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As someone who was born at the dawn of the “Great Lebanese War,” a term I coined to contrast with the plethora of ongoing smaller ones, I was repeatedly subjected to the trifecta of fake patriotism that oozed from all the radio and TV stations for almost half a century:
“Freedom…Sovereignty…Independence…Freedom…Sovereignty…Independence…Freedom…Sovereignty…Independence…” not once, not twice, but thrice…thus goes the chant; a collective mantra for mass self-hypnosis that has probably blinded us from all the smaller yet more serious woes of our little patch of land.

Of these three empty words, I have always felt that Sovereignty was perhaps the most ironic. After all, freedom can be justified one way or another on a micro-level, and independence is what we all seek when we become teenagers, but sovereignty is a different beast altogether.

With definitions spanning across the spectrum and ranging from being “the supreme power” to a “controlling influence,” one would have to wonder whether all the euphoric masses knew what they were cheering for. Had they experienced Sovereignty prior in their lives? Do they have a similar concept in their day-to-day practices? In their inner circles? 

If we were to assume, by using the definition of autonomy as a common denominator for all, that this is what we all seek and call for, are we really autonomous in our lives? Where do the boundaries begin and where do they become hazy?

It would be needless for me to go about demonstrating how the remnants of the Lebanese Republic are all but sovereign on their own territory. For that, you may just open any random news site, and you will see all the transgressions of local and foreign powers onto the sovereignty of the state. But let us pause for a moment and contemplate the building blocks of any government: its people.
When taken as communities, religious or not, we cannot help but notice how each seeks to extend their own sovereignty onto that of the others.
Religious factions are always at each other’s throats trying to snag more leverage from their opponents. Economic players are doing the same, with oligarchs driving the nail deeper into the coffin of the workforce. White-collar workers lean heavier on blue-collar labor and lower privileged communities look for ways to extract influence from the richest tiers.

While Sovereignty has been illustrated as this vague concept that showers us all with its blessing, I believe that this notion, as absurd as it may be in today’s globalized world, can only be real if it is built from the ground up.
We need to begin by being sovereign in our decisions as individuals even at the cost of losing perks and privileges. Stop being the lawyer that your father wanted you to be and become the musician you dreamt of being, even if this means you would have to struggle. Don’t subscribe to the notions of your local warlord (a.k.a Al Za3eem), even if this means you won’t get that juicy job. Accept responsibility for the choices that make you truly the only decision-maker in your future, and when there are enough people like you, who are capable of carrying this mentality, perhaps then, communities, parties and social groups would make decisions that lean on sovereignty despite temptations. Your elected officials would then represent principles of sovereign thought, and not of clientelism. Then, perhaps, the country can have a similitude of Sovereignty and its two more famous sibling unicorns Freedom and Independence. 

By Patrick Chemali

Patrick Chemali is a veteran technology consultant, a university lecturer, and a lover of the humanities, namely the dramatic arts. He enjoys voicing his opinion in long-format on his blog as much as he does using shorter formats on various social media channels. In his writings, Patrick likes to poke where it hurts, because he believes that the bitter truth is always better than a sugar-coated lie.

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