An inferiority complex linked to Lebanon’s colonial past is responsible for Macron failing in Lebanon. But maybe his racist rant about Islam might fix that.
Is there no end to Emmanual Macron’s gaffes in the Muslim world? It almost feels as though they roll in on a weekly basis and have given journalists a new Trump-like subject to busy them, distracted away of course from the more serious subjects of the day.
But attacking Islam is no joke. And one has to wonder whether the sanity of Macron is all there, a point made by the Turkish President recently when he suggested the French President was losing his mind. Macron’s response, if anything, was both a strong indication that there may be a grain of truth in the accusation plus an inglorious display of Macron’s sensational loathing of the free press. He immediately recalled the French ambassador from Ankara. The tantrums also seem to be like a never-ending stream which hardly do anything for Macron’s credibility in the region. Oh là là.
And credibility is key.
Whilst the author Tarek Cherkaoui is bang on to point out how this Islamophobia subterfuge by Macron is doomed from the off – reminding us of what happened with Nicolas Sarkozy back in the day when he tried the same stratagem with disastrous consequences – he misses the point about Macron and the Arabs.
Macron sees himself as some kind of T E Laurence figure, revered by the unruly Arabs who can lead them to build their own destiny and restore their dignity. But Lawrence, lived with these people, learnt their languages and was so adored by them, that they anointed him as one of their own ultimately making him a subject of hate and ridicule by the British themselves.
Macron by contrast is woefully ignorant of the peoples, the history and the region and comes across as a political tourist lost in the smoke and ashes of the Beirut bomb explosion. Who can forget his reaction to a lady heckler who chastised him? He moved quickly to smother her with his Gallic hug, squeezing the air out of her lungs to silent here therein. Genius. Deft. Desperate.
The real problem with Macron and the Arab world is that he hasn’t done his homework and can’t be bothered to learn about Arabia and Islam. And the Arabs feel it and see it. They know when they’re presented with fake goods. This is the heart of the malaise now which he is facing with some countries boycotting French goods. Speaking so unfavourably towards Islam and tarnishing so many with the same spoiled brush without even being able to recite one line of the Koran or knowing anything about the history of the Islamic world, is a gross insult which will be remembered for a long time and surely won’t get him the vote from millions of Muslims in France, but might get him some votes from the hard right. If he really understood Islam, or even the terrorism ideology which attaches itself to it, he might have guessed that his comments about the religion might have sparked an Al Qaeda call for a jihadist attack on France, following both Macron’s comments about Islam and a teacher’s caricature of the prophet.
Of course, shoring up the hard-right vote might have been his intention right from the start. Beleaguered by polls which show that he’s in real trouble in securing a second term, he has opted for the nationalistic vote.
Political shenanigans are really all that Macron is all about. And spin. We don’t expect much, certainly not in the Middle East anyway, from the French leader who proves time and time again he only has the requisite soundbite to contribute to the troubles of the region and not the meat-and-gravy of any solid strategy.
Of course, his recent spat with President Erdogan of Turkey runs deeper each day that passes with Turkish exploration in the Mediterranean remaining unchallenged, pushes deeper the thorn in the side of the French president.
And yet Macron’s failures in the Arab world, including this recent tone-deaf anti-Islam rant, are remarkable in that they are compounded by his failure to seize opportunities. Isn’t that, after all, the feral, singular purpose of all politicians? To grasp opportunities when they are presented. Like a fat trout, facing the current, motionless, who seizes the fly which drifts past his nose? Strike!
Oh Lebanon! What now?
But not Macron. Lebanon could have been an opportunity for him to rise above the stench of rank impotence and achieve something. All the ingredients were there. The world’s media for a few days was camped there and was ready for the Macron walkabout. The Macron sound bites. And the Macron bold statements.
But even the Christians of Lebanon find Macron’s intervention repugnant. The Lebanese are deeply complexed and complicated people who really do borrow money they can’t afford to pay back, to buy modern day trappings to impress their neighbours who they despise. Yes, this is the Lebanese. Frail, sensitive, vulnerable and probably the most self-conscious people of the entire region who think first about their profile and public image before anything else. The Lebanese who go to the tanning spa before they go to the beach clad in make-up; the Lebanese who buy an expensive car to park at the front of the apartment block to impress the neighbours, but can’t afford to drive it so ride to work on a moped each day; the Lebanese who are so insecure, that they cannot cope with any kind of professional criticism without practically having an ugly breakdown of some sort while attacking those who offer the advice. The Lebanese who have invented a non-confrontational society where friends and colleagues enter a sort of ‘Truman show’ zone each day of faking everything in front of one’s contemporaries; the same Lebanese who have surely the largest inferiority complex in the entire Arab world in the proximity of westerners who they are attracted to, like a moth to a flame, but also hate so virulently.
How did Macron imagine he could just rock up and tell Aoun, Hariri, Berri et al to stop stealing the money and get better at hiding corruption?
The problem Macron has is not only with the corrupt elite, but those who support them. Many Lebanese just reject Macron’s offer of helping, simply because of these complexes which are just one of the many insecurity pangs which make them so unique. An anti-colonialist mentality has been wheeled out (yawn), perhaps even encouraged by political leaders who can’t see the brown envelope of cash for them in the Macron offer, so reject it, naturally. The word ‘connerie’ (which translates to English, literally, as arsehole-ery) has been modified to Macronerie by these same feeble people who presumably would stand tall and defiant and chant their colonial clap trap when all of their children have died before them, when the hospitals close and antibiotics are so expensive that are only for the elite to purchase. Are these the same people who supported the protest movement (in the early days when it was more of a street party) and demanded change, but weren’t really able to articulate what type of change they wanted?
Macron is a buffoon, yes, but this racist, desperate rejection by many Lebanese, trumps him on gargantuan stupidity. The inferiority/superiority complex (as both are one of the same thing) is partly what has created the crisis in Lebanon in the first place. The unique frail condition of the Lebanese made it possible for the elite to run the country into the ground and then organise at the eleventh hour to ship wholesale their stained wealth out of the country – and get even richer into the bargain. It’s this same complex which supported the militia-political system whereby people were comforted by their respective leaders helping themselves to the billions of dollars (which could have been spent on building the country), while they drew solace from the system which supposedly “protected” them from their neighbours.
And it’s that same complex which fuelled the protest movement whose followers were convinced that the West – or even the Gulf Arab countries – wouldn’t let Lebanon fall into the abyss.
The Lebanese know now that the world won’t bail them out and that the biggest lie of the last twenty years has been the ‘protection racket’ narrative from militia leaders but it is the same complex which is now preventing them from forgetting their sectarian lineage and forming a cross-party opposition party with a shadow cabinet of ministers and a leader to represent their interests in Washington, Brussels, Strasbourg, Berlin and Paris. The chilling photograph of Hariri, Berri and Aoun must have made many want to weep when it was circulated in mid-October immediately after Hariri was sworn in as PM. It used to be said, ‘pity the Lebanese, as all they have is money’. But this has been replaced, it seems, by ‘all they have are these three stooges’.
Macron’s anti-Muslim rant was ill-timed and stupid. But if it can humour the complexed Lebanese to put aside their moronic ‘colonial’ chanting, it might have achieved something in the Arab world. His intervention in Lebanon, if it comes with genuine reform of the political system, might be the only strand of hope the Lebanese can cling to as, surely, the answer to the country’s problems are not to be found with these three men who practically wrote the manual on How To Make Money Out of A Failed State.