Tolkien’s Five Armies Are Real!

Culture, History, Politics

By Farah K. Yachouhi

June 15, 2016

We often say: “I feel like I am in a movie!”, when something out of our ordinary routine happens, not realising that movies or novels are in their turn inspired from reality! Although J.R.R.Tolkien denies this, The Hobbit, seems to have been inspired by The Great War. His writings are not merely tales of elves, orcs and dwarves. They are highly imaginative, magically written political fantasies! Where is Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the real world?

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Map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Erebor or Lonely Mountain is where Bosnia is located on the map below.

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Map of conflict zone tilted clockwise to reflect Tolkein’s Middle Earth.

His participation in The Battle of The Somme as a British soldier excentuated his senses of seeing and separating good from evil and light from darkness. In Middle Earth, many stories intertwine and overlap, but there is a bizarre connection to the real world that keeps bringing back the reader to certain events that are believed to have been the pintacle of a series of events that caused W.W.I.

What happened in Middle Earth? Thorin, the last king of Erebor, gathers a company of 12 dwarves, a hobbit and a wizard by the name of Gandalf to claim back Lonely Mountain that was taken by Smaug, a powerful and fearsome dragon. When they finally reach the mountain, Bilbo, the hobbit, sneaks into the dragon’s lair and steals a golden chalice. Smaug, enraged with fury, automatically assumes that the thief is from the nearby town and attacks it. Bilbo is not from that town. He is a hobbit from the shire. How does this reflect the real world events?

In 1908, Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia that was once part of the declining Ottoman Empire when Serbia had wanted to do that as well. Bosnia had a large Slavic population that would have supported the pan-Slavic ambitions of unifying the Slavic people. With that said, the dream of all Slavic people living together was shattered when Austria-Hungary Annexed Bosnia. The dwarves’ dream of coming together to live in the Lonely Mountain in prosperity was shattered when Smaug claimed it as his own. What happened next? What does that have to do with W.W.I?

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptive heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife Sophie were assassinated. Only a month later, Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia. This was not the event that caused The Great War; However, it was the cherry on top of a hot mess! Bilbo stole the gold chalice. His act was not the cause of the growing tension in Middle Earth, but Smaug’s harsh reaction to it definitely sparked the battle of the “Five Armies”.

The “Five Armies” were the dwarves, elves, men and the great eagles who posed as the “Allies” and the goblins, wargs and orcs as the “Central Powers”. They all got involved in the battle for their own gains! They all wanted the dwarves to share the treasures that were burried in Lonely Mountain. They couldn’t care less about who has the rightful claim to Bosnia. Serbia is not to be blamed for the First World War. This war was bound to happen and all it needed was a fertile ground infested with continuous conflict and a story to hide behind!

Twinning Towns: A Lebanese Dream

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachouhi

May 14, 2016

Nation building stands on two anchors: a shared history and a common “Dream” or philosophy as some like to call it. These two components act like the base pairs that help keep the DNA double helix in a regular helical structure. A shared history and a shared philosophy basically stabalize and bind all the other components of a nation. What is the “Lebanese Dream”? Is twinning towns or cities going to take us there?

Twinning towns is a concept that became largely popular in Europe after World War II. Many European towns and cities support the idea because it mainly fostered rebuilding broken bridges, mending mutilated relationships and restoring peace in the continent. Europe now has a union in its name that might have its disadvantages, but we can all agree that it “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” and therefore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize of 2012. What about Lebanon? What can we do with this concept? Is it not our dream to have peace and prosperity?

Weaker nations are highly susceptible to foreign ideological invasions and that is because they simply do not have one of their own! Stronger nations have a robust economy and a firm command over both their domestic politics and their international relations. It does not take an architect or an engineer to know that the stronger your pillars are, the stronger the structure that rises on top of them! How strong are our pillars?

We have a long way to go before twinning with foreign towns or cities, but we can definitely start by understanding more each other. How about twinning within our borders? Wouldn’t this reinforce and reconstruct a long lost national unity? We all know that some Lebanese citizens have never seen the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbeck or the limestone caves of Jeita Grotto or our beloved Cedar forest!

Wouldn’t a local twinning of towns encourage local businesses like that of farmers from the north or fishermen from the south? Wouldn’t this enhance collective security and living in an ethnically diverse country becomes more than mere coexistence? Wouldn’t it enrich our kowledge of our multi-cultural Lebanon?

All ideas count on Iza Fakkarna. Share your thoughts on this below!

 

You might be also interested in:

1. Twinning: Ten Keys to success

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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Rached Bohsali – Kalam Ennas – 5/5/16

Let’s Commit Suicide

Culture, Politics

By Farah K. Yachouhi

May 3, 2016

In the spirit of the upcoming municipal elections and as the date approaches, the tension heightens between those who seek change and those who claim they do. The truth is, first time voters are the ones who are under the most pressure. With our youth being the main catalyst for change, they are in fact standing before two cruel choices: Political Crime or Political Suicide. Yes, the pressure is on!

Municipal elections in Lebanon occur every six years. The last one was in 2010. Our general elections, that are supposed to take place every 4 years, last took place in 2009. This means that every young citizen aging 21 to 26 is voting for the first time this time around!

With that said, let’s explore the two options they have at hand. Inspired by the realist Machiavellian term criminal virtue¹, some scholars in political science, like Francis Fukuyama and Charles Tilly, agree that most nations are the product of original crime² or organized crime³. The two terms are quite different, but identical at the core. These notions mainly support endorsing crime for profit or power. How many of us can agree that most of the current prominent leaders are a product of such crimes?

However, Fukuyama also highlights that nation building comes from within which is where, metaphorically speaking, committing political suicide comes in. An ancient mythological legend best explains this phenomenon. The Phoenix, a magestic bird, in so many different cultures represents rebirth, resurrection and the rise of a new era! Only one of its kind can roam the living realm at a time. When it is time for it to die, it sets itself on fire with a clasp of its magnificent wings allowing a new Phoenix to be born from its ashes. Is it not time for the burdened Phoenix to burn and let a new, young, ambitious and rejuvenated one rise from its ashes?

What is your vote going to be for, more crime or a dignified suicide? Leave a comment below. All ideas are welcome on Iza Fakkarna.

If you like what you just read and want to read some more, scroll all the way down and choose any of the previously posted articles!

Sources:

1. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

2. The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

3. War Making and State Making as Organized Crime by Charles Tilly

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.