Friday, November 6, 2009

How long must we sing this song?

The human voice, a product of the lungs, the vocal folds within the larynx, and the articulators, a sort of sound machine, if you will. A radio without radio waves. A powerful weapon.

Then there's the brain part of it, that squishy mass of cells in a human head that somehow manages to produce thought (in some people) and sounds that represent objects and concepts, that great Babel of a thing we call language.

For several months now, an Iranian people fed up with the abuses of an oppressive regime have fought back with their voices.

The amazing thing about what's happening in Iran right now is that the people have kept it up. I can only imagine what it is like to hear the calls of "Allahu Akbar" ringing out from the rooftops night after night. There must be a divine presence in those voices, something felt deep within the soul, the proverbial good lashing out at evil. They have such strength and resilience to have lasted so long, to have not given up. Powerful thing, that Hope. Change can only come with patience and perseverance.

Change doesn't happen by complaining about something and then sitting around waiting for someone else to do something about it. Change is the result of action, of hardwork, of sacrifice. A protest chant can be a song of freedom. In countries like Iran, these songs of freedom are all they have.

Even in Iran, civil society works to bring about change, albeit with very tough restrictions. In places like Lebanon, civil society is much freer to work towards reform. Indeed, in many cases, civil society has replaced government in providing services that in other countries a government would provide. Civil society organizations are working with donor organizations to develop water maintenance systems, to clean up waste, and to fight forest fires, for example.

How long can they continue to do this without a government? No one knows. It's starting to feel like government isn't really necessary, like the Lebanese people can just go about their daily lives while the politicians squabble in their palaces. Much better to have squabbling politicians than a government that murders its own people, right?

Well, yes. But squabbling politicians have too often in history caused death and destruction.

People are talking about how Lebanon has been at peace for too long, that they are due for another conflict. They point to an arms shipment destined for Hezbollah and an increasing "paranoia" that has put Hezbollah on high alert. Beirut's prosperity masks the economic problems of the rest of the country - the high youth unemployment, the poverty, the lack of opportunity. These things cause unrest. These things cause conflict. Lebanon needs a government. (And Hezbollah needs to publicly come out with one English spelling if they insist on being in the news all the time.)

Which brings me back to the human voice, Lebanese version, a voice that sings in three languages. Once, it gathered at Martyr's Square, 800,000 strong, about a quarter of the country. I found this really cool panorama photo of it here. Powerful stuff there, to see all of those Sunnis, Druze, and Christians united. Seems to me the politicians have forgotten about the PEOPLE of Lebanon. Maybe it's time to use some voices to remind them.

Ghassan Karam from blog Rational Republic says this on Qifa Nabki's post about Aoun controlling the political weather:
I don’t expect the Lebanese “sheeple” to change anytime soon but the apathy and total inactivity is no less than a “scarlet letter” that we wear with pride. How , for the love of God or whatever you believe in, do we have the right to complain about an outcome and yet we refuse to make any effort to change it. The Lebanese “citizen” must be one of the least deserving of a responsible government of any people in the world but the sad thing is that we do not know it. We love to pretend that we are modern, educated, well informed, responsible and democratic when in fact we are just the opposite of each of the above. Healing starts by accepting reality and stopping the denial. A people get the government that they deserve.
Wouldn't it be grand to see a crowd at Martyr's Square - Sunnis, Shia, Christians, Druze - singing their protest songs to those who continue to block a government formation, see that sea of red, white, and green, feel the the change that Lebanon so desperately needs - unity?

Oh, sometimes being an idealist can be so...disillusioning. But hey, if idealists had never succeeded in the history of humanity, we'd all still be living in caves and eating raw meat and dying by age thirty.

Still, how long must we sing this song?

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