Patriotism: Lebanese citizens’ biggest failure.

Illustration by Karim Achkar

Misconceptions of patriotism are pretty common, but in Lebanon, they are blown way out of proportion. 

A common belief is that patriotism solely means defending the regime and supporting it through thick and thin without questioning it. In Lebanon, it doesn’t stop here. Partisans of different political parties support and defend their parties individually. In a multi-party system where each party holds a number of seats proportional to the percentage of votes they received, it is no surprise that citizens support the same people they voted for. Not only that, but a new term was invented in Lebanon: “Za3im-oholik”. The word Za3im means leader in Arabic, and “Za3im-oholik” means “addiction to leader.” The underlying meaning is that Lebanese people have become undeniably addicted to their leaders. It is impossible to get into a political argument without concluding that both parties’ leaders are untouchable and, ultimately, saints who want what’s best for their country. This issue results from brainwashing young children into believing in the same principles that their parents believed in. 

Many philosophers, namely Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, have talked about the “Social Contract” concept in moral and political philosophy, which ties the governing body and society. While they may not agree on the “Social Contract” intricacies, they all agree that when a social contract is broken (meaning that the governing body fails the people), the authority’s legitimacy fades away instantly. This is the point of no return where society should no longer accept sovereignty from the so-called governing body. This is where Lebanon has repeatedly failed to impose the power that the people have. By continuously forgiving and taking in the Lebanese civil war’s warlords’ mistakes, also known as the Lebanese leaders, we have allowed them to believe that they are untouchable and cannot be held accountable. 

True patriotism means holding your country’s authorities accountable, repeatedly questioning and following their every move. By doing this, you can ensure that your government is doing what is best for the country. The only way to remind the leaders of their job is to continuously poke them around with a stick labelled “Power To The People.” 

Patriotism isn’t about placing your leader on a pedestal. It’s about putting him in an office and telling him what to do. It ıs about perpetually challengıng the status-quo and ensuring that they always act in the best interest of the democracy and its citizens. The ones we call leaders shouldn’t be anything more than simple public administrators, that work for the benefit of their country. This is where I draw the line, and you should do the same.

The accountability I am talking about is, for instance, holding the Lebanese government accountable for keeping the ammonium nitrate in our harbour since 2014 and doing nothing about it, for allowing an armed militia to persist in our country, for our economic crisis, for the way they poorly handled the coronavirus outbreak.

We can keep our authorities in check through a plethora of political tools in our citizen’s toolbelt. Still, I will limit myself to the simpler ones that one can and should put to use: Protesting for starters, the verb that started the Arab spring, the black lives matter movement, and the action that is publicly known to be the best way to make your voice heard, but in my opinion, there is one action that is even more powerful.

As African-American rapper Micheal Santiago Render (also known as Killer Mike) said, “Bully the politicians at the voting booth.” In my opinion, voting is the most crucial action, the most powerful weapon in our arsenal, and the most effective one against corruption. Statistics show that only 49.7% of the Lebanese eligıble population votes, which means that by not voting, 50.3% of the population is helping elect the bad politicians (IFES Election Guide, 2020)—as for the 49.7% already voting, voting for the same leaders repeatedly after witnessing the destruction of your country by these same leaders is just sad to watch. That being said, I know how discouraging the Lebanese voting system is for minorities, and I could address the issue in a separate article.

Patriotism isn’t merely an ideology. It is a way of living. It involves continuously questioning and keeping your authorities in check, instead of waiting till something terrible happens to wake up. But now that something terrible has happened to all of us, I hope that the thawra, the explosion, our disillusion with the current regime has made us finally realize that the leaders that we used to worship are anti-patriotic and that the foundation of patriotism, when political leaders fail us is political dissent.


Karim El Achkar View All →

– Collège Notre Dame De Jamhour, Promotion 2020.
– IE University, Bachelor in Philosophy, Politics, Law, and Economics, Class of 2024.
– Writer in the politics section of KALAM.

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