Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 28th, 2009

Einstein speaks on his impressions of North America; (Nov. 26, 2009)

Einstein resigned his post at the University of Prussia in 1933 as Hitler was elected Chancellor; and he was appointed later professor at the University of Princeton.

You may compare what the USA was 70 years ago with its current state of affairs and social behaviors.  Asked on his impressions of North America in the 30’s Einstein wrote:

The first impression of a visitor is this great technological superiority and rationality in daily common objects:  They are more durable and resistant than those manufactured in Europe.

Houses are functional.  Everything is calculated to economize on human labor.  Thus, the workers do not come cheap, a fact that stimulates more technological development and fine tuning of methods of work.”

America is adopting a policy of the clam: it raises prohibitive tariffs on imported goods. (I guess this is no longer the case.

My second impression is that the citizen projects an attitude of positive happiness to life; he smiles, he is friendly, and he is conscious of his value.  The Europeans demonstrate critical minds and absence of generosity, and compassion. The European asks a lot from his entertainments and readings.

The US citizen is willing to sacrifice much in hardship and peace of mind in order to enjoy comfort and pleasure of life; he has a definite purpose and the present is not a state, but a future in the making.

He is not strictly psychologically egoistic.  He emphasizes the “we” in his discussions, but he is more conformist than Europeans.

Organized work, repartition of tasks, efficiency in industries, at universities, and in private charitable institutions come easily and quickly to him.

The third impression is that State influence is relatively weak; almost all the economy is privatized.  Discrepancies in social earnings are balanced out by social and community feeling of responsibilities toward the less well off.

The rich people are willing to re-distribute a large chunk of their wealth and offer their services to the communities simply because public opinion is strong and demands such tendencies.

Even important cultural functions are in private hands.

Lately, the prestige of the Federal government was eroded due to the prohibition laws on alcoholic beverage.  The rate of criminality increased.

It is never advisable to enact laws that you cannot enforce. Public opinion has thus suffered and the press, representing group interests, has replaced the once powerful public opinion.

The fourth impression is that money is very valued, but this impression is highly exaggerated: there is a growing tendency that a happy life should not be that dependent on large fortunes.

The fifth impression is that the US citizen is generally not receptive to classical music and plastic art.

The sixth impression is my admiration to the results of scientific institutions: it is this climate of tolerance, group spirit, and good cooperation among teams that count far more than money injected in the institutions.

The seventh impression is that the US is not interested in getting involved in international problems; the citizens ought to feel personal responsibilities to world predicaments and just get more active in international politics.

Einstein said that the last hundred of years witnessed a huge progress in material abundance, but the moral improvement retrograded.

It is like putting lethal and dangerous tools in the hands of kids; a child of 3 years old handling a sharp razor blade!

I have a few impressions myself on current USA social behavior:

First, the US citizen is working double shifts, if he finds a job, to sustain the decade of the 50’s standard of living and failing miserably;

Second, the US is no longer manufacturing anything of values, since consumerism demand the lowest prices from imported goods. Most manufacturing goods are sublet to cheaper labor forces in poorer nations such as Bangladesh, Viet Nam, South America… now that China work force is no longer that cheap

Currently, the State is getting far too involved in international exploitation of other weaker nations by military present forces. Still,  the simple citizen never overcame his reluctance to meddle in international affairs. 

Hassib’s welcome home party; (Nov. 26, 2009)

My cousin Hassib is visiting Lebanon after 30 years of absence. He left in 1979 to France for specialization in Pediatrics.

His British wife Sonia was then pregnant and they married secretly.

Hassib is currently working in Al Ain in the Arab Emirate, healing, teaching, and doing research. Joelle, Hassib’s married sister, is throwing a welcome home dinner party this Friday’s evening.

All the first generation cousins and cousines are invited. The second generations are too numerous; besides, on their own volition they would not join.

The invitees were:

From the Bouhatab (my mother Julie who wouldn’t miss a gathering, sister Raymonde, Victor Choukeir, brother Ghassan and his wife Diane, and I. Dad does no longer do dinners anymore: he goes to bed by 7:30 pm and dad was missed because he is very funny in gatherings)

From the Fahkoury (Edward, Joe and Marianne his wife and their elder kid Eddy; my aunt Therese could not join because of the many steep steps that are a serious handicap. Tony and Janine failed to come);

from the Tannous/Ghoussoub (Marie, George, Noel, Viviane, Bernard and his wife Nellie);

From the plain Ghoussoub or Gsub (Jihad and his wife Nada, Joseph or Zouzou, and sessine Moukarzel.  Jihad tried several times to contact Nassif in Vancouver, at home and on his cellular, but failed);

From the Narchi (Montaha, Joelle, Hassib, Jean or Jeannot, and Khaled their son).

Jihad had arrived from Dubai a couple of days ago. Khaled has signed up with another French company “Air Liquide” with a branch in Lebanon.

Jean is teaching 6 credit-hour at a new French university in Bikfaya (the courses are opened from 5 pm to 9 pm; this university is branching out in Tripoli, Baakleen, and in the west Bekaa town of Gaza in Lebanon).

Smoking was prohibited in the house. The smokers were Montaha, Nada, Jihad, Zouzou, and I.

We took relay in the enclosed front porch (it was cold and couldn’t use the gardin). Hassib used to smoke pipe but quit 20 years ago.

Montaha reminded her son-in-law Jean, when she visited him in France, that she was banished outside for taking a smoke and then it got cold; she asked Jean to hand her a Vison coat. At this request, Jean invited her to the kitchen and opened slightly a window and told her “As for the Vison, you just have to wait”.

There was plenty of food and in a dozen varieties such as “kebeh nayeh”, tabouli, hot fish “samkeh harra”, homus, chicken shaworma, mouton with rice, rocca salad, and mother brought in “kebbeh bil hileh of kara3”.

I might also mention the dozen varieties of desserts that we enjoyed an hour after the first break.

Jihad loves “kibbeh nayeh” and Zouzou was relentless on that matter because Jihad is not supposed to indulge in eating heavy food: I guess Jihad should have been on strict diet. Zouzou also was relentless when Jihad enjoyed the sweet “karabeej”

My brother Ghassan cracked a joke: Our ex-Seniora PM was out of Lebanon for a few days and his whereabouts unknown.  Then, the rumor said that Seniora was asked financial counsel from the Emir of Dubai. As Seniora returned to Lebanon, Dubai declared bankruptcy.

I had two small glasses of arak “mtalat” (grape wine or Ouzou distilled three times).  I felt tipsy and kept my silence for ten minutes.

Bernard is hot for the next municipal elections (if election is not postponed); he wants to be member of the next council.  I am never asked on these matters: my CV in community services is nil and void.

A lovely and memorable feud story among the kids in the 70’s was resurrected.

Two groups got upset for one thing or another and two buses were hired by each group for a trip on a Sunday. Hassib was leading the first gang including Katia, Joelle, my brother Ghassan, and twenty other friends and relatives.

Zouzou and Ghassan Ghoussoub were leading the second gang, including Nassif, and twenty others gathered in great difficulty and in no time.

As Zouzou recounts: “I was on the street and then, I saw a bus passing by and Joelle was mocking me with agitated signs from the window. I hurriedly hired Milad, a bus driver, and he was drunk and just arriving home but he relented and agreed to drive us.

The two gangs met at the same places during the trip but they would not speak with one another for two weeks.

Joelle and Diane mentioned that they have photos of that trip; I have no idea who took pictures at that period; most probably a photographer showing up at expected touristic locations.

Hassib recalls that he had to wait for me because I was not home in Koneitra and that I boarded the other bus on the return trip and didn’t pay my fair.

Five minutes after we finished these recollections then my brother Ghassan remembered the event. He said: “Nassif saw me and said “we smash heads” and Ghassan retorted “we pluck out beards (menn nattef li7a)” ( Nassif was growing a beard).

I was lucky that I did not carry a beard at that period; my beard will grow several times with all kinds of shapes and styles…

I recollect these events but I have this strong impression that I watched “Hassib bus” passing by while I was on the balcony of his mother Montaha’s in Beit Chabab. There are discrepancies on the date of this feud.

Zouzou is under the impression that it took place in 1974 but I am sure he is far off the date.

I believe that it might be in 1970.  A few people mentioned that it was the year of the play that we gave; then it should be in 1969; I was to be playing and then I dropped out because I realized that I had to prepare for the second session exam of my first failed attempt at the Matheleme general public exam.

I am confused and whoever has better memory he is invited to join in his comments.

Khaled was in charge of taking pictures; ask him to post pictures on facebook. We parted company by midnight. It was Ad7a Eid to Muslims.  Happy Adha Eid to all.




November 2009

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