Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 26th, 2008

 “How to tell long and good stories from human factors graphs?”

Article #33, (Feb. 28, 2006)

If we concentrate on a graph we might generate a long story that span many disciplines and furnish us with a wealth of information and knowledge that pages of words barely can convey. A graph might open the gate for dozen of questions that are the foundation of scientific, experimental, and critical thinking.

Suppose that we are comparing the efficiency in energy consumption between walking bare feet or wearing shoes that weight 1.3 Kg.  Considering the walking speed as the other independent variable, along with the type and weight of shoes, we observe that the curves show that we are consuming less energy at low speed, then both curves decreasing to a minimum consumption of 0.2 KJ/Nm and intersecting at around 80 meter/min and then increasing as walking speed increases.

This graph is telling us that casual walking consumes less energy per unit walking effort than fast walking and that, at a cut off speed of 80 meter/min, the energy consumption is equal for both foot wares.  Some people might jump to the conclusion that this cut-off speed can be generalized to all foot wears, but more experiments are necessarily needed to verify this initial hypothesis.

Another piece of information is that after the cut-off speed, it is more economical in energy to walk barefoot. Basically, this graph is saying that the more weight you add to your lower limbs the more energy you should expect to spend, a fact that is not an earth shattering observation.

Biomechanics tells us that the structure of our body is not geared toward saving on our muscular effort, but to increasing our range and speed of movements.  Most of our muscles are connected to the bones of our limbs and their respective joints in manners they have to exert great effort and many fold the weight of our body members to overcome any of our limb’s mass.

Usually, the tendons of our muscles are inserted to the limb bones, close to the joints, and thus the muscles have to exert a huge effort to overcome the moment of the bone and flesh weight in order to effect a movement. Any extra mass to our limbs will tax our muscles to produce many folds the additional weight.

There is a caveat however; if you wrapped a weight of 1.3 kg around your ankles and walked bare feet you would consume more energy than without the added weight, but the curve would be parallel to the previous curve and not increasing more steepily than walking with shoes weighting 1.3 Kg.  Consequently, the variation in the behavior of the graphs result from a combination of added weight and lesser static coefficient of friction exerted by the shoes on the walking surface than the bare foot..

Thus, what this graph does not mention is the static coefficient of friction between the footwear and the ground, and which is the most important variable and in this case, can concatenate many independent and control variables such as the materials of the footwear and the type of ground into a unique independent variable of coefficient of friction.

The higher the coefficient of friction the easier it is to move and progress and thus walking faster for the same amount of effort invested.  It is not that important to generate muscle force if the reaction force on the surface cannot be produced to move a person in the right direction.  For example, it is extremely difficult to move on slippery surfaces no matter how much muscular effort we generate.  Apparently, the shape and skin texture of our foot provide a better and more efficient coefficient of friction than most foot wears.

However, the most important fact of this simple experiment is showing us the behavior of the curves and offering additional hypotheses for other studies.

What this graph is not telling us is the best story of all, and which can excite the mind into further investigation. For example, what kind of earth materials are we walking on; sands, asphalt, rough terrains, slippery roads or grassy fields?  Does the sample of bare feet walkers include aboriginals used in walking bare feet, city dwellers, and people from the province?  Does the sample includes groups of  people according to the softness of their feet skins or the size of feet?

May be the shape of the curves are the same for females as well, but it would be curious to find out the magnitude of variations compared to males.  It is clear that a simple and lousy graph delved us into the problems of experimentation and raised enough questions to attend to various fields of knowledge.

In the final analysis, the question is how relevant is this experiment practically?  How far can a modern man walk bare feet?  Does any economy in energy compensate for the ache, pain and injuries suffered by walking bare feet?  Would athletes be allowed to compete bare feet if it is proven to increase performance and break new records?  Does anyone care of walking barefoot in order to save a few kilo Joules?

The theme of this article is that you can venture into many fields of knowledge, just by focusing your attention on graphs and tables and permitting your mind to navigate into uncharted waters through queries and critical thinking.

 

 

Article “31 (December 18, 2005)

 “A seminar on a multidisciplinary view of design”  

The term “designing” is so commonly used that its all encompassing scope has lamentably shrunken in the mind of graduating engineers. This talk attempts to restore the true meaning of design as a multidisciplinary concept that draw its value from the cooperation and inputs of many practitioners in a team.

This is a scenario of a seminar targeting freshmen engineers, who will ultimately be involved in submitting design projects, is meant 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. The ultimate purpose is to providing the correct designing behavior from the first year.

Answering the following questions might be the basis of acquiring a proper behavior in design projects, which should be carried over in their engineering careers.  Many of these questions are never formally asked in the engineering curriculum.

Q1. What is the primary job of an engineer?   What does design means?  How do you perceive designing to look like?

A1. The discussion should be reopened after setting the tone for the talk and warming up the audience to alternative requirements of good design.

Q2. To whom are you designing?  What category of people? Who are your target users? Engineer, consumers, support personnel, operators?

A2. Generate from audience potential design projects as explicit examples to develop on that idea.

Q3. What are your primary criteria in designing?  Error free application product? Who commit errors?  Can a machine do errors?

A3.  Need to explicitly emphasize that error in the design and its usage is the primary criterion and which encompass the other more familiar engineering and business criteria

Q4. How can we categorize errors?  Had you any exposure to error taxonomy? Who is at fault when an error is committed or an accident occurs?

A4. Provide a short summary of different error taxonomies; the whole administrative and managerial procedures and hierarchy of the enterprise need also to be investigated.

Q5. Can you foresee errors, near accidents, accidents in your design?

A5. Take a range oven for example, expose the foreseeable errors and accidents in the design, babies misuse and the display and control idiosyncrasy.

Q6. Can we practically account for errors without specific task taxonomy?

A6. Generate a discussion on tasks and be specific on a selected job.

Q7. Do you view yourself as responsible for designing interfaces to your design projects depending on the target users? Would you relinquish your responsibilities for being in the team assigned to designing an interface for your design project? What kinds of interfaces are needed for your design to be used efficiently?

A7. Discuss the various interfaces attached to any design and as prolongement to marketable designs.

Q8. 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? Have you memorize the dimensions of your design problem?

A8.  Figure out the magnitude and the range of the answers before attempting to solve a question; solve algebraically your equations before inputting data; have a good grasp of all the relevant independent variables.

Q9. What are the factors or independent variables that may affect your design project? How can we account for the interactions among the factors?

A9. Offer an exposition to design of experiments

Q10. 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? Would you accept the results of any peer reviewed article as facts that may be readily applied to your design projects?

A10.  Explain the need to be familiar with the procedures and ways of understanding research articles as a continuing education requirement.

Q11. Do you expect to be in charged of designing any new product or program or procedures in your career? Do you view most of your job career as a series of supporting responsibilities; like just applying already designed programs and procedures?

Q12. 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? Are you planning to go for graduate studies and do you know what elective courses might suit you better in your career?

A12.  Taking multidisciplinary courses enhances communication among design team members and more importantly encourages reading research papers in other disciplines related to improving a design project. Designing is a vast and complex concept that requires years of practice and patience to encompass several social science disciplines.

Q13. Can you guess what should have been my profession?

A13.  My discipline is Industrial engineering with a major in Human Factors oriented toward designing interfaces for products and systems. Consequently, my major required taking multidisciplinary courses in marketing, psychology and econometrics and mostly targeting various methodologies for designing experiments, collecting data and statistically analyzing gathered data in order to predict system’s behavior.

 

“A few anecdotes of my teaching methods” 

(Article #17 in the category of Human Factors, written on April 13, 2005)

My composite class of all engineering disciplines takes my course in Human Factors in engineering for different reasons. It is a required course to the industrial engineers, but optional to all the others.

You assume that most university students have discussed with the previous students about the contents, difficulty, novelty and time consuming constraints of this course.

Apparently, the responses generated in class to my query whether the students have any idea about this course prove that they have no knowledge whatsoever of Human Factors discipline, which is to design products and services with health, safety, and ease of use of consumers in mind.

I prompt them by mentioning the term ergonomics, and lo and behold, they have read this term somewhere in ads on ergonomically designed chairs and keyboards.

Another surprise is that when it comes to purchasing course materials and answering old questions in assignments, many succeed in locating previous students who took the course.

I have tried many teaching styles, revised several times the contents and arrangements of the course chapters, and experimented with various methods to encourage the students into reading the course materials on their own volition.

I varied the number of quizzes, exams, assignments and lab projects, tried to encourage them to read research articles, investigated new presentation techniques, gave them hints on how best to read and assimilate the materials, emphasized on thinking like engineers and not memorize information, and I assigned students to read to the class:  I received basically the same observations, no matter how I change the course.

1.Engineering students will read only under duress,

2. Will barely take notes even if bonus points are at stakes,

3. Will start an assignment a couple of days before due date, even if the assignment was handed out several weeks prior to due date,

4. Will remember to ask for clarifications only on due date,

5. Will copy and cheat unabashedly.

Engineering students refuse to carry to class any course material, unless the exam is an open book.

Many don’t bring any paper or pen to take notes, many refuse to redo their assignments for a couple extra points or for closure sake, and most of the redone works show no improvement.

Students can use word processors or any computer applications for their assignments, but the end product has to be hand written, including tables, charts and figures. Guess why I figured out this constraints?

It turned out that my guess was correct: most of the time I can manage to read physicians’ prescriptions better than their handwriting assignment.

There was a time when engineers were trained to submit neat drawings, as engineers should be trained to do, but this time is long gone.

Another advantage of submitting hand written work is that students will actually read what they are writing and rely less on copied CD’s and try their hands on being neat, using rulers, compasses and the long lost engineering working components.

I invented several ways to brute force students to read at least parts of the course materials.

In addition to mid-term and final exams, they have to answer dozens of questions for their mid-term and final take homes exams.

I assign graphs, tables and figures to students to hand write, copy on transparent sheets and present to class with written explanation attached.

All assignments are submitted on composition booklets.

I encourage them to take notes by asking them questions on materials not covered in the course materials, and giving bonuses to anyone who remember to provide a copy of his notes on final day.

I have come to realize that any zest I invest in teaching is for just a couple of students each semesters.

Yes, there is this couple of students who demonstrate this want to learn: it is always refreshing to feel that a few students are serious about the money invested by their parents for them to learn at universities.

An overview of Zionism and Christian-Jews mythology (September 5, 2008)

 

Zionism and Christian-Jews have founded a political ideology based on a religion that described bits of minor historical facts in order to camouflage major inherited myths and historical disinformation in order to create the image of “the chosen people”.

There are no evidences that the non-elite Jews were displaced to Babylon.  There are no archeological finds to prove that the Kingdoms of David and Salomon extended beyond Samaria, at best.  Most of the Jews, with the exception of those in Judea, adopted the religion of the region such as the Phoenician City-States and the Aramaic Kingdoms in the interior of Syria. There are no evidences that a mass transfer of Jews from Jerusalem was undertaken during the Roman Empire when Titus demolished their Temple; even the Jewish historian Josephus in the first century never mentioned deportation.  Moses could not have led any sizeable Jewish followers from Egypt out of fright to Palestine simply because this whole region was under Egyptian hegemony at the time.  The Egyptian clerics worshiping God Amon had regained their power after Akhenaton reign and the High Priest Moses might have to flee Egypt because he was a follower of the Akhenaton religion.  The early Zionists leaders, including Ben Gorion, admitted that the Jews are the ancestors of current day Palestinian peasants who converted to other religions. 

The Jews proselytized on an extensive scale after the expansion of the Christian message; they managed to have a sizable community in Yemen known as Himyar, in Northern Africa among the Berber and who joined the Arabs in invading Spain and were called Sephardim, around the Black Sea and Armenia and established the Khazar Empire around the 7th century.  The Moguls expansion displaced the Jews of the Khazar Empire toward Russia and Eastern Europe and then current Germany; the Yiddish culture is representative of the Ashkenazi Jews.   

 

There is another logical alternative story related to the Jewish religion for our modern days. There are many interesting manuscripts that relate modern Jewish development.  I learned that the Bolshevik revolution was financed by the wealthy Rothschild family and that 9 out of the 12 members of the politburo of Lenin were Jews and Lenin’s mother was Jewish.  The 32 out of the 34 members of Stalin politburo were Jews and Stalin was married to a Jewish woman at the time.  The Rothschild family fomented the French Revolution and forced the noble Maribeau to enter the Masonic organization for his rhetoric talent because he was heavily indebted and this secret organization convinced him to rally the Duke D’ Orleans to the secret organization.  These two powerful personalities didn’t know that the objective was to decapitate the King until it was too late.  The Masonic organization brought in Napoleon from poverty into power and encouraged his animosity with the Church of Rome until he discovered the schemes of the Masonic organization and said that the Jews are the lowest race that exists on earth but failed to control them appropriately. Then the Masonic organization turned against him when Napoleon re-linked with the clergies of the Catholic Church. 

It was the Rothschild family that fomented the American Revolution after they learned from Benjamin Franklin that the progress of the colonies was due to their right to issue their own paper money. Consequently, since the Rothschild family was controlling the Bank of England it then asked King George to restrict the issuing of paper money to the Bank of England.  This decree allowed the Rothschild family to restrict the issuing of needed money outlay and thus started the US revolution after business was cut to half and famine began to plague the colonies.  It was the same family that encouraged the civil war in the USA because it preferred two weak States instead of a dangerous mighty nation.  Then, when the scheme of splitting the USA into two States failed they insinuated themselves into the position of power in the USA and started controlling Bank of America and then the destiny of this nation.  Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln had warned the American administrations against permitting Jewish money to infiltrating and controlling their economy.

It is well established that the Masonic organization in Thessalonica in Greece fomented the revolt of the Turkish officers against the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid.  The US president Truman was a high ranking Masonic member and recognized the State of Israel and vehemently supported the Zionist movement.

The Masonic organization had strong hate for the Russian monarchy because it comprehended their schemes for fomenting troubles everywhere they acted; the Russian monarch Alexander had aided Lincoln with a Russian fleet which foiled the Rothschild plans for splitting the US Federal government into two nations.  There are new evidences that the Ashkenazi Jews are not Semitic because their origin is of Eastern Europe and from Central Asia when they established the Khazar Kingdom that lasted 500 years around the Caspian Sea.  The Mogul expansion displaced these non-semitic Jews to Eastern Europe until the emerging Russian Empire destroyed that kingdom and dispersed the Ashkenazi Jews into Central Europe around 1050.

An alternative historical account to the monolithic religions (May 15, 2008)

 

This article is intended for those who accept the validity of the following hypotheses:  First,  that earth is over 4 billion years old and that a form of human emerged over one million years ago; second, that human kind was on the verge of extinction several times due to drastic climatic changes and the eruption of monster volcanoes.  Thus, prior civilizations which may have been as developed as today could have vanished with no traces left. 

We need to accept the fact that, if the number of the world population was far less than it should have been at the beginning of the 19th century, then, it is because, from simple mathematical computation in the last 2,000 years,  most of our ancestors were the product of incest and not from couples of different families, even after accounting for the casualties of wars, pestilence, famine and climate calamities.

I also would like to state that mythologies were based on real events and that stories were  transmitted verbally; that the events actually occurred and the verbal communication of these stories enriched the imagination and gave the various mythologies the religious power and the dimension that are interpreted nowadays.

When dealing with religions people feel the need to contrast faith versus facts and logic.  People who have sincere faith must have experienced supernatural revelations or gone through a moment of irrational state of out of body exposure.  I believe that faith cannot be acquired by reason or logic and those who repeat frequently the word “truth” in their conversations are not sincere in their belief :  Truth is plainly, simply, and absolutely a subjective attitude and it means “do not bother using facts, science or logic.  All those endeavors do not mean a thing and would not change my mind”.  Truth is for me the most dangerous term that man has invented because it blocks any consensus or negotiation or meaningful conversation and it connote an extremist disposition based on ignorance and lack of intellectual interactions.  Thus, the concept of truth is practically opposite to faith although people positively correlate it with faith.

            Logic is a construct, a system of the mind used to expose a coherent hypothesis, hopefully based on some facts, or a story that hold a convincing alternative.  Logic can be used in science, in rhetoric and as well in religion. Institutionalized religions heavily make use of logic though they hammer out the concept of faith because its concept is not founded on anything tangible or can be proved rationally.  Religion is basically a theological philosophy that has been manipulated to be rooted in myths, symbols, and secrecy to satisfy the initiated High Priests and generates its power through the scare tactics within the psychic of man.

            Let me offer a logical story, one of the alternative stories, of the monotheist religions of the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem religions.  The root of these three religions is the religion practiced in the Kingdom of Sumer, in southern Iraq, 6,000 years ago.  This ancient religion believed in a trinity and its mythology stated that out of space creatures, arriving from the tenth dying planet, landed on earth to exploit gold and oil because the environment of their planet required abundant quantities of gold to be pulverized and injected in their outer atmosphere to rejuvenate the deteriorating environment of their planet.  These creatures created human artificially (test tube for example) to serve as cheap and mechanical slaves in the mines.  After many centuries, the created human then revolted against their masters and fled from the Eden of the super cruel creatures and had to fend for themselves to survive and develop their intelligence. 

            The Kingdom of Sumer and its far developed civilization that discovered the existence of ten planets (there is nine in our solar system so far and lately this year the tenth planet was discovered) and their rotations and then divided the day into 24 hours, the hours into minutes and minutes into seconds.  Ancient mythologies mention that this kingdom was destroyed by a natural calamity (resembling to an atomic explosion used by the outer space creatures). The Sumerian mythology had ramifications into all the neighboring civilizations that came after it was weakened. 

It is narrated that Abraham left the Kingdom of Sumer with his tribe during a period of famine and carried with him the verbal mythology of the country.  Moses was a High Priest in Egypt and fled persecution because he adhered to the Akhenaton new religion of the one God the Sun and carried with him the ten laws and the secrets of the Egyptian religion. 

Jesus was initiated by the Essen secret Jewish sect, on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, whose members believed in knowledge and spirituality and shared the resources in common.  It is also narrated that Jesus lived for a time in Sidon teaching in its famous law school.  Mary, his mother and part of her family moved to a town nearby when Jesus was a lecturer in the law school. It is no fluke incident that Jesus and Mary attended a wedding in Qana; it is also very rational that Jesus decided to start his message after Qana when his mother removed the cover of secrecy and exposed his supernatural gifts of turning water to wine.

Jesus was a high priest in the Essen sect and preached a message based in symbolism and fables and was highly spiritual and staunchly anti-Pharisee.  The Jewish cabala sect is a branch of the Essen sect and is founded on the Sumerian theology and myths. 

Albert Schweitzer, a theologian, physician, thinker, organ player and Nobel Peace laureate offered his version on Jesus.  He said, based on the first two testaments of Mathew and Marc, that Jesus preached his message to the general public in the last year before his crucifixion.  Six months all in all Jesus was accompanied by the public;  the remaining six months he spent them among his close disciples around Caesarea of Philippi. 

In the beginning, Jesus accepted the label of a prophet among the prophets but then he reached the belief that he is the Messiah of the Jews.  Thus, he sent his disciples two by two to preach the message of the end of time.  Jesus was very surprised when all his disciples returned safe and sound; he expected them to suffer terribly and be put to death in order for the prophesy to be accomplished.  Jesus then decided that God would accept his sacrifice and save his close disciples from certain atrocious deaths before the first coming of the Messiah.

The apostles and disciples of Jesus believed that Christ would return to Jerusalem during their life time and thus they stayed in Jerusalem for as long as they could before they were forced to leave that city out of persecution by the Jews. The Christian-Jews would not relinquish the Jewish Law and they harassed and even persecuted St. Paul for preaching to the gentiles and establishing Christian communities based on faith in Christ who came to absolve our sins and who was resurrected from death.

 

The Arab Prophet Mohammad was not illiterate as the Moslems would like to disseminate; Mohammad new and read the “heretic” Christian Bible that was proselitized in Mecca; he listened to the proselytism of Eastern Christian sects during his caravan commerce within Syria.  These Christian sects believed in the monophysism of Jesus (no divine spiritual identity) and were staunchly adhering to the Jewish Law, the Jewish prophets and their books.  Consequently, the religion of Mohammad during its first 13 years was almost a duplicate of these Christian sects with strong Jewish foundations in their religions. 

At that period,  Mohammad’s message decreed that Moslems should face toward Jerusalem for prayer; when Mohammad had to fight the Jewish tribes that later sided with his enemies of Quraich tribes he changed his order for prayer to facing Al Ka3ba in Mecca.

Mohammad had to flee to Medina after the Kureich tribe decided to terminate him; he then endeavored to establish firmly his community of Moslems.  The next phase of taking up the civil social responsibilities and politics for maintaining this community forced upon him to linking the spiritual dogma with the civil laws and regulations. It was while strengthening the community of Islam in Medina that Mohammad had to wage many wars against a few Jewish communities who ended siding with Mohammad’s archenemy the Qureich tribe in Mecca.  Mohammad thus learned to discriminate between the practices of the Jews and the Jewish religion; hundreds of Jews were beheaded as they resumed siding with his enemies.  After Mohammad had showed clemency twice with Jewish rebellions and then, he finally ordered the beheading of 700 members of the Jewish Khyber tribe.  For some reason Mohammad selected his nephew and son-in-law Ali to have the honor of the decapitation; it is no wonder that the Jews have an animal hatred for Ali and his followers.

 

Personal hypothesis:

 

            The ancestor of all the Gods that were created since antiquity is this scary total Silence before a coming major natural cataclysm.  It is the silence of death when the whole earth is still and the atmosphere suffocating, no breezes of any kinds, that generates in all living creature a terrible reaction of wholesome anger of pure revolt against the sense of death in this universal silence.  It is the silence and quietude before tornadoes, cyclones, sand desert storms and all the kinds of whirling at great magnitude in the atmosphere, the seas, deserts and the bowel of earth in volcanoes. There is no avoiding the silence of coming cataclysms as there is no avoiding death, a correlation that people noticed and prayed for their own God of Total Silence to keep chatting through winds, birds, animals, rains, thunderstorms, shouting, crying and anything that can be heard lest miseries, devastations and evil spirits hovering over the land befall their region. 

The same behavior is applied to the starting of wars and their ending. It is no wonder that men shout stupid songs, curse loudly at fictional enemies like if drunk, bang on batteries and metals, light and heavy metals, blow on air instruments and all the hysterical trepidations at the announcement of a major war, an ancient psychic custom within our deepest pre-historic brain to ward off the cataclysm wrapped into maddening songs of patriotism and cursing at the evil enemies.  Indeed, heavy silence is the root of our fundamental fear and dealing with fear should pass through learning to accept silence as a necessary step to investigating our soul.

Who are we, the inhabitants of the Mediterranean Sea shores? (March 1, 2008)

 

I have this theory, backed by historical accounts and substantiated by archeological and ontological finding, that the Near East has been the crossroad for the innumerable waves of immigrations from East to West and to a lesser extent from Eastern Africa via Egypt.  This is a valid hypothesis that could be adopted as an alternative direction and guide to studying our people. I take the first premise that most locations had their own indigents for various reasons going far back to thousands of years; this premise is only just, logical and convenient.  I also offer the second premise that emigrants prefer moving toward areas with abundance of water and greener pastures. The successive waves of immigration have started in full bloom before the seventh millennia of our calendar.

 People from Central Asia tended to march towards Northern Iran and the Anatolian plateau of Turkey rich in rivers and water reserves from the melting of snow covered mountains. The populations in Iran were inclined to settle the shores of the great Tigris River (Dujlah) in Iraq. From there they forked either south along the mighty river or northward.  Moving south was initially the preferred route because the climate is warmer and because it is almost impossible to navigate upward the Tigris River in its northern section.  They settled and built the ancient and mighty Empires around Ur and Basra on the mouth of the Tigris River that empties in the Arabic Gulf and then they expanded along the Arabian Gulf shores; these ancient Empires constituted the trading centers from the Arabian Gulf to the coasts of the Western Indian Ocean.  The Prophet Abraham is said to have moved out with his tribe from the great city of Ur toward greener pastures and most probably south-west along the Red Sea coast. Later, the mighty Empire of Babylon based its capital further north of Ur on the Tigris River.

Aramaic was the main mother language with various dialects for each region because Iraq was the hotbed of civilization for over 4 millennia before Christ, starting by the kingdoms of Sumer, Akad, Babylonia and Ashur. All the regions from Iran, Kurdistan, the Arabic peninsula, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine the and the western part of Turkey were under the hegemony of either one of these empires; the main religion and Gods, and the same manner of trading and doing business and administrations were homogeneous.

Moving north the Tigris River the hardy immigrants settled and built mighty Empires like Assyria in Nineveh (Ninawa) around Mossul and in the current Kurdish homeland. Those immigrants who moved north the river overflowed to the Anatolian Plateaus in Turkey and settled along the mighty Euphrates River (Al Furat) and built the Hittite Empire that discovered iron and invaded Egypt, where they were called the Hyksos, and settled there for a long time until they signed a peace treaty with Ramses II.  It is known that prosperous Troy was vanquished by the Greeks, after ten years of siege, because the Hittite Empire was endeavoring at that junction to reach the sea and thus aided the Greek invaders to destroy their natural enemy.  The more recent power coming from the Anatolian plateau that conquered the Middle East is the Ottoman Empire.

The waves of immigration descended along the Euphrates River and jointed the Oronte River (Al Assy) and built many cities along these rivers and many reached the Mediterranean Sea.  It is known that the Oronte and Euphrates shores were studded with numerous large and prosperous cities like Homs, Hama, Tel Amarna, Van, and Mary because it was the preferred land trade route towards Iraq, Persia and ultimately China. The alternative more direct route was through the Syrian Desert passing by Palmyra (Tadmor) but it was way too harsh and inconvenient.  Actually, almost all invasions coming from further East and North used this corridor to loot and conquer Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and ultimately Egypt. All these immigrants might have initially fled from persecutions and tribal warfare and also because of changing weather conditions and draughts.

            The waves coming from Eastern Africa settled first in Egypt and fled for many reasons to the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea toward the Maghreb regions and also to the eastern shores and settled in the sea cities of Canaan that includes Palestine, and Lebanon.   A large number had to emigrate very often from the cities of Canaan after repeated invasions of the Moguls, Persian, Iraqi, and Egyptian Empires; these Empires made it a routine to invade and loot the rich Canaan cities for their accumulated treasures and for their skilled workers. 

All these immigrants ended up in Syria and the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea of Canaan and some settled in Egypt. The ancient city of Byblos extended its civilization and built the cities of Sidon and Beyrouth and other sea towns and invented a new alphabet of 22 letters.  Sidon built Tyr and Akka.  As the Empires in Iraq, Persia, and Egypt invaded these cities the settled inhabitants of these prosperous seashore cities had to immigrate again to the southern and western shores of the Mediterranean Sea. 

They built trading posts all around this sea promoting commerce and exercising their own brand of beliefs and traditions. Tyr, under Elissa, simultaneously built Carthage in Tunisia and Cadis (Cadesh) in Spain, thus controlling the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. Carthage aimed for a higher level of trade by taking hold of the strategic isthmuses in the Mediterranean Sea such as Messina, Sicily and the strait of Gibraltar that leads to Portugal, Britain and Ireland so that no maritime commerce could be undertaken without landing in one of their “contoires” or trading posts. Carthage then conquered most of the islands like Sardinia, Corsica, Cyprus, and Sicily and settled in southern Spain.

The Phoenicians dominated all the Mediterranean Sea trade for over one thousand years.  The maritime power of their Greek competitor had been destroyed by invasions coming from the north and left the Phoenicians masters of the sea.  The barons of this tertiary industry or the commissioning of maritime and even land transports of goods from one producing country to consuming countries were located in either Tyr or Sidon. These barons hired rammers and soldiers and workers from all over the region and had also their own sophisticated depots and handled the transactions from beginning to end and exported contracting jobs and skilled workers.  The main Phoenician cities, and especially Tyr and Sidon, concentrated on the secondary industries where semi finished goods were transformed into quality products. The Phoenicians applied the current colonial trade strategies thousands of years ago without the backing of indigenous military power such as the Greek and especially the Roman Empires.

 

It is worth mentioning that the Canaanean entrepreneurs didn’t focus much on the artistic part in their culture or in their constructions during periods of autonomy but lavished their ingenuity when they were under the domination of powerful Empires so that they could rely on “State funding” for great and beautiful monuments.

The Arab Islamic conquest of this region didn’t contribute much in the numbers of immigrants since the Arabian Peninsula was scarcely populated and the glory of this Empire in the sciences, medicine and the translation of ancient cultures were rooted first on the scholars in Syria and Lebanon during the Umayyad dynasty, then the Persians during the Abbasid dynasty and the various dynasties that ruled Spain and mainly Andalusia.

Thus, the main inhabitants of northern Africa, Spain, the southern parts of France and Italy and the eastern countries of the Mediterranean Sea are essentially immigrants from Central Asia, Iran, East Africa and Egypt after having settled in Canaan for several centuries.  The wave of immigrations were East to West except in few periods were the skilled workers were transferred under duress by conquering Monarchs to build new emerging capitals by the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Genkis Khan the Mogul.

I tend to consider that the northern shores of the Mediterranean Sea that includes Greece and northern Turkey were mostly immigration waves coming from Eastern Europe but the culture, the religions, and the trades were mainly the endeavors of the Canaan’s population, of which the Phoenicians are the famously known mariners and comprador traders.

The current Christian residents of Mount Lebanon are a mixture of two big waves of immigrations: the first wave occurred after the conclave of Nicee in 320.  In that epoch, the new friend of the Christians, Emperor Constantine, who lived as a pagan most of his life summoned to the conclave all the bishops.   This major event transformed drastically the Christian doctrine and dogma as well as the church institution.  The conclave decided by a slight majority to confer divine nature to Jesus, declared his mother Mary a virgin, selected only four Books to represent the New Testament as orthodox and banished the hundreds alternative versions that were available at the time and banished women from the clergy institution and ordered the bishops to done luxurious attire and then gradually introduced the pagan symbols to lure in the pagans to the newly adopted religion and gave the pagan festivities Christian meanings and connotations.  Most of the so-called heretic Christian sects that were comfortable with the temporal nature of Jesus and Mary and had their selected preferred versions of the New Testament had to flee persecutions to inaccessible mountains.  Those living in Turkey moved to the Anatolian Plateau, Kurdistan, Armenia and the Caucasus and those in Syria and Palestine moved to Mount Lebanon.

The second major modern wave of immigration occurred since the Mameluks dynasties came to power in Egypt.  The Mameluk Empire had dislodged the last remaining Crusaders’ strongholds and stopped the drive of the Mogul invasion in Palestine. I believe that the new fundamentalist converts to Islam in Central Asia and Kurdistan, the regions of which the Mameluks originated from, exercised great zeal to chasing out the numerous Christian sects.  Mount Lebanon was a refuge for these Christian immigrants and the archeological finds show that women wore multi layers of colorful dresses as currently wore in these remote regions. 

This natural Nation, comprised of the current States of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, is self-contained; self sufficient and well delimited by natural borders but was never able to constitute an independent political entity in modern time. This natural Nation by any criteria of what define a Nation simply was opened to the expansion of far more populous Nations under highly centralized governments on all its borders and because it proved to be a major crossroad for immigrations westward.  It is the case even today at a more accelerated pace after the US invasion of Iraq and the strategic plan of the US to controlling the Greater Middle East in a Pax Americana.

 

Note: Before the Arab hegemony that started in around the year 640 almost all the family names and cities were Aramaic or having Aramaic roots.  The fourth caliph, Imam Ali, once wrote that his ancestors before “Kusai” had Aramaic names and that his tribe Kuraich (an Aramaic name) came from “Kawssa” nearby current Kufa in Iraq.  The Aramaic language survived the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods until way into the Arabic period.  The Arab language, the language of the Koran, is basically a branch of Aramaic and the spoken Arab is a dialect. It is well known that Christ spoke Aramaic and before Jesus died on the crucifix he addressed his God Eely for abandoning him to his destiny.  Eel was the name of the Aramaic God and not Jehovah, a tribal God, of the strict Jews in Judea. The Koran uses an Aramaic root for Eel such as Elle and Allah. 

Lebanon: An improbable Nation in the making (February 19, 2008)

Lebanon has been mentioned countless times in the ancient stories of the Jewish Bible as the land of milk and honey and snow-covered majestic mountains of cedars, pine and oak trees. Lebanon has been described for its skilled inhabitants and sea-faring mariners and commercial ingenuity by establishing trading counters around the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon is recognized as a formal States in the UN since its inception at the sessions in San Francisco after the end of WWII and its delegate participated in the writing of the UN charter.  Lebanon snatched its independence from the colonial mandated France in 1943 with a big help from Britain.  The last French troops vacated this land in 1946.  Still the Lebanese are lacking the definitive belief in a motherland.

Lebanon is surely a good place for leisure time and a vacationing location for its immigrants; many families that can afford to leave for greener pastures are not overly disturbed of losing a nation.  Most Lebanese have not participated as a Nation to defend the land of aggressors and to preserving its unity.  After over 65 years of nominal independence the political system has failed miserably to convince the Lebanese that prospect for security and lasting development is feasible.

The main problem is that we have 18 officially recognized castes, closed sects, with autonomous personal status legal systems associated with each respective sect.  Thus, the Lebanese citizen is practically a member of a caste from birth to death whether he likes it or not.  The political system has followed this caste structure and allocated the civil service positions, along in the highest levels too, that a citizen can attain and the number of deputies in the parliament and ministers in the government according to a structured quota relative to the hierarchy of the caste after each civil war. Members of a caste have realized that services could be obtained through the leadership of their caste and not from a central government or legal rights.

There are large sections among the citizens who have leftist tendencies, Marxists, progressives, and secular ideologies and composed of all castes and would like to establish reforms to the political system and thus, the following harsh criticisms are not targeting individuals but the social structure in general.  Unfortunately, I had to adopt sectarian terminology in order to get the point through as clearly and as simply as feasible.

The Druze sect located mainly in the Chouf district and part of the Bekaa Valley that borders the Golan Height was originally a Shiaa sect affiliated to the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt around the 13th century.  When we mention Shiaa it is meant a sect among other sects that refused to abide by the Moslem Sunni sect that paid allegiance to a Caliphate not directly descending from the Prophet Mohammad.  After the demise of the Fatimid dynasty the Druze were harshly persecuted and they opted to close the membership in order to discourage serious infiltrations to their sect.  They admonished their members to have two positions, one that would satisfy the power to be and another of a more intimate belief system.  For example, Walid Jumblat is a typical Druze leader with two-faced messages and ready to change his political position when opportunities of allying to the strongest power materialize. In general, the Druze sect is suspicious and even hates every sect bordering their location of concentration.  They have practically allied to anyone that might weaken the political and economic status of their neighboring sects.  The Druze is the only citizen who recognizes that he belongs to a caste, a closed religious sect, where no outside believers can be accepted and none of the members scratched from the register. This is a dying sect that failed to open up and comprehend or assimilate the notion of belonging to a larger community or nation to unite with.

The Moslem Sunni sect is even worse than the Druze because it has been functioning as a caste since independence but not acknowledging it.  The Sunni sect has nothing in its religion to prevent it from opening up and uniting with other sects under one nation. It has enjoyed supreme privileges as the main caste during the Ottoman Sunni Empire and had the opportunities to concentrate in the main cities on the littoral and also to trade and communicate with foreigners and other sects but it opted to hide in its shell and stave off changes and reforms.  Foreign travelers and many accounts have revealed that nobody could rent in a Sunni house or has been invited inside their lodging. Only Sunni males were seen outside doing business; women were never seen outside their domiciles. Man reached the moon but the Sunni caste has yet to acknowledge this achievement.

The leaders of the Sunni caste agreed in the National Pact, right after independence, to share power with the Christian Maronite sect but they kept vigilant to continuously allying with the most powerful Sunny Arab State of the moment.  The civil wars of 1958 and then 1975 started in order to regain hegemony over the Maronite political privileges in the new political system.  The Sunni sect has allies with the monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni State of Egypt and it frequently takes positions with Arab foreign powers at the detriment of national unity.  In general, the Sunni still hope for a return to a Caliphate reign and support all kinds of Sunni fundamentalists and salafists.  This caste is very adamant in proscribing matrimonial relationship outside its caste.

The Maronite sect was very open for centuries and was the main religion that established roots in the Druze canton because the feudal Druze landlords needed the Maronite peasants to work their hard lands.  In 1860 a bloody civil war broke out in the Druze canton and thousands of Maronites were massacred.  When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1983, it encouraged the Christian Lebanese Forces to entertain military presence in the Druze canton.  As the Israeli forces vacated the Chouf region then the Druze of the feudal Walid Jumblat asked the aid of the Palestinian factions at the orders of the Syrian regime and he systematically slaughtered the Maronites and thus, drove the Christians out of the Druze canton and back to their original cantons of centuries back.

Since 1990, the government allocated over two billion dollars to repatriate the Christians to the Chouf and only 15% returned; there is no accountability in which black hole all that money was siphoned in. The Maronite adopted the closed sect system when agreeing to the National Pact and it is extremely difficult for non-Christians to join this sect.

Under the leadership of Hezbollah the Shias in the south and the Bekaa Valley are basically the main caste shouldering the heavy burden of defending Lebanon from the frequent aggressions of Israel.  Without the Shiaa south Lebanon would have long been swallowed by Israel and Lebanon divided and scraped from the number of independent States.  It is the Shiaa who forced Israel to withdraw from the south unconditionally in May 24, 2000.  It is the Shiaa who foiled the strategy of Israel of reconquering the south of Lebanon in July 2006 and installing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.

Hezbollah split from the main “Amal” Shiaa movement around 1983 and adopted an ideology tightly linked to the Khomeini hardliners in Iran and was responsible for the suicide attacks against the US and French headquarters in Beirut.  Hezbollah was the only resistance movement allowed by Syria to operate against Israel’s occupation in the south of Lebanon: Syria had prohibited all the other Lebanese nationalistic and progressive parties to resume their liberation resistance during its occupation of Lebanon.

After the assassination of Rafic Hariri PM in 2005 and the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon we have been experiencing a serious void in the legitimacy of the current government.  The entente between the Tayyar political party of Michel Aoun and Hezbollah has allayed the perception that schemes for a recurring civil war in under planning.  The patient internally non-violence strategy of Hezbollah in conducting non-cooperation activities against an unjust and usurping government has permitted the Lebanese population to gain the assurance and relief that another civil war is not feasible.  This Seniora’s government and its allies have been plundering the public treasury for the past three years and for the last 15 years under Rafic Hariri; this continuous regime has been spreading poverty and deepening the indebtedness and ineptness of Lebanon, with the explicit support of the Bush administration, under the guise of empty rhetoric of democracy, security and independence from Syria’s indirect involvement in Lebanon.

Consequently, the Shiaa have proven to be the legitimate sons of an independent Lebanon and have paid the prices of martyrdom, suffering, sacrifice and pain in order to be the guarantor for the emergence of a Nation against all odds.  It is the sacrifices of the Shiaa and their patience to suffer for the benefit of all Lebanese that is providing them with the leverage of flexibility, intent to change, learn from experience and improve.  The successive unilateral withdrawals of Israel from Lebanon since 1982 without any preconditions have given the Lebanese citizen grounds to standing tall.

Our main problem is that International requirements of Lebanon and our local politics are at odds.  The USA, Europe and Saudi Arabia would like to settle the Palestinian refugees as Lebanese citizens with full rights and thus avoiding the corny problem of their rights to be repatriated to Israel as stated in the UN resolution of 194.  The Monarchy in Saudi Arabia has been viewing the Palestinian question as a major liability since the extremist party of Hamas has taken power in Gaza; Saudi Arabia is exhausted of paying the bills for the destructions of Israel to Palestinian and Lebanese properties and infrastructures at the urging of the USA and would like an end to this conflict that is hampering the internal stability of the Wahabi Saudi regime.

The two main local movements of the Future (Moustaqbal) party (The Hariri’s clan) and Hezbollah are more than content of this unconstitutional political dilemma.  On the one hand, The Future is satisfied with its dominance among the Sunnis in Beirut and the North and thus, giving the Palestinian refugees citizenship might create an unknown variable that could disrupt the majority of the Sunni allegiance to the Al Moustakbal.  Consequently, the Hariri clan cannot disobey the Saudi orders but it cannot shoot itself in the foot; externally, the Hariri clan is pro Saudi but in reality it is very cozy with the Syrian position of keeping the Palestinian refugee status as its strongest card during the negotiations with the USA and afterward.  The unstable constitutional political system in Lebanon may delay indefinitely any serious pressures from Saudi Arabia and the USA to resolving the Palestinian refugees’ question.  On the other hand, Hezbollah is weary of having to deal with a constitutional government and negotiate returning its arms to the Lebanese army; thus, the two main parties in Lebanon are supporting each other practically and just playing the game of opposing forces. Furthermore, The USA has decided after the fiasco of the July war in 2006 that no more investment in time on Lebanon is appropriate at this junction.  We have to wait for a new US administration to decide that it is willing to re-open the file of the Near East problems.

The allies to the two main parties are side shows; they know it and they are not allowed to change sides.  Thanks to the vehement rhetoric against Syria of its allies, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geaja, the Future party has been able to give the impression that it is against the Syrian regime while practically it agrees with the Syrian positions and would like to keep the present status quo in Lebanon’s political system of the Taef constitutional amendments.  General Michel Aoun has realized that he has been taken by the sweet tender offers of Hezbollah but he cannot shift allegiance or form a third alliance since non resolution of the situation is the name of the game until further agreement among the main Arab states and the main superpowers.

So far, the polemics among the government’s allies and the opposition political parties are not shy of harboring sectarian allegiances in their charged speeches but somehow they failed to discuss the actual caste, or closed religious system in our social structure, which is the fundamental problem toward a modern state of governance. I do not believe that any fair and representative electoral law is of utility unless the basic caste system is recognized as a sin and altered accordingly to represent an alternative for the citizen joining a united and free status under one State.

The first step is to instituting a voluntary State marriage law and letting the situation unfold into a more liberal understanding of the need of the people.  The road is very long and arduous before the beginning of a semblance of trust among the Lebanese is established.  However, I feel that the Shiaa under the leadership of a wise and disciplined Hezbollah and their corresponding Christian Free Patriotic movement are leading the way for a semi-autonomous Lebanon, at least in its internal restructuring.  I believe that the necessities of survival would loosen up many stiff ideological and caste roadblocks toward a reformed political system and the institution of a governing body that abide in integrity, accountability and justice for all.

It is a fact that extremist Sunni salafist ideology is gaining quickly in all the Arab and Moslem World out of desperation and the widespread illiteracy and lack of job openings.  The feud between the Shiaa and the Sunny is historically and fundamentally a clan warfare between the Muslims that demand the caliphate to be a direct descended to the Prophet and those who don’t mind as long as the Caliphate is from the Kureich family, mainly Hashem or Ummaya or whatever.  Maybe our mix of all kinds of sects might be a rampart to our moderate liberal tendencies.

The spirit of motherland is coming from an unforeseen quarter; mainly the Shiaa caste freshly arriving in the social and political scene around 1970.  This disinherited caste was already a majority when the civil war of 1975 broke out and it suffered from the total ignorance of the central government for infrastructure and social services and had also to suffer the humiliation and atrocities of frequent Israeli air raids and land attacks and bombing of their villages under the disguise of dislodging the Palestinian guerillas.  This caste is opening up to almost all sects and managed to ally with large sections of many other castes.  This extending arm might be considered as necessary out of the realization that they are a majority in Lebanon and a real minority in the neighboring States of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. This necessity is a blessing to Lebanon because the main major caste is encouraging unity against foreign invaders.

In the event that Hezbollah maintains its strength then it can be forecasted that the economic strategy of Lebanon will shift from tourism and third sector (the Hariri’s clan strategy) into more emphasis on agriculture and small and medium industries, many of it geared toward guerilla warfare.

I used the term “Nation” for Lebanon in a general sense to convey that a form of unity is developing in the conscious of the Lebanese but this notion of Nation is far from appropriate to Lebanon simply because experiences since independence could not provide any evidence to a unified people under legitimate and responsible central governments.  Lebanon is fundamentally an amalgamation of castes that enjoy self-autonomy.  I still believe that the Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Jordanians naturally form a Nation and they should generate a common market with separate recognized States.

I am convinced the Taef Constitution was meant to have total entente among the various main parties in Lebanon before starting to elect a new president to the republic; the entente should involve everything from election law, to the constitution of the government and other priorities.  This fact translates into agreement among the main Arab States and the main superpowers on how Lebanon should be governed during six years.  Unless the Lebanese leaders and political parties get together to review the Taef Constitution and be willing to pay the price of deciding to have a mind of their own then, Lebanon is de facto under the UN protectorate.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2008
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