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Lebanon: Another victim of the Shock Doctrine.

The theory of the shock doctrine, popularized by Naomi Klein, posits that in times of crisis or disaster, powerful elites and governments exploit the ensuing chaos to push through radical economic and social changes that would be otherwise met with resistance. Today, Lebanon is facing a severe economic crisis characterized by hyperinflation, soaring poverty rates, and the rise of fundamentalist ideologies. These circumstances have created a fertile ground for the application of the shock doctrine in the country.

By Sergios SaropoulosPublished 7 months ago 9 min read
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Words are written by Lebanese citizens in front of the scene of Tuesday's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Public fury over the massive explosion in Beirut took a new turn Saturday night as protesters stormed government institutions and clashed for hours with security forces, who responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

"Lebanon: A Nation in Crisis"

Lebanon, a country known for its rich history and cultural diversity, has been grappling with a severe crisis that has shaken its very core. From economic collapse to political turmoil, Lebanon's story is one of resilience, but also a stark warning of the consequences of neglecting a nation's welfare.

The once-thriving Lebanon's economy now lies in tatters, leaving a significant portion of the population struggling to meet their basic needs. The economic collapse, which began in 2019, has resulted in skyrocketing unemployment rates and a plunge in the value of the Lebanese pound. The currency devaluation has drastically eroded purchasing power, leaving many unable to afford food, housing, and medical care. Families who once lived comfortably now find themselves caught in a cycle of poverty and desperation.

Corruption: A Cancer on Lebanese Society

A major underlying factor contributing to Lebanon's plight is deep-rooted corruption within its political and economic systems. The video exposes how corruption has siphoned funds meant for public welfare and infrastructure development into the pockets of the elite few. This mismanagement and embezzlement of resources have left the country's institutions weakened and unable to address the pressing needs of its citizens. The people's frustration with a lack of accountability and transparency in governance has led to widespread protests demanding change. Inflation rates in Lebanon have reached unprecedented levels, further exacerbating the hardships faced by its citizens. Basic commodities have become unaffordable luxuries for many, and families struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Workers remove debris from a hospital that was heavily damaged in last month's explosion in Beirut. Lebanon's interim health minister, Hamad Hasan, told local media last month that the health system was "on the brink" of being overwhelmed because of the needs of blast victims and COVID-19 patients.

The shock doctrine

The theory of the shock doctrine, popularized by Naomi Klein, posits that in times of crisis or disaster, powerful elites and governments exploit the ensuing chaos to push through radical economic and social changes that would be otherwise met with resistance.

Shock tactics follow a clear pattern: wait for a crisis (or even, in some instances, as in Chile or Russia, help foment one), declare a moment of what is sometimes called “extraordinary politics”, suspend some or all democratic norms – and then ram the corporate wishlist through as quickly as possible. The research showed that virtually any tumultuous situation if framed with sufficient hysteria by political leaders, could serve this softening-up function. It could be an event as radical as a military coup, but the economic shock of a market or budget crisis would also do the trick. Amid hyperinflation or a banking collapse, allows the country’s governing elites to be able to sell a panicked population on the necessity for attacks on social protections, or enormous bailouts to prop up the financial private sector – because the alternative, they claimed, can be an outright economic apocalypse. Without the people realising that the so-called tragic economic collapse is already happening. Giving them the power to restart the economy on Elit's terms.

The Shock Doctrine in the case of Lebanon.

The shock doctrine's application in Lebanon is evident through the ruling elites' manipulation of crises to perpetuate their dominance and implement policies that benefit them. The privatization of essential services, such as healthcare and education, has become a tool for profit-making by the wealthy few while neglecting the welfare of the majority. Furthermore, the rise of fundamentalist ideologies presents a challenge to social cohesion and stability, diverting attention from the underlying economic issues and perpetuating divisions within society. Breaking free from this cycle requires addressing the root causes of the crisis, promoting equitable economic policies, and fostering inclusive dialogue to prevent further exploitation of the population's vulnerability.

As inflation reaches record levels, Lebanon's vulnerable population finds itself struggling to meet basic needs, while the ruling elites seize the opportunity to advance their agenda. In the name of economic stability, austerity measures are being imposed on the people, resulting in severe cuts to social services and welfare programs. This further exacerbates poverty and inequality while consolidating power in the hands of a few. Additionally, the desperation and despair caused by the economic downturn have made people susceptible to the influence of fundamentalist ideologies that offer a sense of belonging and purpose in turbulent times. Extremist groups exploit the disenchantment to recruit new members and sow discord.

Weaponizing Crisis for Political Gain:

In the wake of Lebanon's economic downturn, political elites have seized the opportunity to consolidate their power and push forward their agendas under the guise of economic stability. The shock doctrine operates by exploiting moments of vulnerability, and Lebanon's leaders have masterfully deployed this tactic. In the name of reforms and austerity measures, essential social services have been decimated, leaving the already suffering population even more vulnerable. As citizens grapple with basic necessities, the ruling class tightens its grip, diverting resources into projects that serve their interests, further exacerbating the nation's economic woes.

Privatization and the Rise of Inequality:

One of the most apparent applications of the shock doctrine in Lebanon is the rapid privatization of essential services. Under the pretext of efficiency and cost-cutting, state-run institutions like healthcare and education have been handed over to private entities, leaving ordinary citizens at the mercy of profit-driven enterprises. The implications are dire, as quality healthcare and education are no longer accessible to those without financial means, deepening social divides and perpetuating a cycle of poverty and marginalization.

Fundamentalism: A Divisive Distraction:

As economic despair engulfs the country, fundamentalist ideologies find fertile ground to propagate their narratives. Whether religious, political, or ethnic, these extremist groups exploit the vulnerability and disillusionment of the people, offering simplistic solutions to complex problems. The shock doctrine's application becomes evident as these ideologies divert attention away from the root causes of the crisis and sow seeds of discord within society. The division and unrest generated further serve the interests of the ruling elite, allowing them to manipulate public opinion and suppress dissent.

A torch lit on the hand of a symbolic sculpture is seen after protesters gather at Martyrs' Square to march towards Beirut Port where a massive explosion took place on August 4, 2020. Photo by Mahmut Geldi, Anadolu Images

Greece: A familiar example.

During times of crisis, political elites in both countries capitalized on the chaos to consolidate power. They used the pretext of managing the crisis and implementing reforms to centralize control and further entrench themselves in positions of authority. While the majority of the population suffered from the consequences of the crisis, the ruling class expanded its influence and influence over economic and political decision-making processes. This concentration of power allowed elites to shape policies that disproportionately favored their interests, perpetuating the vicious cycle of inequality and marginalization.

Greece

The financial crisis in Greece, which began in 2009, had profound and far-reaching consequences on the country's economy, society, and political landscape. As a result of soaring debt levels, the Greek government was forced to implement severe austerity measures to secure bailout funds from international lenders. These measures led to significant cuts in public spending, widespread unemployment, and reduced access to essential services, causing a sharp decline in the standard of living for many Greeks. The crisis also triggered social unrest, with large-scale protests and demonstrations demanding an end to the harsh austerity policies. Moreover, the crisis had long-term effects on Greece's political stability, fostering disillusionment with traditional political parties and paving the way for the rise of anti-establishment and populist movements. Even after receiving multiple bailout packages, Greece faced a prolonged period of economic stagnation, leaving scars that continue to impact the nation's economy and society to this day.

Even though I do not prefer "breaking the fourth wall" in my articles, I cannot deny that I find many similarities with these financial crises, between Greece and Lebanon. Especially being a "child" of the Greek financial crisis, spending my teenage years in polarization and eventually leaving the country for career prospects, something that many Lebanese people are doing today.

AAYUSH SINGH – OCTOBER 10TH, 2022

Holding a mirror

Sometimes comparing these two crises seems like holding a mirror between the two countries Both Greece and Lebanon faced severe economic crises that led to the imposition of harsh austerity measures. In the name of economic stability and recovery, governments implemented deep cuts to social services, public spending, and welfare programs. As a result, essential services such as healthcare, education, and social safety nets were severely impacted. In both countries, privatization became a favored strategy, with state-run institutions being handed over to private entities, often controlled by powerful elites. The privatization of critical sectors led to increased inequality and limited access to essential services for the general population.

The economic crises in Greece and Lebanon also gave rise to social unrest and contributed to the growth of fundamentalist ideologies. As people faced job losses, inflation, and poverty, they became increasingly disillusioned with the existing political and economic systems. This environment of despair and frustration provided fertile ground for extremist ideologies to gain traction. In both countries, fundamentalist groups attempted to exploit the vulnerability of the population and channel their grievances towards divisive and often radical agendas, further fracturing the social fabric.

A fractured mirror

While the financial crises in Greece and Lebanon share some similarities in terms of economic hardship and the consequences on the population, there are notable differences in the implementation of the shock doctrine. In Greece, the implementation of austerity measures was primarily driven by external lenders, such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, who demanded strict fiscal discipline in exchange for bailout funds. The shock doctrine was imposed through external pressure, resulting in deep spending cuts and privatization initiatives. On the other hand, in Lebanon, the shock doctrine's application was more internally driven, with powerful elites exploiting the crisis to further their interests and consolidate power. The privatization of essential services and the rise of fundamentalist ideologies were more pronounced in Lebanon, reflecting the elites' exploitation of the chaos for personal gain. Moreover, Lebanon's political landscape was marked by sectarian divisions, adding another layer of complexity to the crisis. These differences illustrate the nuanced ways in which the shock doctrine operates in distinct economic and political contexts.

The political context in Greece and Lebanon also played a significant role in shaping the response to the crises and the implementation of the shock doctrine. Greece is a member of the European Union, and its crisis was closely linked to broader Eurozone dynamics, leading to more coordinated international interventions. In Lebanon, the political landscape is fragmented along sectarian lines, making it challenging to reach consensus on reforms and exacerbating political instability during the crisis.

These differences highlight that while both countries experienced financial crises and faced the shock doctrine's implementation to some extent, the specific circumstances and actors involved led to divergent paths in the way the shock doctrine was applied in each nation.

Conclusion

I believe that Lebanon's current economic crisis exemplifies the chilling application of the shock doctrine. Powerful elites and governments have exploited the chaos and despair to advance their agendas, leaving the majority of the population in dire straits. The privatization of essential services and the rise of fundamentalist ideologies deepen the inequality and division within the nation. Breaking free from this cycle demands a collective effort to address the root causes of the crisis, foster inclusive dialogue, and promote equitable economic policies that prioritize the welfare of all citizens. Only then can Lebanon rebuild and chart a path towards a more just and prosperous future.

Written and Published by Sergios Saropoulos

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About the Creator

Sergios Saropoulos

Philosopher, Journalist, Writer.

Found myself in the words of C.P. Cavafy

"And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean"

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