Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 24th, 2008

Public Relations: Hariri versus the Moustakbal (Future team) (April 5, 2005)

This week was heavy with serious mourning: Pope Jean-Paul II passed away, as well as Deputy Ali Khalil and former deputy and Minister Nasri Maaluf.  I am not used to read the obituary pages and will not make it a futile exercise to select samples from the four corners of the world.

This piece of article is about the values and styles of public relations. When martyr Rafic Hariri was among us I cannot remember that he did any serious public relations targeted toward the common people outside of Beirut. I am assuming that he public related to his constituency since he won the latest election hands down.

I do follow politics and read newspapers on a daily basis but my facts about Hariri and his achievements were countable. I think that I heard he is the planner, architect and executer of the renovation of Downtown Beirut through his Solidair Company that he is the one who rebuilt our International airport, the Camille Chamoun Stadium and the highways that lead to the airport.  I knew that he has at least two palaces in Lebanon: one in Koritem/Beirut and the other in the resort area of Faqra.

I also knew, from long time ago, that Hariri has been sponsoring the higher education of thousands of Lebanese during the civil war. Actually, when I was in Oklahoma at Norman I met a dozen of these students learning English. These students were somehow unsatisfied with the University allocated to them and sent a petition to that effect. A week later, former US State Senator Percy visited the Norman campus and I heard that the students were shipped back to Lebanon. I read lately that the 2 billion funds assigned to educating the Lebanese was actually from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and that Hariri was managing the funds. If every politician in Lebanon used his good relations to bring funds home so that thousands could reap the benefits we would have been in much better shape.

I knew that there is a Hariri Foundations in Washington DC with no clear ideas of its functions or purpose.  I still receive brochures, once a year, from the Foundation. I finally learned that it has good connections with several UN branches and has developed several projects that can help Lebanon but I am still in the dark of what these projects might be and how they could be of any help in Lebanon.  If every Lebanese politician endows a Foundation in different capitals of Europe, China, India, Brazil and Canada so that these foundations market efficiently Lebanon we would become an important hub for the tourism agencies.

Hariri proved to me that he is the leader of the Sunni Moslems and of our Capital Beirut from his sweeping election victory. He must have done an excellent public relation job among his constituents but since I don’t read the Al Mustakbal daily newspaper and barely watch the Al Mustakbal TV channel I can frankly say that his public relations barely made a dent on me. Actually, those who opposed his policies had strong impact on me and I rarely believed Hariri’s speeches.

One important item that lacked in the reconstruction of Downtown Beirut was the old souks.  Before the civil war, if you wanted furniture you traveled to Tripoli.  Any thing else you went to the old souks of Beirut to purchase anything you might need or wish. The old souks made Beirut an extremely crowded and vibrant city.  Can any Lebanese feel any vibrations when he visits Beirut now?  Can any Lebanese purchase anything from Downtown Beirut or even rent a tiny room?  Well, there is so much anyone can do but keep strolling the gorgeous streets there and I guess one visit should be enough to get the message clear and loud.

After the assassination of Hariri, the Al Mustakbal team did a much better public relation job, I think.  I learned that Hariri did an excellent job recruiting personnel, consultants and ministers.  When the minister of Culture Salame needed some funds to make the francophone convention or the Arab Summit successes he relied on Prime Minister to supply his ministry from his own finances. Obviously, every dollars spent on these conventions were actually excellent investment because most of the money spent by the invitees were recycled into Hariri real estate empire.  This circulation of huge foreign money had good turnover too because the attendants liked Lebanon and visited Beirut more than once a year. If every politician in Lebanon invested judiciously in bringing conventions to Lebanon we would have been in much better situation.

I learned that 50,000 persons ate at Koreitem during the last Fetr season. I am wondering how many of the visitors were wretched people who managed to get hold of their courage and pay a visit to the Palace.  Supposing that a few of these hungry people ate one night there, what about the rest of the 365 nights a year?  If every politician had one open dinner a year I guess many hungry people would stop complaining about this hard and unfair life.

I heard that Hariri was not only Prime Minister but he did excellent jobs with the ministries of Finance, Tourism and Foreign Affairs. He did more than the whole government members combined.  Why the rest of Lebanon, with the exception of Beirut and may be Sidon, were left swinging in the wind and waiting helplessly for the economy to trickle down to them? If every politician actively worked for the resurrection of Lebanon by achieving a small fraction of what Hariri has done I am sure Lebanon would have been in a much better position to attract investments. Most importantly, I learned that Hariri checked many Israeli plans in Lebanon and elsewhere and won all his diplomatic counter attacks hands down.  I conjectured that Hariri was the number one on the Israeli black hit list.

One Saturday afternoon, my niece and I brought along my mom to visit the sites of the assassination and Hariri tomb.  The Al Mustakbal team was organizing a gathering in Downtown Beirut to take a picture of Hariri made out of hundreds of square cardboards carried by people over their heads. The team threw hundreds of little parachutes from a high crane carrying the red and white scarves; I ran hard to catch one of these parachutes but was out numbered and out maneuvered by the throng of people.

This is not the first time that the Mustakbal team has pulled rabbits from its sleeves.  The team has been very creative in keeping the memory of martyr Hariri alive.  Once it used thousands to hold cardboards to form the Lebanese flag.  Another time it lighted candles that transcribed the word “truth” in Arabic and English in the Martyrs’ Square. Lately it invaded the beach of St. George with hundreds of yachts and boats carrying demonstrators with the Lebanese flag. I am confident that the military genius organizing these gathering will soon attack from the air. I can already see hundreds of hot air balloons in red, white, green and light blue colors ambling toward the Downtown.

Now I am pondering about the formation of these balloons. I think that I can outguess the military genius:  The red, green and white balloons will take the shape of the flag while the blue balloons will take the form of the Al Mustakbal ribbon attached to the far end right side of the flag.

Any way, while walking near the Martyrs’ Square I was surprised to see a set of tennis courts in the most expensive real estate in Lebanon.  These immaculate and totally empty sport facilities were facing one of the most expensive apartment complexes in Lebanon. I kept wondering how many of these ministers or deputies or millionaires living in these apartments are going to wear shorts and making a public display by shaking their fat butts!  I reached the conclusion that none will ever be seen on these famous tennis courts.  I then assumed, and wish Solidair will prove me wrong, that this space was designed to keep the little people at bay from these luxury dwellings.  The Al Mustakbal supporters insist on finding the truth; I am not asking them for the truth but just a satisfactory rational for these tennis courts.

Without any doubt, the Al Mustakbal team made a much better public relation job than Hariri was willing to do.  This team shamed the public relation efforts of George W. Bush to improve his image.  I am not suggesting that the US public relation funds were less than the Al Mustakbal but that you cannot do much improvement on an image if the evidence and facts do not substantiate your marketing gimmicks.  Even the Al Mustakbal team can do much to overcome the shortcoming of Bush’s public relation team.

The image of George Bush will remain tarnished with his bullying behavior, mass killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the assassination of the UN charters and the humiliation of millions in Europe and elsewhere. Whatever public relation Bush will endeavor to do will not convince anyone that the heavy participation of the Iraqis in their latest election was a vote for support of the invasion:  The Iraqis were sending the clear message that the US invaders have to leave immediately now that the democratic process has taken place. Bush is not about to believe this fact until all the coalition troops vacate the Iraqi soil and more green bags shipped back home to the USA.

Let Us Cut Out the Crap, Who Killed Hariri? (March 31, 2005)

If anyone is still waiting for the results of any kind of investigation into the assassination of Hariri, I suggest that he build himself a shack in Downtown Beirut and wait there for at least twenty years. If anyone did not get it that more than two great States, with veto power in the UN, are behind this assassination he better stock up on Lebanese flags hoping for another big demonstration with the slogan of “We need the truth. Who killed our martyr Rafic?”  If anyone is still wondering why a thousand kilograms of TNT explosives are needed to assassinate Hariri, or who can stock pile that amount of explosives then may be he sincerely wishes that Syria should be behind the assassination.  If anyone is still interested on the mechanisms of this murder by a moving truck, or in a secret underground tunnel, or a suicide bomber, or the detonation technique used or any kind of these stupid details then he sure will hear a lot of that crap..

Let me ask you, why Yasser Arafat, the symbol of the Palestinian resistance to Zionism, had to be assassinated, in the meanest possible alternatives, by slow poisoning when even the meanest British government allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to dictate his memoirs before dying his slow death with arsenic poisoning?  Why then Hariri had to be done with in pomp and in grandeur that left dozen killed, a hundred injured and part of Beirut destroyed? 

Are the powerful assassins sending an honorable farewell to the overbearing friend, the worthy enemy, the great dealer, and the leader who was much bigger than his tiny country?  Apparently the Western Powers have set up a coding style system for eliminating leaders whose time had come and are becoming huge liabilities to the changing political climate.  I would conjecture that the great powers decided on that murdering style because of the number of times the unfortunate bugger was invited officially to visit their leaders, the frequency of public friendship expressions, the many services they mutually profited, and perhaps the quality and number of citizenships he accumulated, and less probably because of the number of honorable degrees which were bestowed on him by universities.   

Hariri died on Valentine day.  What was his wife Nazek doing in Paris on that day?  Was she expecting Rafic to join her in Paris or was she to return that evening to Beirut, or was she held in Paris on purpose so that she might not be a member of the deadly motorcade?  Why Hariri was so happy in the morning of his death?  Did he receive the good news from Chirac that Syria will be withdrawing its troops for sure and much sooner than expected, but failed to warn him that his hours were counted in order to efficiently execute that decision?

Jacque Chirac, a President of a proud country, stayed more than six hours with the Hariri’s family to mourn such a great friend of his.  May he be so guilt ridden or had he to shift attention to the real culprit somewhere else?  How come France was so chummy with Israel, immediately after the assassination of Hariri, as if missing an old friend and could not stop chatting and cuddling with Israel for a long period afterward?

How come the US Administration, at this period, has been moving its butts in and out of Lebanon and shaking them much more than it did during its Iraq invasion? How come the US Administration has been admonishing Israel to stop its public affirmations of the US agreement on its policies whether in Israel or in the Middle East?  

I stated in a previous article that the USA and Israel were the sole culprits and I provided the rationales. I stand a little corrected.  The 1559 UN resolution that was sponsored by the USA and France was the tip of the iceberg of the package deal between these two States and among the little secret agreement between them was to contract out Israel to eliminate Hariri with utmost prejudice within specific constraints on when and how.  Israel was overjoyed that the opportunity finally came to erase her enemy number one off her black list. Hariri not only attempted several times to undermine Israel plans in Lebanon and in the region but succeeded hands down in all his political counter offensives against Israel and was still capable of doing Israel great damage. 

Chirac was relieved from an overbearing friend who kept reminding him of what were the right things to do toward Lebanon.  Chirac knew better that doing the right things is not necessarily the right political decisions at this crucial time of his political career.  Chirac was paying dearly from his prestige and France political positions by opposing the persistent pressures from the European Union and the USA to list Hezbollah as one of the terrorist organizations.  Unperturbed, Hariri kept showing at the Elysee door and taking photos with Chirac that said “My dearest friend Chirac” as Sadat used to say of Kissinger, the USA Secretary of State during Nixon, “My dear friend Henry”.

The USA and France had already agreed on plans for the Greater Middle East and time was of the essence.  These plans could not succeed for certain and on time with Hariri still alive and active. France, for now, is winning big: it managed to reaffirm her protectorate rights over Syria and Lebanon like during the colonial times, secured her oil rights in Iraq and removed the American veto to selling military hardware to China. 

Israel managed to put the squeeze on Hezbollah and to diligently attempt again to circumvent the rights for the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland with secret deals with, hopefully, the enfeebled new Lebanese governments after the election.  The USA is succeeding in destabilizing Syria and weakening any resolve that Syria might still have to counter the plans in the Greater Middle East.

Hariri had done what was expected from him politically and his worth was much greater as a martyr:  Lebanon will disengage from Syria as an enemy and not as a natural economic and social necessity; Lebanon will continue to remain a weak sectarian State as was its lot since the colonial status and after its independence by the agreement of all the regional Arabic States. The price for Hariri’s life was not certainly worth any stupid friendship that reached the stage of no return on investment but was becoming a real liability in prestige for Chirac’s France geopolitical interests, the Saudi monarchy, and the plans for a stable Greater Middle East, happy to coexist with Israel while securing the flow of oil at cheap prices. 

A practically tarnished and weakening President, Lahoud quickly agreed to an international investigating team without discussing the details of its composition or duration. The wolves in the world community are going to manhandled Lebanon through special investigating teams, a series of additional international resolutions in order to freely investigate whom they already condemned and sidetrack the facts, the deeds, and the witnesses of the real culprits. Lebanon will be welcoming an international team of investigators, about 60 of them and for 6 months automatically renewed for another 6 months and another 6 months until the sectarian blocks and militias in Lebanon organize and ready their forces for another round of internal bloodshed.  

Citizens, what sort of political and economic stability do you expect for Lebanon in the coming year?  Another wave of immigration is already taking place and no noble slogans can undo this trend.  Another political instability will set in for years to come leaving the economic reforms untouched and as irrelevant to the stability of the country.

Syria offered the cynical wolves the perfect excuse by publicly antagonizing itself with Hariri and forcing an extension to Lahoud’s term; the Syrian ruling personalities and State newspapers sounded like enraged fools having personal animosity with the one who actually bought the highest members of its government and had extensive business deals with ruling power in Syria at the expense of the Lebanese people.  Syria was continuously harasses and threatened by the USA and France in order to commit these unforgivable political blunders. It is a masterful coup at the expense of the damned and impotent people of Lebanon.

Note: There are lately links to the extremist Muslem Salafists; well, they do follow higher orders.

Wednesday, July 20, 2006

 

I went ahead and submitted my application for a new passport in Dhur El Shuwir, a ten minutes drive up. I needed to make a copy of my ID and was shown a shack fronting the Internal Security offices.  This shack was used by one of the “mukhtars” to process applications.  The copier was dirty and the copy of my ID was dirtier but valid hopefully.

It took about an hour to process the application; I was asked to finger print one of my thumbs; another officer rechecked the application, a third one cashed 60, 000 LP per year of validation, then the captain of the Internal Security stamped the pages and told me to come a week later to fetch my passport.  I paid for only one year because the other alternative is for a five years validation with no discount.

When I arrived home my mother asked me where I was and told her that I was renewing my passport.  She told me that she was telling my father that was exactly what she suspected.

There are rumors that gas for cars will no longer be available three days from now because the three remaining gas storage areas are located in West Beirut and transport is scarce and dangerous.  William was about to drive to a library for supplies and I asked him whether he checked with his mother if she needed something. He said that he had not that habit.  I told him that gas might be cut off within two days and it might be a good idea to save on trips.  He thought it out for a few seconds and said that it made sense and then turned off the ignition and mounted three floors to check with his mother.  I sensed that youth were ready to comprehend the scale of the difficulties facing us.

The municipality cleaned and prepared an old private school that it acquired two years ago as for its offices, and is receiving a new wave of refugees from the South and Beirut; this wave is in a pretty tattered state and worsening as the war drags on.  It is becoming a serious health hazard to breathe the polluted air in the littoral.

Michael, a friend of Cedric, said that the hotel he worked at in West Beirut has closed its doors, all its computers were removed to the basement and only one guard posted; he is pretty depressed at the realization that he is out of job while ten days ago he felt it might be the best summer for him.

The US marines are evacuating their citizens for the second day.  The patriarch of the Christian Maronites just arrived from the USA by a US helicopter wearing the regulated helmet; my mother chuckled telling me this piece of news.

The resort town of Brumana is jammed and overwhelmed and cars moves like snails and no place to park cars even on side streets.

Israel land forces have been trying for 9 days to get a bridgehead in the south in the two vacated town of Ayroun and Maroun al Rass.  So far they failed to advance even one kilometer and the latest reports are that 9 Israelis soldiers are encircled and several have been made prisoners.  Dozens of Israeli tanks have been destroyed and several generals are pleading to scrap any land invasion because the estimates are that about 40 to 50 soldiers will be killed every day in these incursions.

On the political front, there is a steady advance for a cease fire and the international pressures are making a substantial dent on the resolve of GW Bush administration and the stupid US Congress that passed a resolution for the continued Israeli invasion.  The Israeli representative in the UN stormed out of the meeting because Anan did not mention Hezbollah, Iran or Syria in his speech asking for a cease fire.

The French embassy is evacuating its citizens from the port of Tyr.  I am now reading “The Lexus and the olive tree” by Thomas Friedman. Ashley went to the American Embassy late to apply for a passport and received it the same day.  My brother’s two sons left to Canada through Damascus and then from Amman.  They arrived for their summer vacation the night Israel bombed our airport.

Tuesday, July 19, 2006

Note: This diary covers the 33 days war of Israel on Lebanon, presumably against Hezbollah’s military machine.

Yesterday, Syria provided a few statistics:  more than 100,000 Lebanese and other foreign nationals have already crossed its borders.

The first day of war experienced a mass exodus of the tourists from the Arab Gulf States, around 25,000 tourists and then, the Syrian laborers followed suit.

Today, we attended the burial of a four years old girl Rita-Maria who finally died of kidney failure after years of fighting against her disease.  Her parents (cousins)begot her after thirteen years of trying for a child.  While carrying the baby to her burial-place her mother kept sobbing softly: “Where are they taking you?”

Today, my mother sent me on an errand for her basic medicines, Glibomet for her blood sugar level and Capozide for her blood pressure.

The husband of our regular pharmacist claimed that he has no more Glibomet because it is delivered from West Beirut and no shipments were forthcoming, he did not have even Panadol!  I remembered our local, almost a non-profit clinic, in Beit Chabab and bought two packs of Glibomet and a substitute to Panadol and also a pack of generic Capozide at a price one-third lower than the one I purchased from pharmacies.

Around 1:30 pm,  the phone was ringing off its hook for quite a while: the pharmacist was telling me that she received Glibomet and I thanked her for her prompt reply to our request.

It is to be noted that four months ago, our National Health Social Security kicked my father and mother out of its list and refused to pay for their medicines because they were over the age of 80, and its budget could no longer afford to pay for medicines.

As soon as I arrived home, my brother–in–law asked me to buy a 50-kilo sac of white wheat for emergency; I told him that I’ll think about this request tomorrow.  However, in the afternoon I bought 25 kilo because there was not enough for the other customers.

On my way I passed by the “mukhtar” to say hello and found relatives of mine filling forms for applying to passports and I was asked to sign the application as one of the witnesses.  It was an opportunity to apply also for a new passport. The last time I renewed my passport was in 2000 at Washington DC when I decided to go back definitely to Lebanon.

The cover of the passport was then red-brown as the Syrian passports; and the Lebanese government decided to change the color back to navy blue when the Syrian withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.

For some days I have been trying to be in contact with a few friends but at no avail:  all the lines sounded busy or disconnected or nobody available to answer my calls.  I needed to know if they were safe, have left Lebanon or managed to relocate away from the close and persistent noises of jet planes and Israeli frigate shelling and the polluted atmosphere, a thick cloud that was covering and hovering over Beirut and its environs.

I decided to check a friend’s apartment close by after he relocated to West Beirut for convenience sake two years ago.  He was there with the extended family of his wife, his mother with a friend of hers, and the Sir Lankan helper, about a dozen people.  They spent three days cleaning their two stories apartment and refilled the pool.

As soon as entered my friend’s house Ramez, Lebanon Seniora PM was to deliver a speech to the foreign diplomatic corps.  He bewailed the plight of the Lebanese citizens, 500 thousands refugees, most of them with no roofs over their heads and the difficulty of delivering provision to the stranded in their villages; he exhorted the world communities not to forget them as they did during our civil war that started in 1975 and lasted 13 years.

It was an impassioned plea that reflected the impotence of this government, but he did not sound as a viable leader for a country in need of lifting its soul and the reserves of its human energy.

Since the beginning of the war I stopped driving my car except for short errands to buy supplies because I felt it was my patriotic duty to save on gas and also to keep away from the possibility of altered and diluted gas in this time of scarcity.

My nephew Cedric went to his job today and I was told that William has shaved his head after a year of growing long hair.

Sunday, July 17, 2006

My aunt Montaha told me that our local public middle school was flooded by refugees and that Zouzou is in charge of managing the situation. They were in need of blankets, pillows and mattresses and thanking God that this was the summer season.  The next day, the office across the school that Zouzou was heading for managing the refuges problem was filled with bags of breads and sacs of potatoes in order to feed the refugees.  In the court of the school two kerosene ovens were installed, probably borrowed from homes and used during the winter season for heating and boiling water.

Monday, July 18, 2006

Israel has already destroyed all our roads and bridges leading to the south in order to destabilize Hezbollah’s logistics in men and armament. The headquarters of Hezbollah in south Beirut is totally destroyed and still the enemy jets keep shelling it. The so-called Security Square of Hezbollah is a huge mass of rubble but the leader Hassan Nasr Allah is still alive and promising new surprises for his missiles to reaching Haifa and beyond Haifa. 

At the end of his televised message, Nasr Allah told us to watch the Israeli frigates that were visible in front of Beirut.  Seconds later, one of the frigates was hit by two missiles and gun shot of joy were heard in Beirut.

Israel’s air force hit all the Lebanese army radar sites along the littoral and now it is targeting the army barracks too; twelve soldiers and officers have perished and two dozens wounded.  It seems that Israel is trying to alienate the army from the Resistance.  Fact is, as if the majority of Shiaa soldiers in the army is about to satisfy the wishes of our enemy Israel.

George W. Bush is aggravating my nerves with his insipid, ignorant, and flatulent short speeches; he has a one directional view in politics because he is too lazy to read reports and connect dots.  You might think that a wife could infuse some humanity and compassion in a husband but it seems that Lora Bush is the real racist and ignorant party in the relationship for failing to educate her husband properly. 

Hearing Bush you have the impression that taking two Israelis soldiers prisoner is a good enough reason to destroying Lebanon because he loathes what he calls the “Hezbolla terrorists”.  Nasr Allah was correct by stating that the actions and behavior of Hezbollah were on target in increasing our pride, honor and safety from the collusion of the Arab regimes with Israel and the US plans in the region that are meant to weaken our resolves for independence and progress.

My niece Joanna never skipped a day work because Indevco does not believe in days off under any circumstances, although the Christian cities of Jounieh, Achrafieh, and Byblos received Israeli shelling.

Chapter 3: Contraband episode (1364-1371)

So far, Antonios Luca Fares was just exercising an innate right of accumulating information and freely expressing his thoughts. He did not realize that communicating his ideas was a purely political action and that it might have the power to be considered very dangerous to the stability of the status quo and could be a major incentive to diligently apprehending the perpetrator.  The local feudal lord transmitted to his superior the gathered information on Antoun’s discussions, with a noticeable twist, that implicated the superior directly. As tradition required, Youssef, instead of Antoun, was summoned to the local lord because his son was still unmarried and living with his parents and was duly reprobated for his son’s innuendos. The father was taken aback by these developments and promised to have a serious conversation with his son.  Antoun was extremely upset that his father was reprimanded publicly and ordered to get involved in matters that were personal in nature.  A respectful conversation between father and son took place the same evening but Antoun showed a new determination for independence and accepted full responsibility for the unfortunate consequences.  The father had to let go of his son and offered him a little sum of money in order to disappear for some time until the storm died down.

Antoun descended to Beirut, a quaint little sea port with gardens and red brick roofs that was not within the Emir’s province.  The first day, he saw more horses than his entire life and that pleased him.  He saw more carriages and a few exquisite ones that he could imagine existed.  He saw more people in the bazaar that his tiny town contained and such a variety of attires and races. A few days later he strolled toward the seashore and questioned many mariners on their jobs and listened to the exotic stories of the sea and foreign ports and different civilization and felt enchanted with this change in view and way of living. This constant visits to the sea and ports made it possible for the exiled mountain youth to meet Gregorios Bahri who was one of the port’s popular traders.

Gregorios was in his fifties but looked to be in the mid seventies because of the horrors and hard times he had spent on the sea as a Venetian merchant Captain in the service of the Dojo.  The Mediterranean Sea was much safer in that century, unlike two centuries later after the Ottoman Empire had captured Constantinople and vast maritime wars spread across the sea for domination of the merchant traffic.

First love

Generally, males found Antoun imposing and handsome and females could not resist the confidence and manhood radiating from his presence.  If the first impression was not enough to capture an audience then his grave, clear and articulate voice could mesmerize the refractors into taking notice.   Antoun was sought after by many families who desired to wed him with their daughters but, as usual, he had eyes only on a special girl called Zeina the daughter of an upper hierarchical social status father. 

Barhoum Bey, Zeina’s father, would never allow this lower level gentleman to woo any of his girls. Consequently, when he was in his hometown during the extended holidays and the winter period, Antoun made it a duty to assiduously attend church on Sundays and every religious event so that he could steal a glimpse of Zeina wearing a new tunic on every occasion as if her mother was compensating for her inner coquettish temperament.  

Antoun even suffered the pain of Jesus during Great Friday kneeling for hours at each stage of Christ’s march to crucifixion; he was happiest the morning of Great Friday when all families swamped the hills and valleys very early in order to gather flowers in bundles and bring them to the alter so that the bundles could be sanctified and retaken on the next Sunday when Christ would be resurrected, every year on that Holy Day. On Thursday before Great Friday he would visit 12 churches with a group of friends and follow the same route as Zeina and her group and have his feet washed by the priest as Jesus had done to his 12 disciples. 

Cranky old ladies spread sarcastic tales of Antoun’s new found devotion which reached the ears of Barhoum’s wife, Set Shams.  Fearing that his standing in the community might be jeopardized, Barhoum Bey grudgingly debased his pride and indirectly sent word by one of his attendants to the lanky cock to stop his sickly machinations toward his daughter or he would confront his father. Thus, Antoun was spurned from his plan of eternal love and happiness; consequently, his devotion for Jesus, Mary, the Holy Ghost and the Saints waned drastically for a time.

It was about this period that Antoun experienced his first serious bout of anger and desolation.  For weeks sleep was anathema to his troubled and muddled mind and chaos ruled supreme in his previously contended spirit. Politics was starting to mean something tangible to him:  redress in justice and equal opportunities to a decent life for all residents were excellent starting stands. Until now, Antoun spent his free time with a bunch of solid and healthy males, going hunting, fishing, and physically competing during the religious events in the church square such as ringing the heavy bell, lifting a roller stone, dancing and singing. 

There were many rumors and stories in town and the environ about serious breaches to fair play such as humiliation inflicted on families, brides being defoliated by feudal lords before the wedding ceremonies, small girls sold out for small favors, little boys working as slaves from sun up to sun down for a dish of food but Antoun didn’t believe or care to attend to these rumors.  After his disastrous state of affairs Antoun had all the time in the world to listen carefully, question, and query and eventually to have firm opinions on many of these unjust happenings.  Rebellion swept away every cautious tendency in Antoun who decided to deliver love verses to Zeina in the old time tradition of rhetorical gathering and ceremonies. Antoun’s love verses were repeated by the listeners to other groups and so his beloved girl was hastily wed to a Lebanese nobleman from the entourage of the Viceroy of Tripoli a month after this jocose adventure.

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

Childhood of Antoun

About 11 of age, Antoun desired to ride a horse after watching a squadron of cavalry crossing the town square.  The father of Antoun, Youssef ,felt embarrassed when he was asked point blank by his kid:  “Cannot we afford to buy a horse?”  He replied:  “Suppose you are riding a fine horse and your neighbor friend Amin decided to emulate you and bought an even finer horse, then how would you feel?”  Antoun said: “I’ll buy the best horse that money can buy.”  His father retorted: “Thank God we are forbidden to buy horses; otherwise your mother would turn your pink body blue in no time.”

Antoun stuttered in astonishment: “Who dares forbid us from owning a horse?” His dad patiently said: “The Emir and his noble class of relatives and associates do not authorize the plain citizens to look at them as equals and they decided that owning and riding horses should be of their prerogatives.” Antoun glared at his dad and after a few seconds said: “How different are these noble people from us?  Are they richer or stronger than us?”  Bou Antoun inhaled deeply and said: “They are somehow richer in lands that they never work with their own hands, but mainly the Viceroy of Tripoli supports them with his army and security men; any recrimination from the people is considered stepping outside the law and order they agreed on among themselves.  Anyway, you’ll have to deal with your mother for expanding your ambitions.”  Antoun got persistent and said: “I like horses and want to raise horses.  Can’t we raise horses like we have cows, goats and chickens?”  His dad replied: “No! We are not allowed to raise horses as owning a horse is out of the question and not because of financial affordability.  We are not a noble class and this privilege is denied us. Now go a play.” Antoun said: “I will own my horse one day and nobody is going to withhold from me what I feel is good.”  His father suddenly burst out and said: “God have mercy on me!  Your granddad is going to haunt me for the rest of my life.” Antoun questioned his dad: “What did my grand father do that was so awful?”  His father flushed and uttered: “It is none of your business. Suffice you to know that since he was permitted to ride horses as the Emir’s cavalry guard he turned to hell the lives of many inhabitants and got in countless troubles. So, I order you to desist in this unlawful project.”  Antoun’s reaction was out of place and banged his right hand on the floor screaming: “I want a horse!” The next second his father hit him for the first time, then Bou Antoun turned his back and stepped out quickly of the house to hide his wet eyes.

In the following week, Bou Antoun tediously managed to convince Jamila to let her son tend the Emir’s stable in the Capital Mtein during the next winter season.  The initial excitements were displaced by the actual tasks that the job entailed, and Antoun grudgingly went about the menial dirty tasks of cleaning the stables, carrying feed and whatever that takes to fill a twelve-hour day’s work without having the right to even lead a horse; but Antoun still loved horses and badly wanted to ride horses.  His tough job cured him though from day dreaming about horses.

Christmas Eve that year was different for Antoun who spent it at the house of a distant relative by the name Abboud, a renowned carpenter.  A couple of days earlier, a passing makareh (man transporting goods and messages from village to village on a mule or a donkey) delivered to Antoun a well wrapped bundle containing dried raisins, walnuts, molasses, honey, a few apples, a pair of winter galoshes, a headdress and a gift to the Abboud’s family.  It was an evening that many average families celebrated around a covered burning “mankal” filled with charcoal and stacked with crackling roasting chestnuts.

Every now and then, an unconscious kid would forget to peel the head of a chestnut, occasioning a detonation that scattered burning red dust.  The whole family was sitting along the walls on pillows nibbling on mezze, everyone dipping their bread and hands in the varied sizes of dishes. The kids would immediately make a savage run on the bzourat (a mixture of assorted nuts) with side orders of dried figs and raisins to the great sadness of Abboud who could not enjoy his traditional protracted and leisurely dinner.

A game of card called seven and a half was in full swing and already children were crying and sobbing for the loss of a few wagered dried figs, beans, or round playing stones.  Adults and older kids would go to midnight mass and the rest would sleep in heaps on Jeddo Milad’s (Santa Claus) steadfast promises to bring them gifts by early morning.  It was a very warm and cozy room and a happy night for Antoun who did share the honor of sloshing through the fresh snow with the family for midnight mass; he sauntered into church wearing his new galoshes and headdress like a grown up peacock.

The first ten minutes of mass were exquisite in novelties but Antoun fell asleep shortly after the liturgy droned on and kept up its monotonous pace and intonation.  He woke up the next day in an unfamiliar perched up bed and then found under his pillow a little black polished wooden horse wrapped in a cloth bundle stuffed with sweets and candies.  He never knew the real offerer of that precious horse which he kept amid his belonging wherever he traveled, though he suspected someone.

At fourteen, Antoun had to leave schooling, as was very common at that period, but his mother encouraged him to buy and borrow books to further his knowledge and made him read aloud in the evening gatherings because she noticed that his bright mind could further the status of the family.  The young Antoun turned out to be well built and tall for his time of about 180 cm in stature. His jaws were strong and square and his cheekbones high; he had large shoulders, long dark hair, large front, big black and spread out eyes, elevated large size ears, a rather long and aquiline nose and long shank legs.  Antoun never lacked an audience when he was ready to show off his talents.

The hard facts

At last Antoun learned the hard facts; although he was not to expect owning a horse he could nevertheless own simple carriages lead by mules or donkeys.  After a bitter period of subdued anger he practiced some carpentry and reverted into tinkering with mending carriages in his barn on his free time from the field.  He enlisted Latifa to help him paint, upholster the interior and embellish the carriages.  Antoun worked hard cultivating the land but with no real pleasure and his father suffered for the unhappiness of his son. However, Bou Antoun discovered a sharp mercantile mind in his son:  he never missed a religious event honoring a saint in the vicinity that he did not set up a booth to sell sweets and varied stuff that children craved instead of wasting his time like the other kids of his age.  By fifteen years of age Antoun was allowed to drive the business carriage, going house to house selling produce, butter, yogurt and cheese and anything that was in demand.

Finally, at sixteen his father negotiated a deal with a nobleman specializing in breaking and training horses for stage coaches and fancy carriages in the coastal town of Antelias. He learned how to get acquainted with a horse, talking nonsense to him to get the horse used to his voice, slapping and pushing him around gently so that the horse knew he was not going to be hurt, then he would throw an old harness on him and yank it off several times till the horse accepted the harness without flicking a muscle.  Then, teaming with an experienced horse breaker, Antoun would fit the horse with reins or walk in front with the lead rope, speak loud when the horse disobeyed or speak gently when the horse learned the task and then offering him a carrot. Hitching and pairing a horse to a coach was the hardest part in breaking a horse until the novice horse learned to do his share of the pulling in the team and together to step along smoothly.

“In peace time, why and how often are Human Factors professionals hired?” (February 23, 2005)

Human Factors in Engineering (Article #6)

In peace time, governments of modern countries are the major employers of Human Factors engineers and industrial psychologists either directly or indirectly.

Many of government’s contracts with private companies attach clauses that require involvements of these professionals in their projects and so they get hired in order to secure bids.

In peace time, which is rare, companies have the luxury to select who they think are the best qualified candidates from the vast pool of job applicants locally and internationally.

People assume that the hired applicants are mostly the best qualified technically and the best trained for the jobs.

Most of us are very skeptical about that assumption of hiring the best qualified applicants, especially in underdeveloped countries.

It seems that this skepticism is applicable everywhere and for good reasons:

When you have to interact with coworkers every day for 8 hours a day, it stands to reason that you prefer people whom you think are compatible to your idiosyncrasies and general ideology.

So far, this approach might be considered rational emotionally and bearing many elements of common sense and good judgments.

On the other hand, how could any one test his incompatibility of living and interacting with someone else based on his discrimination on sex, race, color and religion, if the opportunities to meet with them is an impossibility or at best the interactions are fleeting?

Under social and political pressures, governments have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination on the jobs, unless the applicant is proven unqualified by well documented facts for specific requirements.

Obviously, a law is not much of a law if no painful penalties are attached to it and no enforcement mechanisms are contemplated or an appropriate budget allocated for an independent agency and inspection agents.

So, how could an enforcement agency go about clamping down on these companies that discriminate unabashedly and with no impunity?

The first main tool is to collect data and analyze the proportions of the population hired in order to uncover tacit and biased discrimination tendencies.

A more serious analysis would compare these proportions within each department, especially in the higher levels jobs.

Any critical discrepancy in these proportions will trigger a red alert for direct inspection of the non abiding firms and legal actions taken.

By the by, the enforcement agency would learn to set priorities in their enforcement endeavor and learn what categories of companies are most inclined to discriminate for closer targeting.

So, what other job descriptions can be applicable to the training of Human Factors graduates in peace time?

A few of the design training in sound curriculum offer capabilities for designing instruction manuals, job aids, training programs, evaluation of systems on criteria of safe usage, ease of operation, ease of maintenance and repair, acceptability and retaining products.

Many of these jobs are taken by other graduates who have narrow multidisciplinary training and knowledge but are not described as engineering jobs and evidently lower wages are offered and gladly accepted.

Another job opportunity is designing workstations, not only in manufacturing facilities but also computer workstations for institutions and private use. And educating the consumers to the various safety and health problems related to sedentary and repetitive jobs.

Note:  The version of a student to my article gave the impression that discrimination to jobs is prevalent only in underdeveloped countries.  I believe that perception is not correct since only a continual and persistent application and enforcement of the anti discrimination laws can hold discrimination behavior to a reduced level and check its spread among the companies and institutions.

“Okay, who can afford to hire Human Factors professionals?” (Article #5, February 22, 2005)

Who in his right mind hires Human Factors professionals?

This is a very interesting question that even the developed countries have been pondering for three decades.

I can conjecture, or frankly I am offering an expectation, that in the last five years, the Human Factors profession has managed to get the message through:  Mainly, that many job descriptions apply to the technical skills and training of the Human Factors graduates.

This article is basically targeting the students in the less developed nations, where the Human Factors discipline is unheard of or the knowledge is so minimal that major universities are still reluctant to include even one course in their engineering curriculum.

In Lebanon, only one university offers a single Human Factors course required for the industrial engineers and optional for a few other engineering disciplines.

Actually, it is the only university that offers industrial engineering as a discipline.

In general, there was a perception that the main tasks assigned to Human Factors engineers (formerly known as Industrial Psychologists and currently Ergonomics) required experimentation, testing and evaluation of systems.

Systems used by mankind are evaluated for performances based on errors committed, safety usage, reaction times, health effects, subjective feeling of acceptability, reliability and usability.

Most of these assignments are geared toward the cognitive aspects of the users, which are basically the domains of psychologists because they are better trained to designing experiments based on human responses, collecting data, setting the proper questionnaires and selecting the right statistical packages for the interpretation of the results.

Many of these assignments are similar to the marketing professionals for generating users’ likes and dislikes, the acceptability and tendencies of users for any new products in the design stage.

This time-consuming discipline is not very appreciated by short-term profit minded companies.

So, who hires the thousands of these fresh graduates and why major companies agree to hire a few of these professionals?

Why are governments the main sources of retaining these graduates?

Prior and during major wars powerful countries badly need human factors professionals.

Why? Here is the story.

The main reason is that every able body has to be recruited for the war effort.

Running extensive psychological, physical and mental tests to allocate the right person to the appropriate task, equipment and department are not feasible financially under “profit” time constraint.

The army and the nation need these able bodies to interchangeably fill the losses anywhere and any place.

One excellent option is to design equipments, tasks and procedures so that almost every soldier can perform his duties without extensive training or the need to go about selecting soldiers with the appropriate characteristics.

The other reason is that women had to fill the gap in the industries when the men are out to waging wars.

For production to be efficient, such as error free with minimal accidents, it was good sense to redesign production equipments, machines and workplace to fit women who have different capabilities and limitations physically and cognitively


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2008
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