Colonial Nostalgia: Stockholm Syndrome Goes to Paris and London

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French President Emmanuel Macron with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Credit: AP

When a tragic blast hit the city of Beirut in early August, killing nearly 200 and injuring over 6000, a heavy weight of sadness fell upon the Region.

The incident occurred after many months of protests occurring in Lebanon. The struggle for social and political reform had already risen to a new height when the damage the explosion inflicted on the city became a final straw to many.

Naturally, speculation and search for a solution ensued. How can Lebanon exit the turmoil it has found itself in in the aftermath of the blast?

As sympathy poured in from around the world, the solidarity of one particular head of state stood out. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon to pay his respects and express his support – and as is known to most, Lebanon was under a French colonial mandate between 1920 and 1943.

Macron’s tweets as well as pictures of him in Lebanon made the rounds and a variety of responses came his way. Among those responses was a Instagram story made by Lebanese-American actress Mia Khalifa, who called on the French mandate to “come back”.

This arguably humorous exclamation, however, was echoed in all earnestness by a surprising number of Lebanese people when a petition calling for the re-implementation of the French mandate for a period of 10 years received an astounding 60,000 signatures.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Lebanese population is a patchwork of political and religious identities, each of which has its place in the country’s elite. In recent protests the widely repeated slogan was “killon ya’nai killon”: all of them, means all of them.

With political uncertainty reigning supreme around the world, incumbents of all affiliations are under mounting pressure. Lebanon is no exception. But given this unique political mosaic that forming the widely rejected elite, no alternative seems to remain.

60,000 is by all means a minority, but for such a movement to gain momentum amid protests that call for increased popular involvement, there is an implicit contradiction in calling for a foreign mandate whose first priority would, as history proves, its own interest.

Like any country now independent from colonial rule, Lebanon’s fight for independence was motivated by the French mandate’s disregard for Lebanese interests.

The constructed romantic image of the bygone era of colonial rule that exists even amongst older, wealthier Egyptians, is one that hinges on discontent coupled with a forgetting of the reason scores of states gained their hard-fought independence throughout the 20th century.