Lebanon’s Operating System

lebanon-as-vista.pngMy friends will tell you I’m an unabashed Mac guy. I love Apple products for their smoothness, their workability, their iconic and reassuring workflows. The Soon-to-be Mrs. Back-to-Iraq rolls her eyes at my obsession… Likewise, as you can imagine, I’m no great fan of Windows.

This morning, as I listened to my friend’s complaints about the unpredictability of Windows — sometimes things stop working and then start again for no apparent reason whatsoever — I realized that Lebanon works exactly the same way. And with the current, stupid crisis in Lebanon paralyzing this place — locking it up, so to speak — it occurred to me that Lebanon, such as it is, must be using Windows as its operating system. Some similarities:

  • It doesn’t feel well put-together. It’s a house of cards with an inconsistent, incongruous interface. Where Mac OS X feels all of a piece, Windows (and Lebanon) feels cobbled together. It’s as if someone just slapped some legacy religions and/or code together and said, “Go to town, play nice.” Well, .dll files aren’t always compatible, and, Sunnis and Shi’ites, for example, don’t always get on together. Usually, they do, but when they don’t, look out.
  • Following that, both Windows and modern Lebanon were designed not with the users in mind, but the designers. In Microsoft’s case, Windows primarily exists to make money for Bill Gates and Microsoft. Its reliable cash stream come from big business, which tends to lock its employees into using an OS that is obviously on its last legs. Same for Lebanon. It was designed by the French using legacy Ottoman code which it stole — much like Microsoft did a shady deal to get MS-DOS — and set up to serve colonial interests, rather than that of the Lebanese.
  • Modern Lebanon is, specifically, like Windows Vista. It’s shiny, nice to look at and easily seduces. But the moment you actually try to work with it, the nasty underpinnings — whether it’s sectarianism or that damned Windows registry — come up and bite you in the ass.
  • It’s prone to viruses/outside interference by foreign powers that gum up the works. These can lead to…
  • … Lock-ups that paralyze the entire computer and/or country. One difference: In the case of Lebanon, rebooting is a total hassle.
  • It can be used to spew out junk email and/or jihadis if taken over by a hostile outsider.
  • And finally, when it crashes, it crashes hard. Blue Screen of Civil War, anyone?

I know, I know… I’m opening myself up to fans of Windows who will tell me they’ve never, ever had a computer crash or a virus. Likewise, I’m opening myself up to partisans of Lebanon who tell me that the place works just fine if you know how to work it. Obviously, I don’t or I’d be happily ginning up my wasta¬†and/or bleakly submitting to the mess that’s Microsoft Office.

That’s not to say Lebanon and Gates’ little piece software don’t have their charms. The biggest one: In both cases, whether it’s politics or software, there are more games.