Lebanon's burgeoning movement to "topple the sectarian regime" may never gain the same level of momentum as other anti-government campaigns across the region. Its rallies, such as its most recent one Sunday, may continue to appear miniscule when compared to larger demonstrations called by groups such as Hezbollah or the March 14 coalition. But the anti-sectarian movement nonetheless.
Lebanon’s burgeoning movement to “topple the sectarian regime” may never gain the same level of momentum as other anti-government campaigns across the region. Its rallies, such as its most recent one Sunday, may continue to appear miniscule when compared to larger demonstrations called by groups such as Hezbollah or the March 14 coalition. But the anti-sectarian movement nonetheless represents a breath of fresh air in a country that has long been held back by its inequitable and unstable system of governance.
Far too often, the need to obtain “consensus” among sectarian leaders over any government decision or parity in any political appointment has meant that Lebanon has been wracked by crisis. If stalemates and vacant posts were the only drawbacks to Lebanon’s political system, one could perhaps argue that it should be sustained. Unfortunately, however, such crises have in the past exploded into full-scale conflict, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars in damages and lost economic opportunities
The activists who are demanding change have shattered the myth that Lebanon has no alternative but to live out Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. They are outlining a vision for the country in which Lebanese are seen not as Muslims, Christians or Druze, but rather as citizens who deserve equal treatment and opportunity under the law.
As they proceed in their effort, the participants of the anti-sectarian movement should beware that they are confronting a powerful and deeply entrenched system whose beneficiaries are in no mood for change. In fact, recent history has shown that spontaneous grassroots movements can be co-opted and fashioned into a force for the benefit of established political parties.
Already there have been reports that certain sectarian leaders are seeking to take advantage of the momentum built by the protesters in order to further advance their own positions in Lebanon’s political arena. But regardless of how much lip service these politicians have paid to the notion of genuine democracy, their track records demonstrate an abysmal acceptance of they way things are. None of the current political parties in Parliament has proposed legislation that would achieve the dreams of the people who are now marching in the streets.
Real change will not come from those who benefit from the status quo. Nor will real change improve the lots of those who have gained so much from a system that has bred corruption, cronyism and war.
The current anti-sectarian movement may also ultimately be unsuccessful in bringing about real change. But it will have at least have inspired a new generation of Lebanese to believe that a better alternative than the status quo is indeed within their reach.