State of … Africa?

Taken from page 170 of State of Africa book.

Much of what is going on in some of these countries is fully explained in terms of the normal lust of human beings for power and wealth. The stakes are high. Office carries power, prestige and money. The power is incredible. Most West African Ministers consider themselves to be above the law, and are treated as such by the police. Decision making is arbitrary. Decisions which more advanced countries leave to civil servants and technicians are in those countries made by Ministers, often without consulting expert advice. The prestige is also incredible. Men who claim to be democrats in fact behave like emperors. Personifying the state, they dress themselves up in uniforms, build themselves palaces, bring all other traffic to a standstill when they drive, hold fancy parades and generally demand to be treated like Egyptian Pharaohs. And the money is incredible. Successful politicians receive, even if only money is also incredible. Successful politicians receive, even if only elected to Parliament, salaries two to four times more than they previously earned, plus per diem allowances, traveling expenses and other fringe benefits. There are also vast pickings in bribes, state contract, diversion of public funds to private uses, and commissions of various sorts. To be a minister is to have a lifetime’s chance to make a fortune.

This quote talks about some African countries right after their independence between the 60s and 80s(1960-1980) or so. But what really surprised me is how accurately it describes the current and former Lebanese politicians.

The problems with these African countries was the destructive influence that the former colonization forces had on them. It isn’t the only reason, but at that time period, it was the most influential. But in the case of Lebanon, it has become “the usual thing” even without any influence.

When i was in school and i used to complain about this situation, my teachers would tell me that this is because of the Ottoman occupation and the subsequent French colonization and the 20 year civil war. This could be considered as a legitimate answer but it masks what their true answer would have been if they weren’t stupid. “We don’t know and we’re too lazy to do anything about it”.

To me that is definitely not a legitimate answer, and i always take Germany as an example. Germany started two world wars. Not one but two global wars within the span of 35 years and still rebuilt itself into Europe’s biggest economy. So why didn’t Germany turn into this corrupt mess that is Lebanon?

Why is Lebanon infested with corruption? Why is it that the simplest technical problems such as delivering electricity to citizens turns into this huge political mess that threatens to re-ignite the dormant civil war? Why is it that the same problems that we’ve had 17 years ago are still unresolved? Why is it that the most frequent prayer i hear is “God, please bless me with a visa to ANY other country so that i may leave this hell hole”?

And most importantly, why is it that in spite of all these problems do the Lebanese rush to vote for the same people every election period and rejoice in the streets whenever any politician farts or speaks(same action)?