10/05/2020, 17.05
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The new revolution and the birth of a nation in one tome

by Bertrand Maud

Pending an organisational and coherent structure, the October 2019 uprising is already an upheaval of the conscience, a rejection of the old order and the opening to a new one. From the poor and marginalised there is a return to Christ and the Church reaching out to the world. Women played a key role. A book of many voices retraces one of the key moments in the country’s recent history.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Until it gets coherently organised, the October uprising is certainly a revolution of the conscience. Whilst waiting for favourable circumstances to turn it into a coherent political revolution, the movement of 17 October 2019 is certainly a revolution of the conscience.

Fumbling for a long time, we hesitated to describe this uprising as a revolution, because it was peaceful, albeit angry, people-driven, disorderly yet unifying, messy but without any of the traditional means associated with the overthrow of a regime.

And yet, upon analysing it, looking at it again and rubbing shoulders with those who experienced it, the word revolution appears essential. Those in the know will be the first to recognise this; one of the aspects of their evidence is that it was moral and ethical.

In the uprising of October 17, 2019, there is a “no” to an old order and a “yes” to a new order: an old order whose outlines are now well known; a "new order" at the base of which stands an unquenchable thirst for justice and freedom and a total and final rejection of the old order, steeped in compromise, unjust, violent and alienating.

In the collective work published by Calima (Lebanon), Nidal Haddad sought to preserve the written traces of this uprising under the beautiful title of Sursauts d'une nation (Bursts of a nation).[*] It provides food for thought. Some see this revolution as the birth of a nation in the heat of the action. The word "bursts" refers in this case to the pangs of childbirth that accompanied it. Others, like Michelle Tuéni, editor-in-chief of an-Nahar, in her contribution describes it as "the real epilogue of the civil war" that disfigured Lebanon.

An aide-memoire

Without trying to answer these complex questions, Nidal Haddad and 42 other writers, some of whom come from L'Orient-Le Jour, have put together Sursauts d'une nation as an aide-memoire, a reservoir of words and expressions that make up the very rich face of the admirable and very rare reawakening of a people.

“All it took was one tax too many,” writes Nidal Haddad on the back cover, “for the Lebanese population to take over the streets to show that they were fed up and rejected the corruption that plagues the country (. . .). That was 17 October 2019, a date that will remain as a turning point in the history of Lebanon.

“The idea of ​​keeping written records to immortalise life and the feelings of a people’s ‘awakenings’ seemed necessary to me (. . .). At a time when predicting the future is impossible, when Lebanon is going through an unprecedented economic and existential crisis, my most ardent wish is that this collection embody a precious legacy for the generations to come who will also have a lot to teach us, since all of us, each one in our own way, carry memories.”

Certainly, like all collective works, the texts will speak to readers unequally. Allow us here to salute those of novelist and essayist Dominique Eddé for the quality of her writing, and that of the Jesuit priest Gaby Khairallah, for the consciousness raising he reports; an awareness that brought him out of his bubble, first out of "curiosity", out of the pleasant room in his residence where he prepares his literature lectures whilst sipping tea, to propel him onto the street to meet the "left-behind and the voiceless", the women "scorned by chauvinism, whilst it is often they who hold society together and weave its links", minorities of all kinds . . . and tear gas canisters.

"Everything is in one word: conversion"

"What I experienced in the streets, among all these people, can be summed up in one word: conversion," writes the priest. All these people pointed out Christ to me and taught me again that the Church is not confined within four walls, but extends to the whole world, starting with the street where the poorest live. Those left behind have shown me the suffering face of Christ still on the cross whilst waiting for justice to be done for the little ones with whom he identifies by calling them his brothers.”

The book honours the women of the 17 October revolution. Their massive presence is one of the hallmarks of this uprising, and of the collective work, where they are the majority. “The words courage and dignity would never be enough for them,” writes Father Khairallah. The word “Lebanese” might suffice. Moreover, the word "revolution" (in French) is feminine.

The book can be read two ways: following the lines and between the lines. Reading Sursaut d'un nation with heart, one can hear the soul of a people calling for help, a people that is suffering, hoping, crying out in rage, dreaming and begging not to be awakened any more.

But this awakening is of course inevitable. The memory of a people trying to free itself internally and externally from the confessional divisions that hinder it will still be the honour of this revolution of the conscience.

"We will of course worry about when all this beauty sees victory," writes Dominique Eddé. (...) Whatever the case, whatever happens, this beauty has already been translated into an unforgettable memory, and starting from there on, as evidence and a lever for change, whenever it comes.”


Yara Abi Akl • Nassar Abi Khalil • Karl Akiki • Carla Bejjani Aramouni • Joëlle Ayache • Chawki Azouri • Amale Baaklini • Ronald Barakat • Catherina Belardi • Antoine Boulad • Hayat Chaker • Carine Chamoun Chammas • Jocelyne Dagher Hayek • Jamil Dahdah • Océane Descèdres • Lamia Sfeir Darouni • Dominique Eddé • Rola el-Eid • Elsa Ghossoub • Nayla Maalouf Guillemin • Nidal Haddad • Patricia Hakim • Nicole V. Hamouche • Bélinda Ibrahim • Nathalie Sebaalani Ibrahim • Randa el-Kadi • Nagy el-Khoury • Père Gaby Khairallah • Béatrice Khater • Salma Kojok • Yasmina Farah Massoud • Gisella Tamraz Mielvacque de la Cour • Mishka Mojabber Mourani • Zeina Nader • Maguy Nasser Hage • Fady Noun • Gladys Sarkis • David Sahyoun • Fouad A. Salha • Michelle Tuéni • Reine Tyan • Christiane Dagher Yacoub • Ramy Zein.

[*] Proceeds to benefit the Cercle de la jeunesse catholique (CJC). Sursauts d'une nation will soon be on sale in all Antoine bookstores. Exceptionally, it will be on sale this Wednesday from 3 pm to 8 pm at the Order of Physicians (Furn el-Chebback) for LL 75,000 (US$ 50). In this case, we ask buyers to bring the exact amount to avoid handling cash. Social distancing will be enforced.

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