I remember a comment made to me by a friend when we were just 15-16 years old. “When I go to AUB, I am going to join Mosta2bal’s student-led party.” Back then, I didn’t understand the country’s political sphere nor who led the parties, and I was just aware of the religious identities behind the parties. I remember being shocked by such a statement, for the simple fact that I knew that this party was Muslim-led and that my friend was Christian.
“Why would you do that?”
“Think about it. If a Christian joins a Muslim-led party, it creates diversity in the movement. It can also incentivize a unity between Christian and Muslim students within political parties. That way, in the long term, we can start changing the way we view politics and cohabitate with all citizens within the country. We could work together for a better Lebanon.”
Of course, his idea was very simplistic and, sadly, probably wouldn’t have led to what he had hoped. However, this conversation, among many others I have had, shows one particular thing: even as young teenagers, we already noticed the gap created by the different religions that affected people’s political beliefs in accordance to the sectarian division of power. Moreover, different political views would lead our parents and older relatives to intense arguments as well as fights because “el za3im khat ahmar” which translates to “my leader is untouchable”. What I find beautiful is that this hatred did not translate into our generation (to a certain extent).
Whether it is the 17th of October or the desperate conditions our country is going through that brought us all together, the fact is that today the youth seems more united than ever. Their unity was reflected in the university elections, which were celebrated all over social media: USJ, AUB, LAU, RHU, all taken over by independent parties and making history.
The participation and victory in student elections were a formidable first step, but this isn’t the end of the road. After taking our universities back, we now need to take our institutions back to finally take our country back. To bring more insight in this article, I interviewed the head of the politics department at the National Bloc, Mr. Amine Issa. The National Bloc is an independent party that has existed since the 1940s but was only reactivated in 2018 by activists. It started with a reform of the party’s governance: it went from being a party presided by generations of Edde’s sons as supreme leaders of the party to become a democratic institution. According to the party’s internal rules, the members elect a General Assembly, which in turn elects the Executive Council, which again elects a Secretary-General.
“I invite everyone and anyone to come visit our headquarters to realize the truth about independent parties. It is a sample from the Lebanese population, with people from all social classes, all regions, and all education levels. It is a mini Lebanon, and it functions very well. Since we have one common objective, all our differences circle back to the second plan.” -Amine Issa
In our discussion, Mr. Issa made it clear that the Revolution was a turning point for Lebanon. October 17th was a revelation of the utmost importance: it showed us that not only is change possible but a visible cultural change was already happening. The confessional system, which has been in place since the independence in 1943, was starting to come down because of an anthropological change. There is a rupture in how we used to identify before and after October 17th. There is a citizen identification that seems to be forming among the Lebanese surpassing the confessional differences. It is time to couple this cultural change with a political one: it is time to express ourselves, our ideas. We need to organize the political succession to the confessional parties at the start of their downfall. We need to be conscious that it is thanks to us that this system is coming to an end. Our identitarian awakening establishes the foundations of a modern state that will permit us to build the state we all dream of, 100 years after the founding of the State of Greater Lebanon.
“October 17th created momentum. It is now or never to grab the opportunity that we were offered and topple this system. If we let this moment pass by, we might stay stuck in the confessional parties’ trap for decades.” -Amine Issa.
There is one thing to keep in mind though: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Lebanon won’t be either. We may feel like it is taking too long to take over, but now more than ever, we need to be patient and wait. Change will reveal itself in the long term.
So what to do in the meantime?
“It is time to present an alternative, and to present a credible alternative, a political party and political action within an organized party remains the most secure way to do so.” -Amine Issa
After the civil war, when militias became political parties and traded their weapons for positions of power, the people started associating the concept of a political party with their endeavours. They associated political parties with confessionalism, clientelism, corruption, terror and division. However, this does not define the original purpose of political parties.
“As defined by the Greeks, politics is about managing the city’s affairs: managing the supplies of electricity, water, social justice, the hospitals, public schools and universities. The politics of foreign affairs is one of the subjects, maybe the least important one, in politics. But what does politics summarize as in Lebanon? For the politicians today, it is either about the conflict concerning external options of influence (West vs East) or a power battle to share between themselves the state’s revenue. If the young generation associates politics with these politicians’ practices, we understand them. There is enough to be disgusted by politics and not want to get involved in politics. But their practice is not politics. Taking part in politics is a noble activity if the rules do its practice if it answers to the objectives it set.” –Amine Issa.
Being indifferent to politics is not the answer. Being afraid of getting involved is not the answer either. It is time to go out there and get informed: so many political parties are active and trying to establish themselves in the coming post-confessionalism era: National Bloc, Minteshreen, Beirut Madinati, Li Haqqi… among others. Read their programs, evaluate their principles with your values, study their statements concerning the current issues such as the lifting of subsidies or the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay up to date with independent news channels such as Megaphone News and Sarde after Diner. Lift the veil of ignorance and privilege and become an actor of change. This way, one day, we will all be able to live the life we all dreamt of in our country. A life in economic prosperity, in security and living up to the idea of social justice. Doesn’t it make you dream?
Then take action.
20 years old student in the field of Politics, Law and Economics at IE University in Madrid.