A Nation of False Perceptions

As our social environment is constantly observed without perspicacity, we naively convince ourselves of irrelevant assumptions. It is sadly a clear sign of a defective mental faculty: perception. As we all know, cause and effect are two sides of one fact. However, this order of things should not be reversed by considering the effect as the cause, or vice versa. Our concern is not weak acuity or perverse understanding, but the realization of a significant “change of perspective”.

More to the point, and with reference to Bergson: “the eyes see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend”. In other words, we either wrongly perceive, or do not perceive at all, what our mind does not know or is not even capable of knowing. Hence, an adequate and sufficient mental supply remains a fundamental prerequisite for the efficiency of our perceptive mechanism and analytical process.

As far as Lebanon is concerned, immense diversity and strong intersections continue to characterize its society. De facto, and within the borders of confessionalism – by definition, the Lebanese political system, individualizing it among its fellow Arab States – we cannot ignore the fact that diversity is a very fragile notion which should be managed with wisdom, care and understanding. It is a matter of crucial importance on the religious, cultural, and political levels. As it could easily shake the system, such richness might rapidly turn around to become a source of worry, disturbance and conflict.

In reality, diversity in Lebanon is not fully comparable to the American melting pot. While the former consists of discernible confessional groups, the latter is basically made of a unique ethnic blend. In other words, confessional bodies continue to place religion as their primary refuge, or by chance, equally with national belonging.

Moreover, the mere affirmation of belonging to a nation appears to be irrelevant without combining and applying its core conditions. In a conference given at Sorbonne University in Paris, Ernest Renan defined the nation and focused on “the embracement of a common legacy, and the shared desire of persistence”. Transposing his thought to the Lebanese reality, we ask ourselves: if the past is controversial, and the present provocative, what kind of future is being built? No matter how unconventional, we should start from the end and pull back the future we aspire for.

Furthermore, and as previously said, diversity could show its cruel and merciless side by the one foolishness of its mismanagement. Unfortunately, radical confessional belongings and blended political connections are transforming our nation to an arena for powerful and decisive international poles. We have been hardly the directors of our own fate, and numerous conflicts might have been quasi-generated by the influence of these foreign third-parties. People must not be deceived and pushed to fight for simulated scenarios, and motions of resolution must stop approaching the artificial side of the conflict.

In conclusion, perception remains a very subjective activity, highly relative to our viewpoint. For that reason, fellow citizens should no longer be perceived as an inner threat. The other should be perceived from the positive angle of “one nation”, and not negatively considered as an opposite for his only difference. It is true that he is not a substitute, but he is somehow complementary. Therefore, eyes shall aim at a common ground upon which the desire for a durable and united persistence can rest. Finally, it is impossible to standstill, witnessing the disintegration of a society where identities are tightly held in an atmosphere of panic and distress. Such carelessness would expose it to a real danger of peril: the seizure of a shattered unity.


Paul M. Klimos