It’s a simple yet powerful motto that aims to build confidence raise self-esteem and teach people that they can choose their actions, be in charge of their life and own the results and the consequences instead of blaming them on something or someone else. In the context of Lebanon the words become, “All the power is yours and for your hands only.” In a way, each Lebanese seems to be living this virtual reality all the time directly or indirectly.
Proof of it can be found everywhere: From traffic, to markets, and business, this twisted view has been engrained in government bodies, media outlets, official institutions and the streets filled with militias or local gangsters or useless, brainless bodies roaming the streets trying to find a role for themselves or fabricate a reason to exist. On any given trip to Lebanon, one of the above failed scenarios, or a host of them, will get to you no doubt.
The Lebanese people, known for their strong adaptation capabilities, learned to live with it. They will cuss or curse, they will complain about it in their neighborhood gatherings or small circles around coffee or a drink, but for the most part they live with it and they think that the power is in their hand - to ignore it - rather than do something about it or change it. An upgrade of the antiquated electoral law stayed on the books for four years waiting for parliament approval. At the last minute parliamentarians unanimously voted to extend their term by seventeen months rather than do their job and find a solution.
Call me crazy but how can “elected” members of parliament extend their own term, thus rewarding themselves for one of their most shameful failures? They simply felt the power in their hands and acted on it; no one stopped them. Where are the people who elected them to yell and scream and get them out with their tails between their legs?
It is true, the power is in your hands, but if you don’t do something with it, you will become a victim and a prisoner of the same power you relinquished.Octavia Nasr
Furthermore, some Sunni Sheikh with a small but armed following crowns himself defender and representative of Sunnis in Lebanon and takes a whole region hostage, terrorizing its civilians and dragging the country down a sectarian divide it has not healed from yet and might never be able to. The clashes widened and claimed more deaths, injuries and destruction because so many felt that power in their hands and wanted to put it to some use.
Whether you agree with Sheikh Assir or not, you cannot really blame him, in a country where another group, Shiite this time, highjacks an entire country anytime it wishes only because it believes the power is in their hands. It’s a failed country with a track record of failed governments, showcasing failed institutions and a failed infrastructure. The power is in every hand except the hands it needs to be in. The law is abused at the hands of greedy and selfish politicians. Security is abused at the hands of angry and arrogant militiamen, and the Lebanese people are abused at the hands of a hate-based, revenge-driven sectarian system. The Army, the police and the many good people of Lebanon, honest politicians and genuine activists included, are taken hostage every day by a plethora of archaic ideologies, greedy agendas, foreign interests, bloodthirsty warmongers and unpatriotic power-hungry politicians.
It is true, the power is in your hands, but if you don’t do something with it, you will become a victim and a prisoner of the same power you relinquished.
The grim and dangerous picture in Lebanon today is very clear and does not need a genius to analyze. If you don’t stop believing the propaganda today, if you don’t stop empowering the abusers and put an end to their failures, they will take you down an abyss of ignorance and backwardness that only they can operate in. Lebanon is in danger from its own people as well as “outside hands and gloves,” some secret and others operating openly. My plea to you good Lebanese today is to put the power in the right hands once and for all. You can still do it today; tomorrow you might be able to!
This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on June 25, 2013.
Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.