Friday, November 5, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Personally, I found his piece to be refreshing. The French influence is often dismissed in contemporary talk on the Levantine state. Enjoy these observations from a man in Beirut.
October 25, 2010
In my experiences, there are three major, foreign, "cultural competitors" at work in Lebanon which help to construct the contemporary "worldly" identity which is a facet of the Lebanese people's meta-identity. They are the "Francophone," "Anglophone," and "Islamophone (which is split between the "Iranian" and the "Saudi")" Lebanons. These cultural competitors do not always exclude one another, and at times, and in different Lebanese people, co-operate, and come into conflict. It is a useful excercise to explore how these cultural competitors function in Lebanon, because they are the contemporary vehicles in which a great many Lebanese people intellectually explore the world outside of Lebanon's borders. And without their influence, Lebanon would not be able to hold the pulse of the world as routinely as it does.
For this "Bon Jour From Beirut" dispatch, I would like to discuss "Francophone" Lebanon, which is in many ways the Lebanon that non-Lebanese are introduced to, and sometimes led to "hate," when they study the recent history of the Lebanese people. This is, in my opinion, a consequence of the controversy that surrounded even the idea of the creation of a "Lebanon" that was distinct from the countries that surrounded it, and the decades-long struggle that ensued to maintain it. While it might be convenient to suggest that a great many of Lebanon's contemporary issues are the product of the historical influence of "Francophone" Lebanese, that would be a blatantly unfair, and in my experiences, untrue, assertion to make.
Francophone Lebanon is perhaps the most famous historical example of the Lebanese people's willingness, their need, to orient themselves to the outside world. Following the conclusion of WWI, and the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Lebanon came under the control of the French, who maintained an at times strong, and at other times tenuous, hold on the country. It was with French approval and encouragement that the modern nation-state of Lebanon, within its present borders, was created. The original flag of the Lebanese Republic was designed to mimic the French tricolor, with the now iconic green cedar reduced to residence on a small portion of the left-hand side of the flag (please refer to Picture #1 attached with this dispatch). Although that flag did not last long, it demonstrated that, from the very beginning of Lebanon's existence as a modern nation-state, it would be France, and French cultural production, that would seize the imagination of a great number of Lebanese people.