“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
Fuller’s quote somehow makes sense. Indeed, should we work against establishments? Or should we help them transform for the better?According to Fuller, the second option is the best. I couldn’t agree more, but replacing existing models such as socio-political and economic systems of management as well as cultural norms with new systems and norms, requires a transformational journey – – both individual and collective, and therefore, deconstruction before reconstruction. Fuller went through such a journey before coming up with his famous quote.
It is clear there have been well thought and practiced alternative models on small scales (in classrooms and workshops, through activities organized by NGOs, in academic writings and artistic works, to name just a few of the many channels used in the last two to three decades), and that there is indeed a need for new large-scale models, but many Lebanese are not ready for them, or are simply not ready for change. And when people aren’t ready, they feel victimized, and they respond negatively. This behavior is called “resistance to change”. This resistance is the result of decades of wars and conflicts with their load of change which was inflicted on people, keeping them on the edge, nurturing their traumas. Many Lebanese lost trust in change, which makes it harder to think of and implement change in the present time.
In other words, changing existing entrenched and coercive models requires we all have to go through fighting/deconstructing them even if at different paces, in order to understand individually and collectively that the next step, whether tomorrow or in a few years, would be to build new models that are so desirable and so successful that most people will clamor for them.
For those of us who are unhappy with the way our country is managed now and has been managed for the last decades, and particularly for those of us who ache to see how much Lebanon is mired in painful poverty, inequalities and ignorance: let the deconstruction dynamics take place as they need to, and start working — if we want to and are ready to do it – – on the next phase, which is to build something new together. Nevertheless, before rebuilding systems of management, let us remind ourselves that we need to deconstruct then reconstruct the fundamental infrastructures of our systems of knowledge and mentalities that enable the different peoples living in Lebanon to become self-governing, empowered and ready to embrace change.
I don’t know exactly how we’re going to pull that off. I don’t know how long it will take. It might be our children or grandchildren who complete whatever we’re laying the foundation for, as coercive states, warlords and mafias aren’t going to suddenly go away, nor regional conflicts, but I know it’s worth it, because the future of our country depends on it.
Plus de 40 jours que la révolution du 17 octobre au Liban est en cours. Des centaines de milliers de citoyens et citoyennes de toutes générations et appartenances investissent pacifiquement les places publiques, les rues et les réseaux sociaux.
En dépit de la décentralisation du mouvement et l’inexistence d’un leadership ‘vertical’, les revendications communes sont nombreuses: la formation d’un gouvernement indépendant du pouvoir en place, la lutte contre la corruption et la paralysie étatiques, des mesures d’urgence pour mettre fin à la crise économique, une nouvelle loi électorale inclusive, des élections parlementaires anticipées, et la déconfessionnalisation du système de gestion socio-politique de la diversité.
En d’autres termes, les libanais révolutionnaires revendiquent le droit de vivre dignement et en paix. Comment le font-ils? En chantant, dansant, formant des chaînes humaines, dialoguant, etc., et ce à l’aide de marmites, de musique, de graffitis, d’un savoir-faire au service de la communauté, d’une pensée critique, et beaucoup de bavardage.
Dire que le bavardage est futile, c’est oublier que l’interaction sociale et la communion humaine n’auraient jamais vu le jour sans conversations, et de là, sans prise de parole, écoute et respect mutuels, entraide et solidarité… Dire que le bavardage est synonyme de commérage et échanges verbaux insensés, c’est ne pas reconnaître la puissance des libanais (une partie des libanais) à diriger leur propre destin. Dire que le bavardage est un excès de paroles, c’est passer outre son importance dans la construction d’une société pluraliste.
En fait, le bavardage est un instrument indispensable pour des individus qui veulent devenir sujets à part entière. Celui-ci est même devenu une pratique de choix depuis le 17 octobre puisqu’il fait entendre les voix que l’histoire contemporaine du Liban a marginalisées depuis la guerre des années 70-80 du siècle dernier au détriment de celles des faiseurs de guerre, des mafieux et des corrompus. Le bavardage révolutionnaire n’est pas un écoulement incontrôlé d’un parler exercé par une collectivité ‘hystérique’ à la solde des ambassades, ni artifice, mensonge ou impuissance. Lorsque les révolutionnaires bavardent à longueur de journée à la télé, sur Facebook, Twitter et WhatsApp, et au cœur des grandes villes et des villages du Sud au Nord du Liban, et de la capitale à la vallée de la Bekaa, ils partagent leurs souffrances, leurs malaises et leurs rêves. Le bavardage est ainsi métaphore pour dire leur quasi-absence de l’espace public, mais aussi leur résistance culturelle, leur plaisir, et leur complicité. Ainsi, le bavardage devient lieu de pouvoir.
Si la révolution du 17 octobre ne fait pas (encore) rouler les têtes de ceux qui les ont trahis, volés et assassinés, elle aurait du moins réussi à transgresser les interdits, à briser les tabous, à faire éclater des dynamiques de protestation, et à construire des ponts intercommunautaires et intergénérationnels. Elle aurait réussi à incarner la prise de droit par le fait de dire, et à délivrer de nombreux libanais de leurs mémoires meurtries et des ghettos des identités meurtrières.
سقط الزعيم في الشارع والساحات والمواقع الاجتماعية… سقط الزعيم في ذهون وأقوال وأفعال المواطنين… سقط الزعيم في حلقات الحوار والعيش المشترك…
الثورة في لبنان هي ثورة على النظام الطائفي والفساد والامساواة؛ ثورة على الاستبداد والقمع والزبائنية والتخويف والتخوين؛ ثورة على ثقافة التبعية وقدسيّة الطوائف؛ ثورة استعادة حقوق وكرامة الإنسان…
هي ثورة حلمنا وبشّرنا بها وانتظرناها وعملنا طويلاً كي تأتي… وأتت… وهزّت أركان النظام الذي استكان إلى التقسيمات المذهبية والطائفية والصراعات الفئوية، وفتحت بوابة على الطريق إلى الدولة المدنية المبنية على المواطنة والحريات والاطائفية وثقافة السلام
Our conference’s full report (“Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East” Ayia Napa, Cyprus, October 31 – November 2, 2019) by Karis Ailabouni: “Inclusive societies based on equal rights remain at a distance as the Middle East continues to face radicalized religious and political movements. In light of this, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture and the Christian Academic Forum for Citizenship in the Arab World (CAFCAW) organized its fifth international conference entitled, “Towards Inclusive Societies in the Middle East”, held in Cyprus from October 31 to November 2, 2019. The conference gathered 47 scholars, activists, and experts from around the world with the aim of stimulating critical dialogue on the factors that hinder equitable societies in the region. In an effort to practice inclusion, 29 (61%) of the conference participants were women, while 9 (19%) were youth under the age of 35. In addition, participants came from diverse national backgrounds. The majority hailed from the region, namely Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and UAE. However, participants also joined from the USA, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and the UK. The conference provided also a forum for Arab scholars from the diaspora to connect to their peers from the region. The forum’s diversity of participation inspired an unparalleled interdisciplinary, ecumenical, and interreligious discussion, through which participants could explore issues from multiple perspectives.
Following a welcome dinner on October 31, the event consisted of eight sessions and 22 paper presentations over two days. Sessions I and II provided a theoretical framing of inclusivity in political and theological terms. This led into sessions III and IV, which tackled gender justice as a critical form of inclusivity. On day 2, the morning consisted of two sets of parallel sessions. The first contextualized inclusivity through specific insights from Lebanon and Egypt, while the second brought unique interdisciplinary approaches to the theme- from philosophy, to germ theory, to natural resource management.
The conference also made space to include a flash panel on the revolution currently unfolding in Lebanon. As a scholarly forum rooted in everyday realities, it was necessary to include this session given its relevance to the themes of the conference and to the sociopolitical context of the region at large. Lebanese participants shared their diverse perspectives from the ground, reflecting on the opportunities and challenges of the revolution as a platform for people to affect social and political change.
Several important themes emerged from the discussions surrounding these sessions. Firstly, the bondage of minoritization and sectorization in the Middle East poses a challenge to inclusive societies. Through histories of colonialism and authoritarianism, Christians have been constructed to think of themselves as minorities and, therefore, inherently disempowered. This phenomenon calls for a radically inclusive, popular theology that rejects sectarianism.
Inclusivity, then, requires societies in the Middle East to learn from local history so that they might deconstruct oppressive power systems inherited from colonialist and authoritarian regimes. Rather than reproducing exclusivist modes of authority, there is an urgent need to build new social contracts that empower the participation of all people in public life. This necessitates not only the building of new political systems, but also a sociocultural shift in which people begin to understand political participation not as a privilege, but as an essential dimension of their being.
Therefore, there is a need to pursue a collective journey towards inclusive societies. This was brought to light in discussions tackling gender justice, as many women’s movements are already carving a place for themselves as equal citizens. For example, women are at the front lines of the revolution in Lebanon. Meanwhile, women Islamic activists in Palestine are challenging the dominant culture by studying Islam and building their religious practice. In addition, women in the Evangelical Church in Egypt are struggling to become ordained leaders in their church through subversive ministry. Youth in the Middle East are also actively excluded from participation in public life. Research presented in the conference showed youth’s growing disillusionment with their future. Although they are eager to better their own community, many feel they must ultimately go abroad to realize their dreams. The problematic of Arab youth and women’s exclusion calls for participatory processes that allow the marginalized in society to make their voices heard.
Finally, the conference concluded with a discussion of pressing topics that might be addressed in future conferences. The recommendations emphasized by participants included the following:
Public theology of the religious other
Liberation from exploitation and authoritarianism
Technology, Religion and virtual realities
The role of education in social change, peace, and reconciliation
CAFCAW executive committee decided to choose the theme of Education for the next year with a working title “The Future of Education in West Asia and North Africa: Education for the Future.”
The conference was utilized as a platform to launch Telos magazine (www.telosmagazine.org), a new online magazine with a focus on public theology.
In addition to the stimulating discussions that surrounded these sessions, one of the greatest successes of the conference occurred informally. Academics and activists from around the world were able to build new connections with one another, creating a network where ideas and experiences could be exchanged. As one participant noted, the conference succeeded in developing a community of scholars and practitioners. This allowed not only for rich and critical dialogue, but also opened endless possibilities for future”.
My video conference has been screened a few hours ago in Bangkok – Thailand.
STANDING TOGETHER IN A WORLD DIVIDED – Consultation developed by the Presbyterian World Mission and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), (PCUSA). Bangkok – Thailand, November 1-6, 2019. My paper will be available in due time (“Christian Responses in Western Asia: Case Studies”).
Interested in the subject on Interfaith Dialogue, War Memory and Peacebuilding? This is the full version of my article, and you can have access to the PDF file on Telos’ site: https://www.telosmagazine.org/