Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When we win, what is goal #2

Since 1989, the Lebanese Patriotic Movement has nurtured in a growing majority of the Lebanese population, a national sentiment and rejection of religious segregation. The idea is to replace that with equal respect for all Lebanese. This places the members of that movement a hundred years ahead of the sectarian mafias (March 14th, and out-of-the-blue "centrists") running against it and its allies. Since the tayyar managed to achieve that, and hopefully the Lebanese voters will want to maintain this achievement, it has raised the bar for our expectations. We now want to end 4,000 years of stagnation in our culture, by engaging Lebanese talents in re-creating our society, the same talents that Lebanon has produced and driven to migrate, for millenia, without ever succeeding to attract them to stay home. The book "The Rock of Tanios" by Amin Maalouf (Goncours prize winner) is a recount of such a tale.

What made our culture, and many ancient cultures, repel its own talented people so successfully? Why did we stagnate ever since we had a golden age thousands of years ago? The reasons weren't all external, even if bullying powerful neighboring cultures might have contributed to that. There are internal reasons which I am slowly trying to understand, so we can end this stagnation. Here are a few things I noticed.
In our culture, some people are unaware of how helpful the talent of others can be to them, or perhaps they're reluctant to trust others, and out of ego I suppose try to do it all on their own. They hoard responsibilities and information to achieve this goal, and everyone collectively under-performs as a result. This is common to developing countries it seems. Maybe it's because we're an ancient cultures, and in ancient time success was the result of ruling over others. Collaboration could be a recent concept, historically speaking.

Naturally the priority of the tayyar is to first stop the government's abuse, but once that is done, we can move on to scrutinizing our culture regarding how we work together. We can make it a social goal to learn that supporting others in their work will benefit us as a society every time we do it. I heard this story about an old "opticians gang" in Lebanon that sabotages younger opticians when they open a clinic by spreading rumors about them. I contrast that with a recent meeting with an engineer and professor in the US, who proudly told me of the young student who's business he helped launch. I don't intend to generalize, but what a contrast! Ruling unchallenged versus creating talents all around us. The first motto leads to a stagnating society and the second leads to success for the person receiving support, the one giving it, and society at large.

If we teach our culture to trust and benefit from others' thinking, I can envision a very lively democracy where elected represnetatives engage the voters in every decision, no just the elections. I also envision institutes, private and public, genuinely inviting and trusting talents from the public to solve their problems. I can also picture a thriving patents' office in Lebanon yielding wildly creative technologies, and entrepreneurs and other creative people feeling supported in the Lebanese society, and encouraged to stay and serve it. These are all inexistent at the moment in Lebanon, but the movement that ended a world-supported religious segregation, might just be able to change that.

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