Friday, March 05, 2004
The Lebanese system is the only one that I know of that has loyalists and oppositionists within the same cabinet.
It's not uncommon to have cabinet ministers who are critical of the very government they comprise of.
Watching television interviews with certain Lebanese ministers, I'm reminded of those sitcoms or comedy movies where a character is living some sort of intricate convoluted double life.
This is what it looks like to me - the Minister, speaking as a loyalist, defends the government, but, moments later, runs of the set to the wardrobe room and frenetically changes his clothes, puts on a wig and a Groucho Marx moustache, glasses and eyebrow mask and runs back on to the set to make oppositionist sounds, changing his voice to a movie-Nazi accent ("ze government has run out of stim").
Another popular form of dissimulation is for governments and regimes to criticize themselves.
The first time we heard this we were quite impressed but, eventually the novelty wore off, and we cottoned on to the fact that this was just a ploy designed to disarm, co-opt and pacify the masses – beat them to it, head them off at the pass, steal their thunder!
In this age of spin, totalitarian governments spin their negative performance into circuit- breaking safety valves that they hope will appease us.
Here in the Middle East we get that sort of statement everyday, "we were wrong, the situation is dire, we can do better, etc" (our businesslike businessman Prime Minister/majority shareholder is the champion of this sort of thing, especially in his "candid" and "frank" conferences with businesspeople, students etc) and, then, they just leave it there, stop!
That may impress the few people who haven’t heard it before – Jane Smith, 8lbs 4ozs, 53cm, who was born yesterday - but it won't wash with all of us who have heard it all before.
Whilst admitting a problem is halfway towards solving it, when this is merely used as a ploy and an end rather than a beginning we are all doomed to permanent residency in the "halfway" houses our rulers have built for us.
The government and the opposition are just different sides of the same coin.
Where most of our political players now are isn't due to their convictions but where they were and the chair they dashed for when the world turned off the music in 1990 (the same world that turned it on in 1975) and ended the senseless game of musical chairs that was the Lebanese uncivil war.