Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 14th, 2008

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.

What is Human Factors in design? (Article #39, April 1st, 2006)

Fundamentals of controlled experimentation methods

An experiment is designed to study the behavior of the responses of subjects (dependent variables or what are measured as performance), as the values/stimuli of an independent variables or factors are changed, manipulated, or presented randomly or in fixed manner.

There are other factors that need to be controlled because they could have serious effects on the behavior of the selected dependent variables, and thus are held constant or fixed by appropriate techniques, procedures, instructions, experimental setting, and environmental conditions.

Controlled experimentation methods are versions of current simulations methods, but are essentially more structured and controlled.

In a nut shell, an experimental method is a series of controlled observations undertaken in an artificial situation with the deliberate manipulation of variables in order to answer specific hypotheses.

In general, a scientist plans, controls and describes all the circumstances surrounding his tests, in a way they can be repeated by anyone else, which offer dependability for validation.

The requisite of repeatability encourages artificial settings that can be controlled, especially because the participants/subjects in the experiment are not usually involved or engrossed in their tasks, and because it enables a scientist to try combinations of conditions that have not yet occurred.

Controlled experimentation are time-consuming, expensive, and require a staff of skilled researchers and investigators so that they are conducted for basic research, publishing scientific papers, and when sponsored by deep pockets private companies and well-funded public institutions.

There are different types of experiments, some are designed to extract cause and effects among the variables, and especially their interactions in the performance of a system.

Others experiments are not so well structured and are intended to explore a phenomenon at an initial phase.

Experiments varies in their design purposes and levels of control:  there are experiments on inanimate objects or natural phenomena that follow fixed trends and do not change much with time.

Experiments using human subjects in order to select the better performing system or product, and experiments intended to study the cognitive concepts of people such as attitudes, mental abilities, problem solving aptitudes, attention span and the like are very complex, very intricate,  highly time-consuming and expensive to conduct.

The next article entitled “Controlled experimentation: natural sciences versus people’s behavior sciences” is intended to compare the complexity, differences, and levels of difficulties among the various experiments.

This article is striving to establish the fundamental processes or necessary structured steps to conducting a controlled experiment.

In the spectrum of complexity, innovation, and difficulty the experiments in natural sciences are the easiest, and psychology the hardest; within that spectrum fall experiments in the disciplines of agriculture, econometrics, education, social sciences, and marketing.

Early researchers in the phenomenon of electricity had to experiment with simple methods of one dependent and one independent variable, rudimentary equipments, and to rely on an exploratory knowledge of how electricity works and what are the factors that cause definite change in the behavior of certain criteria.

For example, scientists observed that there are relationships among voltage/power, the intensity of the current and the material the current is flowing through, then a scientist set up an experiment to study how the voltage changes when the intensity of the current varies or when the resistance of a material varies.  By conducting several experiments, first by working with a specific conducting material, thus fixing the resistance, and varying the intensity of the current and repeating this simple experiment many times and, second by fixing the current at a certain level and working with different kinds of conducting materials, then the scientist managed to observe a steady mathematical relationship among these three variables.

As the body of knowledge in electricity expanded and more experiments were undertaken, the physical science of electricity discovered many more factors that entered into the mathematical relationship with varying degrees of importance and consequences.

Obviously, physical scientists can now enjoy more powerful, time-saving, and effective experimental designs that can employ several independent variables and several dependent variables in the same experiment thanks to the development in statistical/mathematical modeling and the number crunching computers; these developments in controlled experimentation allow observations of the interactions among the various variables simultaneously, if physical scientists deign to apply them!

Controlled experimentation methods have a set of requisite structured steps that are common to both natural and social studies. Usually, an investigator has to review the research papers on the topic to be investigated, sort out the articles that are scientifically valid and experimentally sound, consider the variables that have been satisfactorily examined and those that were controlled, or not even considered.   Or the scientist may explore the topic by systematic observation of the problem, then he has to propose a hypothesis that could be rejected, but never accepted no matter how often it was not rejected.  He has to conceive a design for the experiment such as the types, numbers of variables, their levels, and how to manipulate the trials, then he has to decide on the best method for selecting the subjects, the materials, or products to be tested, the setting conditions, the procedures, the operations or tasks to be performed, the instructions, the equipments, the appropriate statistical model.

Then the scientist has to conduct the experiment, running the data, analyzing the results, interpreting the results, and finally providing guidelines or practical suggestions to be applied in engineering projects.

The motors of statistical packages used to analyze data are mathematical models or sets of algebraic equations with as many equations as unknown variables and relying on the two main statistical concepts of means and variances among data.

The purpose of controlled experimentation methods is to strictly control systematic errors due to biases and then to sort out the errors that are due to differences among the independent variables and those introduced randomly by human variability.  Once the size of random errors is accounted for then it is possible to study the relationships among the independent variables and to claim that a hypothesis could or could not be rejected at a criterion level of statistical significance, set frequently at 5%.  This criterion level of 5% of statistical significance, means that there is still a 5% chance that an amount of random error might be the cause in the differences of the results.

Types of errors and mistakes committed in controlled experimentation will be reviewed in article #45.   However, it is important to differentiate between evaluation/testing methods and strictly controlled experimentation. In human factors discipline, evaluation methods are applied to compare the effectiveness of several products or systems by measuring end-users behaviors, like/dislike, acceptance/rejection, or satisfying rules and regulations with the purpose that management would be able to decide on the choice among the products offered within specifications.

Controlled experimental methods are mainly applied to study the cause and effects of the main factors on objective measurements that represents valid behaviors of representative samples of end-users with the purpose of reaching design guidelines for products or systems planned for productions.

What could be the Human Factors performance criteria?

Note: Re-edit (Human Factors in Engineering, Article #38, written in March 31, 2006)

Performance” is the magic answer offered by university students to questions like “What is the purpose of this course, of this method, of this technique, or of this design?”

Performance is what summarizes all the conscious learning in the knowledge bag, for lack of meaningful full sentences available in the language to express clear purposes.

It takes a couple of months to wean the students from the catch word “performance” and encourage them to try thinking harder for specificity.

There is a hierarchy for this abstract notion of “performance”.

The next level of abstraction is to answer: “What kind of performance?“.

The third level should answer: “How these various performances criteria correlate?  Can we sort them out between basic performances and redundant performance criteria?”.

The fourth level is: “How much for each basic performance criterion?  Can we measure them accurately and objectively?”

It seems that every discipline has created for itself a set of performance criteria and they are coined in stone, so that an insertion of another element into that set, is like a paradigm shift in its field of science.

If you prompt a business or engineering university student to expand on the meaning of “performance”, when supported by a specific example, it might dawn on him to spell out another piece of jewels such as: “max profit”, “minimize cost”, “improve quality”, “increase production”, “save time”, or “increase market share”.

In order to reach a finer level of specificity we need to define functionally, for example, what “max profit” means.  A string of monosyllables rains from every where such as: “increase price”, “cut expenditure”, “sell more”, and again “improve quality”, “save time”, or “increase market share”.  If we agree that profit is a function of market share, price, expenditure, added values of products, and marketing services then we can understand what could be the basic criteria and which criteria dependent on the basic ones.

How can a business improve performance?

How can it make profit or cut costs? 

Should the firm layoff redundant employees, force early retirement, dip in insurance funds, contract out product parts and administrative processes, eliminate training programs, scrap off the library or continuing learning facilities, streamline the design process, reduce advertising money, abridge break times in duration or frequency, cut overhead expenses such as control lighting and comfort of the working environment, stop investing in new facilities, firing skilled workers, settling consumer plaintiffs out of court, searching for tax loopholes, or engineering financial statements?  How can a business increase its market share? How can it survive competitors and continually flourish?

How can a firm improve products for the quality minded engineers?

Should it invest on the latest technological advancements in equipment, machines, and application software, or should it select the best mind among the graduates, or should it establish a continuing education program with adequate learning facilities, or should it encourage its engineers to experiment and submit research papers, or should it invest on market research to know the characteristics of its customers, or should it built in safety in the design process, or perform an extensive analysis of the foreseeable misuses of its products or services, the type of errors generated in the functioning and operation of its products and their corresponding risks on health of the users, or manage properly employees’ turnover, or care about the safety and health of its skilled and dedicated workers, or ordering management to closely monitor the safety and health standards applied in the company?

At the first session of my course “Human factors in engineering” I ask my class:  “What is the purpose of an engineer?

The unanimous answer is: “performance”.  What are the criteria for an engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

At the first session of my class I repeat several times that the purpose of the engineering discipline is to design practical products or systems that man needs and wants, that human factors engineers are trained to consider first the health and safety of end users, the customers, the operators, and the workers when designing interfaces for products or systems.

At the first session I tell my class that the body of knowledge of human factors is about finding practical design guidelines based on the capabilities and limitations of end users, body and mind, with the following performance criteria: to eliminate errors, to foresee unsafe misuses, to foresee near-accidents, to design in safety operations, to consider the health problems in the product and its operation, to study the safety and health conditions in the workplace and the organizational procedures, to improve working conditions physically, socially, and psychologically, and to be aware of the latest consumer liability legal doctrines.

A month later, I am confronted with the same cycle of questions and answers, mainly: “What is the purpose of an engineer?”  The unanimous answer is: “performance”.  What are the criteria for a human factors engineer?  The loud and emphatic answer is: “performance”!

A few students remember part of the long list of human factors performance criteria, but the end users are still hard to recognize them.

A few students retained the concept of designing practical interfaces or what an interface could be but the pictures of end users are still blurred.

I have to emphasize frequently that the end users could be their engineering colleagues, their family members, and themselves.  I have to remind them that any product, service, or system design is ultimately designed for people to use, operate, and enjoy the benefit of its utility.

Human factors performance criteria are all the above and the design of products or services should alleviating the repetitive musculo-skeletal disorders by reducing efforts, vibration, and proper handling of tools and equipment, designing for proper postures, minimizing static positions, and especially to keep in mind that any testing and evaluation study should factor in the condition that a worker or an employee is operating 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and for many years.

I tell them that any profit or cost cutting is ultimately at the expense of workers/employees, their financial stability, safety standards, comfort, and health conditions physically, socially, and psychologically whereas any increase in performance should be undertaken as a value added to the safety, comfort, and health of the end users.

“The catalytic manuscripts that cleaved the ancient off the modern times” (August 31, 2008)

Manuscripts in themselves do not necessarily generate revolutions or change habits and thinking in societies, but they are used as sources and the foundation for drastic changes at the appropriate conditions and moments in social upheavals.

This article will focus on the main published manuscripts since the 16th century that had the potential to cleave the ancient perspectives on the world off the modern times.

Who were the catalyst thinkers that changed the perceptions and beliefs in values, politics, economy, sciences, and theology (paradigm shifts)?

This article is to encourage free thinkers who can read to go to the original manuscripts with a renewed critical approach of modern development, instead of relying on the interpretations of “representatives” of knowledge.  Delegating truth and meaning of the authors by others is pure laziness of the mind, camouflaged by countless excuses that permit ignorance and ideological positions to distort opinions and well founded mental development.

Erasmus (1469-1536) translated the Bibles from Latin into the German language which aided greatly Martin Luther to spread his brand of Protestantism like wild fire in the Germanophone countries. The Catholic clergies were thus denied the privilege of being the sole interpreters of the Bibles;. And the power shifted to the people who could not before read or write in the Latin language of the elites.  This period is considered the beginning of the Renaissance.

In the 16th century Martin Luther regained the free will for the new Protestants who challenged the Popes in Rome.

Luther activity was of very limited theological objective which meant to remind the Popes and the archbishops that whatever decrees for the individual absolution of sins they have been selling concerns the sins towards them or their Catholic Church, but not what are done to others: only God is the main absolver of sins and it is man’s consciousness and true remorse that count to God.

It happened that the Princes and feudal lords in Northern Europe and Germany were frustrated with the Popes and clergies’ businesses at their expense for taxing the added values in the economy by selling absolution at a large scale.

For example, bishops purchased their ranks and thus borrowed heavily and had to repay their dues at the expense of the population, a business that transferred lot of money that the Princes and Barons treasuries relied on.

Consequently, it was the political personalities that carried the schism to Catholicism to its extreme breakage point under the banner of Martin Luther.           

Montesquieu published in 1748 “De l’esprit des lois”.

He relied heavily on the writings of the English philosopher Locke and the constitution in effect in Great Britain. Political liberty cannot be secured without the separation of the three authorities legislative, executive and legal.

Political liberty is this peace of mind in the general opinion that security is maintained of not being forced to do what the laws prohibit and to be able to do what we want within the limits of the laws. During the American Revolution (1789) the article 16 in the US Declaration stated “No separation of authority (power) no Constitution“.

The executive should have the right to block or veto a written law if it could not execute the law and many executive branches in democracies have this privilege.  (My personal opinion is that the missing link in democracies is for not permitting the legal body of judges to blocking any legislative law that is too mechanical in nature and denies the judges their common sense and experience in judging cases or might over burden the legal body if the executive branch decides to be zealot in exercising certain laws for party political interests and at election times, laws that limit or hinder the judges’ prerogatives for judging cases on their own merit and proper duration)

Rousseau published in 1762 “Du contrat social” which set fire to most social and political movements fed up of monarchies and oligarchies up to the 19th century. As in any association, each citizen put in common his individual person and his power under the supreme guidance of the general will and this act of association form a collective moral body which translates into every associate receiving his unity, his will and his life. Under this social pact anyone who refuses to obey the general will should be set free from the agreements binding the members of association.

This new generated public person who used to take his City name is now called citizen in a Republic and subject under the State laws. The general will of the citizens that share common interests tends always to benefit the public good and it is under these common interests that the citizens should be governed although the general public can be cheated out of its will by renegade governments.  The extreme opinions in the two tails in the will of all the citizens cancel each other and what remains is the general will of the population. (Any citizen who refuses to join the general will, in election results for example, should not benefit in the various interests as those who are bonded by the pact).

Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), the German philosopher, published his philosophical work “The foundations of the metaphysical morals” which made it impossible to consider the natural gifts as having real impact on moral values. 

Only the good will (I prefer to define it as compassionate enthusiasm) of an individual can be considered absolutely “good” on the moral level. What makes us worthy of happiness is solely our good will to change and act according to our limited natural gifts.  The natural gifts of intelligence, talents, capacity to decide, stubbornness in our tasks, inherited money, excellent health and so forth can be catalysts to enhancing our good will but no one should be considered as having good morals or a god moral person simply because he inherited natural gifts.  The ancient moral structure or ethics endowed the aristocratic class natural privileges because by nature people are unequal in gifts and thus virtues reside in the upper classes.

Adam Smith published in 1776 “Investigation on the nature and causes of the wealth of Nations”.  He stated that individuals have the tendencies to invest whatever capital they own within the areas of their residence so that they could have better control over their business because they are aware of the people they can trust and the environment that can use their skills and products and the functioning of the legal system.

This process of increasing the added value of their businesses in the local commerce or inner commerce in general is like “an invisible hand” at work for increasing the wealth of the whole economy.  When the State risks to orient or guide a individual in the manner of investing his capital it is meddling in pointless exercises since the investor is better positioned to know the kinds of activities he is fit to undertake.  Smith relied heavily on the liberal scientific economic principles of the School of Physiocrates but three economic revolutions carried his manuscript as their Bible; mainly, the French Revolution in the political debates, the industrial revolution seeking justifications for their capitalist system and the scientific revolution.

Smith warned against freight commerce where the capital of an investor is divided among foreign countries and never under his control. Thus, a businessman prefers to deal within the inner commerce over external commerce and by far over freight commerce.  Many contradictory economics schools of sciences that earned Nobel Prices such as the School of Chicago, the School of Vienna and even Amartya Sen tried to interpret a few of Smith’s economic principles and his metaphor of the invisible hand.

Charles Darwin performed two revolutions in 1859 by publishing “The origin of species” and in 1871 by publishing “La filiation de l’homme” or “The lineage of man”.  In the first manuscript Darwin wondered how come the natural organisms manage to keep a stable balance with this abundance of procreation. 

Thomas Malthus published in 1798 his “Essay on the principle of population” declaring that resources were not increasing at the same rate of population and that if procreation is not restrained then earth would become the theater of mortal struggles.  In nature, many species procreate considerably in the eventual process that many would die or be eaten before they reach adulthood. Darwin reached a resolution that this stable equilibrium is the mechanism of selection among species that endow the capable with additional minor advantages that permit them to overcome the rigor of an environment, individual, social and atmospheric, a natural process of adaptation for survival of a species. 

Darwin never mentioned in this manuscript that man is descendant of chimpanzees or other species. The second manuscript claimed that incremental progress in civilized associations among humans have instituted a mechanism that offer privileges to the sick and less gifted at the expense of individual rivalries so that to preserve the social instincts of altruism and solidarity among the communities.  Darwin foresaw that as the number of men start sympathizing with animals in extension to their social instincts then this sensibility would expand through imitation and education and end up being incorporated in the general public.

Sigmund Freud in his “The subconscious and its interpretation” announces that man is not a free willing person and master of his ideas but all his actions and thoughts are guided by fantasies generated in his subconscious; hazard is thus non existent because everything can be explained by the workings of the subconscious and discovered through the technique of free association of ideas and whatever you utter during your waking hours.  Slave of the automaton of the senses and of desires, everyone secretes a world of his own, woven by his phantasms and thus “everyone is basically crazy”.  The conscious world is a precarious common denominator of compromises that people opt to live within treachery, misunderstandings, routine and identification.

Albert Einstein published in 1905 a short and succinct article, labeled later as the theory of restrained relativity, which changed for ever the perception of time and space and established a new modern physics.  Einstein had stated that time is intrinsically related to the observer in movement and that only the constant speed of light is independent of movement and its directions.  Classical physics conceived time and space as independent of matters and observers; past was past and the future was to be realized everywhere in the world.

Einstein stated that an observer in a train who is totally in the dark has no means of knowing whether the train is at rest or in uniform movement (a movement that excludes acceleration or deceleration).  Scientists thus had to exclude the notion that two events can possibly happen simultaneously and depends on an arbitrary reference. (I read that gravity is fundamentally a distortion in the time-space canvass and not related to the mass of a particle/planet in the cosmic universe). The concepts of “passage of time” as the flow of a river and our separation of past, present and future are plainly illusions. Einstein’s general relativity theory modified modern physics in many areas such as particle accelerators, black holes, Big Bang, and the GPS positioning system.  (If these new concepts are true then I may hypothesize that the metrics of time based on an atomic clock may not be valid on another galaxy because the speeds of the other galaxies are different from ours).

Werner Heisenberg was 23 year-old when he published in 1925 “On quantum mechanics”.  Heisenberg realized that classical mechanics used by Max Planck, Niels Bohr and Louis de Broglie that relied on the values of exact position, the orbital period of an electron and speed of a matter were not observable quantities in atomic and sub-atomic particles and thus not suitable to be applied.  Heisenberg then endeavored to formulate abstract equations using observable quantities such as the frequencies of light emitted when an electron jumps from an orbit to the next and the energy required to shifting orbits which is the square of amplitudes of the wave and represented by the probabilities of jumping orbits. 

This mathematical concept of a new mechanics has lead to many interpretations such as it impossible to simultaneously measure the location of an atomic particle and its speed or moment and that the physical world is not realized in one deterministic copy but the superposition of innumerable worlds. (I once read that the new quantum mechanics theory was the consequence of chaos in philosophy: deterministic views, in the aftermath of the First World War, were suspect in the perception of people of the new calamitous world)

Value-adding civilizations (October 14, 2008)


The hard working populations are generally those who had to battle for survival out of hunger throughout history because of geographical locations and weather conditions and who tended to develop their intelligence the fastest in inventiveness and dareness in all field of discoveries.  For the exploiters the hungrier the populations the better their value-added work.


Colonial powers preferred to invest in territories of hungry populations who are used to work hard for survival.  The colonies of lush vegetations and populations not valuing the need to work for survival where left unperturbed in expanding the colonial peculiar values and the colonizers just installed their posts and ports infrastructures for exporting the valuable natural raw materials. Hard working people add values to whatever the colonizers exploited.  Amelie Nothomb explains why the island of Vanuatu or New Hebrides was left in peace and was shared by both France and England conjointly without animosity.  Even today, Vanuatu is spared the rush for tourism industry.  Vanuatu has abundance in natural edible vegetation and varieties of fishes. Thus, the natives never had any need to cultivate lands or work for survival; they are never hungry for food: all they have to do is extend an arm and pick out bananas, coconuts or gather fish and oysters while swimming for relaxation. Consequently, the colonial powers could not make use of the natives who are not hungry for food or work or anything for that matter and have no inkling to seek anything.

On the other hand, the first question a Chinese asks his neighbor is “Have you eaten?”  The Chinese discovered almost everything, thought of everything, comprehended everything and dared everything.  The culinary art in China has reached an unequal level in refinement simply because the Chinese learned to eat anything that could be edible.  The reason for the successes of the Chinese is that they had been always famished for food and millions died of hunger in their uninterrupted past history.

England did what was necessary to retain India under its dominion.  England needed the hard working vast population Indians to add value to its economy instead of relying solely on piracy and conquering neighboring countries.  England decided to just retain maritime ports in Yemen, Oman and the Arab Peninsula instead of spreading its “values” and knowledge.  Even today, the USA cares only for the oil of the producing Arab Peninsula and exploiting their sovereign funds!

Take for example the history of the USA. The first “pilgrims” had to work hard the first decade to survive.  Then they realized that the indigene “Indians” didn’t care much for work: they waited for the hunting seasons and transported their domiciles. The “pilgrims” decided that they have no use of the Indians for exploitation and exterminated them at every opportunity to expand their lands.  The US Administrations didn’t massacre the Mexicans outright in Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida: they exploited them to the hilt.  The USA experienced the most productive periods when the governments opted for isolationism and had to rely on their proper hard work.  Everytime the US opened its borders for fresh hard working immigrants, manually and mentally, the US population gradually relinquished the hard work for fast riches in financial embezzlement schemes.

The Near Eastern populations of Syria and Palestine and especially the Lebanese share the same characteristics with the Chinese: the Lebanese had to grow food out of rocks in their tiny land! They are constantly hungry and always “want” something. There are tenfold more Lebanese immigrants throughout the world than in Lebanon proper. The culinary art in Lebanon used to be the healthiest, the sanest and the tastiest.  They also discovered almost everything and every land in past history.  All the regional warrior Empires, like the Turks, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Egyptians expanded first thing into the Near East territory to exploit the hard working populations and export them to their Kingdoms as slaves and skilled professionals.  The new colonizers such as England, France and lately the USA built universities first thing in the Near East.  Presently, the brain power of the immigrants from the Near East rank first in these colonial States commensurate to their original populations. They ranked first in Egypt before the revolution of Jamal Abdul Nasser.  They ranked first in Saudi Arabia before the oil boom.




October 2008

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