IMAGINE wandering through the streets of Edinburgh or Glasgow after dark with only car headlights available to pierce the gathering gloom. Every streetlight is turned off because there is simply no electricity.
I don’t mean a brownout in a local quarter. I don’t mean a casual power breakdown. I mean all the electrical power has gone has disappeared. In hospitals, in bakeries, in offices across the land, absolutely everything stops. Welcome to present-day Lebanon and its capital Beirut.
Lebanon this Monday morning is a failed state. I mean that in an absolute, utterly existential way. Once a beacon of prosperity, of culture, and a living example that people of all faiths and many races can live together in reasonable harmony, this small country of six million souls (just a bit more than Scotland) has collapsed. Don’t turn away, dear reader. Lebanon is a harsh lesson on what can befall any state – but particularly a small one – in these dying ember days of the global neoliberal experiment.
Not many decades ago, Lebanon was a relatively rich society. In the mid-1990s, per capita GDP (at purchasing power parity) was around two-thirds of Scotland’s. True, income distribution was badly skewed, but little Lebanon in the 1990s was fast recovering from a bitter, 15-year long civil war. Economic recovery in the last decade of the 20th century was a time of hope. Now all that progress has been turned off along with Lebanon’s electricity grid.