The title is stating the obvious. Sadly, it’s not that apparent.
It was 2011. The Egyptians took it to the streets. They removed Mubarak. A sense of pride swept around the Middle East. The “Arab Spring” they called it. Freedom this way comes. Everyone wanted to be Egyptian. Everyone was proud of Egypt.
But none so more than Lebanese.
We felt more involved in what was happening in Egypt than whatever was happening back home. Fun fact: January 2011 was our own mini coup happened. Many Lebanese wished they could become Egyptian – patriotic opioids sure run across borders.
A few months later, as the events in Syria raged and the promise of an “Arab Spring” started quickly running down wintery lanes, Egypt disappointed as well. The Lebanese sentiment quickly turned to “Morsi” et au revoir. We had gotten over it.
It is now 2013. The Egyptians took it to the streets again. They were protesting the Egyptian “winter” they had voted their country into. And Lebanon was involved anew. Nothing was wrong here at the time again. Fun fact 2.0: The army was fighting Al Assir only a few days ago and Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria. Morsi was uprooted very fast, with the help of the Egyptian army. And fireworks erupt in Lebanon in celebration. The same sentiments of people who wish to be Egyptian rose to the surface. Egypt, the beacon of democracy. Egypt, the torch of hope. Egypt, making us proud. Bigadd kan el manzar mofre7 awi awi.
Then, naturally, you get those many, many people who want whatever happened in Egypt to happen here. If they did it, why can’t we?
Well, here’s why.
Egypt is 100 times Lebanon’s size. It has 20 times its population. That population in question is divided in the following way: 90% is Muslim and 10% is Christian. Official positions in Egypt are not divided according to sectarian lines. The president, for instance, doesn’t need to be Muslim. He just happens to be every time by power of probability and mentalities.
The recent events in Egypt were bolstered by a catalyst that sped up the process remarkably: the Egyptian army. Roadmap or whatnot, it is the presence of a strong army with centralized military power that helped the 30 million or so Egyptians who protested get to where we want. Which army will help us in Lebanon if we were to have similar coups? The Lebanese army with its 60,000 personnel many of whom have ammo-less weapons while militias roam the country freely, protected by their weapons and popular support?
Moreover, I don’t believe the issues in Egypt are as politicized as they are over here. Case in point? Let’s examine the following scenarios:
What do you want to protest about in Lebanon? Electricity? I’ve just made the issue political right there. Half of the Lebanese population won’t go to my protest, even if the demands are true, simply because they’ll see it as a protest against their poster child. Let’s say I want to protest against slow internet. That same 50% of the Lebanese population will turn a blind eye to my protest for those same reasons. Now let’s say I want to protest against people like Ahmad el Assir. I’ll be joined by that same 50% which boycotted my last 2 protests while the people that attended the first two will not. In case my protest doesn’t have some undertone supported by one of the main camps of the country, good luck finding ten people to attend it – regardless of what the activists that pop up right before elections every four years say. And God forbid I try to protest against militias and arms that exist outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state, which brings me to my next point.
There are no issues in this country upon which enough Lebanese agree in order to cause change. Hezbollah’s weapons? Half of the country hates them. The other half adores them. The weapons stay. It’s that simple. The regime? the governing half doesn’t want it changed because the people it likes are in power. The other half wants it changed just because the people it likes are not. What alternative regime do we want? I’m willing to bet I can’t find a sizable portion of this country that can agree on a format. You only need to go back to the electoral law discussions and how very, very few Lebanese branched out from the rhetoric being spewed by their political party of choice (especially Christian parties) when it comes to the electoral law they see best. Party say, person do.
Egypt not being as divided on sectarian lines as Lebanon means the sectarian sentiment that is overflowing here doesn’t exist as much there. Sure, many Egyptian Muslims hate the Copts (and vice versa) but the same exists in droves over here while we pretend otherwise. The sectarian sentiment overload doesn’t only cloud people’s judgement regarding so many things in the country, it also limits whatever actions they would be willing to do to what’s best for their sect. Sect say, person do. Case in point: the amount of non-religious Christians who wanted the Orthodox law, of non-religious Sunnis who believe their sect is being threatened and of non-religious Shia who’d be the first to take weapons if you approach Hezbollah.
Moreover, many of those same people who want Lebanon to become Egypt would, in case elections happened next week, vote for the same people all over again. I’m not saying they shouldn’t vote for whoever they want to vote for. It’s their vote, their choice, they can do whatever they want with it. But it is downright hypocritical to preach for change and not act out on it when the going gets tough just because some people cannot fathom not voting for the people they’ve liked for years.
What I thought people learned back in 2011 is that the models of the countries in which revolutions happened cannot be applied here: you cannot extrapolate Egypt onto Lebanon. And yet people seem to want to do it anyway. The fact that Egypt and Lebanon are incompatible doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It simply means that if any change were to be done in this country, we need to find our own formula. As of now, we have none. Lebanon is not Egypt and I, for one, don’t want it to ever be.