Cultural sensitivities come to the forefront whenever the discourse of democracy, liberty, and human rights are brought up. We have to constantly keep in mind that people have different cultures, which entail different perspectives on said rights and dignity that a person is allowed. So whenever it is thought of to ‘proliferate’ democracy, we must question first how and what democracy we want to spread.
It is clear that the occidental definition of democracy might not work in certain regions of the world, specifically in the middle east, as shown by the experimental periods that were experienced in Egypt, Libya, and Tunis. It is evident that democratization (disregarding my dislike for the term, due to its western origin) is a bottom-up phenomenon. Meaning that it must first be entrenched in the minds of the people, before manifesting and blossoming into institutions and governments. However, might it have been due to the fact that the most popular and mature forms of democracies could not sustain in the Middle East? Or is it just that the people aren’t ready for such radical changes? Is it that civil rights and theocracy are incapable of coexisting? Or is it that civil societies in said countries were too restricted, scared, and unwilling to provoke societies with intellectual discussions on these very alien terms (e.g. civil society). Even in the more ‘liberal’ countries of the Middle East, such as Lebanon, people that try to invoke change are usually very hesitant in doing so when it comes to provoking the ordinary person.
I believe that if change were to happen or be expected. Civil Society in Lebanon has to stop worrying that a few of their actions might lead to slight public dissatisfaction. Discussions of civil marriage, secularism, democracy, and even ‘extreme’ topics such as gay rights should be encouraged in public spaces, rather than muted or even shunned; and what a better catalyst than our overcrowded civil society. I’m not saying civil sensitivities should be neglected and ignored; rather, they should be desensitized. These topics have become more and more of a taboo, and Lebanon is losing its exceptionality of liberty. It is the duty of civil societies to bring these conversations to the grassroots levels of society so that there may be hope for any semblance of ‘democracy’.
By our regional intern, Ramz Fakhreddine – World Youth Alliance Middle East.