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Keep the spirit of this revolution

Passion, dignity, and entrepreneurialism

by Thomas Schellen

Constitutions are serious stuff. The one that I grew up under is known as the Grundgesetz—the fundamental law of Germany. In its first line, this constitution declares that the dignity of the human being is inviolable and that the state has to honor and protect it. Back at the time of this constitution’s drafting 70 years ago, this was big news in a country that had just experienced devastation and unimaginable barbarism practiced by its own regime.

Germans are no worse or better than other humans. This is to say that the generations of rulers and ruled that have lived under this stipulation of inviolable dignity since 1949 have had vertical and horizontal disputes by the zillions, including incidents of authoritarian violence. By way of comparison, German society passed through more internal conflicts of interests than is worth to consider when advocating for the importance of constitutional values in a country where defense of the citizens’ dignity has for too long not consistently been respected as self-evident.

Implement responsibilities

But Lebanon has last month been awakened to the primacy of all its people’s dignity—by its own people. That is profoundly encouraging. How to proceed from this moment? For me, this is mainly not a matter of intellect as expressed in laws and constitutions, but a matter of sustained emotion and will. The determination to succeed are related to the sort of intense passions that have been visible in this country during the October revolution. Young colleagues at Executive who came to the office for a meeting on day seven of protests exuded much emotional energy. This energy might be the secret and, until now, missing ingredient needed to save Lebanon.

It is a paradigm of human experience that passions are followed by responsibility, and that love will or will not be strengthened in the process. Before the yet ongoing global cultural shift marked by medical innovations and the sexual revolution from the 1960s onward, the transmission of love into responsibility was mainly a biological fact of life and the base of societal continuity—but one that manifested itself across cultures, including religious ones, in as much unwanted as wanted responsibility on the part of men, and that too often left its entire burden on mothers.

Partial departures from these biological paradigms have caused vast social behavior shifts in the involved countries. Self-determination has been setting new norms that have been slowly taken up in countries outside of the developed liberal market economies, including Lebanon. These departures also had enormous impacts on economies, not the least by enabling and expanding the economic roles of women. On top of this, the world today is engulfed in a shift to a new economic status quo that is determined not primarily by ownership of crude means of production and control of financial capital, but by ownership of information (big data) and by human and social capital.

While much is globally uncertain in the new economic context, it is my conviction that human relational energy and entrepreneurialism will play the main role in driving economies as long as there are humans running this planet. The economic implication for Lebanon then is that this country’s best shot lies in the activation of its human and social capitals, including the often noted Lebanese penchants for easygoing communication, personal entrepreneurship, and fast adoption of new business ideas.  

Channel the energy

All throughout the past 30 years, the passions and wills of highly qualified young Lebanese have been curtailed by their perceptions and self-perceptions of living under systemic conditions of political imprisonment, social coercion, and economic hopelessness. If the people who last month accumulated their energies into interrelated manifestations so unstoppable by the forces of old inertia will continue to marshal them—despite all impediments—in their newly discovered passion and belief in their ability to build a better country, the complex triangle of passion, determined love, and willing responsibility could produce so much more than just a bunch of impressive economic numbers. If this is a time to dream, let’s dream bigger than big. Peaceful in politics, clean in environment and economic human behavior, and fully cognizant of dignity, Lebanon would be a fantastic place to live. An Eden between east and west, south and north.

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Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years. Send mail

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