they must first and foremost identify with the same national identity.

Former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic said, “The loss of national identity is the greatest defeat a nation can know, and it is inevitable under the contemporary form of colonization.” What is national identity? People often mistake their cultural identity for their natural identity. Sharing the language, traditional dishes, folkloric dance, national flag and anthem are all great treasures but are not enough to create a strong national identity.

Territorial, religious and cultural identities are sadly much stronger today than our national one because we simply do not affiliate with the same history. A national identity is a little more than speaking the same language and sharing the same culture. It is identifying with the same descent and history and more importantly, believing in it!

Former prime minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher  said, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy”. A unified history is not our only hope for redemption, but it is a step closer to legitimizing our claim of being a true Lebanese nation! Studying it from a secular perspective creates a sense of pride in our Lebanese roots rather than in our religious ones.

James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, said, “the purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.” The Lebanese people are divided into three main groups – Christians, Muslims and Druze – that are in turn subdivided into two or more groups some of which are Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Protestant, Shia Islam, Sunni Islam, Alawit and Ismaili. If each of these groups identifies with a different history based on the adoption or conversion of their ancestors from one religion to the other and where they migrated from then a national unity is less likely to be formed.

When politicians call for national unity, they must be aware that what they are actually calling for is rewriting our history under one Lebanese identity. We are not born Lebanese. It is not inherent. It is learned.