Lebanese Christian Egoism

Fake-sympathy.

That’s what many Lebanese Christians express to news that touch upon other parts in the country but not them. Of course, it’s not necessarily an attribute to that part of Lebanese society. I’m sure all other sects indulge in the act of caring while not really caring.

But when it comes to Christians in Lebanon, we take this act to a whole new level as we glorify ourselves in the process.

Here’s a conversation that took place this morning which I was lucky to observe. Let’s call the three characters Elie, Georges and Joseph.

Joseph: did you hear that Beirut was up in flames last night?
Georges: really? What happened?
Joseph: two Sunni sheikhs were beaten up and roads were cut as a result.
Elie: I heard Sunni militants beat up people of other sects as well with the army standing there looking.
Joseph: I don’t expect otherwise.
Georges: Do you know which areas were affected?
Elie: You know, typical West Beirut.
Georges: Meaning?
Joseph: Enno, shi matra7 honik. Ass2as, Verdun, whatever.
Elie: Aslan mannon sha3b tarsh… The whole country is screwed because of them.
Joseph: 100%. You would never see such a thing with us.
Georges: Yeah, thank God we can actually think for a change.

The Elie in question is not me – I had to put it out there because some people like to call me an Islamophobe. Fa ktada l touwdi7 .

Many Lebanese Christians actually think they are outside of the current debacle in the country, or as it is commonly known the Sunni-Shia feud, simply because they are better people, they know better, they are more educated and are simply above such petty acts.

The civil war, which was partly caused by Lebanese Christians clinging to the power the French gave them against every thing (that’s not to say others wouldn’t have done the same), was a pure act of civility from the part of the Christians.

But wait. The Civil War is behind us, they’d say. We are better than that now, they would explain.

I’d like to see this Christian civility that they often speak of when somehow we’re thrown in the midst of any Lebanese conflict. With the presence of the mentalities similar to those of Elie, Georges and Joseph what “civility” are we talking about?

The most prevalent thing in our societies today is a severe bout of egomania. You know what they say: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And we’re all big with nothing but emptiness inside – the fall is going to be one beautiful thing to behold.

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26 thoughts on “Lebanese Christian Egoism

  1. You had the change to “observe” this conversation but did you at least get a change to get involved and steer it in a direction that would at least get these three guys to get out of their old way of thinking? Did you get the chance to make a little change where it matters? There with those guys instead of here on the internet where these guys probably will never show up?

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  2. how surprising… I’m Sunni, myself, but most of my friends are Christians and I’ve always thought of Christians as loving, caring people. It would never cross my mind that Christians would think like that about us.”The whole country is screwed because of them.”
    “You would never see such a thing with us.”
    “thank God we can actually think for a change.”
    Those sentences broke my heart.

    Reply
    • Not everyone thinks this way obviously and your friends may not be those people but this actually exists and I’m sure it manifests in other sects and parts of the country too but I wouldn’t know.

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  3. Ok ill write it again.
    First of all, i have to salute you for your objectivity and bravery, it’s not easy to engage in honest introspection and self-criticism. It really takes guts to criticize your cult infront of ‘others’.
    Regarding the facts in the post, lebanese people in general ( and christians mostly) do suffer from a profound sense of grandiosity and an illusion of superiority (no matter how much we try to conceal it there’s always this little narcisst in each one of us), especially towards other arabs. This is contrasted by feelings of inferiority in front of ‘white people’. This is shared with all arabs too, unfortunately.
    On the other hand, as a muslim, I can’t deny that we do have many serious problems ourselves. We shouldn’t just see ourselves as victims and deny that we do have a hand in this. I think muslims, from all sects, should engage in sincere and honest introspection and self-criticism in order to improve and change. We are in desperate need for a cultural and intellectual awakening, and this rarely comes easily.
    My father has an interesting approach on the matter: Christrianity precedes Islam by almost 500 years, which means that they had much more time to evolve. All the crap that was faced by the europeans in the medieval ages are now being faced by the muslims, it’s like an inevitable cycle of civilization. Every civilization/culture has to go through severe turbulence and a series of depressions in order to evolve and improve, no society is born perfect.

    Sorry for taking too long. And there’s also one thing to add. While the christian-muslim relationships are apparently well,
    we can’t deny that there is a massive psychological barrier between the two groups. This opens a whole new discussion this is not the place for it lol.
    Well i really think I should shut up now lol.

    Reply
    • Some people take self-criticism for self-hating so I’m glad you see it that way. I know that this isn’t a Christian-exclusive thing as I made clear in the beginning. But I’m not living around everyone else as I am with the people who were discussed in this.
      The approach to Islam, which you mentioned, is not one that I haven’t heard before and I think it rings true. The problem is that the “dark ages” are manifesting in a world of 7 billion, 1 of which are Muslim, which tends to bring things way out of proportion.

      And I fully agree with that last point. The divide in the country has never been tackled – it’s been always patched up with a smile and an “we’re all better now.”

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  4. I don’t know about what what goes on in your living room….
    I kept my comments to myself the first time you wrote about this subject…
    Now its just getting ridiculous!

    Since I read and respect your blog……I thought I should point out that many, if not most ,families do not relate to what you have been trying to prove or at least have been extremely writing about.

    I know that you’re very liberal and have developed the notion that writing about taboo will get you a scoop and higher your ratings.
    Unfortunately, you are doing it wrong.

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    • The above post did not go on in my living room. It went on in a carpooling car, with three Lebanese Christians who happen not to be related to me in any way whatsoever. They are not all men. They also happen to be from different Lebanese sects.
      I might as well record these conversations every single time they happen around me – not in my living room – make the voices harsher and post them for the whole world to see.
      I didn’t say ALL Christians are like this, I said they are many. And if you think that most Christians are not this way then either you lived in some form of Christian lala-land when you were here or you’ve been far from here for way too long.

      For the record, these are not the type of posts that get me the hits and I definitely don’t write them to get the attention. Doing it wrong is digging a hole in the sand and sticking one’s head in it so deep it might as well not come out again.

      Reply
  5. Some people are quite pressed (referring to one comment in particular) or are in so denial I suggest therapy. Do you know any decent drugs for that Elie?

    Great piece btw and it is sadly true.

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  6. Being a self-hating Maronite, as you are, isn’t really all that appealing to be honest. It’s about time someone told you that. It’s sounds childish and rather immature.

    Reply
    • I’m a self-hating Maronite? LOL. If anything, I’m not a self-absorbed Maronite who can’t see beyond his finger. And I pity anyone who isn’t at least oh-so-slightly self-critical about how things are in his community.

      Childish and immature? Okay.

      Reply
  7. I remember being irked to no end by Lebanese grandiosity and stupid egoism when I was a teenager in Lebanon in the 1980s. Now, I just understand it as a symptom of massive insecurity in our culture. And what don’t we have to be insecure about!?! Maybe it’s more pronounced with the Christian population because of that constant fear that their existence (or worse, their influence/power/money/status in Lebanon) is in danger – i.e. they fear becoming like all other Christian populations in the Arab world. Maybe it’s just the Eastern Mediterranean “superiority mentality” at play (have you ever listened to Greeks, Turks or Israelis talk about how wonderful their cultures are and how crappy all others are?? Ya maHla Lebanese grandiosity…).

    I was lucky enough to go to an international school abroad as a child with lots of different nationalities and religious backgrounds (lots of other Arabs, but also lots of Westerners) and I hardly saw those types of grandiosities or insecurities the way I observed them in Lebanon later on (my family moved back to Jounieh when I was 12). Reason? Not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with people generally caring less about their differences and more about finding delight in their similarities.

    IMHO, we haven’t really lost the Civil War mentality (we never solved our internal societal issues that led up to the war, instead we just were forcibly told to move on and pretend we all were ok again). This is a generality, of course: there are plenty of people, in parts of Beirut especially, who have put sectarian identities aside and don’t make the stupid disparaging remarks that you overheard, but the change in Lebanon, as a whole, has been happening way too slowly and without a serious, national-based effort.

    Or maybe I’ve been away too long (20+ abroad with regular short visits) and am out of touch…
    In any case, I really like your blog. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • I agree that the civil war divide has never been fixed but patched up with some form of rudimentary social stitches that are tearing at the seams now that the divide in the country’s components is growing bigger again and this manifests in what I tried to show here.
      A lot of people won’t obviously admit this is true and would rather believe I’m being harsh, melodramatic and immature. But it’s the way it is. Comes with the territory I guess.

      I haven’t really gotten the chance to experience life abroad as extensively as you have. I’ve only lived for a month in France. However, the French were much more self-hating than we are. The ones I met barely liked their country and basically even hated their own national anthem. Silly examples, sure, but try to find someone in Lebanon who’s willing to open up this way to a foreigner.

      And thank you for reading.

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      • Yup: you’re being harsh, maybe a little melodramatic (basita – it’s all good), but certainly not immature. I think you’re doing a good service by airing out the dirty laundry. Of course, I’d like to see more Lebanese across all spectrums doing this too. In the end, it’s not for gossip’s sake, or to seed discord amongst ourselves, but rather because we need to be a little more honest with one another as Lebanese (which I think the younger generation does better than the older) and then take the next steps of healing our country instead of being stuck in 1991.

        Re: your observation of the French vs Lebanese: One reason we’re not like that, I think, is because the Lebanese (along with other Arabs) are so maligned in the eyes of the outside world today (rightly or wrongly), that our immediate reaction to foreigners enquiring about our country is a very defensive one and I’ve been guilty of it myself (“We’re not terrorists! Really! We’re fun loving hedonists! You like to party? Well, we can party harder than anyone! You like serious history? Well, check out our history – you got Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, etc, etc…! You like food? Man, you’re gonna have hummos and tabbouli coming out of your ears! Ski and swim on the same day! The SAME DAY!”).

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        • Exactly, I think being honest about such things is what this country lacks. Everyone hides behind their facade of “everyone loves each other” and pretends this is really the case when it might not be even rooted in reality.

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  8. Most Lebanese Christians I know think this way and they are the first people who would be outraged at reading something like this and say this is not accurate.

    Being brutally honest is what this country needs. People need to not look at this negatively but more as an issue that has to be fixed .

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  9. Honestly Elie, i think you might’ve been smarter and changed the form of all this. Instead of copying a conversation which could (and would) make other religions angry and revengeful, i suggest you convey your message in a rather objective manner. Writing all this with “Lebanese Christian Egoism” and “fake-sympathy” as a title surely doesn’t make what you want clear. Some Christians might get your message, but what does that leave for Muslims(most?) Hatred. I’m sure you as a Christian wouldn’t want that would you? Just do not forget the freedom of expression here. You are an example of why this freedom shouldn’t be given to us.

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    • So your idea is to stick our heads in the sand because it’s too “dangerous” to be honest?

      Okay. I’m glad that you think my freedom of speech should be limited.

      Reply
  10. Are people seriously thinking similar convos don’t happen on the other side as well? The entire country is fucked and I commend the writer for being this candid. At least he’s not hiding behind his finger and saying everything is peachy!

    Reply

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