Diverse Lebanon — A land of Struggle & Hope — Reap the current Hope Cycle!
Lebanon is amongst the smallest countries in the world! Despite that, it’s nature is so diverse that it includes snow, beach, desert, forests, rivers, valleys, mountains all within an hour’s drive away from each other.
Lebanon has also been at the cross-roads of civilisations for thousands of years which has created a mishmash of religious diversity — officially numbering over 18 sects- in its 4 million or so population. The country’s hospitality to those facing hardships have got it to a current state where a quarter of the population is made up of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. To put that into context, picture what would happen in the US if it had 120 million refugees amongst it’s citizens! You can’t even imagine what Trump would do in that case..
Given it’s diverse history, it’s diverse geography nestled amongst warring civilisations for thousands of years, Lebanon has seen it all — the good, the bad and the ugly!
However, what I’ve learnt over the years is that you can never write off Lebanon!
In it’s bad times its a failed state, run by warlords, surviving because of its diaspora’s investments that long for the days — at one point of time — where they had great memories with their loved ones over a drink, lunch, swim, party, religious gathering, ski trip or the like.
In it’s good times, Lebanon is a role model to the world as a whole!
It’s a land where the diverse backgrounds of people and the huge diaspora is used as an asset to build bridges with all parts of the world, where religious differences enrich historical, philosophical and cultural dialogues, where fellow humans that are in trouble are welcomed and taken in because we are all related in one way or another. It’s a land where it’s people love life, don’t give up, are full of ambition, and are creative problems solvers.
In this current cycle of hope where after years of bickering and taking sides which have resulted in everyone loosing as a whole, Lebanon has a unique opportunity to capitalise on the hope and make some hard needed adjustments to the system which has governed it.
All political parties have come together under the big banner that the newly elected President Aoun has announced and under the ambition that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has set out.
No time should be wasted to tackle some of the infrastructure challenges that hold the country back such as:
- Fixing the plaguing electricity shortage once and for all to help business and the public focus on things beyond the mundane day to day
- Enhancing the internet connectivity to allow the talent in the country to learn and compete at par with others
- Making use of the natural abundance of rain water by storing it so that no tree or human is thirsty for water in the summer months
- Brining e-government solutions to all public services to eliminate in the process the rampant corruption that affects everyone
- Allowing innovative solutions at a municipal level to solve the natural disasters such as rubbish collection, pollution control, sewage infrastructure, clean energy production
Each of the above areas can be easily addressed and resolved given Lebanon’s dense urban populations and small size, making the return on any investment in infrastructure very rewarding.
The more tricky areas that need to be solved apart from the obvious infrastructure issues noted above, are those that threaten Lebanon’s medium term stability. These have to do with the religious makeup of the political system.
We have learnt over the hundreds of years of history when Lebanon governed itself that religious balances change with times and a system that works now will not work in 25 or 50 years. The Druze, Maronites, Sunnis have all seen that first hand. It’s time for the Shiite leaders, who has the upper hand at the moment, to reap this opportunity and work with the other sects to create a model of governance that benefits all the citizens for the generations to come.
This is not an easy task, but given that all the current leaders still remember vividly the civil war and swear not to want to return to it. Given that we all see the complexities and strife of populations around us. Given that we have seen that a deadlock in politics brings everyone down and eventually will kill the country — this is the time to act.
Knowing Lebanon and the conspiracies that take place around this small country — from the days of the Ottomans, to the British and French colonisation and the creation of the Israeli state, to the Cold War and the various camps, to Israel’s self interest to preserve itself as the strongest power in the region, to the current Saudi and Iranian tug of war — all this makes it increasingly difficult to do.
But the only way to do these must needed changes and to protect Lebanon for the long term, is for the current leaders, the ex war lords that have learnt their lessons, to come together and make sweeping changes without referring to the outside powers and before enemies realises the good that has been done.
Let’s make sure that this hope cycle is capitalised on and the benefits are reaped as quickly as possible for the sake of the future Lebanon.