Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 23rd, 2008

 

Sunday, July 16, 2006

 Diary of the war in Lebanon

This morning, I was visiting my aunt Montaha and she told me that my cousin Zouzou (Joseph) is suffering and that her daughter Joelle, an administrative nurse, was attending to him.  I walked down to check on him and it turned out that he had his regular bouts of kidney stone movements, an ailment that he acquired in his extended stay in Western Africa.  Joseph’s sister Samira was there too and there was nothing to do except wait for Monday to sending Joseph to a hospital, if he failed to piss until then.

Zouzou was in real pain and could get no relief except when sitting in the john.  In the afternoon, Joseph called me up inquiring whether our basement is for rent.  I did not recognize his voice at first and asked “who is speaking?”.  He replied angrily: “I am your cousin Zouzou, what’s wrong with you?”  I replied that I did not know that he was in shape to even talk.  He said that he was fine now.  I told him that we might be using the basement as a shelter for emergencies.

Actually, our basement was mainly reduced as a depot for my sister’s family furniture and clothes surpluses:  She cannot stand to be encumbered in her neat flat.  In addition, my nephew William is using the living room in the basement as his sleeping quarter:  He realized that studying and sleeping in the attic is not conducive to studying.

Besides, I have been using the eastern room as my study room for almost four years now.

It turned out that my aunt rented her upper floor because her son’s family was no longer coming to Lebanon this summer because of the war.

Note:  There is an interesting byproduct of Montaha renting her upper floor.  Khaled, the son of Montaha’s daughter Joelle, fell in love with the daughter (named Joelle too) of the woman renting the floor.  They are now engaged to be married soon.  They both graduated and are working.

Diary of a war in Lebanon (July 15 to August 15, 2006)

July 15. 2006

The sixth war between Israel and Lebanon (as our news media labeled it) started on June 12, 2006.

For 3 days Israel has been pounding all of Lebanon for the lame excuses that the Islamic Lebanese Resistance of Hezbollah was successful in taking two Israeli soldiers as prisoners.

Mind you that Hezbollah had warned everyone for many months and at several occasions that it is in the process of planning to capture Israeli soldiers in order to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners.

The problem is that the well planned “adventure” (as labelled by Lebanon Seniora PM and Saudi Arabia monarchy) did not go as smoothly and as expected and it resulted in the destruction of two Israeli tanks and many Israeli soldiers dead.

Apparently, Israel’s Olmert PM is not now in the mood of negotiating with Hezbollah for the mutual release of prisoners as former Sharon PM has done last year.

Israel has the total backing of George W Bush to punish Lebanon with extreme vengeance for failing to promptly satisfy his strategic plans in the greater Middle East.

Bush Junior also wants to revenge the more than 200 US soldiers who perished in 1983 by a Hezbollah suicide car bombing around Beirut airport.  Hezbollah has just been created a couple of months ago to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanon.

Israel had started its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and went as far as entered our Capital Beirut. The occupying Israeli force remained in Lebanon till 2000.

Yesterday, my mother started to speak to herself, at my ear shot, that we need to withdraw some cash for emergency and secure supplies for a protracted war.

Within an hour, I drove and withdrew more than my usual amount of cash and stopped at the Wooden Bakery around 11: 15 am for bread: there was none left.

There were promises that more supplies of bread would be forthcoming by noon. I continued and parked on the street instead of the overflowing parking lot of Storiom’s supermarket.  There were no carriages left and I picked up a hand held basket instead just for a loaf of bread:  the supermarket was jammed with customers in the cashiers lines, their carriages filed with two months supplies.  I felt a wave of disgust and left immediately.

On my way out, a lady told me that there is no milk on the shelves and certainly no bread of any kind.

I resumed my trip to Bekfaya to a shop that sells purely Lebanese food ingredients at affordable prices and bought three bags of white bread because brown breads were scarce, cheap olive, small white beans because the large beans were three times more expensive, two kilos of sugar, a kilo of “kishk”, some white hot pepper.

I continued to the vegetable and fruit market where on Sundays I usually buy in bulk for our extended family of eleven persons; the market was jammed and no price tags were attached to the stands; prices have at least doubled and no one was asking for prices anymore.  I refused to wait and did not buy anything.

The road to Bekfaya coming from Antelias was unusually busy: streams of cars driving fast were heading up to the mountain and I was told that they were going to Zahle and Chtoura toward the Syrian border at Masnaa.

Israel has finally decided to bomb the main highway to the Syrian border through the town of Sawfar; fleeing people were borrowing the next best route.

On the first day of war, my nephew Cedric came home mightily upset:  he is graduating in hotel management and the tourism season was completely shot and the tourists were evacuating Lebanon in drove.

Cedric initially blamed Hezbollah for that catastrophe but as Israel was decidedly going ahead with its destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure he relented.  It is a common behavior for people to blame the weaker party in any conflict for mass destruction as if Hezbollah is the one party who destroyed the airport, the electrical utilities, the maritime ports and the main highways.

I started writing my diary consistently after Israel invaded Lebanon on July 12, 2006.  I figured that this manuscript covering 30 days might aid in comprehending the emotions and state of mind of a population far from the vicinity of the battle fields but dreading the immediate and far-reaching outcome and consequences.

July 15. 2006

The sixth war between Israel and Lebanon, as our news media labeled it, started on June 12, 2006. For 3 days Israel has been pounding all of Lebanon for the lame excuses that the Islamic Lebanese Resistance of Hezbollah was successful in taking two Israeli soldiers as prisoners.  Hezbollah had warned everyone for many months and at several occasions that it is in the process of planning to capture Israeli soldiers in order to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners. The problem is that the well planned “adventure” did not go as smoothly and as expected and it resulted in the destruction of two Israeli tanks and many Israeli deaths. Apparently, Israel’s Olmert PM is not now in the mood of negotiating with Hezbollah for the mutual release of prisoners as former Sharon PM has done last year.

Israel has the total backing of George W Bush to punish Lebanon with extreme vengeance for failing to promptly satisfying his strategic plans in the Greater Middle East; Bush also wants to revenge the more than 200 US soldiers who perished in 1983 by a Hezbollah suicide car bombing around the airport.  Hezbollah has just been created to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanon:  Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 for no reasons acceptable to the UN and and Israel and entered our Capital Beirut for two weeks before lethal local resistance demonstrated the danger of staying in this hot city.

Yesterday, my mother started to speak to herself, at my ear shot, that we need to withdraw some cash for emergency and secure supplies for a protracted war. Within an hour I drove and withdrew more than my usual amount of cash and stopped at the Wooden Bakery around 11: 15 am for bread: there was none left with promises that more supplies would be forthcoming by noon. I continued and parked on the street instead of the overflowing parking lot of Storiom’s supermarket.  There were no carriages left and I picked up a hand-held basket instead just for a loaf of bread:  the supermarket was jammed with customers in the cashiers lines, their carriages filled with two months supplies.  I felt a wave of disgust and left immediately.  On my way out a lady told me that there is no milk on the shelves and certainly no bread of any kind.

I resumed my trip to the village of Bekfaya to a shop that sells purely Lebanese food ingredients at affordable prices and bought three bags of white bread because brown breads were scarce, cheap olive, small white beans because the large beans were three times more expensive, two kilo of sugar, a kilo of “kishk”, some white-hot pepper.  I continued to the vegetable and fruit market where on Sundays I usually buy in bulk for our extended family of eleven persons; the market was jammed and no price tags were attached to the stands; prices have at least doubled and no one was asking for prices anymore.  I refused to wait and did not buy anything.  The road to Bekfaya coming from Antelias was unusually busy: streams of cars driving fast were heading up to the mountain and was told that they were going to Zahle and Chtoura toward the Syrian border at Masna3.  Israel has finally decided to bomb the main highway to the Syrian border through Sawfar and fleeing people were borrowing the next best route.

On the first day of war Cedric (my nephew) came home mightily upset:  he is graduating in hotel management and the tourism season was completely shot and the tourists were evacuating Lebanon in drove.  He initially blamed Hezbollah for that catastrophe but as Israel was decidedly going ahead with its destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure he relented.  It is a common behavior for people to blame the weaker party in any conflict for mass destruction as if Hezbollah is the one party who destroyed the airport, the electrical utilities, the maritime ports and the main highways.

Article #3

“So, you want systems to fit people?” (February 21, 2005)

“So far, it sounds that Human Factors in engineering is a vast field of knowledge and it could have many applications.”  You are absolutely right, the profession is multidisciplinary.

Let us consider the problems that an excellent human factors designer has to cope with when he has to incorporate the human dimensions into his design and the body of knowledge he has to learn and incorporate in his practice:

First, there are no design drawings for people as traditional engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropometric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes; thus the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in countable fashions and can be accounted for in design.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems are changing accordingly; thus interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently.

Fifth, contrary to the perception of people regarding the other traditional engineering fields, when we deal with human capabilities, limitations and behavior everyone feels is an expert on the basis of common sense acquired from living and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors. For examples, we think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

To be a competent ergonomics expert you need to take courses in many departments like Psychology, Physiology, Neurology, Marketing, Economy, Business, Management, and of course engineering.

You need to learn applied statistics, system’s modeling (mathematical and prototyping), the design of experiments, writing and validating questionnaires, collecting data on human performance, analyzing and interpreting data on the interactions of human with systems.

You need updating you knowledge continuously with all kinds of systems’ deficiencies that often hurt people in their daily lives, and learn the newer laws that govern the safety and health of the employees in their workplace.

All the above courses and disciplines that you are urged to take or to be conversant with have the well-being of targeted end users in mind.  To be an expert well qualified designer you need to assimilate the physical and cognitive abilities of end users and what they are capable of doing best; you need to discover their limitations as well so that you may reduce errors and foreseeable misuses of any product or interface that you have the responsibility to design.

You need to fit the product or interface to the users and avoid lengthy training or useless stretching of the human body in order to permit the users to efficiently manipulate your design.  An excellent designer has to know the advantages and limitations of the five senses and how to facilitate the interaction with systems under minimal stress, errors committed, and health complications generated from prolonged usage and repetitive movements of parts of the body.

I am glad, my newly found friend, that you are attentively listening to my lucubrations.

I would like it better if you ask me questions that prove to me that you are enthusiastic.

Could you enumerate a few incidents in your life that validate the importance of this field of study?

“Well, suppose that I enroll in that all-encompassing specialty, are there any esoteric and malignant courses that are impressed upon me?”

Unfortunately, as any university major and engineering included, many of the courses are discovered to be utterly useless once you find a job.

However, you have to bear the cross for 4 years in order to be awarded a miserly diploma. This diploma, strong with a string of grade of “A’s” will open the horizon for a new life, a life of a different set of worries and unhappiness.

I can tell you for sure that it is not how interesting are the courses but the discipline that you acquired in the process.

You need to start enjoying reading, every day for at least 5 hours, taking good care for the details in collecting data or measuring anything, learning to write everyday, meticulously and stubbornly, not missing a single course or session, giving your full concentration during class, taking notes and then reading your notes afterwards, coordinating the activities of your study groups, being a leader and a catalyst for all your class associates.

You need to wake up full of zest and partying hard after a good week of work and study, staying away, like the plague, from those exorbitantly expensive restaurants and dancing bars because they are the haven of all those boring, mindless and useless people who are dependent completely on their parents.

Well, you will hear, frequently, that securing a University diploma is a testing ground for your endurance to accepting all kinds of nonsense.  It is.

Most importantly, it is testing the endurance of your folks who are paying dearly for that nonsense.

Article #2

“Sorry, did you say Human Factors engineering?” (February 20, 2005)

“Sorry, I didn’t hear you. You said that your emphasis was on Human Factors engineering?”

“Wow, do you split genes and factor them in and out the DNA chain?”

“Are you involved in cloning human beings?”

“Could you improve my deficiencies?”

“Can you make me physically attractive and less prone to sicknesses and diseases?”

Negative! Human Factors engineering is interchangeably called Ergonomics which is composed of two Greek words meaning the measurement of work.

As you might know, if this discipline does not involve measurements it would not have been categorized as engineering.

Its main purpose is designing practical interfaces between complex systems and the end users, whether consumers, engineers, workers or employees in order to eliminate human errors.

Again, if these interface designs are not practical, then we would hardly categorize this field as engineering.

I also agree with you that most engineers hate to perform any kind of measurements as much as they hate reading.

Actually, my graduate courses were not restricted to engineering; they were multidisciplinary because I had to take graduate courses in the departments of marketing, economics, and psychology.

If you are interested I might clarify that most of my graduate courses were targeted to statistical modeling for designing and analyzing experiments involving workers and consumers.

This general course in Human factors will initiate you on a few concepts.

It will teach you how to study the risks and errors in the system and deficiency in products that could lead to fatal accidents or serious injuries.

Most of the time, near misses of accidents predominate because of the reflexes, flexibility and capabilities of human to cope and adapt, but ultimately, these missed accidents will occur if no preventive actions are taken or preempting redesigns are ordered on the system.

When accidents happen, this time around, it is because of the limitations and deficiencies of the human for not redesigning the interface, retraining, or revisiting the processes.

This course will encourage you to connect well with employees and workers, to know their predicaments at work, to care for their health from repetitive trauma disorders, or unwarranted shift work schedules, to provide guidelines for handling loads, to insist on placing warning signs in dangerous areas and hazardous machine parts, to make sure that employees notice the signs and instructions and abide by them.

It will ask you to get concerned and investigate the causes of the high rate of turnovers, the increase in absenteeism, or the lack of motivation in performing quality work.

It will teach you methods to design inference experiments, preferably involving employees and workers, in order to study the causes and effects of a problem that is plaguing productivity and profitability.

This approach is important because mathematical modeling of human behavior is at best inadequate and fraught with untenable assumptions.

This course will insist on the concept that the best approach to minimizing pains and health problems, originating from the workplace, is to redesign a faulty system, mechanically and organizationally.

You will be reminded, frequently, that testing and evaluation of systems should consider the fact that employees work at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for many years.

The course will warn you that an optimum system performance, tested for a period of just a few minutes or hours, may turn out to be catastrophic and a worst case scenario in the long run.

You will learn the capabilities and limitations of humans both physically and mentally. This knowledge will enhance the design of systems and their interfaces that function well for the humans, a system that will eliminate awkward training to fit humans to a badly designed system.

You’re Hungry, Eh!? (Written on Nov. 2002)

Every single book in her apartment was wrapped in a plastic bag.

She was allergic to dust. Hell, she was allergic to almost everything.

She kept a huge, black Labrador inside.

Maybe the plastic bags were to keep her dear dog from getting unduly dusty.

The place smelt of dog in every pore of it:

Another overpowering odor that can hugely depress me.

The dog was her best friend, maybe her unique real friend.

Hilda was dead confident that she could see her dog smile

And feel him/her when depressed,

And a thorough knowledge of his/her psychological moods.

Like many women there, dogs are at the center of their lives.

Crucial decisions were based on the dog feedback.

A husband, boyfriend or whoever, was to agree or vacate immediately.

What is it with indoor dogs?

I know a friend of mine who married an American girl.

She was a political activist, and lived with her lifetime dog.

Many years later, and now married to a Lebanese girl and living in Lebanon,

He still keeps a dog indoor.

I do suspect the dog is a living prompter of a past

When he was younger, happier,

Very much in love, with big expectations

And ready to improve the world dialectically,

Ultimately, taming these blood-sucking, capitalist imperialists.

Hilda was with a girl friend of hers at a dark dancing club.

Hilda had black thinning hair, cropped very short, in spikes.

Heavy, thick and non colored prescription glasses were hiding her eyes.

She looked desperate for a lay and her eyes followed me persistently.

Her girl friend was nudging her and encouraging her to make a move.

She finally managed to invite me to dance with her.

I reluctantly agreed.

Hilda drove me in her car to her place at the outskirt of town.

In the much better lighted room,

I noticed villain large blue blotches on both her arms.

I needed to run away on the spot,

But for my acquired politeness, I decided to stay a little longer.

For the first time I saw her feet.  They were neat, large and strong.

I liked these feet.

A woman with feet like that signal to me security and protection for her male.

So, we shared a hot bath.

I sponged and massaged leisurely her feet more than needed

Hilda turned out not to be so desperate tonight.

She asked plenty and well targeted questions.

She wanted to come to a safe decision, for a safe sex.

Meanwhile, I reached the part of my life story

Where I admitted being born in Africa and that I lived there, lately, for a year.

I could hear the click in her mind:  Oh! No, no and no!

What about AIDS and the million other diseases, stupid!

Damnation! I won’t be seeing these feet again.

We cuddled up in bed, stark naked,

Including her thick eyeglasses and mine.

God! She had really beautiful large green eyes,

And her face was just lovely, lying on a bed.

She displayed round and hard bosoms,

A slim waist and an exquisite stomach lean and mean for her age.

It was a perfect body in bed, but for these large blue blotches on her arms.

Damned feet! They got me overexcited and cut short on my foreplay.

She liked to kiss very much, kissed me all over my gorgeous body.

I mounted her in haste and tried to penetrate her clumsily and in vain.

She wouldn’t let me in, no way.

I ejected prematurely between her soft thighs.

Hilda was in the meantime in ecstasy;

She was frankly moaning, which increased my bewilderment and dejection.

She had decided that no intercourse is to be with this Africa touring man.

I turned over on my back and blurted out: “Oh boy, am I hungry!

She lost her control and screamed: “Hungry, eh!?

You want to eat right now, eh!? Right away, eh!?”

What’s wrong with you men?  You feel hungry right away?

What about resting a while longer?”

This early ejection reminds me of another story with Helga.

She was a middle aged German, working at a luxury restaurant.

In her dim room with a leopard spread cover on her bed,

I was frenetically trying to enter her, and vigorously making love to her.

After I ejected, she sadly but forcefully said:

“God damn it Adonis, didn’t you know that you were still out?”

I decided, then and there, to ask my future bed companions to insert me themselves.

It turned out to be a great rewarding decision in life.

Back to our original story with Hilda.

We had breakfast sooner than expected.

She made up for losing her temper a minute ago.

Back to bed, she gave me a brain liquefying blow job.

The process was thorough, complete from A to Z.

She acted as she was enjoying a delicious ice cream cone:

A lick from the top, then several on the sides.

She kept at me after I was long done,

And I experienced a forced lasting erection.

I patronized her place a couple of times more

For her expert specialty,

Especially, when I think liquid or liquefaction or ice cream.

If you are interested in a girl from down South,

Please, do not mention visiting Africa.

Novel:  Rainbow over the Levant (A historical fiction)

Introduction

In 14th century Levant, an Arabian stallion was a Cadillac symbol among the noblemen in Mount Lebanon; horses primarily meant a Panzer tank for the forces of the viceroys governing the provinces on behalf of the Mameluks’ Sultan in Egypt.  Luca Antonius, nicknamed “Al Fares” (The Knight), begot Youssef Luca who begot Antonios Youssef Fares.

Luca Fares served in his youth as a knight in the personal guard of the Emir in the county Capital Mtein in the Metn district in central Mount Lebanon   He was a Christian Orthodox with religious allegiance to the declining Byzantine Empire and was a hot headed character and got entangled in many brawls that finally discredited the good judgment of the Emir.  The Emir had no choice but to fire Luca from his entourage and sent him packing with a small fortune and an admonition never to return to Mtein.

Luca bought himself a piece of land near the current village of Khonshara, less than ten kilometers from the Capital Mtein, but never stayed long on his land.  The peasants cultivating his land had field days during his many peregrinations outside his fief until his eldest son Youssef took over.  Luca was killed mysteriously on a hunting trip and Youssef set his mind to take roots on his land, cultivate it stubbornly, forget about horses and knight ship and then married a strong headed, down to earth wife.

Geography of Mount Lebanon

The current Metn County as the other counties of Mount Lebanon are naturally bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the West and the western chain of mountains in the East; the small river of Nahr Kalb that dries up in summer time separates this canton in the North from neighboring Kesrouan with the Sannine Mountains on the East.  At the time of the story, the Metn was separated from the coastal shore administratively and juristically. The mountainous Chouf region formed the southern borders where the Moslem Druze sect, a Fatimide splintered schism from the Shiite Moslem religion, had taken roots a century and a half ago.  The Druze sect had just been created and was small, weak, and facing serious persecution.  Across the eastern slopes of Sannine lays the major town called Zahle in the Bekaa Valley; this is the largest valley in Lebanon rich in wheat and cereals.

The Bekaa Valley running between two chains of mountains north to south about one hundred km long and twenty five km wide on average was the main region to grow wheat and cereals.  Caravans to and fro that valley passed through the Metn to trade wheat and winter stocks of goods such as potteries, olive, olive oil, cutleries and silk cloth. The journeys were long, arduous and dangerous in these unpredictable and lawless periods. Thus, the caravans were guarded by trained fighters and their leaders were familiar with the various fief lords and gang lords.

At the time of the novel, the Metn did not extend to the sea and its total superficies was no more than 800 square kilometers, 40 kilometers from east to west and 20 kilometers from north to south.  Mount Lebanon is naturally divided in counties separated by deep small river valleys running east to west and emptying in the Mediterranean Sea. The religious affiliations in Mount Lebanon at the time were from north to south: Christian Maronites in the Bshari and part of the Betroun regions, Christian Byzantine Orthodox in the current Koura, Byblos, Kesrouan and Metn regions, then the middle part under the Druz sect concentrated in the Chouf region and the southern part of Jabal Amel of mostly Moslem Shiaa.  The Moslem Sunni were primarily entrenched in the littoral.

The Metn, as all Mount Lebanon regions, is an area of hills and valleys with many streams of fresh water. The inhabitants conquered the hilly lands by structuring the parcel of lands in a cascading step design for planting and growing fruit trees, olive trees and green vegetables.  This was hard work since the walls of these parcels of cultivated lands had to be built of stones removed from the land itself.  The Metn was under the rule of the Viceroy of Tripoli, more than a hundred kilometer to the north on the seashore.

The region was not densely inhabited and the Christian Maronite sect did not yet make any major inroads in that part of Mount Lebanon and was based mainly in the northern Mountains, east of Tripoli.   It can be conjectured that less than 60 thousand souls lived in the Metn at the time. The language was a mixture of Arabic, Byzantine and Aramaic slang (the main language during Jesus Christ period and for many centuries to come). Female dressed with several layers of colorful garments very similar to the nowadays customs in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Cherkessk. The male wore the traditional colorful vests with a large band of cloth, black or red, wrapped several times around the waist and pantaloons, black or white, tight at the ankles and oversized around the crotch.

The Roman Christian missionaries had barely made a dent during the last two centuries and had closer relationship with the Maronite sect than with the other Christian sects who did not recognize the infallibility of the Pope.  The Crusaders’ clergy were more intent on fomenting troubles every time a bishop was to be elected or consecrated than promoting enlightenment.  It might be surmised that a few small religious schools were instituted and artisan shops catering to the war efforts of the crusaders prospered.

This story starts in 1346 when the Mameluks’ dynasty in Egypt had already captured every Crusader’s strongholds in Lebanon and Syria’s coast line and pushed back the Mogul invaders beyond the Euphrates River in 1262.  Holako the Mogul had entered Baghdad in 1258 without resistance and devastated this glorious city, spread havoc and plundered it for 40 days. The Mogul hordes emptied the vast libraries of books and manuscripts and drowned them in the Tiger River, and then executed the last Arabic Caliphate Al Mustaesem.  A flourishing Arab civilization that existed for five centuries was annihilated.

Part 1:  My Sunny Levant; Antonios (1346-1381)

Chapter 1: Genesis of a Metnit family

After his wedding, the minor landlord Youssef Fares spread the word that his first born boy would be named Antoun.  His wife Jamila was a proud and steadfast person but made her young husband promise to expand their one large room home to include a private bedroom with door by the time she gives birth to a child; she also wished not to have to step outside for bodily needs and washing, as was common, because she had a deep sense of privacy and propriety.  The stone house was a tad larger than the neighbors’ but resembled them by the lack of modern amenities; at night, beddings were removed from a special drawer to replace the cushions spread around the room while the tiny kitchen was located on the north-west corner.

Eleven months later, Jamila gave birth to Latifa, a girl.  It was too early for Youssef to despair and his immediate second attempt produced Youmna, a girl, thirteen months later.  Within fifteen days of Youmna’s birth, Youssef went ahead with his project and was stopped dead in his track.   The strong headed and shrewd Jamila sent him packing to the fields to work harder and give priority to feeding his growing family. A year went by and Youssef’s male friends and relatives smirked at him and nicknamed his eldest daughter Antouneyeh which precipitated Youssef in a state of isolation, shunning friends and acquaintances.  Jamila sensed that business was deteriorating and the atmosphere in the house darkening and so she decided to give the nod for Youssef to resume his cherished project of producing a boy and crossed her fingers that destiny would turn more clement: Jamila did not believe in large families and mocked the traditional economic viability that feeding more mouths is the panacea for riches and life’s security in advanced age.

Jamila hired a helper to salvage the energies of Youssef and economized in everything except on substantial breakfasts and suppers, understanding that destiny had to be catered to if enterprises had to be successful.  Jamila would boil water in cold weather to warm Youssef’s feet after a day’s work and rub his back and shoulders with a warm wet cloth; everything had to contribute to begetting a healthy boy that should be called Antoun.

Youssef Fares was a wreck when his wife was pregnant for the third time and could no longer appreciate the jokes of his close friends, attributing the successive birth of females to his weak virility and the dominance of his wife in family affairs. The whole community knew that Youssef wanted to call his first born son Antoun and so he was nicknamed Bou Antoun (father of Antoun) immediately after his marriage.  Youssef had driven Jamila to the walls in the last nine months, ordering her to pray more rosaries than needed, spending plenty of money on religious donations and making her submit to all kinds of traditional requests that would guarantee giving birth to a baby boy this time around.

In 1346, the big three kilograms baby Antoun showed up in his entire splendor.  Many exhaled a deep sight of relief, especially Latifa his eldest sister.  Jamila was drained from every ounce of energy and experienced a period of baby blues that lasted two weeks; she directed Youssef not to receive visitors while she was sick and to delay any major celebration until she could be ready to participate fully in the baptismal ceremony.

For the first time, scared to see his strong wife in such a state of depression and weakness, Youssef reluctantly postponed the grand celebration and sent word to the neighbors to temporarily guard his house from well wishers until Jamila was up to the task of honoring guests.

Jamila tried to breast feed big baby Antoun for two days and gave up this arduous and ineffectual endeavor, so that Youssef had to find surrogate mothers for the frequently and ever so hungry Antoun.  The house allowed only breast feeding females to enter in the first week and then Bou Antoun had to carry his new born son to different houses, at least four times a day, and suffer accidents and the humiliating caprices of little Antoun until a permanent deal to breast feed the gluttonous Antoun was arranged.

One night, Youssef confided to his wife his apprehensions about the baby boy; it seems that while he was carrying his boy to a feeding mother the baby constantly tried to rummage through his chest, proving that he was unable to be discriminating in a hungry state.  Youssef failed on the spot to describe his own embarrassment but when he realized the purpose of baby Antoun,  in a weak moment, he revealed to Jamila that he felt his neck independent of his body, his head revolving in all directions for signs of any witness to Antoun’s behavior, his face scarlet hot with shame.  These two weeks of personal tending to his baby son’s needs proved a wealth of direct attachment and close bonding that not many fathers experience in their life time.

Bou Antoun threw a grandiose banquet for the occasion of baptizing his son and he entertained his audience as the supreme king sneering at his friends and threatening them for dire consequences if any of them dared any worn out jokes about virility and lack of authority.  During the festivity, Bou Antoun would dart flaming glances at Jamila and the only responses received from her steel cold eyes he correctly interpreted as saying: “Forget it.  Wipe it out of your mind.  You got what you wanted and do not expect any further special attentions.  Just sit tight and wait if and when I give any new signals.”

Youssef spent his energy expanding his business and planning for Antoun’s future who grew up comfortable among women; a great deal of self esteem sharpened his mind under the watchful eyes of his strong spirited and hard working mother.  Antoun was officially weaned within 18 months but he knew his surrogate mothers and felt at home attempting to breast feeding from anyone he was familiar with. The next four years opened many neighbors’ doors to the growing Antoun who used to help himself to double and three portions at each meal when food was being served, his being most welcomed as a member of the family.  Jamila was obliged during the many special occasions to cook extra portions of sweets to be offered as gifts to the multitude of surrogate mothers in order to repay the favors of her neighbors and as compensation for the ravages done to the neighbors’ depleting pantries.

At 8 of age Antoun was sent to a nearby religious school to learn reading and writing in both languages of Arabic and Aramaic, and some elementary arithmetic. He was also introduced to the rudiments of the French language from a learned monk.  In the afternoons, Antoun helped on the family farms and ultimately was responsible for the accounting.  During religious holidays his sisters and he used to memorize whole sections of the Bible and then act scenes to entertain the family and guests assembled before dinner.  Since girls were not to go to any school outside their homes, his eldest sister Latifa would hang out with Antoun and share his school lessons on pretence of keeping an eye on his scheduled school assignments.

One day, Latifa overheard a disgruntled man cursing saint Anthony because he donated some money for the Saint in order to recover a precious lost object to no avail. Latifa put a twist on the saying and her mom heard her chanting: “Mar Antoun of Mrouj, big thief and far gone senile.”  Latifa was to ask forgiveness on her knees in front of the saint’s statue and wear a male St. Anthony frock for a month.

Rainbow over the Levant is a historical fiction reflecting the current political and social realities in Lebanon with a twist to reform and change.

 

Table of contents

 

Preface

Introduction 9

Part 1:  My sunny Levant; Antonios (1346-1381)

Chapter 1: Genesis of a Metnit family

Chapter 2:  The storm gathering strength (1357-1364)

Childhood of Antoun

Hard facts

First love

 

Chapter 3: Contraband episode (1364-1371)

Adventures in Beirut

Mountain outlaws

Chapter 4:  Planning of the insurrection (1371-1375)

A Gentleman (1375-1378)

Latifa

The Attack

 

Chapter 5:     New political regime (1378-1381)

Initial skirmishes

Armistice

Chapter 6: Voluntary army

 

Chapter 7:     Consolidation of a Nation

Boarding schools

Health counselor

Part 2: Noura (1381-1386)

Chapter 8:      Preliminary reforms 82 Agrarian and tax reforms

Chapter 9:     First expansion 88 National Investment Board

Baldat El Mir

Chapter 10:    Concept for a unified nation

Yasmine dies

Noura’s exile

Part 3: My bloody Levant; Gergis (1386-1394)

Chapter 11:    A navy is born 110

Second expansion

Battle of Anjar

Chapter 12: Administration of an intricate nation

Intelligence gathering

Overseas Holding Company

Economic development

Chapter 13:    Birth of an underground political party 136

First draft of the Constitution

Chapter 14:   Too soon for a Republic

Army centers and headquarters

Internal trading infrastructure

Part 4: Mariam (1394-1399)

Chapter 15:   The second revolution

Organization of the Aram National Party

The Tatars are coming

Chapter 16:   Postponement of a written Constitution

Female rights

Women participate in the electoral system

Part 5: My cyclical Levant; Latifa (1400-1402)

Chapter 17:   Antoun’s exile

Prophesies of end of time

Regent Latifa

A Central Bank mechanism

Pilgrims’ caravans

Chapter 18:    The return

A President for the Levant Dictatorship

Part 6:  Mustafa (1405-1410)

Chapter 19:    Stand for Liberty

The sultan’s famous host

Battle of Tripoli

Chapter 20:    Martyrs of a Nation

In self defense

End notes

Post face

Appendix:   Historical Background    page 230

“Down and out in Paris and London” by George Orwell (July 14, 2008)

“Down and out in Paris and London” is just 215 pages, but each chapter is so packed with emotions and details of the hard life of tramps in London and Paris in the 1930’s that I needed to sleep over each chapter and resume reading other manuscripts for a few days.

This small book required weeks of slow reading that it seemed to me never to have an end. Italic phrases as mine. Orwell was in Paris in his youth and he was robbed of all his cash money and had no sources of income; thus Orwell described his penniless life in Paris and then as a tramp in London.

George Orwell in his “Down and out in Paris and London” tried to explain why people insist on working long hours, over 17 hours, everyday in mines and as plunger “plongeur” in hotels and restaurants.

Are there any meaningful purposes for people to accept sweatshop jobs other than basic economic necessities?

Most slave jobs are directed toward offering luxury to well off rich people who form a totally different caste than the poor people.  The paupers are politically labeled the mob in order to frighten the rich class into conservative behaviors of not attempting to ease the burdens off the working class shoulders, and keep them (the working class) always busy at work and not stop and think and act for a better future and personal ambitions.

Orwell experienced the job of “plongeur” in Paris swabbing dishes in hot dens underground during all his waking hours and going to bed right away after finishing this modern slave job.  The job of a “plongeur” is not idle work but George felt it was better off than many manual works like rickshaw pullers or gharry pony because many Orientals view walking as a degrading sport.

The author described in details how Hotels in Paris function and the hierarchy of the employees and how each caste in the hierarchy tries to express pride in his job and how the more expensive the dish the more frequent the cooks and waiters dip their greasy and sweaty fingers in the dish so that the dish looks in style and neat if much less hygienic.

George Orwell proved how dirty are the environment and the work in Hotels and restaurants and how the customers are not receiving the expected services commensurate to the high prices charged for the lodging and food offered.

The French “patrons” of the Hotels such as the manager, the chef cook, the maitre-d’ hotel and his assistant and the waiters make sure that the dishes prepared for them are hygienic and not mishandled as those offered to the clients. The French are never hired as waiters, but the cooks and sewing women should be French.

Arabs are never hired in jobs that expose them to clients and customers. This manuscript was not reprinted because the author supposedly stated a few racist quotes such as “Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew before a Greek, but don’t trust an Armenian“.

My conjecture is that because the book first described precisely how the powerful hotels and restaurant industry function and bilk the clients with dirty and cheap food and over priced services and second because it gave a detailed account of the state of vagrancy of tramps in these developed States.

George Orwell writes “An illiterate working man, with the work habit in his bones, worries about losing his job because he needs work more than money. With no means of filing up time the out of job working man is as miserable as a dog on the chain.  The educated man, (at least from my own experience, those who loves to read and write), can put up with enforced idleness, which is one of the worst evils of poverty.”

I think that there are two main characters of people regardless of level of education; those who can sustain free time and invest it as lonely people can and those who needs to fill time by actions under various excuses.

In another paragraph a slumming-party of three religious people with a portable harmonium came into the kitchen of a lodging-house where over a hundred tramps were having dinner and started singing and preaching, but they were disregarded and never insulted.  Orwell commented “It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level“.

Once, Orwell was among a hundred tramps that had free tea and 6 slices of bread and margarine and they had to sit for mass; the tramps located in the gallery behaved shamelessly, chatting, laughing, smoking, calling out, and frankly bullying the few elder women of the congregation and Orwell commented:

It was our revenge upon them for having humiliated us by feeding us.  A man receiving charity practically hates his benefactor-it is a fixed characteristic of human nature.  The scene was different from the ordinary demeanor of tramps from the abject worm-like gratitude with which they accept charity.  The explanation was that the tramps vastly out-numbered the congregation and were not afraid of them; when a man has fifty others persons backing him, he will show his hatred.”

A young and chubby clergyman was distributing meal tickets worth sixpence to be used at a specific eating-house whose proprietor swindled each ticket holder of two pence worth of food; the clergyman was so embarrassed seeing this miserable lot that he hurried down the line distributing tickets without waiting to be thanked.  The tramps liked this behavior of the clergyman and there was genuine gratitude with this warm compliment “Well, he’ll never be a f—bishop“.

The chapter before the last offers the roots of the tramps ‘problems and a few suggestions to improving their lives.

First, Orwell fields the prejudices levied against the tramps such as being perceived as “blackguards, repulsive and dangerous criminals and who would die rather work or wash and want nothing but to beg, drink and rob hen-houses“, that they voluntarily refuse work and want to be supported by the public budget.

A few criminologists went as far as labeling the tramp an atavist in the nomadic stage of humanity. This prejudice of “Serve them damned well” attitude is no fairer than it would be towards cripples or invalids. If tramps were indeed criminals then the hundreds of them would not be served by only three persons in each lodging-houses.

The first plague of tramps is malnutrition and this lack of energy spent on walking miles to the next lodging-house is basically set by law, very much like driving to the left in England; the law prevents tramps to sleeping more than a night at a lodging-house for the duration of a whole month.

This law was meant to encourage vagrancy away from London and keeping constantly the tramps on the move.  It is interesting that lodging-houses purposely dump the leftover of edible food so that tramps just keep on their hunger and their ration of tea and four slices of bread and margarine.  Tramps barely can get a good night sleep because the beds are not comfortable, the blanket dirty and thin against the cold and the dormitories holding several dozens of tramps have a high rate of sick people coughing and with bladder problems.

The second great evil of a tramp’s life is being cut off from contact with women: their lack of sexual encounter with females and this forced abstinence encourages homosexuality and the feeling of degradation to the rank of a cripple or a lunatic. No humiliation could do more damage to a man’s self-respect than being considered too low in society classes to be a viable husband or boyfriend.

The third great evil is enforced idleness.  The British vagrancy law of the thirties arranges that when the tramp is not walking the road to the next lodging-house he is to sit still in cells; or, in the intervals, lying on the ground waiting for the casual ward to open and set him free to walk again.

The average tramp has no clothes but what he stands up in, wear boots that are ill-fitting, and does not sit in a chair for months (because chairs are not available in lodging-houses or in any public place in London)

Orwell suggested farm houses to be cultivated by the tramps while living in lodging-houses but the ideology of the time would not encourage socialism or Bolshevik economy and the government preferred that its lowest class of tramps suffer physically and spiritually rather than offering comfort and remedies to their plight.

There are rules to the freedom of tramps that differ between Paris and London:

In London tramps are not allowed to sleep in the underground train stations, or even sit on pavement or beg; tramps have to fake that they are selling something.  In Paris tramps have wider latitudes and can sleep and spend their time in public parks and sleep in the metro and beg overtly.

George Orwell ends his manuscript with what he learned from these months living as a true tramp in London and Paris

I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels (since they can’t purchase drinks), nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy (living on just tea and two slices of bread and margarine), nor subscribe to the Salvation Army (since they treat the hosted tramps as prisoners), nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill (so that the distributor of handbill can finish his job early), nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant.  That is a beginning.

Note: Even today, the law of the land is mainly targeting the poorer classes and does its best to climinalize the condition of being born within a poor environment

“Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan, (July 21, 2008)

The book “Why the Arab World is not free?” is highly important and a major manuscript to read leisurely.

Each chapter contains an idea or a concept that can be developed extensively to the benefit of our retrograded societies.

Safouan believes, as I do, that the main power that allowed monarchs and colonial occupiers to enslave entire people was the adoption of a special language for the elites in any society.  The elite language was necessarily different from the language spoken by the common people or vulgar language.

The specials languages, written by the religious hierarchies, the scribes, the scientists and medical professions, left the impression to the common people that they are surely inferior in knowledge and capability, and thus logically, they had to submit to the monarchs and elites and excuse their unequal treatments and wrong doings as not comparable to the standards of responsibilities among the common people.

This paragraph is of my own.

(The invention of writing, maybe originated from Kingdom of Sumer in southern Mesopotamia before the fourth millennia, answered to an intellectual logic for organizing the real life, mostly administrative in nature, and which include laws and accounting principles. The words didn’t represent images but sounds of the spoken language that meant an object of an idea or a relationship.  It seems that the invention of writing was not attributed to a divine origin but as a human responsibility.  The invention of writing was applied independently in various civilizations with different forms, but the common denominator was that a word represented a concept, and thus for the administrative scribes, things didn’t exist unless it was given a name in writing.)

The modern man can be said to stand up on its own around the year 1250 when universities in Europe were instituted independently of States or the Church.  These universities acquired power and graduated scholars that replaced the bishops in the interpretation of the scriptures and technicians in all fields that the States needed their services.  The Renaissance would not have existed without these hotbeds of education in Bologna (Italy), Paris, London and Tübingen (Germany).

There is no critical separation between religion and sciences for the transmission of education and culture to the next generations.

Copernicus was an influential priest in Poland; Kepler who studied theology at the University of Tübingen but was sent by his professors to teach mathematics at the University of Graz; Newton wrote more on theology and the Old Testament than on physics and mathematics.  Only Galileo might have collided with the Church, simply because he realized that sciences has taken a new paradigm, which is away from the Aristotelian system to the mathematical sciences based on algebraic equations and thinking.

The Islamic mathematicians such as Thabet Bin Kura, Al Khwarazmi, and Kashi have laid the foundations of algebra and shifted the center of mathematics from geometry to algebra, simply because the complex rules of heritage in the Moslem laws required complex computations.

There are two venues for translating manuscripts; either we assimilate the text to the culture, or we subordinate our mentality to the thinking of the original author.  If we adopt the first concept we are basically regurgitating our own prejudices and idiosyncrasies. The second method should be bound to express the main philosophical thinking of the language and be faithful to the author’s philosophy and intents.

The second method pre-suppose that the translator is very familiar with the culture of the original language, so that the readers assimilate varieties of ways of thinking and ways of life.

Obviously, in our dying traditional classical Arabic language, as well as societies, not many people are familiar with the classical Arabic for ideas to be communicated and disseminated.  At least, if the second method of translation in the popular verbal language is endeavored we might expect a better return for changing our mentality.

Classical Arabic has no adequate words for the terminology of political philosophy for many reasons.

For example, Republic or “res publica” which means public affairs or public cause is generally translated as common interest “al maslaha al 3amat” which defeats the core meaning and reduces the whole politics of the republic to varieties to interests.

Another concept of sovereignty which means the right of retaining the last decision is translated as “siyada” which connote domination of masters to slaves.

The concept of politic which is the adoption of a system on how to govern among the citizens is translated as “siyasa” the root base of “sasa” which means how to lead or to control.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2008
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