By Veli Mbele
Like the unfolding tragedy in Zimbabwe, the current political upheaval in Lebanon has long captivated the international relations buff in me. This is not just because of the intricate nature of the internal convulsions of Lebanon, but also because of their implications for the region referred to as the Middle East.
What is happening in Lebanon currently is connected to some of the major and old inter-state conflicts in what is referred to as the Middle East (particularly as it relates to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Saudi-Iranian proxy conflicts in the region).
At face value, what is happening in Lebanon (and other parts of the Middle East), looks like just another domestic upheaval, however, it is actually both a regional and global conflict that is manifesting at domestic level in Lebanon. As stated, for decades, Lebanon has been central to the various inter-state conflicts in the Middle East, many of which are proxy imperialist conflicts between western and middle Eastern plutocrats.
This phenomenon of Lebanon as a canvas on which foreign conflicts are waged has resulted in decades of political instability and conflict, the dysfunction of the political system (which was built on a shaky foundation), rampant looting by political elites, state brutality (detentions, abductions, assassinations), vulgar inequality, deep political discontent and periodic rebellions by ordinary Lebanese. My primary interest in the Lebanese political situation and others is in how global imperialism (with the collaboration of the native comprador political class), continues to shape and define internal political conflict within states and regions, today.
The broader point I am making is that we can’t fully grasp the political conflict in South AfriKKKa or any other Afrikan state today if we don’t study the nature and character of global history (and in particular that of global imperialism). You would also recall that, during much of last year, I delivered international relations commentary on #NewsRoomAfrika. Lebanon was one of the countries I dissected. Lebanon fascinating me so much that I decided to write a couple of reflective international relations essays, which essays I believe can deepen our understanding of the political convulsions in South AfriKKKa, Zimbabwe and the entire Afrikan continent Below are two of those.
HAVE WE ENTERED A NEW EPOCH IN HUMAN HISTORY?
I am not sure if you’re seeing what I am seeing. The history and international relations buff in me notices that there are currently various forms of popular rebellions in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Hong Kong, Chile, Nicaragua, Haiti, Iran, Lebanon etc. Many of these rebellions are youth-driven. There are calls for governments to step down. In reaction, in some countries, the state has been very brutal (killing and kidnapping people). This happens even in countries where the governing parties have anti-colonial or anti-imperialist credentials.
There is also now a new thing of the state security apparatus shutting down the internet as a tactic to disable the capacity of the protesters to mobilise through social media platforms. For instance, the youth protesters of Hong Kong have essentially redefined the art of using digital platforms as tools of protest. While there are historical causal factors in some countries such as long-standing nationalistic sentiment (as in the cases of Catalonia or the Kurds)-one of the pervasive factors is that, many of these popular rebellions are also sparked by abrupt increases in the prices of basic commodities and increases in taxes.
Whatever the factors that trigger these rebellions, the reality is that many of the affected countries have vulgar and unsustainable levels of inequality, repressive and trigger happy governments, obscenely wealthy plutocrats (corporate capture) and large numbers of economically depressed young people. It is clear that the citizenry (especially the young people) of these countries-are sick and tired of suffering in silence and it is just a matter of time before some of these repressive governments collapse. Again, this is unsurprising because the populations of many countries are becoming younger.
These young populations and the generally marginalised sections of society are increasingly organising themselves and fighting back against the self-serving- repressive- predatory elites of their respective countries or corporates. In my view, they are not simply demanding social and economic justice. What they are actually calling for (knowingly or unknowingly)-is a radically different and new set of social, economic and political relations. Essentially, a just order wherein the resources or wealth of societies benefits all, not a few (this is an old demand finding new generational expression).
There is perhaps a more fundamental reason why these rebellions should not surprise us. We are living in an era that is characterised by unprecedented levels of inequality, within and between states. To put this in perspective, the world’s richest 1% own more than half of the world’s wealth, the cities with the most billionaires in the world are New York, Hong Kong, Moscow and Beijing and the 20 richest people in the world are mainly white and male.
This era is also one wherein people can (within minutes) use their mobile devices to find out what is happening within their respective countries or other parts of the world. This makes it possible for marginalised groups to import and export rebellions. Equally interesting, we are now also in an era wherein communities and in particularly marginalised groups, are increasingly organising political rebellions without the assistance or guidance of classical liberation movements or political parties.
Do these rebellions suggest a growing distrust by marginalised groups (especially the youth) for classical liberation movements or political parties? Something akin to ending traditional hierarchical political modes with new decentralised localised modes of politics? Most curiously, does all of this not bring into serious question Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ thesis that postulates that the world has reached an evolutionary cul de sac and that liberal democracy and free-market capitalism represents the final stages in the evolution of human history? Have we entered a new epoch in human history?
CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL REBELLIONS: ARE THEY A CALL FOR A TOTALLY NEW WORLD ORDER?
Have you noticed that there are growing political rebellions in almost all parts of the world? While some have been raging for decades now, some are fairly recent. And unsurprisingly, the mainstream corporate media doesn’t focus or report on all these rebellions. Examples of ignored or under-reported ones include the over 50-year-old liberation struggle of the indigenous Black people of West Papua, that of the indigenous people of Diego Garcia or that of the indigenous people of Chiapas in Mexico, under the leadership of the gallant ZAPATISTA revolutionary movement.
At face value, these are often reported as situations of ordinary citizens simply rising up against their own governments, as a result of one or the other policy issue or a decision by their governments. Is this really the main cause? In my view, at the heart of most of these rebellions is growing economic misery of the excluded social groups in these countries and with this, a growing sense of alienation, frustration and anger and to add insult to injury, the growing wealth and power of the plutocrats of these countries.
The domestic plutocrats in these countries are often proxies for an exclusive global cabal of plutocrats (in the West, Middle East and Asia). And this is why it is important to always make a distinction between rebellions that are manufactured or sponsored by imperialism itself and those that are legitimate, organic and authentically anti-imperialist.
This distinction is particularly important if we are to understand why there is incessant or periodic political upheaval in such places as the DRC, Sudan, Mali, Burundi, Cameroon, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Haiti and more recently, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Georgia.
A closer look at some of the key demands in most of these rebellions (the legitimate and organic ones), also suggests a growing trust deficit between the economically excluded citizenry and the predatory political elite (many of which are dynasties). This means in many of these countries, the ordinary citizenry has lost trust in the existing mainstream political system and the political parties that are part of it.
At a much deeper level, much of what we are seeing today is a total rejection of and rebellion against the hegemonic- authoritarian- militaristic- violently exploitative global political order that is anchored on the Washington Consensus philosophy/neoliberalism. This then suggests (to me at least), these rebellions are not simply against a particular leader, political party or government. They are inspired by something much more fundamental: a call for a totally new world order, and with it, corresponding human relations.
A world order wherein the right to self-determination, full control over natural resources and the territorial independence of peoples (especially indigenous peoples), shall be paramount and not under any clear or present danger. A world order wherein the sanctity of human life (and all living things) shall be the supreme principle that informs human relations and the social, political and economic organisation of society and the world order. These are my casual musings. Let me hear what you think.
Veli Mbele is an Afrocentric essayist, political historian and secretary of the Black Power Front.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vernac News.