Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 12th, 2008

“Culture et resistance” by Edward W. Said

(Written in April 18, 2008)

Culture and resistance is an interview conducted by David Barsamian with late Edward Said before the latter died of an incurable cancer.

Every page needs a review and much pondering.  Edward  is indeed said to be the narrator or the storyteller “hakawati” of the Palestinian cause because he manages to give a clever twist to the story in his books and conferences.

The book shows the geographic maps of how the Palestinian State has been transformed and subdivided since the British mandate that ended in 1947; a slicing scheme that the USA and European press never show.

There are maps of 1920, 1947, 1949, the Oslo II of 1995, the Wye Plantation of 1998, the Charm el-Cheikh of 1999, the Camp David map including Jerusalem, the Taba I and Taba II, the two Sharon’s plans of 2001, including Jerusalem.

No wonder that these maps are never displayed because these Swiss cheese subdivisions and the implantation of Jewish colonies would speak louder than any article.

Edward Said is an American Palestinian born in West Jerusalem  in 1935.

He pursued his schooling in Cairo before obtaining his Masters’ in Princeton and his PhD in Harvard.  He has been a tenured faculty member and professor of literature at Columbia University.

Professor Said suffered from cancer for nine years and his physician from India managed to extend his life for five years.  During his painful ailment, Edward never stopped teaching, writing and accepting to speak in conferences.

Edward Said was saying that you don’t find a single Arab university student studying about Africa, Latin America, or Japan; it is a sign of our delinquency, current cultural weakness, and our intellectual torpor.

What he is trying to say openly is that we need to change our attitude, to free our mental power from the archaic chains in order to be treated by the rest of the world as equals.

Professor Said plays the piano and is an accomplished connoisseur of classical music; he organized an evening with Daniel Barenboim, the famous pianist and chef of orchestra, in the Palestinian university of Beir Zeit.

This Beir Zeit university was closed for 4 years by Israel during the first Palestinian “Intifada” in 1996 when the Palestinians holding Israeli passport demonstrated against the social injustices; they were supported by all the other Palestinians as one people. The Indian Zubin Mehta, Israel’s Philharmonic chief orchestra, attended this cultural and musical event among the Palestinians.

The Arabs have been too long on the defensive, too complacent, paralyzed in their pain and bitterness.

Our lack of democracy in our institutions is the result of our lack of the citizenship spirit that permit tyranny, military plots, corruption, regimes of secret police, and the meddling of imperialist States in our affairs.

The only way to changing a situation is to get on with it, to start reading, interrogating, and meeting with the “Others” so that to starting knocking down the walls of the prisons we have incarcerated ourselves within.

Edward Said mentioned that Rabin, Israeli PM, said before the Oslo negotiations with the PLO that Israel wanted to get relieved from the services offered to the heavily populated areas in Palestine like Gaza and Ramallah.

Thus, the policing and health services and schools in the so-called areas under the PLO semi-autonomy that represented 22% of what Israel conquered in 1967 in Cis-Jordan were to be catered for by authority of Arafat.

Israel had no intention on negotiating the implanted colonies, the return of East Jerusalem or even relinquishing its rights for checking the entrances and exits at the borders with Jordan and Egypt.

Every Palestinian minister, deputy, and even Arafat had to obtain a permit to exit and enter Israel.  At the first opportunity, Israel destroyed the tiny airport in Gaza and whatever infrastructures that were built by European financing.

So far, since the creation of the Israeli State, the successive US administrations have donated over 135 billion of actual dollars to the State of Israel in financial and military aids.

The US vetoed every UN resolution condemning Israel’s colonial, apartheid, and racist activities.

The Israelis are conscious of the existence and presence of the Palestinians among them since they work in their hotels, in construction and drive taxis even though the Zionist movement has propagated the notion that they inhabited a desert land that was roamed by nomads.

Since 2004, Israel built the 900 miles of the Wall of Shame dividing the so-called 1967 borders with Jordan, and Israel established also hundreds of check points all over the West Bank.

Currently, most Israelis play the game of ignoring the presence of Palestinians living across town from them or across the wall: they are ashamed of this apartheid situation.

The danger to Israel is that:

1. the US Zionists sincerely do not believe that Palestinians exist;

2. that the Palestinian people is an abstraction in their imagination and thus,

3. they encourage and feel free to exert undue pressures on the Israelis to exercise the ultimate in anti-Semitism, racism and apartheid policies on the “insignificant” and lower status indigents.

The newer generations of Palestinians and Arabs have such disdain for the generations that permitted the creation of Israel that they refuse to draw any experience, knowledge and accumulated realizations from the previous generations; they are reduced to reinventing the wheel.

We do have a serious problem of relaying the previous achievements or analyzing profoundly our previous mistakes.

Professor Said is a frequent lecturer in conferences at various universities and he realized that the students and people in the USA and England are perfectly aware of the Palestinian issues and Zionists cruelty and racism.

What the Palestinian Authorities and Arab governments have to start doing is communicating with the Israeli people and the masses in the world.

Israel has already occupied the entire Jordan Valley which would prevent any link for any prospective Palestinian State to join directly any Arab country.

Since Palestine is tiny and Israel is not about to offer full self autonomy to a Palestinian State then Edward Said vision was a Federal State of Palestinians and Jews in the whole of Palestine as two people living together and sharing in the public institutions. Before this arrangement can take hold it was necessary that the Palestinians enjoy the recognition of a State of their own to administer and negotiate at parity for further arrangement that is more suited for reality.

The writer Milan Kundera said:

The struggle of man against the authority is the struggle of memory to forget (the injustices).”

Many Palestinians still hang on to bits and pieces of ancestors’ belonging in order never to forget their origins and the injustices forced upon them.

Keeping the same dialect and intonations of the grandfathers and grandmothers from generations to generations is one of the most powerful tools for memory rejuvenation.

Israel has many times invaded the cultural and archival locations of Palestinian institutions such as the Cultural Center of Khalil Sakakini in Ramallah and abroad like in Beirut, in order to steal and destroy any historical archives: Israel carried the Palestinian computers and their contents and destroyed the hard disks and the valuable manuscripts.

In his “Prison colony”, Kafka describes a system that functions 24 hours a day meant to break the will of any person so that he lose the drive to live.

Israel has instituted this monster system in the everyday life of a Palestinian, going to school, to work, to the market, to the hospital, control posts and presentation of identity cards.

Palestinians die before reaching the emergency entrance, schools are frequently closed, houses demolished, agricultural lands taken and the imprisonment of youth is common occurrence for no valid justifications. Gaza is one huge prison fenced by electrical barb wires.

The US media have the tendency to cut off persons expounding on the Palestinians’ problems and suffering.

The Zionist Michael Walzer cut off Said during a conference saying:

“It is best to stop talking about the past; just state your argument and let us move on.  The Palestinians should cease to behave as victims and start taking stock of their present.  The Palestinians have to ponder on the wounds they inflicted on one  aother”.

A listener, Hilda Silverstein, shouted at Michael Walzer and said: “How dare you ask a Palestinian not speak on his past?  Have you Jews stopped reminding the world of the holocaust and the miseries of the Jews in Europe?

Edward Said didn’t try to find balance among the different and multiple discords and lines of thinking in life but opted instead to live the differences. It is the discords and dissonances that teach us harmony and unity.

Lately Said was in hurry to deliver what he had to say


1. Edward Said wrote “The Orientalist“, “Culture and imperialism”, “Parallels and paradoxes”, “Freud and the extra-European world“, “The question of Palestine“, “Covering Islam“, “Representations of the intellectual“, “Reflections on exile and other essays”, “The end of the peace process” and finally his memoirs “Against traffic“.

2. David Barsamian, an Armenian by origin, is the founder of Alternative Radio (AR) at Boulder, Colorado. AR emits weekly and is diffused to the USA, Canada, Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Jamaica.

Ralph Nader said that AR is a beam of light in the darkness of the media because it let us hear suggestions that reinforce our democracy.

Part 3: Gergis’ period (1384-1394)

Chapter 11: A navy in the making

The traders got wind of the wishes of the First Emir to purchase a few vessels and scoured the neighboring ports for potential ships for sale.  Two old navy ships were ordered at scrape cost and refurbished for transport of people and produce.  The first refurbished ship was done in the port of Tripoli and did not venture deep in the sea and was restricted to hug the coastal line and trade with the neighboring towns and villages; it was basically used for training and propaganda purposes. The renovation of the second ship was contracted out in Beirut with a more elaborate work and designed to test its potential for trading with Cyprus and further away to the southern coastal part of Turkey.

    The creation of a navy was foreseen to acquire paramount importance in later conflicts among the Levant neighboring foes, so Antoun fortified his coastal towns of deep water and prepared them to receive medium size embarkation boats; the port of Beirut was readied for large merchant and cargo ships.  The next phase was to build construction sites for minor ship repairs and learning of the trade. As better craftsmen were hired medium sized boats were built, more like flat boats meant to carry 40 navy men or a catapult for throwing rocks or an engine for launching multiple long range arrows. Antoun already was planning to tow these flat boats and drop them behind enemy lines because most of the invasions were done along the coastal route.  This far sighted decision was based on cost/benefit calculation too. 

In the previous wars the Levant army had to adopt the retreat strategy to better defensible positions.  In that strategy, the army had to deploy many specialized regiments to evacuate the willing population behind manageable lines of defense. In these cases, the operation was time consuming and very expensive when the war dragged on for months.  A nastier responsibility was how to manage a disgruntled people who had  been evacuated and were restless to go back to their homes.

            Building a navy offered many more alternatives to waging successful and less expensive wars and reduced the constraining time for the evacuees because the invaders had to disperse their forces in order to confront attacking forces from the sea and thus reduced the necessity for large scale evacuations. Another valuable advantage for a navy was the reduction of the size of the standing army:  any means of transport that offered variety and speed for moving regiments to areas that needed quickly a concentration of power was a critical edge over the enemy.

            Many trained ship builders flocked to Beirut when they perceived that the First Emir had plans for continuous job outlets in that industry and consequently, the presence and availability of skilled sea craftsmen encouraged Antoun to negotiate with sea merchants and traders to be partners in bolder investments. This ship building industry rejuvenated many dying industries that were reopened to supply and support the varied necessary demands. Navy soldiers were trained and regimented as a separate fighting force.

 Second expansion

In 1388, the new Sultan of Egypt dispatched a General of his guard as appointed Viceroy of Damascus. The Viceroy Rustom Bey arrived in command of 1,500 fresh cavalrymen with specific instructions from his master:  he had to affirm the hold of the Mameluks’ dynasty throughout Syria and increase the tribute levied on the population who were growing more prosperous and more enterprising, especially with the dangerous free trade and intricate communication means between the Levantine Republic and the surrounding “Wilayats”. Within a week, and after the grandiose celebrations in Damascus welcoming the new chief and his army, the Viceroy decreed an increase of 10% tax on the agricultural produce and 5% on the manufactured textile products in addition to having a monopoly to import cotton from Egypt.

Rustom Bey canceled agreements negotiated with the previous Viceroy of Damascus and reclaimed his rights in the Bekaa Valley.  He appointed new tax collectors from his protégés who were accompanied by ruthless cavalrymen enjoying a percentage of the money collected as their dues.  The cavalry detachment that accompanied Rustom Bey were mostly Cherkessk and from Sunni tribes from nowadays Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and the Caucasus and they were whipped to frenzy for loots and lots of battle actions. At first, the population was ready to pay the difference in taxes but the behavior of the Viceroy’s army sent alarms throughout Syria and the Bekaa Valley.  Skirmishes got widespread and armed bands of frustrated citizens took to the hills and harassed the Mameluks’ mercenaries.

The Viceroy accused Antoun of fomenting troubles and unrest in the Bekaa and threatened the Levant with military punitive attacks if peace was not restored.  A campaign of economic harassment was launched in order to embarrass the leaders of Mount Lebanon into recognition of the new shift in power and then into direct negotiations.  An embargo of agricultural goods from the Bekaa Valley and Syria to Mount Lebanon was ruthlessly enforced in all the main entry points and caravans were searched exhaustively.  Gergis was dispatched to Damascus to negotiate an amicable relationship with the new hot headed Viceroy and returned with a gloomy report that the authority in Damascus was intent on a show of force no matter what. 

The Levant had already raised a standing army of 150 phalanxes and 1500 cavalrymen with an equal number of standby trained soldiers on call in emergency situations.

Antoun feared that the neighboring Viceroys might support the Viceroy of Damascus more forcefully in putting the squeeze on his economy if he delayed any decisive actions and, most probably, would have no choice but to join forces with the Viceroy of Damascus if an open armed conflict was declared.  Since the Viceroy of Damascus would not attempt a military campaign into the Mountain soon enough then war was to take place inside the Viceroy’s territories in the Bekaa.   

A month before the Levantine government forces crossed the chains of mountain into southern Bekaa it had already dispatched four special cores of the army trained to guerilla warfare in order to circumvent the paths that would be taken by the enemy army.  Two cores would harass the rear guard division and supply lines while diverting it furthers North and the other two cores were to steer the advanced division further south to a battle field prepared by the Levantine army.  The Viceroy of Damascus was overjoyed that Antoun finally concurred to his scheme for an open battle which would respond to the oath he gave to his cavalry detachment, and thus failed to ask for any military support from the neighboring Viceroys of Safad and Hama. The two armies met in a plain between Anjar and Machgara.

Battle of Anjar

The sun was peeping from the Eastern Mountain chains and quickly blinding the Levantine army with its glorious shine.  The First Emir galvanized his infantry with a short speech:  “Soldiers of the proud and united Mount Lebanon; I will not denigrate the daring Mameluks’ cavalry; it is brave, well trained and it outnumbers our young cavalry two to one.  As we all know, our present enemy relies on its cavalry to win battles because, unlike our infantry, theirs are mainly mercenaries and little paid compared with a professional army such as ours.  Their infantry is mainly of our own people recruited in Syria and Palestine; they certainly have courage but are not trained properly and are not fighting for a just cause as we are.  We have got to win this battle clear and neat because the stakes are high for the independence of our young nation.  The enemy has to acknowledge our complete reluctance to be subjugated every time a new Sultan comes to power and decides to exercise his new found power through the humiliation of our people as vassals and not worth negotiating with as equals.”

“I am asking you to stand your ground until two o’clock and by night fall I will guarantee you that Rustum Bey will be our prisoner and his cavalry will disperse chased by the strength of the wind of vengeance generated by your courage and your fierceness in holding on to your values and liberty.  Soldiers of the people of Mount Lebanon; your fathers and forefathers have longed for generations to send the emancipating message of their right to freedom to their successive persecutors; now is your chance to let their spirit rest at ease and to bless you as the sons they raised to serve their country and families with honor and bravery.  Long live the people of Mount Lebanon!   Long live its valiant professional army!”

The cavalry of the Viceroy army was larger than the Levant cavalry and its infantry, although more numerous, were not as dedicated or well-trained for sustained frontal attacks.  Outnumbered, the First Emir decided on psychological warfare to neutralize his enemy’s advantages in cavalry.  Unconventionally, he placed his cavalry behind the infantry instead of on the flanks so that the enemy would conjecture that the Levantine army was not sure of the loyalty of its infantry to hold its ground.  This arrangement was also meant to hide a long and wide trench dug out for defensive purposes while the small and long range catapults were located behind the trench.

The infantry of Rustom Bey advanced at a brisk pace and the cavalry of the Levantine army started to retreat behind the trench across makeshift bridges.  Thinking that a general retreat was in progress, the cavalry of Rustom Bey rushed in ahead of the infantry to secure a quick and easy victory.  The Levantine catapults came into action to allow an ordered retreat of the Levantine infantry across the trench. 

The Mameluk’s cavalry was decimated trying to cross a blind ditch guarded by long spikes and archers and they had to retreat to regroup.  Meanwhile, special regiments of archers and light small catapult operators maneuvered closer to the heavy catapult position of the Mameluk’s army and engaged in the destruction of the enemy heavy catapult strongholds.  The Levantine army had adopted the tactical guideline of focusing first on the enemy catapult regiments before seriously engaging the enemy in a decisive battle; Special Forces were trained and equipped to accomplish such hazardous and primordial tasks. 

The Levantine heavy catapult regiment was minor and was used as target baits for the enemy shelling in order to permit the regiments of small catapult and archers to maneuver, guarded by what it takes of phalanxes and cavalry to protect the operation within an adequate range of the enemy’s long range artillery positions. The task of the archer and small catapult regiments was not merely constrained to the initial phase of the battle but used thoroughly as long as the battle is engaged and were supplied with abundance of ammunition.   High shields were planted in front of the archers and catapult operators not so much for protection but purposely to obstruct the view of the battlefield from them; the chief sergeants were the maestros for the targeting activities in tempo and orientation of the projectiles and the operators were solely reliant on the orders and coding gestures of their chief sergeants. Once the enemy catapult positions are out of operation the regiments of archery and small catapult would redeploy and target the thick of the enemy infantry and cavalry concentrations. 

An untrained observer of the battlefield would not notice much change in the enemy’s concentration even after half an hour of shelling but the retreat from the center toward the rear would happen suddenly.  The soldiers in the center would gradually recognize vacuums around them and after some hesitations opt to retreat instead of advancing toward the much farther front lines.  Once most of the enemy center is emptied the Levantine army would sound a temporary disengagement order, the time for the enemy front lines to look around and realize the precariousness of their position as thin shells with no substantial backing. Then the Levantine artillery would concentrate their targeting in the middle to split the half circle in order to clear a wide swath for the cavalry to swiftly enter and encircle the two halves of the enemy lines.

Besides reducing the enemy artillery capabilities, the next critical moment was the timing for splitting the enemy lines to capitalize on the psychological feeling of abandonment among the enemy front lines infantrymen. During most of the engagement the Levantine infantrymen were trained and ordered never to venture deeply into enemy ranks no matter great were the temptations to do so and to hold and fight on the perimeters. The cavalry was an intrinsic part of the infantry and its two main jobs were to ensure the containment of the enemy main force and to engage any outflanking attacks from the enemy cavalry.  

The Levantine army repulsed two other charges to cross the defensive lines and by the time the sun was facing the Mameluk’s army the Levantine infantry re-crossed the trench in ordered fashion and engaged valiantly an enemy in disarray. The Levantine cavalry had outflanked the enemy army in a vise that did not leave much room for the maneuvering of the Mameluk’s cavalry.

By nightfall, the Viceroy was made prisoner and the remnant of his cavalry was retreating in disorder.  The Levantine army had suffered heavy casualties:  three hundred cavalrymen and 1000 infantrymen perished and twice this number were wounded or injured.  Most of these casualties were suffered during the offensive attack on the heavy artillery positions of the enemy as a necessary phase to insure victory. For a small nation with scares resources this was a crushing toll to sustain but it secured peace for many years to come. The Viceroy was spared execution in order not to provide the Sultan of Egypt any additional excuses to organize another military campaign.  For two weeks, the First Emir set up his quarters in the battle field welcoming the populace with their grievances and ordering reparations and executions of the enemy’s perpetrators of crimes and thefts during their tax collection campaigns.  

The Viceroy and all his cavalrymen prisoners were forced to share in the burying efforts of the fallen soldiers of both armies and taking care of the injured; they participated in washing the bodies of the dead, the digging of graves, the burial of the corpses in the ditches and even feeding the injured and cleaning out the makeshift hospital.  The Viceroy then paid war retribution and offered the Levantine government the responsibility of collecting taxes from the Bekaa Valley all the way to the southern end of the Litany River and then was let free to return to Damascus.  The majority of the Syrian prisoners remained behind for another 6 months for war reparation and indoctrination on the new values of the Republic.  The Bekaa Valley was thus the responsibility of the Levant authority although not officially attached to it and not completely within its jurisdiction.

My Neighbors (1999)

1. I believe there are other human intelligences, thousands of them,

Millions of light years away.

I believe there are other forms of intelligence;

Very close, when I hear my heart beat at night.

In the clear wide sky,

I can see their bright stars.

In the quietude of the night,

I can feel them fly.

In the early dawn,

I can hear them chirp, bark or cry.

2. There are near human intelligence.

They have not two eyes, blue, black, nor brown.

They have not two ears, nor feet, nor hands.

Some of them seem to be a million light years far.

3. We search.  We still cannot see those varieties.

We need high tech search machines.

We keep searching, waiting for them to make us see.

Very few are searching, now and then searching.

They are telling me they have found some intelligence,

And they might have compassion.

Today, I discovered

My next door neighbors.

Wall Street crush: They saw it coming long time ago! (October 10, 2008)

The American multinationals and many of them in Europe saw the financial crush coming in the speed of a bullet train since before September 11, 2001, when the US government agreed not to differentiate between commercial and investment banks in 1999.

The multinationals foresaw the catastrophe, but they wanted first to milk the cows in the Asian markets and the petro-dollars sovereign funds of the oil-producing countries.

Now the US government wants the world citizens of “tax payers” to share in the resolution of world financial stability! Why? So that the few hundreds of billionaires and the elect classes of capitalists around the world to maintain their high life style? Have we reached a new phase of world-class capitalism versus the other hard-working nationals?

Actually, the six most developed western European States hurried up to institute the European currency, the Euro, and the Euro-market, in order for the calamity not single out one State at a time, and present a unified front to the downfall of Wall Street…and the unilateral decisions of the US in financial matters…


Human Factors in Engineering (Article #40, Written in April 2, 2006)

Experimentation: Natural sciences versus people’s behavior sciences

This article is intended to compare the kinds of controlled experiments that are applied by scientists in physical natural phenomena and those developed by scientists dealing with the behavior of people, or employing human participants in the experiments.

Although the physical sciences, such as all the branches in physics, chemistry, and engineering…, used controlled experimentations long time ago to develop the huge body of knowledge on the natural phenomena, it was the social and psychological sciences that tried to develop the appropriate and complex statistical modeling packages in order to study the more complex and more varied human behaviors.

It appears that the restricted and countable number of variables in studying the physical natural phenomena, and their relative lack of variability with time, did not encourage the physical scientists to contemplate sophisticated statistical models for their controlled experiments, or even to teaching the design of experiments in the engineering curriculum.

Before we expand on the variability of human behaviors, it might be more appropriate to analyze the most critical difference in the two sciences. Knowing that any concept is synonymous with the corresponding necessary set of operations, in order to be able to measure it scientifically in experiments, we can understand the big leap forward of the body of knowledge in natural sciences compared to the social and psychological sciences.

Whereas the physical scientists can define the concepts of force, moment, power and the like through the relationships of measurable variables based on length, time, and mass, the scientists investigating human behaviors have to surmount that hurdle (of accurate measurements) before seriously contemplating to measure human concepts.

Human behavior and the cognitive concepts of attitudes, mental abilities, and moods, problem solving mechanisms, perception, and the like cannot be measured scientifically until sets of operations are agreed on, for each one of these concepts, through the study of human activities or the things that people do while performing a valid task or a set of purposeful tasks.

For example, saying that color blindness is a deficiency that confuses colors will not cut it:

1. what is needed are a set of instances that could define this illness such as what exactly are the colors of the spectrum with mixtures of two primary colors can a protanope (color blind individual) match that are different from normal people

2.   Will the subject confuse a blue-green color with white or gray?

3. Will he confuse red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, and green when suitable brightness and saturations of these colors are used, and has reduced visibility in the red end of the spectrum?

Two decades ago, the air force in the USA contracted out groups of psychologists and human factors professionals to specifically establish a set of operations that could be submitted to potential airplane fighters in order to measure and evaluate their capabilities for the mental and perception workload needed for the job. This set of 12 operations measuring short term memory capacity, reaction times, computational abilities, attention span, and types of errors committed in each operation is the kind of hurdles that the study of human behavior have to surmount.

The operationism of a single human concept may be a life project for a group of scientists that require secure and continuing funding from concerned parties who have vested interests in thorough study of the concept.  It is obvious that a few fundamental and limited human concepts will enjoy deeper and more complete investigations than others.

May be because the physical scientists did not face the problems of establishing sets of operations that the method of controlled experimentations was not deemed essential enough to rigorously teach in high school programs, and ultimately failed to initiate the students to the experimental methods.  Until recently, when social sciences made significant in roads into the educational programs.

This lack of early initiation of students to experimental methodology might also be the main reason why rational thinking and the experimental mind is not that widespread throughout all societies, and are just confined to the privileged who could afford higher educations at select universities.

Physical scientists rely on equipments to objectively observe and measure, the more the equipments are precise the more accurate are the data.  The scientists of human behavior have to rely on people’s responses and observations.

For example, it has been proven that:

1. man is not a good observer of complex events; even when viewers are forewarned that they are to see a movie about a crime and that that are to answer questions about details later the accuracy of the observers are very low.

2. Man is unable to be an objective recorder of the events that transpire because he gets involved in the scene actions.

3. Man has a very narrow range of attention and barely can satisfactorily attend to a couple of stimuli. This observation deficiency is compounded by our sensory differences and illusions; for example, one in sixteen is color blind, many suffer from tone deafness, taste blindness and so on.

4. Man does not think of himself objectively but rather has convictions, feelings, and explanations based on very restricted experiences, hearsays, memories and he tends to generalize and develop a set of beliefs concerning the operation of the mind.

5. Man usually expects to see and then see what he wants to see and hardly deviates from his beliefs, and sometimes even when faced with facts.  For example, many scientists have overlooked obvious data because they clanged to their hypotheses and theories.

6. Man has to generate an abundance of reliable information and assimilate them before he could eliminate a few systematic biases that he acquired from previous generations and his personal experiences.  Consequently, experimenting with people is more complex and more difficult than the physical scientists or engineers have to cope with.

First, there are no design drawings for people’s mind and behavior as 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 stable fashions, are countable, and can be controlled with minimal management.

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.  People deficiencies in senses, physical abilities and cognitive capabilities changes with time and thus, the techniques of selecting subjects have to account for the differences in age, gender, specific deficiencies, training, educational levels, communication skills, and incentives to participate in an experiment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems used by people are changing accordingly.  Thus, interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently to account for new behavior and trends.

Fifth, everyone feels that he is an expert about human behavior, on the basis of common sense acquired from life and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors but not so expert in the fundamentals of natural sciences such as physics or chemistry.

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 psychologists and human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

Six, physical scientists may enjoy the possibility of “testing to destruction” of prototypes or the materials under study, a luxury that experiments on people forbid or are impossible to do outside the safety range allowed by moral standards, laws, and regulations.  Research on people has to circumvent this major difficulty by using dummies, animals, or willing subjects thoroughly aware and educated to the dangers of the procedures.

Seventh, research on people is regulated by privacy laws and concepts such as consciousness, mental images, fatigue, and motives are highly personal experiences and not open to public inspection while science must be a public affair and repeatable by other researchers.

Article #26 (November 13, 2005)

 “Guess what my job is”

It would be interesting to have a talk with the freshly enrolled engineering students from all fields as to the objectives and meaning of design projects.

This talk should be intended to orient engineers for a procedure that might provide their design projects the necessary substance for becoming marketable and effective in reducing the pitfalls in having to redesign. 

This design behavior should start right at the freshman level while taking formal courses so that prospective engineers will naturally apply this acquired behavior in their engineering career.

In the talk, the students will have to guess what the Human Factors discipline is from the case studies, exercises and problems that will be discussed.

The engineers will try to answer a few of the questions that might be implicit but never formally explicitly explained or learned because the necessary courses for excellent design are generally offered outside the engineering curriculums.

A sample of the questions might be as follow:

1. What is the primary job of an engineer? 

2. What does design means?  How do you perceive designing to look like?

3. To whom are you designing?  What category of people?

4. Who are your target users? Engineer, consumers, support personnel, operators?

5. What are your primary criteria in designing?  Error free application product?

6. Who commit errors?  Can a machine do errors?

7. How can we categorize errors?  Any exposure to an error taxonomy?

8. Can you foresee errors, near accidents, accidents?  Take a range oven for example, expose the foreseeable errors and accidents in the design and specifically the display and control idiosyncrasy.

9. Who is at fault when an error is committed or an accident occurs?

10. Can we practically account for errors without specific task taxonomy?

11. Do you view yourself as responsible for designing interfaces to your design projects depending on the target users?

12. Would you relinquish your responsibilities for being in the team assigned to design an interface for your design project?

13. What kinds of interfaces are needed for your design to be used efficiently?

14. How engineers solve problems?  Searching for the applicable formulas? Can you figure out the magnitude of the answer?  Have you memorized the allowable range for your answers from the given data and restriction imposed in the problem after solving so many exercises?

15. What are the factors or independent variables that may affect your design project?

16. How can we account for the interactions among the factors?

17. Have you memorize the dimensions of your design problem?

18. Have you been exposed to reading research papers? Can you understand, analyze and interpret the research paper data? Can you have an opinion as to the validity of an experiment?

19. Would you accept the results of any peer reviewed article as facts that may be readily applied to your design projects?

20. Do you expect to be in charged of designing any new product or program or procedures in your career?

21. Do you view most of your job career as a series of supporting responsibilities; like just applying already designed programs and procedures?

22. Are you ready to take elective courses in psychology, sociology, marketing, business targeted to learning how to design experiments and know more about the capabilities, limitations and behavioral trends of target users?

23. Are you planning to go for graduate studies and do you know what elective courses might suit you better in your career?

Note: This piece was written over a year before the assassination of Rafic Hariri PM and the subsequent withdrawal of the Syrian troops out of lebanon

After the retreat of the Syrian Troops from Lebanon, what then? What Social and Political System?  What Electoral System? (Dec. 5, 2004)

There are nowadays heated discussions about the parliamentary laws for the coming election in April and the heavy interference of the Syrian intelligence services in our internal affairs. The coalitions of pro and con the current political orientations of the government in Lebanon have missed their targets. Their political programs are non existent. Their political discourses are plagued by coded insinuations of pure sectarianism and a coward evasion to face the requisites of the future.  The society has made a full circle to where it was before the civil war.

The only differences are that: 1) the Moslem bourgeoisies (Sunni and Shiaa) have captured a sizeable share of the economy compared to the overwhelming monopoly of the Maronite bourgeoisie and 2) the polarization of the citizens into sectarian enclaves is almost complete throughout the land.

How the retreat of the Syrian forces from Lebanon would change this stagnant social fabric if we are still apprehensive of asking the right questions? What forces would replace the Syrian forces to ensure law and order if there are no communication among the political parties? How the Lebanese citizens could ever fall again into the trap that foreign powers could guaranty a long lasting stable political system that satisfies the interest of all the citizens?  We all know that the Lebanese Army (soldiers and officers) is old and still is no match to the entrenched militias who have been governing ever since the Taef agreement.

If Lebanon is to experience a profound and lasting rebirth, drastic political reforms have to be discussed at all levels in the society. These reforms should attack the fundamentals of a civilized society, mainly a new Constitution and the clipping of the sectarian powers that is insidious in every phase of the citizen life and status. What I propose is an alternative that would make digging of trenches a worthwhile endeavor if no rational responses are offered for a compromise. I will expound on two facets of Lebanon in the future: The fundamental internal changes needed in the Constitution and the four political problems that are dividing the Lebanese society, mainly the presence of the governments with all its institutions in the South, the disarming of the Palestinian camps, the dismantling of all the armed militias, including Hezbollah and obviously, the withdrawal of the Syrian troops and its intelligence services. The Constitutional acts to be discussed are as follow:

Half the parliament members should be represented by the female sex in accordance with the spirit of a true democratic representation.

The rationales: Women are more than half the population and their intrinsic problems are more intimately understood by them as well as their solutions. They will be the guarantee that their rights are fully considered, applied and secured.

      2)   Election laws should be revisited.

 Every one who voted twice in any general election, municipality or parliament, and who can read and write in the Arabic language should be eligible to be a candidate. No fees should be attached to the application for candidature in order for the election to be for the people and by the people.


The minimum age for voting should be 18 so that new spirits and demands become major factors in political programs.

3)   Part of the parliament members should be elected on the basis of individual departments that would guarantee the fair representation of all religious sects.

The rationales: Electoral districts should include between 15,000 and 25,000 voters and a male and a woman deputy elected. This system might prevent unknown candidates to win by taking advantage of the notoriety of the other candidates on the list. Also, this system will insure the representation of all sects implicitly and save the Constitution to be discredited by explicitly requiring that Christians and Moslems be equally represented.

4)    Part of the parliament members should be elected on political party lines and syndicated affiliations and on the proportional basis.

The rationales: The political life in Lebanon is almost non existent because the political parties have been weakened and sidelined after the civil war. There is a strong link between the immigration of the youth and the political void that excludes them from expressing their dreams and their needs of varied opportunities.

5)    I suggest that the election law allows voters to select two political parties so that part of the members should represent the political parties that come second in the ballot boxes. The second choices should be among parties that are non sectarian historically or have proven to include other religious affiliations in their membership.

The rationales: The non sectarian political parties should also be included in the first choice list of parties.  The second choice is important so that sectarian parties would embark on programs that would promote them to be acceptable by many more than one sect.

6)     Every one of the 17 or so religious sects should be represented by one member in the parliament.

The rationales: It is becoming urgent that responsible and legitimate discussions on religious differences be aired to the public and how these different values might be affecting the interests of all citizens..

7)    Decentralization and autonomy of the districts in the administration and financial spending on projects and programs so that competition heighten performance and efficiency.

The rationales: Many ministries have to be eliminated and decentralized so that communities start enjoying the benefits of the concept of subsidiaries. Ministries like Education, Youth, Sport and Health should be dismantled and regrouped for the administration of the districts (Mouhafazats) and a post of a general counsel, for each one of these ministries, attached to the Prime Minister, has to be created in order to coordinate and harmonize among the administrations of the districts. The districts have to keep three quarter of the tax revenue without the need to be redistributed by the Ministry of Finance at later date. I suggest that Lebanon should be divided into only three districts having a continuous link from the sea to the Bekaa Valley.

 Beirut should NOT have a special status since all the central administrations are located in the Capital and would enjoy the expenditures of the central government anyway.

Competition for performance and attraction of investments would drive these districts into steady growth in all fields. The Mouhafazat should enjoy their seaports, local airports and equal number of citizens and land size. The local airports should service the internal requirements, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Cyprus.

Election of the administrative bodies of the Mouhafazat should take place with the elections of municipalities. The Northern and Southern regions should retain three quarter of the tax revenue for four years, the middle region two third and Beirut a third. These proportions should be revisited on the fourth year to establish an equitable balance. As working examples, the North region might include the departments or (Cadaa) of Jbeil in the south all the way to the northern borders of Lebanon and the Bekaa and Hermil to the East; the South region might include the departments of Shuf in the north all the way to the southern borders of Lebanon and the Hasbaya and Rashaya in the East. The Middle region might include the departments of Kesrwan in the north, Aley in the South and Zahle in the East.

8)    Civil marriage should be the law of the land.  Providing options outside the civil law is tantamount of increasing the power of the religious sects by their effective means of rendering the law virtually weak and inexistent

9)    All marital rights and responsibilities, like heritage, divorce, adoptions and so forth should be governed by civil laws.

The rationales: It is about time that sectarian powers to our every day life are reduced to their bare minimum and allowing the citizens to mingle, communicate freely and do commerce freely among them.

10) The President of the Republic should be elected by the people for 4 years with the option of being reelected for another single term.

The rationales: It is of paramount importance to curb this vicious cycle of making a mockery of the Constitution every six years in order to prolong the term of the President. A four years term with option for another full term would give strong incentives for the President to perform in order to be reelected for a second term. Personally, I would encourage the citizens to desist in reelecting a President for a second term.

11) Ambassadors Extraordinary should be appointed in Beirut and Damascus.

12) General Commissioners for the inter commerce and common policies should be attached to the Prime Ministers in Beirut and Damascus.

Note: The new current electoral laws have reverted us to the laws of 1960! How encouraging. No, the Syrian mandate over Lebanon for 20 years was not the main cause to our retrograde behavior; we still didn’t reach a resolution to our identity and a level of confidence in our worth do affect our future positively.




October 2008

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