Suppose we stop whining and speculate on Lebanon’s grand future. I mean it. For a minute, let us not look at the abysmal figures and awful indicators that we analyze daily about our country. Instead, let us imagine how good life in Lebanon would be if only we could improve the miserable conditions that we live and operate in.
An excellent example of an inspiring, no-hopes-barred description of how great life could be in Lebanon a few years from now was written under the title ‘Beirutopia’ by the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher.
In his blog, Fletcher hints at a future where Lebanon is as competitive as Singapore and as rich as Qatar, where the constitutional settlement “for the first time is truly Lebanese”, where no elected politician holds his seat on a sectarian base, where Hezbollah General Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is among the leaders attending Lebanon’s centennial of statehood, and where the president reminisces on how she got hitched to her partner in one the country’s first civil marriage ceremonies.
Fletcher’s view on Lebanon 2020 are so heartwarming and bright that one hopes his telling becomes foretelling.
Beautiful, promising, and positive as it is, reading this vision did leave a bitter taste. Why does that which feels so clearly possible so viciously appear to be impossible? Could it be some sort of destiny that we will be forever ruled by incompetence?
Or could it be that what is impossible under the wrong management of our nation can be made possible, and much sooner than we think, if we put the right governance in place? To ponder that means to turn ‘Murphy’s Law’ on its head and assert not that what can go wrong invariably will, but that in Lebanon, if it can be done, it will.
Can we, the private sector and civil society of Lebanon, alter the course of events and create change management or, hopefully, a management change? I think we can. Let me elaborate.
It seems logical and safe to say that the prevailing political conditions are the primary hindrance to a healthy economy and productive environment. There are huge incentives for my industry to pour all of our passion and efforts into changing these detrimental conditions. Advertising and media, being a central talent of the Lebanese in general and one of the country’s largest exports, will likely benefit most from an improvement of our national conditions.
It might also be safe to say that the people who manage, create and work in advertising and media are people who, like those in many other industries, are decently educated and relatively progressive citizens; citizens and entrepreneurs who have dreams and care about where they would like to achieve them and how.
Based on these assumptions, can communications tell our citizens the truth and nothing but, so that they can finally act on what is in their best interest? And would they listen?
Let me put this to you in the way we do it: as a brief of targets to achieve in a communications campaign.
Here is my opinion, as one person in media, on what that brief contains: for authority to exist, our state has to have a monopoly over armed power. For security to exist, our nation needs its borders to be accurately defined and steadfastly protected from intrusions. For peace to exist, we need to be able to assert a productive balance of our national prerogatives and implement neutral foreign policy against pressures of global interests and regional conditions.
It is overdue that we receive the respectful treatment that is owed to us from both of our neighbors.
For communal harmony to exist, our political system needs a communal senate in duo with secular proportional representation in the Parliament, and the Senate has to be inclusive of one of our greatest assets, the diaspora. For social progress to exist, governance must be decentralized, as people’s interests are best represented at the level of their immediate environment and not in the whimsical hands of a central junta.
These are but some of the points in my brief. And finally, for a solution to exist, brave women and men need to act.
Eli Khoury is chairman and CEO of Quantum Group and M&C Saatchi MENA.
This commentary was originally published in Executive Magazine on 5 March 2013.