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The Lebanese Society

The pattern of the Lebanese society as visualized by Bachir Gemayel is characterized by two basic features: the first is static, and shows us how Bachir imagined Lebanese society in a simplistic and realistic manner at the same time. The second is dynamic, and describes the means whereby reactions and frictions occur among the members of that society and its various sections. This simplistic picture of a complex reality may help us to understand political, economic, moral and sociological matters occurring after we have pinpointed their place and their role within a more general framework. What is important in the whole question is not the truth in the divergence or convergence of reactions among the members of one same Lebanese family, but rather the search for effective means of monitoring these reactions at close range, and steering them towards the right path.

"Lebanese Society"

The pattern of the Lebanese society as visualized by Bachir Gemayel is characterized by two basic features: the first is static, and shows us how Bachir imagined Lebanese society in a simplistic and realistic manner at the same time. The second is dynamic, and describes the means whereby reactions and frictions occur among the members of that society and its various sections. This simplistic picture of a complex reality may help us to understand political, economic, moral and sociological matters occurring after we have pinpointed their place and their role within a more general framework. What is important in the whole question is not the truth in the divergence or convergence of reactions among the members of one same Lebanese family, but rather the search for effective means of monitoring these reactions at close range, and steering them towards the right path.

In the following lines, we shall try to describe, in detail, the picture visualized by Bachir Gemayel of a model society, bearing in mind that he had formed this conception gradually, during his long march at the head of the Resistance.
 

THE LEBANESE SOCIETY

In an interview with a daily newspaper “Al-Qabas” in 1980, Bachir said:

“The sociological reality of the Lebanese consists of communities and sects. Historians and sociologists have irrefutably established the fact that every group and sect clings to its distinctive features. There is nothing wrong with that, nor should this, in principle, preclude peaceful co-existence or constitute a contradiction.”

This first part of the interview establishes, in an irrefutable manner, three basic realities in the conception of a Lebanese social structure. The first of these is that Lebanese society, as a whole, is an established fact in itself, since both Muslims and Christians have expressed their intention clearly to go on living side-by-side in Lebanon. But for this desire not to be a mere pious wish or a commercial transaction that would be rather short-lived, so that this desire should stem from an inner conviction, Bachir stressed that this desire should not obviate the existence of two truly diverse communities: the Christians and the Muslims. More important yet, we should not be afraid to admit that each of these two great communities has its own distinctive features and specific characteristics, and each of them seeks to preserve them and safeguard them. ???At this stage, it remains to be seen how we can reconcile these two factors: the desire on the part of both to co-exist in peace, and their atavistic attachment to their peculiar traits and specificity's.

The Christian Community: Definition and Role.

After having proclaimed these three realities which are incontrovertible Bachir proceeded to define his concept of the Christian community in Lebanon and its role. He was the most qualified person to do this, since he had been entrusted, ever since the beginning of the war years, with the faith of these Christians and had lead them along the path of survival through all their tribulations. Was he not himself a scion of one of the most noble Christian Maronite families in Lebanon, one who had always played a leading role in the construction of the Lebanese State? One who had, by its deeds and attitudes, pulled the nation out of many a predicament?

It should be mentioned here that this momentous initiative on the part of Bachir was not dictated by any considerations of narrow fanaticism, but transcended these to a broader scope of nationalist preoccupations. He was careful, however, to reserve a pioneering role for the Christian community in Lebanon, in view of the fact that it was the only one that had retained its full rights and enjoyed an independent status in the midst of fanatical and fundamentalist Arab regimes surrounding it. In many, not to say most, Arab countries of the area, Islam has been incorporated in the Constitution as the “Religion of the state”, and all the non-Muslim minorities are finding it increasingly hard to live there, let alone exercise their religious freedom…

 

When the war broke out, Bachir fully realized the grave perils to which the Christian community was exposed. It was quite natural therefor to give priority to this problem, and Bachir’s main concern was to organize the effective defense of that community. He declared: “ Our people in this part of the world are threatened by several perils. I am not speaking from a sectarian standpoint; this is our true situation. Ever since the bloody ordeals of April 13, 1975, the Christians realize that their fate hangs in the balance, and their existence is dangling on a slender thread. If, therefor, we do not determine our own way of life, if we are not vigilant and prepared for any contingency, the slightest whiff will snuff out our candle and blow us out of existence… That is why we have to be on our guard constantly, our life must be a permanent mobilization, an unceasing vigil, a perpetual preoccupation for survival…We have to preserve our dignity and walk tall, or not walk at all ?! ? ? “ This constant vigilance and state of preparedness, this constant defense of the Christian community does not constitute an issue in itself, if we do not know what is to be our role as Christians in this part of the world, and why we are unable to play this role anywhere but in Lebanon only …To provide the answers to these questions, the ancient history of the Christians in the Orient was present in Bachir’s memory. And from this retrospective, it was clear that the Christians would never agree to be uprooted from this area, as many people believed they would be, and worked towards such a result… Bachir said: “ It is a fact that the Christian people of Lebanon are aware of their ancient history and distinctive culture, as well as their considerable contribution to civilization. Their long-standing heritage and noble values, bequeathed to them by one of the oldest civilizations of history, make them cling to their land and reject any notion of leaving Lebanon… or the Orient. They have therefor dug their feet in, to defend their soil, their culture and their values… they refuse to be uprooted, to emigrate, or to be displaced…

“Internal migration is a unique feature of Lebanon, as migrants usually leave their country completely…”

This insistence, on the part of the Christians, to remain where they are does not imply a decision to isolate themselves from their environment or to form separate Christian “ghettos” as some malicious tongues have described the situation… For they realize that they cannot thrive unless they play a constructive role with the other communities; this does not mean that one party should dominate the other in any field, as in the case in many other countries where the Christians are left with an insignificant role, or treated as “second-class citizens” as the Jews were, in Nazi Germany of the third Reich. They are even denied their basic rights under any constitution, and the Universal Charter on Human Rights is openly flouted by the despotic rulers of countries where they live as minorities … Bachir touches on this issue: “ After forty years experience in this part of the world, we have become fully aware of our interests, and we were determined to do all that we can to safeguard these interests and promote them in the service of our communities. As a society, we are determined to go on living in this part of the world as free individuals. Our society is an open and responsible one, having its own distinctive personality. Let us therefor exercise one of the most sacred of human rights: that of self-defense…”. On another occasion, he said: “ With all due respect to the people concerned, we refuse to be put on a par with the Copts of Egypt, or the Christians of certain Arab countries… Of course, they eat, drink, sleep and breathe like any other human being or animal, living a normal life in all respects except… that their civil and religious rights are curtailed, and they are allowed no role in the society of the countries where they live. No sir, we refuse to live like zombies!”…

For all these reasons, Bachir wanted Lebanon to be a genuine homeland to the Christians, and not simply a “national home” for persecuted minorities, or a refuge for displaced persons”…

He wanted the Christians communities to preserve all their peculiar characteristics, and to be safe from unwarranted aggression, from whatsoever quarter it may come. He wanted to safeguard their security against any hostile action, aiming at their liquidation as a minority living in the midst of a Muslim majority. And in this context, he set up a strong homeland in which the Christians could live in freedom and security. “ Our Christian society wishes to live on this land of Lebanon in freedom and peace”, he said: “We are not asking for a “national home” for the Christians, but for a homeland in which we can live free and safe, without being exposed to a new genocide. Insofar as we are concerned, we cannot endure another genocide…. This is all that we want…”. What remains to be known in this context is the limit drawn up by Bachir for the Christian community’s dealings and interactions with the Muslim community. But let us leave this point for the moment, as it will be dealt with in the fourth part of our study concerning the dynamics of the contacts undertaken between the two communities.

The Muslim Community: Definition and Roles.

Although the fundamental concern of Bachir Gemayel was for the community to which he belonged, he did not neglect the second reality staring him in the face: the existence of the Muslim community. And considering that any action at the national level undertaken would not be complete without an extensive knowledge of all its aspects, Bachir desired a broader acquaintance with the factual realities of that same Muslim community that was sharing the same life with him. He also wished to see that community plays a positive role, in which it would participate, alongside the Christians, in the construction of sound a strong element of a Lebanese society as a whole.

He said: “ The Muslim side is anxious to revert to its original Lebanese roots, because the Muslims of Lebanon have tried both experiments, and have seen where this has led them…”.

“The Lebanese Muslim today is aware of the fact that his situation differs vastly from that of Muslims in any other country… Even his personality is different from that of any other Arab Muslim. Today, he has realized this fact…”. In this case, it is not so important for the Lebanese Muslim to realize the truth of his identity as a Lebanese citizen: what is important, is that he should realize that his Lebanese identity does not strip him of his peculiar features, of the characteristics which distinguish him as a member of his community – which equally enjoys the right of total religious freedom in the exercise of the Muslim faith-. On the strength of these principles, Bachir called upon the Muslim community to play its role full in the reconstruction of the country, stressing the necessity for the operation to be shared equally between the two communities. Bachir’s intentions called for equal sharing of all responsibilities by Muslim and Christians alike, after each of the two had discovered his true identity and recognized himself as a Lebanese citizen first and foremost. He said: “ I, and my Muslim partner, are in this boat together, and once more we have recovered our full sovereignty and complete independence, we will lose no time in agreeing on all other matters. We shall then agree on sharing the carious duties and responsibilities, not the spoils… We want to return this feudal estate into a respectable and respected nation…I would like to know the extent of my responsibilities as a Christian, and the Muslim should also know his responsibilities too. Thus only, can we meet halfway…”. This meeting of Lebanese Muslims and Christians halfway requires Muslim to realize his attitude towards the Christian community and to define it frankly. It constitutes an open invitation for Muslims and Christians to be equal partners in their responsibilities at the same level. And it should not be a source of astonishment that Bachir addressed the Muslim community by putting questions to it. Notwithstanding his adequate knowledge of the deep historical roots that tie both Lebanese communities to their land, this was necessary.

Because Bachir could not take the place of the Muslims, look into their consciences, and answer the questions for them. Therefore, just as the Christian community had done, in full awareness of its roots, its historical heritage, and its unquestionable Lebanese identity, so should the Muslims do also, conducting their own research and including it with a kind of “ Referendum” to determine, once and for all, their national identity.

Inter-Lebanese Communication: Means and Interaction.

Although the picture painted by Sheikh Bachir of Lebanese society is both spontaneous and simplistic, and although this society, as it is described in the preceding chapters, is purely Lebanese in identity, in fact, constitutes the unique distinctive feature of this nation in the East, yet the real issue remains the manner of dealing that governs – or should govern - the relations between the various sections of that society. Bachir realized that the matter was not as simple as some people thought. In fact, he was convinced that Lebanon’s failure to safeguard its status stemmed from its incapacity to find a practical and realistic means of inter-Lebanese communications. But what should we then say of the famous “Formula of 43”, whereby the Lebanese had decided to live together in peace and harmony?

In this context, Bachir had a clear outlook, which does not contradict the spirit of ’43… But he boldly denounced the matter in which this formula was applied since 1943. He declared: “ The war has shaken our faith in the basic foundations of our society since 1943 till this day and we have sadly discovered that the whole thing was a cynical farce and a sinister joke…”

It is noteworthy that Bachir had a clear-cut attitude with relation to the preliminary basic constituents of the “formula”, which were elaborated on certain principles that were sentimental, to say the least, and that could not have withstood a crisis. On the other hand, Bachir put forward new proposals for a formula resting on scientific grounds, and studied thoroughly.

This new formula was inspired by the factual realities of the Lebanese situation, and Bachir therefor convened the specialists and gave them the green light to go ahead and draw up projects in the various fields. He said: “ The Lebanese Forces have been deeply engaged, for some time in studying practical means for the development of regions of stead-fastness and stability in all fields throughout Lebanon. This would be done on a modern basis, in harmony with the requirements of progress and reconstruction, in a new perspective of the Lebanese society after the experience of the war. The Lebanese will discover the joys of living once more in this triangle of stability, after their ordeals are over. In this connection, we ask all those who have skills and the necessary qualifications in their fields of construction, engineering and economics, to come forward and offer their ideas and projects to the competent bodies in the Lebanese Forces…”

To clarify the outline of these interactions which would serve as a basis for the new Lebanese society, we shall strive, in the following lines to analyze their nature in the various field: -

Firstly: Interaction within one same community.

It is obvious that Bachir should choose the Christian community as a point of departure in his definition of this interaction. He thought it wiser to “ put one’s own house in order”, before starting to tackle the wider fields at the national level. And he wished to see this Christian community serve as a model, a showpiece for all other communities to emulate. This is the reason why he had devoted all his attention and his efforts to the betterment of his own community, and sought, at all times, to achieve cohesion within the Christian groups. Time and again, Bachir urged the Christian community to be vigilant and to overcome the perils that threatened their existence, and are enduring trifling incidents without any justification. On the occasion of this gathering, I would like to stress the fact that what is needed today, more than ever, is a sound mind in a sound body…”.

“Mens Sana in corpore sano, as the ancient sages advocated. Today, we are badly in need of returning to the right path; those, among us who suffer of various complexes, must overcome these; all of us should realize the great sacrifices that we have offered for the Cause in the course of the past five years, and we should not allow those diseased minds in our ranks to throw those sacrifices to the winds, and to destroy the achievements of the Lebanese Resistance, or put them in jeopardy…” It should be noted here that Sheikh Bachir merely “invited” his followers to close their ranks and restore cohesion in their community, rather than command them to do so… they were not accustomed to such mild talk on the part of their leader. Bachir was aware of this, in his versatile character of a chief who commands respect and obedience, assuming the authoritarian tone of command when necessary, and lenifying words of paternalism on other occasions. Thus, he placed the requisites of cohesion and solidarity in a practical crucible, which was designed not only for the use of the Christian community, but also for the Muslim society as well. For he intended both to delve into this melting-pot and make use of all the positive elements available in a joint effort for the resurgence of the new Lebanon. This melting-pot should contain elements of all the representative ethnical and sectarian components of the Lebanese people, organized into distinct parties enabling them to express their views on various matters, and their aspirations for the country they desired to serve. Bachir acknowledged the fact that these disparate groupings, organized along party lines, would, in their majority, reflect the intricate pattern of Lebanese society, viz The demographic composition in its social, political and religious aspects. In this regard, he stated:

“ On this basis, we consider that the Druzes and Muslims in Lebanon should organize themselves into political parties and institutions which would express their identity, their personality and their inspirations. Only then can they meet with their Christian fellow-citizens, also through parties and institutions that express their personality, their hopes and ambitions…”

And finally , Sheikh Bachir stressed the moral aspects of the Christian society, because a sound moral code of ethics is the only thing that can ensure the information of a good citizen who values his role in society , and attaches a noble and responsible meaning to his citizenship . Bachir was not content to proclaim this in his speeches: he intended to see to it that a sound moral code of conduct was put into daily practice and he started inculcating these principles and ethics into the fighting forces. In an address to the Reservists, he said: “ You should train yourselves from now on to adopt a high code of morals, to be serious in your work, and to behave responsibly in your daily life. These qualities can only be acquired by practice and hard work…”. In keeping with these lofty principles and noble virtues stemming from a true Christian Faith, he reiterated the necessity for the young fighters to shun hatred, and to bear in wind at all times the fact that human values lie in a man’s capacity to forgive and forget, and to befriend our foe. Similarly, these same values call for an ability to preserve these virtues and to defend them, because they stem from a man’s own personality. He added: “ If we wish to circumvent the Lebanese crisis, we must first of all rid ourselves of all feelings of hatred and vindictive bitterness with which some of us are imbued. We must cast aside all impediments which conceal from our view the basic essentials without which we cannot live, and without which we cannot rebuild a sound nation in whose heritage and civilization we all firmly believe.”… He added frankly: “ We must let bygones be bygones, and rise above the antiquated tribal mentality and feudal customs with all the social decay that they engendered… But if, at the worst, we reach a point where it becomes apparent that our Lebanese entity, and our very existence are threatened by those ignorant tribal hoards reminiscent of the Dark Ages, then we shall be forced to defend ourselves and to fight…” 

We have previously explained that this was Sheikh Bachir’s method of dealing with his fellow-citizens in the Christian community, for this was the environment in which he was brought up and in which he lived. It does not mean, however, that he did not harbor an ardent desire to apply these same methods to other communities, so that they could encompass the whole of Lebanon’s society.

Secondly: Revising the relations between the Christian and Muslim communities.

In the first part of this section, we analyzed the nature of interaction between the Christian and Muslim communities in its vertical aspects. Now, what remains to be studied is the method of establishing dealings between the two communities, and this will give us an insight into the horizontal aspects of this interaction. This is a very sensitive area of the problem, as it introduces forthwith two basic postulations: The first involves an inventory of the potential fields and positive aspects that are likely to attract the two communities towards each other. (Viz Their common language, culture, traditions, history, interests an identity…)

The second implies a frank and in-depth analysis of the factors that separate the two groups, and the fields, which incite dissension and strife between them, drawing them far apart.

All these factors of harmony and points of dissension seem to be normal features in a society so complex in its plurality and in its ethnical and sectarian composition. However, this being the case, we, as Lebanese, are entitled to ask this question; Is the long crisis, that we are still enduring, a product of theses differences? And if so, what could we have done, in order to avoid reaching the point of armed conflict, and to solve these contradictions in our Lebanese society? Bachir had realized the crucial importance of this situation, and had constantly tried to clarify his own concept of the strife. He argued that, in spite of the fact that the inter-communal conflict was very real, it should not be allowed to threaten the Lebanese entity with eradication as it was on the verge of doing.

Said Bachir: “ Plurality in Lebanon is a factual reality which has asserted itself on all occasions. It’s just up to us to recognize that plurality along lines of harmonious co-existence, instead of lines of hostile confrontation…” And in order to make this reorganization realistic, effective, and capable of withstanding the various convulsions of an eventual crisis, Bachir proceeded to diagnose the delicate fabric of Lebanese society by a painstaking and precise analysis of its positive and negative factors: what were the poles of attraction? Which factors were those most likely to unite the communities? And on the other hand, where were the ferments of strives and discord? What factors were divisive ones? What were the reasons that pitted one category of Lebanese citizen against the other?

Once these were identified, his plan was to reinforce the former, and to circumscribe the latter, reducing the ominous gap to the strictest minimum… and thereby preserving Lebanon’s entity and restoring its stability and internal cohesion through a judicious shuffling of the political and social cards. Bachir had the necessary qualities to carry this Herculean task through to the end: he was a realist and a pragmatist, and his ardent love for his country fired him with incentive and filled him with energy. His diagnosis proceeded along the following methodical pattern: 

a) Security and Freedom: Those who have followed Bachir Gemayel’s statements from 1975 to 1982 will have noted his scrupulous concern for the security and freedom of all the communities living on Lebanon’s soil. And in order to ensure this, he clearly defined his concept of these two indispensable elements, saying: “ We understand security as something that safeguards individual liberties and Man’s freedom in the exercise of his values, rights, qualities, and distinctive traits; we understand freedom as a safeguard of the community’s security in its Constitutional aspects of the Law and Order. And just as authority should not be abused to constitute tyranny against the citizen, neither should freedom be constructed as license and misused to develop into rebellion against Law and Order…” One can observe here, in Bachir’s reasoning, that freedom should not be placed above the higher interest of the Nation, and that this is necessarily linked with security, which guarantees the continuous exercise of this freedom and its evolution. It is also evident that the points of concordance between the communities are clear in Bachir’s view, and that he does not emphasize them only for the benefit of the Christian community, but also for the Muslim groups, which he considers at the bottom of his heart as indissociable from the former, and both forming the nucleus of Lebanon’s pluralistic society. This particular point of convergence was absent so far in most people’s minds, but Bachir was firmly convinced of its existence and the possibility of bringing it to the surface. The negation of this point was a direct consequence of the mistrust that had grown between the two communities over the years; on one hand, the Christians were living in constant fear of the Druze and Muslim communities, and these qualms were supported by historical facts; on the other hand, the Muslims were lending attentive ears to maliciously motivated promises of protection from across the borders, and the tendentious lures of Pan-Arabism, coupled with appeals to their religious feelings… Sheikh Bachir had rejected both these attitudes on many occasions. He firmly believed that confidence could be restored between the various communities, and consequently, security and freedom. During the long last years of his struggle- sometimes with brutal frankness- he tried to rekindle that confidence so necessary to co-existence. He was bent on seeing the foreigners leave Lebanon, because he was well aware of their subversive intentions and the insidious game they were playing in widening the ago between the two communities, for it clearly served their dark interests to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims. Their leitmotiv was to instill constant fear in the hearts of the Muslims of the Christian domination over them, and pose as their protectors.

Bachir was very blunt on this point, and spoke out vehemently against those two “fished in troubled waters”, saying: “ Baseless fear have been instilled in the Lebanese Muslims by the Syrians and the Palestinians, to the effort that they would be slaughtered by the Kataeb, the Lebanese Forces, and by me, Bachir Gemayel, if they ever ventured into our districts…! This is a classical ploy, aiming at perpetuating the Syrian and the Palestinian presence in Lebanon “ad infinitum”… Here and now, I ask my Muslim brethren not to allow such absurd rubbish: And I underline this request in red ink. I can assure them that during the past 43 years of co-existence, no such incident has ever been recorded in our areas, before the Syrian and Palestinian intruders came into this country. This is mere malicious propaganda, and I beg our Muslim Lebanese brethren not to believe a word of it. For the past five years, the alien intruders have been repeating these “cliches” in order to influence events in taking a turn favorable to their policies… I tell you: Bachir Gemayel is a sword in your hands, and not a weapon pointed at your chest. !”. But at that stage, the endeavors of Bachir fell flat, and his call to the Muslims did not succeed in restoring the desired confidence within the framework of security and liberty between the two communities. Bachir therefor pinned his hopes on the future. And effectively, after some had passed, the Lebanese on the whole had gained in experience and maturity, and the Muslim community began to realize the danger of the inhibitions and the fallacious nature of the “ brainwashing” to which they had been subjected. They also began to fight for their freedom and their security. Bachir declared: “ For the first time, we now see that the Lebanese Sunnite Muslims of Beirut have started to pay the bill for their existence and their freedom, just as their Christian counterparts have done years ago. Similarly, the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims in the South have risen from their lethargy. Now is the time for all of us in Lebanon, after we have paid our bills, to join hands, and not to reply on superiors initiatives from one quarter of another. We should face realities, and meet as one people to get rid of occupation…” Here, Bachir Gemayel adamantly rejects dependence of any kind. Rather, he proposes that all parties should live in security and freedom, and this is a dream that could be turned into reality, if the Lebanese Muslim joins forces with his Christian fellow-citizens to chase the aliens out of the country. In fact, the unity of the nation begins with the unity of the resistance against occupations; there lies the way to freedom. Security is the right of every individual and community, and so is freedom… By this, what is meant is responsible freedom, without demagogy; freedom that is protected by a strong state, with the participation of all responsible individuals, parties bodies and communities, to help attain that objectives. The foreign intruders may have exploited demagogy in their time, and abused freedom, with the aim of creating fields of confrontation and areas of friction. But this will not be allowed to happen in Lebanon, because this freedom would be guaranteed by a strong State exercising flexibility in safeguarding the rights of all communities in Lebanon and their plurality. In this context, Bachir said:” We are the ones who wish for true unity of the nation, but we want this unity to be enjoyed by a free, sovereign, strong and independent Lebanon, and by all its sons, every inch of its territory. We want to see everybody in this land enjoy freedom and all their human rights, without suffering from complexes…” 

b)Education: Bachir dealt at length on the subject of education. He first considered common points that were likely to draw each of the two large communities towards the other, and then, those elements that divided these two communities towards and put them at odds with each other. Bachir did not suffer from the ‘Ostrich Complex’, which would have led him to ignore these differences, because insofar as he was concerned, they did not present a danger for the Lebanese communities as a whole if the situation were to be corrected… the two communities could be recognized, and linked together by what they had in common, and then these differences would disappear with time and patient efforts. Bachir had no objection to let community retain its own heritage, customs and civilization, because this is a fact and a reality, He further admits, with bold pragmatism, that each community is entitled to proclaim its pride in its own heritage and civilization publicly, and to include these in its educational curricula. He states:” the nation’s leaders and officials should understand that two civilizations exist alongside one another in this country, and that people are living in a pluralistic civilization. The Lebanese University has between created to remain and develop further; we do not want to have our children resume their education in the kind of climate that prevailed at the former university, which taught the student everything except the most important subjects: Lebanon’s culture, heritage and civilization…”.

Bachir stressed these facts, especially when the new branches of the Lebanese University started to operate and to develop, and he was one of its most enthusiastic advocates. On the other hand, Bachir realized that this plurality had limits in the field of education.

He knew that a pluralistic education in Lebanon inevitably had its roots in history and in a realistic perspective of Lebanese presence in “toto”… And the type of history taught in certain specific schools was, for reasons that are obvious, devoid of all facts relating to pure Lebanese history, such as was contained in the official school curricula, with the result that whole generations of Lebanese children would grow up in complete ignorance of their country’s history and civilization, and of its identity.

It is not surprising therefor, that the past few years have revealed indifference and irresponsibility on the part of those in the seats of power for the nation’s problems. With regard to the training of students, Bachir said: “ In the framework of the policies which are being planned for the Lebanon of tomorrow, we have started to train the students. Through this training, we are seeking to change the old mentality with which the State dealt with education in particular, and with the formation of our future generations in general. Thus, the decayed and corrupt curricula imposed on the students, as well as the alien programs and textbooks imposed on the teachers, not to mention other textbooks completely devoid of content, were all conspicuous for one common fact: Lebanon’s history, culture, literature and civilization were totally absent… And this is something that we shall not tolerate henceforth. We have had enough of the obscurantism at government level; down with the Philistines in our educational system: They are the evils that have led to this war and to the destruction of our nation, to the disintegration of our Institutions, and to the bankruptcy of our Treasury…”. The danger that threatens Lebanon therefor does not stem from plurality in education, as much as it stems from the crass ignorance of its educators and their sinister efforts to propagate this ignorance among the rising generations: “ Obscurum per obscuris…” Another underlying trend, of a more serious nature, is the intention of our Philistines in high places to smother the truth and camouflage those aspects of Lebanon’s history that they are bent on eradication completely. The role of a future strong State should be to ensure the perennity of our education and its protection, nay, its support and financial banking, to promote its advancement and enable it to flourish within purely Lebanese Institutions.

c) The Economic and Social Field.

Unlike the preceding points, the economic and social sectors, according to Bachir Gemayel, provide more common poles of attraction between the two major communities, and a vide scope for inter-communal harmony and cooperation.

Both sides undoubtedly advocate the maintenance of a liberal economic system, which has been the key to Lebanon’s prosperity in the past, and the benefits of which have been enjoyed by all sections of the Lebanese population without exception. As we have explained before, Sheikh Bachir wished to consolidate this sector and to recognize it on a firm and sound basis. Therefor, no differences of opinion existed as to this general principle. However, Bachir warned against the possibility of an abusive exercise of this principle, which could lead to disparities and imbalance in actual practice. For these liberal principles had also stumbled into the pitfalls of superiors freedom and demagogy, characterizing some sections of Lebanese society. This act had often given rise to widespread cases of unruly exploitation and to the domination by certain classes over others, even of cases of flagrant corruption, all of which was an undesirable situation. It also provided a scope to certain leftist circles – through wanton destruction rather than projects of reforms- to divert the situation to their own advantage. When Bachir took over the reins of initiative, he adopted some corrective measures to put a stop to all forms of abuse and exploitation of these liberties. He proposed, at the level of the nation as a whole, a scientific outlook for the Lebanese social and economic infrastructure. This tended to make of each Lebanese citizen a responsible element of this infrastructure. Bachir called upon all the Lebanese to participate in the program with loyalty and sincerity.

In this manner, Bachir Gemayel had created a solid link between the economic and the social sectors. The Lebanese citizen would carry on his work and his enterprises as usual, and the new strong State would ensure his security… and all this would be supervised at close range. Planning was to be carried out in all fields, and everything would be done to foster the nation’s development and prosperity for the common welfare of all its citizens. Said Bachir: “ This new social charter is based on five principles: Freedom, in our view, should not reach the extent of license and disorder; liberty should not be synonymous with anarchy; because anarchy is the enemy of freedom. Neither do we want planning to become a form of compulsory orientation; this would savor of autocracy, and autocracy is the enemy of production. Likewise, unbridled production is not desirable; it often leads to the exploitation of Man by Man; and favors the law of the jungle… What id needed is a moderate rate of production, in which the Lebanese individual works along-sides his fellow-citizens on a basis of equality, social justice, and job-opportunities. And just as we would like to have orderly freedom in the field of planning, so should planning consolidate freedom. We do not want production for the sake of production, but mainly to provide job-opportunities. And freedom, planning, production and equal opportunities cannot thrive without participation as a means, and organization, and sound management to back them. Thus, the social charter can be achieved through a trilateral hierarchy; the power, the employer, and the worker. This means participation, and it is the optimal method of creating a modern society…’

This outlook imposes upon us a simple reality; it shows us how intent was Sheikh Bachir on establishing sound foundations for the country’s economy which emanates from the society, and model criteria for the society which only exists and flourishes by dint of its economic system.

Sheikh Bachir had stated these five major principles in an intelligent coherent manner, blending them together in one single homogeneous body, each being organically dependent upon the other. And he contrived to make every citizen, regardless of his religious affiliation, fulfil a specific role in the plan. In this manner, Bachir found a new scope for the interaction of the Lebanese citizens, as it involved their daily life problems and everyday preoccupations. There is no necessity to proceed with a detailed analysis here of the five basic principles that Sheikh Bachir outlined further back, giving each of them a distinct meaning and stipulating the conditions for their successful application. It is enough to summarize what Bachir wished to clarify in every case. Thus, in Bachir’s view, a liberal economy in a free society and freedom is indivisible-is based on the principles of individual initiative, of private ownership, and of planning. And these principles are valid for all parts of the nation; they aim at the reconstruction and development of the country with the full participation of all its inhabitants. -Production is something that emanates from Lebanon’s human resources, and from the Lebanese individual’s extraordinary capacity for innovation, in view of the fact that Lebanon’s natural resources are very scarce. -Job opportunities for all; this is what takes into consideration the productive capacity of each individual; a cumulative proportion of the GNP is earmarked to raise the standards of living of Lebanese society. -Participation is what achieves equality among the citizens, in their responsibilities and obligations, and in the management of this new charter.

d) In the Field of Information:

In this matter, Bachir Gemayel had two resolute opinions: the first was an absolute rejection-even a virulent opposition-of the official information media, his main grievance being that it was a stipendiary of certain foreign circles hostile to Lebanon, and that moreover, it had, during the war, added fuel to the flames by propagating fallacious news items with a view to demoralize the Lebanese, and to widen the gap further between the various communities.

In fact, the official information contributed greatly to spread dissension and strife among the Lebanese communities, the inevitable result of which was to be the annihilation of Lebanon’s political entity, and dissolution of its national identity. The second of these attitudes, was Bachir’s constant concern for the truth. In this case, the citizen asked: “ what truth is Sheikh Bachir speaking about?”… In the final analysis, is truth not relative? And it is not absolute, by any means, Bachir had no desire to expound on the philosophy truth: all that he wanted from the media was a clear, courageous reporting of matters as they stood. It should not create ambiguity and anxiety in the minds of the public, by reporting that we were speaking of one thing, whereas the fact was that we were discussing a totally different subject…. Every slight event was distorted, twisted to serve certain interests, and printed in utter disregard of the truth. Bachir expected the State information to report matters in their right context, and to use terms in their correct meaning, rather than bemuse the public and develop various complexes in their minds… In his opinion, a friend was one who respected the Lebanese features and identity, and the foe was one who sought to do away with these characteristics. In Bachir’s view, this was the only manner in which Lebanese society could be given the necessary power to impose respect on others, if these believed that they could impose their domination on Lebanon. In this respect, Bachir said: “ Our area… our civilization, our true democratic society cannot possibly emerge from all these trials and ordeals unscathed, unless they first acquire lucid awareness, a clear perspective of the situation, and the faculty to tell the truth and call things by their names. In this manner at least, they shall know how to deal with us, and we shall know how we should deal with them.

However, in many cases, telling the truth was an impossible task, especially when one considers that numerous organs of information had sprung up in Lebanon, all belonging to nearby countries in the region, or financed by them. The main objective of these heteroclitic agencies was to propagate subversive ideologies of a specific nature, far removed from the national interest, and detrimental to it in most cases. For this reason, Bachir Gemayel, in a TV appearance during the summer of ’82, invited these alien organs to clear out of the country, before ‘they got kicked out by the Lebanese people’. He also invited Lebanese journalists and information agencies that were abroad to return to Lebanon in order to serve their country and participate in the development of that sector, improving it within the democratic framework of a free, responsible press, which would become the vital artery of Lebanon.

e) Facing Everyday Problems:

Besides his deep concern for the basis constituents of Lebanese society, Bachir was aware of the fact that the only way to succeed in his plans was to devote constant attention to the people’s daily problems, and to find effective means of solving them. For numerous contingencies cropped up from time to time, all of which were directly engendered by the war that was afflicting the Lebanese people for the past years. He thought that it was all very well for a leader to launch attractive theories and hypothetical cures for the nation’s ills and then be powerless to face a serious emergency… But Bachir was not made of that clay: he fully realized that the however grandiose the future projects of development and the social charters might appear on paper, they would run into complications of implementation, if the daily nagging problems generated by time were allowed to accumulate. In fact, they could even jeopardize these future plans. This incited Bachir to tackle these problems personally, and in a swift, practical manner. There were urgent labor and economic problems to be solved, and means had to be devised to prevent their recurrence.

There are numerous examples of Bachir’s personal intervention in such instances. Among these, his efficient handling of the Hotel-Dieu case; the sit-in protest of the Asfurieh Mental Home staff; strikes and protest stoppages in the textile industry, relating to a dispute over the payment of the thirteenth month (a month’s yearly bonus usually granted at Christmas), the taxi-drivers’ strike, and many other social difficulties which he solved successfully. In the field of materiel burdens piling up on the poorer classes as a result of the war, he held lengthy meetings to evolve ways and means of alleviating these burdens, and relieving those people of their major difficulties, so that he could clear the path for his plans of reconstruction and development. It should be mentioned that Bachir did not restrict his activities to the solution of problems of a specific category of the people, but he realized that these daily difficulties, in a strange paradoxical way, were a common denominator that drew the Lebanese closer to each other, irrespective of their class or category, and notwithstanding, their harsh or tragic aspects…

f) Caring for the Rising Generations:

Bachir did not forget that, whatever success Lebanon may have may have achieved in the present age, this success would be incomplete, unless new generations were prepared to carry on the good work, and take over from their elders. In his concern over this fact, Bachir did not restrict his advice to one category of society, but addressed his appeal to every body. Furthermore, he proved that his care for the younger citizens was not just talk, but was translated into action. As was his custom, he started with the Christian community, gathering children in summer holiday camps and collective orientation centers. These activities were mainly conducted by the “Help Lebanon” Association, and the young inmates of these camps always greeted Bachir with enthusiasms and warm signs of affection. They listened to him eagerly when he spoke about Lebanon, who to explore it, how to discover its hidden wonders… Bachir, how ever, did not wish to be the sole promoter of such activities which were of a delicate nature.

He realized that the starting-point was the home, under the wise guidance of the mother, and in the affective environment of the family. He therefor missed no opportunity to address the Lebanese woman, who was the foundation of all society. He told them: “ You, Ladies, have an important and essential role to play in the formation of Lebanese society. For every community that loses its humanitarian values is doomed to disintegration and extinction, and to kind of treatment can save it from that fate. The future of Lebanon is a gage deposited in the hands of mothers, wives, and sisters. I invite all of you to join hands, in order to extricate ourselves from the crisis that has engulfed us. We have already taken great strides in this direction, and events seem to be moving towards others in the region. Sooner or later, we shall attain the objectives we have set ourselves, and for which we have struggled for five years…”.

It remains to be said that Bachir wished all these fields of activity to be an uniting factor, drawing the Lebanese people closer to each other. He did not accept the situation thereby the Christian woman was entitled to play a role in her community, whereas the right was denied to the Muslim woman, in spite of modern progress and evolution. He hoped for the day when women, in the not too distant future, would enjoy these rights in all sections of Lebanese society, and that no limitations would be placed on any category of female citizens.

CONCLUSION:

A meditation on Bachir Gemayel’s thinking leads us, in conclusion, to stress the following points:

Firstly: We should not dwell in the apprehension and fears which we have lived through during these long war years. Rather, we must exercise our capacity to speak our minds, and tell the truth about facts in Lebanon. And this truth is represented by a pluralistic society, living various communities having their own distinctive civilization.

Secondly: We should not be complacent in accepting this situation, but should exert intensive efforts to reorganize these existing communities on stable lines, in the fields which are most likely to draw them nearer to each other, viz where they have points of convergence between them. On the other hand, incessant efforts should be made to reduce those points of divergence and dissension which are the cause of friction and conflict between them. But all these fundamentals would be sterile if we do not first erect a strong State that can oversee all these efforts and develop them in the desired direction, ensuring their success and continuity, so that they may not one day deviate from their course and turn into confrontation or conflict . In this context, we quote from a paragraph worthy of attention in the conclusion of Father Salim Abou’s book: “ Bachir Gemayel, or the Spirit of a People” (p.294). In it, he writes that Bachir Gemayel, in spite of his belief that the best solution for the Lebanese society lies in secularization and centralization, he considered that this realization of this idea was impossible, except in the long-term. The society which is viable today is the one that can live in its pluralism, within a strong State. And between the weak State that we have experienced since 1943, and a pluralist strong State, Bachir Gemayel chose the latter.

To conclude our journey with Sheikh Bachir, let us meditate for a moment, to learn lessons from his life, draw conclusions from his experience, and pinpoint the objectives he sought to attain during his lengthy national struggle. For they will constitute tranquilizing thoughts hereafter, and guide our steps along the right path to finish the job that he had started, and to fulfil what he had hopes to achieve before he died as a martyr.

 

 

 
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