Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 2010

Latifa; (continue of the fiction novel))

Latifa was a looker and an impressive lady that discouraged the weaker hearted eligible men from courting her. By the time her brother Antoun came to riches she could not avail herself to woo gentlemen whom she considered beneath her potentials.  Latifa was in her late twenties and, by the standard of the time, was considered too old to marry.  To preserve her dignity, she circulated a rumor that she had taken a vow of celibacy.  Her status increased among the town people and was given the nickname of Sit Al Forsan (Lady of the knights) and carried herself accordingly.

Latifa was in with the secrets of Antoun, or at least what he directly wanted her to know because he made sure not to connect her with his important partners;  she gradually suspected his intentions from her frequent visits to him in Beirut but was unaware of the timing, the seriousness, or the magnitude of the insurrection. Actually, Latifa became his eyes and ears in the mountain region where she received many visitors and received inputs from her benevolent activities in the neighboring villages.

Antoun mother, Jamila, started sending her eldest daughter frequently to Beirut after he was exiled to stay with her brother for a week, about once every three months in the first two years, to cater for his household needs, in keeping his place neat and well maintained, cooking for him a few of his favorite meals, supplying him with whatever her mother knitted for him; but basically, she was her parents’ reporter on Antoun’s well being.  As Antoun’s status and wealth increased and thus, did not need as much attention, Latifa’s visits to Beirut dwindled to about twice a year, mainly to do some shopping for herself and her family and to forward her mother’s good business advices and recommendations.   On the third year of his exile and after learning that Antoun has purchased a house in Beirut, his mother and two daughters descended to Beirut and stayed five whole weeks after a noisy argument with his father Youssef.  The latter propagated the drastic excuse that this extended trip was related to an unusual health case that Antoun succumb to.

Once, Antoun decided to build for his father a luxury carriage but the idea was deemed too outlandish and dangerous in local politics.  Instead, his father, at the instigation of his wife, accepted liquid money to buy more lands, expand the family business in the countryside, and fulfill Youssef’s promises to his wife Jamila to remodel her residence with new amenities, furniture, and additional rooms that boosted an atmosphere of a higher social standing.  The remodeled house was outlandish within the walls but the exterior was kept blending harmoniously with the neighborhood environment and dwelling.

Before the final preparations for the insurgency, Antoun paid a visit for two weeks to his house in Mrouj; he pretended taking care of family business and being social.  Then he vanished with his son Adhal, supposedly to return to Beirut.  Antoun headed instead to Baskenta to direct the insurgency activities.  Adhal was delivered to the care of Mariam and her team of volunteers because his son had to learn life from a different perspective, in the fresh mountain air and also to link friendship with different kinds of kids.

Before the general order to advance at the capital Mtein, the leaders of the insurgent groups met to decide on the list of noblemen that have to be rounded up and the locations of their incarceration.  It was relevant that a number of important noblemen became summer lords: they showed up to town when the climate got hot at lower altitudes;  theyhad residency in the coastal towns and villages at lower altitude and outside the Metn jurisdiction; they rarely visited their properties in the mountain but to collect their rent twice a year.

It was decided that a group would be in charge of locating these summer noblemen and surreptitiously transferring them to the incarceration areas in the outlawed areas, immediately after the Capital fell in the hands of the insurgents.  The coastal guards were bribed to check on men traveling by sea until the group of insurgents could identify them before boarding. A most important decision was to refrain from executing or unduly torturing any prisoner until due legal process was carried out individually.  It was apparent that Antoun had a vested interest in knowing first hand each noblemen and deciding on his worth for helping him tighten his grasp on power later on.

During the war with the Emir of Aleppo, the insurgents infiltrated the rear guard of the army with a few agents to keep updated on the evolution of the war outcome against the Turks. Antoun got his insurgent army ready for a decisive attack as soon as news of a defeat was imminent.  Indeed, the armies of the Viceroy of Damascus were badly reduced and, while the remnants of the army was retreating in disorder, Antoun attacked from two fronts and aimed directly at the Capital Mtein where most of the remaining Emir’s strongmen where located.

MBA mania: Introspection

After the latest financial crash, MBA graduates are having hard time finding jobs:  Banks, financial institutions, and financial consulting firms have realized that they need graduates in fields that produce added values.

Wall Street has put to pasture over 250,000 MBA employees since 2007.  The US business schools used to graduate over 150,000 MBA degree holders per year before the crash, and the trend is reversing.  More than half these graduates were foreigners who invested over $80,000 (of family wealth).

For example, India is spending over $4 billions a year for Indian students going after graduate studies in the USA and England universities.  Renowned MBA schools are re-structuring their programs and hiring new teams to re-thinking what is needed for the market.  Re-thinking MBA programs was long due; it is better late than never.

I was once, long time ago, enrolled in a PhD program in Industrial engineering.   There were not enough graduate Human Factors courses in the PhD program: the human factors field was not well developed as the other industrial engineering specialties, and the university lacked enough qualified professors in that field.

I was lucky to complement my course requirements in many other departments that offered me new perspectives and approaches to the human element in all these artificial man-made systems.

I enrolled in a couple of graduate courses in the Psychology department and I felt at home; my heart got set on the cognitive aspect of human capabilities and limitations (functions of the brain) instead of the physical aspects (known as Ergonomics and the modeling of the human body).  Thus, I ended up taking courses in various departments such as marketing, business, economics, education and others departments to fulfill the required number of graduate credit-hours.

I had taken many courses with various statistical modeling and software analysis programs frequently used in marketing, business, psychology and econometrics.

Once, I had audited and did all the homework and exams for the Pascal programming language course in the psychology department because I could not afford to pay tuition; professor Getty gave me credits the next semester when I paid for the course without having to attend it.  I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my adviser would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation because he was not interested in such a field, and it was not in his line of business of forensic safety.

This post is meant to explaining a few of the graduate courses in business that I suppose are required for an MBA program.

The marketing course was basically a higher statistical course involving a dozen statistical models or experimental designs appropriate to marketing products and investigating customers preferences and the like targets.  It was so broad and so intense that I felt at a loss for the first two weeks.  I doubt that these kinds of courses are offered in most business school: I think Dr. Hughes was a perfectionist, wanted to cover everything under the sun in a single course, and she never tired of pressing us to work harder.

The graduate accounting course was a let down; I was crest fallen.  I expected that this is going to be an interesting introduction to the business field but I soon discovered that accounting is basically knowing the laws, rules, and regulations of how to understand and prepare accounting sheets.  The regulations were so unfair, illogical, and obtuse that it made me angry to satisfying them just to pass the course.

Accounting is a compromise field among the members of the accounting order and the multinational institutions in order to cover up unfair practices.  I learned to comprehend and interpret balance sheet and working fund and what companies are asked to publish for their shareholders and government requirements.

I learned that the most important parts in accounting information are the notes written in the tiniest characters accompanying the sheets, like the ones you find in legal contracts.  The notes tell the real story of the difficulties and problems of a company such as legal liabilities, court investigations, high short-term debts, court litigation with the high officials in the administration…

I had a graduate course in economics (not econometrics such as applied in operations research models)  The professor was an acclaimed consultant; which means companies extend grants for a project and then the university takes 50% for overhead (research facilities, electricity…).  The adviser appoint or hire a graduate student to do the project, then the advisor write up the project (or the graduate student) and the advisor gets all the honor and publications.

This professor told us many interesting anecdotes and encouraged us to compute three dozens of ratios (data extracted from balance sheets and working fund statesman) in order to interpret correctly the state of affairs of a business.

There were two major problems with these exercises:

First, it is assumed that companies publish correct and honest information (as if accounting is not fraught with rules made to fill huge loopholes) or if the government cared to investigate properly the millions of balance sheets.

Second, these exercises were not based on good comprehension of which ratios mattered or correlated. For example, if several ratios (variables) highly correlated (positively or negatively) then, we better select one or two of these ratios as representatives of a trend to be included in a model.

Fact is, most of variables do not correlate (you cannot give a rational code name) and they are the most important to investigate because they are the catalysts or hidden forces in any trend (which is not done).

I have been told that in serious MBA programs students are handed lists of at least six books to be read per week and then to be summarized.

I wonder if “fast reading” is one of the criteria to be admitted in such programs.  I think skimming a book gives the illusion of understanding:  reflecting, analyzing, and interpreting require slow and focused reading that is time consuming.


Nude dancers

I had my first experience with nude bars, where beauties danced completely naked on stage, at the age of 26.

The dancers got entirely naked in phases, on the second or third song (sort of strip teasing further after each song).  Walter Mitty bar was around the corner of my dorm that was reserved mostly for foreign students.  My friend Ramez was the RA of the dorm and he was studying History of Sciences, simply because the university library possessed a few very ancient manuscripts on Arabic sciences.

There was this lovely brunette of Maria.  I sent a letter to my cousin Jihad telling him that Maria looked like his wife Nada.  I am not sure how Jihad took it.  Nada should have appreciated it; shouldn’t she?  I know that many years later, Jihad reminded me of receiving this letter.  Eight years later, I returned to Norman for a PhD and Maria was still living in Norman. She was working at the university Power Plant and wearing regulation yellow helmet.  Nude dancing is far harder than even fashion modelling:  In no time you are put to pasture.

I told Maria that I liked her when she used to dance totally naked; she appreciated that I still recalled her.  We had a date and she showed up wearing high-healed, long boots, and very tight Jeans.  She took my arm when strolling and she didn’t attempt to fool around with men in the bars we made the round of.

Maria showed me her apartment a few days later, and I met her sister (maybe half sister who didn’t resemble Maria at all). I also visited Maria at the hospital after her surgery for infected uterus; she was wearing regulation hospital long shirt showing her buttocks.

As Maria returned home she invited me to her apartment and asked me if I liked to share a joint of marijuana.  I never learn from my experiences or anything from life:  I told her how marijuana affects me after just two puffs.  Maria told me that it would be pointless to get any further dates.

There was this tall, skinny, and blond girl dancing nude in 1976.  She used to set fire to her shaved cunt every night.  Obviously, she had no pubis hair and I would never be able to confirm if her white blond hair was original.

I once asked her to leave together after work.  I think that she said “Yes”.  I waited till the bar closed and she had left.  I was a very shy guy and I wished that the rules would be that she would sit by my side, take my arm and drag me out.  I still don’t know the rule of asking a nude dancer to actually leave with me: if you truelly do know, please forward it.

Worst of all, patronizing this nude dancing bar exposed me to my first cigarette smoking.  I was 26 of age and had never smoked before.  I am now nicotine addicted.

I recall the first time I smoked a joint.

I was in a convertible Alfa Romeo with two Lebanese university students. We were heading toward the lake on a lovely, moonlit summer night (do you recall Shakespear of mid-summer night?) .  My friends were having a great time, speeding and listening to “Leila”, a guitar song played by Eric Clapton. On the way back, we had a bite and coffee at a diner; they laughed a lot at my expense because I had a hell of problems keeping the lids of my red eyes open.

I twice experienced smoking a joint in groups, never alone, to “train myself for a better fit among marijuana smokers”.

Once, we were in our apartment and half a dozen friends left to see a movie and dance; they decided to leave me behind, since I was “stoned all right” on the couch. When they returned 4 hours later, I was still lying on the sofa, my eyes closed shut, listening to music, trying to differentiate the timbers among the different musical instruments:  I had no idea about instruments anyway, but I thought this might be my chance or never to appreciating tones and half tones.

The third instance was in a park, close by my  apartment; I was enjoying an afternoon of open concert in a beautiful summer day. I woke up and the park was empty and dark already. I walked my bike home.

Walter Mitty was still around the corner when I returned in 1985 for still a higher degree.

I patronized it with my friend Boubker.  Boubker was already a professor teaching operations research.  Girls have changed, but the system never changed.  We mostly had a pitcher during happy hours, between 4 to 6pm.

It is swell to have these kinds of quiet and cool businesses.  I wish it was possible just to touching those sweaty firm flesh!

MBA graduates from US universities increased from 21,500 in 1970 to over 150,000 in 2007 and then the financial crash wiped out that devilish trend.  Universities in the US are re-structuring their MBA programs and hiring new deans and new teams to recapture this cow cash niche.  Students in MBA programs used to invest over $80,000 (their families money) so that 50% of them could be recruited by Wall Street financial institutions and financial consulting firms.  Fortunately, Wall Street sent to pasture over 240,000 of salaried personel in order to get busy producing something more useful.

Harvard Business School enjoys over $two billions in reserves from various donations and is investing just two millions on developing new programs and hiring a new team for the business department; Nitin Nohria is the new boss.  Kellogg School of Northwestern University has also hired a new team.  Other universities are following suit such as Judge School of Cambridge, Ross School of Michigan University, and the Booth School in Chicago University.  Booth School was renamed after the Booth family disbursed over $270 millions.

So what kind of reforms these business schools have in mind?  Probably, first, dusting off the skeletal of theoretical books and theories that were abandonned, sending students abroad for a couple of semesters to branches in India, Singapore, Dubai, Malasia in order to get an hand on real business trading for global economics (thus, increasing the cost to graduating); offering more international persepectives on how business is done, increasing the ratio of teacher/studients in classrooms, and spending a lot on advertisements, especially, woowing the university of Jiao Tong of Shanghai and the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) to better classification of top universities in the world.  Anyway, programs are dictated by the highest donators; thus, if you want accurate knowledge of the next strategy in MBA schools then, your best investigative sources are those institutions extending largess to the business schools.

What MBA students learn?  First, a superficial understanding of the laws, rules, and regulations governing the financial trade business; second, memorizing the code name of three dozens financial ratios extracted from balance sheets, and working funds statements; and third, learning a few tricks for generating financial tools to scamming clients of their hard earned wealth.  Usually, professors do not teach:  they hand out list of books to read (around half a dozen per week) demand summaries of what it was supposedly read.  I doubt that reflection, analysis , and interpretations are asked in these summaries: How could students find time to think seriously?

What is Israel? Beyond clichés?

The new generations of Jews outside of Israel feel estranged with the irrational clichés heaped on the State of Israel.

The new generation of Jews have been wondering for a long while why the older generations of Jews were supporting and drumming up supports to a State that has been flaunting international laws for over 60 years.  They have been uneasy that a State claiming to represent their hopes and moral values is practicing policies alien to moral and human rights standards that were proclaimed by the United Nations Charter, and acting irresponsible with diplomatic conducts and behaviors.

What is not disseminated are the hundreds of Jewish soldiers who commit suicide serving in the occupied territories in the Palestinian West Bank or live on the margin of society once they finish their military obligation.

Four main clichés are very disturbing and out of subject matters relative to what is really happening within Israel.

First, is Israel discredited by the world community?

The latest senseless military boarding of the “Peace boats” in international water and the killing of 20 civilians in their boats and dozens of injured people was the straw that pressured the international community to re-open files of racist activities against human rights that were covered up by the US and many European States such as France and Germany.

Spain, England, Belgium, Sweden, and Norway have taken steps to prosecuting Israel’s public figures who bear responsibilities of mass killing and collective punishment of Palestinians.  Many European States are getting ready to apprehending Israeli criminals against human rights. Israel is being reminded that occupied lands are its responsibility toward the world community and the occupied population have to be respected according to the UN Charter.

The UN adopted a resolution that “Israel is a racist State” and it stuck for a decade.  The US couldn’t rest until this label be dropped and woed the “moderate” Arab States to aid in that endeavor.  So what happened after the racist label was removed?  Israel resumed its old habits and at a larger scale and refuses any serious peace initiatives under various lame excuses.

Second, Is Israel a democracy?

The Western States maintained and disseminated for over 60 years the myth that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”  The State of Israel was forcefully recognized by the UN in 1948 by a simple majority of one vote when the UN was constituted by three dozens of States representing the victor States or who sided with the allies.  The Western States wanted to shift the “Jewish problem” of recurring pogroms by their racist citizens to a far away land.  It was a political decision of taking care of a very hot potato that the Western States didn’t want to handle because their only solutions resided by the sword and blood.  Thus, for over 60 years, the US, Russia, and the European States did their best not to condemn Israel’s practices in the UN for all its flaunting of the UN Charter.

Is Israel a democracy?  The main difficulty is defining what are the characteristics of a democratic system (give or take a few exceptions to the rule).  Israel Constitution never delimited its borders (contrary to the UN requirements for recognizing a State); Israel hoped to extend its boders from the Nile to the Euphrates River based on mythical claims.  The Justice system in Israel is supposed to be an independent instituion; the Higher Court in Israel claims not to have any authority of what the army is perpetraiting in the occupied lands in matters of confiscating private properties, demolishing houses, imprisoning Palestinians for years without any due legal proceedings and taking out organs from Palestinian prisoners to the benefit of criminal organizations that the Israeli governments gave blessing to these atrocities. The Palestians holding an Israeli citizenship have not the same rights as a new comer Jew who know nothing about Israel.

There are many indication that the democratic system in Israel is not as developed as democracies in ancient City-States such as Athens, Rome, Tyr, or Sidon.  Citizenship in City-States was not extended to people in their stretched colonies for practical reasons of difficult communication facilities.  The Roman Empire kept improving and extending its citizenship rights to all its conquered lands.  Many Syrians became Emperors.  St. Paul enjoyed due legal proceedings and was beheaded instead of crucified as St. Peter. If Israel respected democratic systems it would have recognized Hamas in Gaza as a duely elected government.

Third, is Israel representative of “Semitic” moral standing?

It is known that semitic people, by the definition of the Jewish and Islamic religions, are people descending from Abraham or Noah or whoever religious sects would love to be originating from.  Jewish propaganda exclusively restricted semitic terminologies to Jews and thus, labeled Jew haters or perceived of harboring “anti-semite” feelings. Worse, if you critique Zionist ideology or the policies and practices of the governments of the State of Israel then, immediately you casted as anti-semite. The new generations of jews are increasingly skeptical, they are saying: “If denouncing the blockade of Gaza is a potential excuse to be labeled anti-semite then, why take so seriously the other typical accusations?  Is the Holocaust another pretext to excusing the Israelites for their apartheid conducts and practices?”  The State of Israel and its lobbying organizations in the US, European States, and Russia adopt this flawed communication scheme of badgering everyone and every institution as “anti-semite” when Israel’s policies and practices are critiqued and discredited.

The latest disturbing facts are showing that the Sefarade Jews in Israel are refusing to send their kids in Ashkenazi schools or even mingling in the same classrooms.  To the Sefarade Jews, the Ashkenazi are pseudo-jews originating from central Europe and who do not care about the 650 religious laws of the ancient (Pharisee sect) that inflict stringent daily customs of behavior and eating diet.

Fourth, do Jewish lobbying groups bear any responsibilities to the current state of affairs in Israel’s policies and practices?

Although Jews in the US, Russia, France, and Germany constitute less than 1% of the populations their lobbying organizations exercise unduly high pressures on the political structures in these States.  Basically, it is their hold on communication media that is their best leverage and their specialized political inside trading.  Yes, the “Zionist” lobbying organizations bare a huge responsibility for the aggravated affairs in the development of Israel’s policies and practices.

The newer generations of Jews are realizing that the State of Israel has degenerated into the biggest burden on the US and Europe in their strategies in the Middle East and Central Asia, not counting the exorbitant constant financial, military, and economic support that Israel demands to enjoy as a given. The US had to support Israel in maintaining its huge conquered lands after the 1967 war and then it had to pay again for Israel retreats.  The US tax payer aided in the establishment of over 300 colonies in conquered lands and will pay again for the withdrawal of Israeli colons.

The longer Israel lingers in not agreeing on two States status the longer the American tax payer will be burdened with supporting policies contrary to world community desires and decisions.

Should civil wars ends with a victor?

Woo to people who underwent a civil war and nobody believes that he emerged the victor!  In this state of affairs, males , when forced to talk about the war invariably blame the other or other parties; they are never willing to divulge the atrocities they perpetrated and they act as if they were innocent from what happened; they offer plenty of excuses for fictitious pardons.

God should know that even a monster harbors a horrible conscious after 15 years of insanity and horrors; a bad conscious does not vanish without confessions and true admission of personal guilt and accepting the responsibilities.  Only women are ready to talk about the experienced feelings and events of the war but it is hard to locate these women. How can you believe that a state of normalcy can be won when only ambulatory wretched men are crowding the streets and selling little stuffs just to cover the stigma of mendicancy? In this state of affairs, the women after the war are nowhere to be found in the streets; they are secluded in their homes; how the tourism business can flourish when women and girls have deserted the open spaces?

During the civil war, mostly women roamed the open streets tending to the survival of the clans while men were hidden in bunkers and behind fortified sandbags, cagouls masking their faces, conscious of their cowardism and smallnest.  In this state of affairs the souls resume their rotting process and inability to see clear into the future; our sun and sea salt have managed to give a semblance of exterior cleanliness, of erradicating the stench and putrifaction that is plaguing every corner in Lebanon.  In this state of affairs another civil war is doomed to be re-activated because ignorance cannot grasp another concept but victory, even a fictitious victory.   There was one tiny period when the Maronite Christians thought that they have won the war when the hard-line conservative leader Basheer Gemayel was elected President of the Republic, under the Israeli bayonets.  Looking back, I would have accepted this ludicrous fact instead of a no victor outcome!

There were many circumstances when a few individuals longed for the resumption of the war without daring to confide their desires: many got lucky in sexual encounters in basement where the living were sheltered from rockets; they made love in total darkness and made sure not to give their real names or be seen in broad daylight.  Sun light was not to provide additional details and the consequent exacerbations of finding major physical flaws.  Darkness was the queen for releasing the bottled up emotions and tenderness and saving unattached comfortable relationships.  Only the sense of touch and fowl smell of the environment and mouth smell were the facts that could handicapped the close relationships:  the general deficiency in running water, hot baths and health higyene were excellent excuses to forgiving the shortcomings.

Could you imagine what would happened to Spain if General Franco didn’t win the civil war before the second world war started? Spain would have been the scene of the war played on its land and with its inhabitants.  France and England would have been saved from direct involvement in the war and Spain would have been divided and shattered.  Could you imagine China if Chang Ki Chek won the civil war against Communist Mao Tse Tong?  Most probably, Japan would have not dared invade China.  Could you imagine what would have happened to the USA if Lincoln decided for a no win deal?  Woo to the people who never managed to win a civil war!

Lebanon civil war lasted 13 years, from 1975 to 1991.  Then, the US appointed Syria as mandatory power to keep peace and security till 2005 when the Syrian troops withdrew after the assassination of Rafic Hariri PM.  Not until 2007, did the Lebanese felt that there was a victor since 1975:  Hezballah overran all offices in Beirut that were planned to amass arms and militias in order to start another civil war.  It is then that the lebanese comprehended that the civil war was over and that there was a victor.  Elections took place, Constitutional dates were satisfied, and a unity government established.  It is going to take more time for reforms and the institution of a modern State but psychologically, the main barriers to development and a climate of security are over.

Why this wave of immigration to Africa at the turn of the 20th century?

There are evidences that most of the immigrants, (from the Levantine region such as Lebanon and Syria), at the turn of the century paid dear money to go to “America” (read the USA).  Many scoundrel ship Captains tried to increase their turnover rates of customers; thus, they dropped many travelers in Africa and told them “Here is America”.

Many Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians ended in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere: “Here is America” would say the ship captains.  Then, those established immigrants sent for their relatives. 

The city of Sao Paulo (Brazil) counts twice more Lebanese descendants than all of Lebanon.  Immigrants from the Levant used to be called “Turks” because they were citizens of the Ottoman Empire; then, they were called Syrians after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.  Being called a Syrian meant to be a citizen of one of the independent Levantine States.

Immigrants to Africa were fleeing famine during the first world war: locusts and the Turkish army (worse than locusts because they horded all the food and forced citizens to enlist in this empoverished and demoralized army).  Many citizens bartered their lands and houses for a loaf of bread or wheat clandestinally brought from Syria by mule caravans.

Immigrants to Africa managed to accumulate wealth in honest hard work, mostly in trading or commerce; many of them were the lonely “white” people in remote areas like my young parents. Many were entirely robbed of their saved and hidden money and they restarted in another town like my young parents; fact is, my parents were robbed of everything one month prior of my birth.  Immigrants imported from France or England and traded with the lovely natives.  Mother used to tailor make cloths from “patrons” or drawings in fashion magazines and then offer new born complete set of needed clothing. Immigrants  installed the first motors to generating electricity.

Africa is still the best place to immigrate to and make money.  The only handicap is that the USA, China, and France are constantly distabilizing this rich and beautiful continent. Until these colonial powers come to terms on how to divide regions of influence and plunger its natural resources Africa will be the land of stupid genocides and tribal warfares.  Africa is the continent of the future where it is great to settle in and work hard among great people in heart and in life style.

From 1970 and on, Lebanese from the south immigrated to Africa and Detroit to flee the frequent collective “reprisals” of Israel against so-called Palestinian “rocket launching” and infiltrations into northern Israel.  This wave of immigration increased during the following 13 years of civil war that began in 1975.  

The Lebanese graduates immigrated to continue their education in the US and Europe. My stay in the US lasted 20 years because of the civil war; I had to be in frequent touch with the Red Cross to get news from my family: there were no internet or cellular phones.

Note: Israel has been accepting Africans in the 1980’s as slave workers (from Eretria, Sudan, Ethiopia…) in order to refrain from using the Palestinians. This July, 2013, Israel is in contact with several African States to barter the African immigrants in Israel in exchange for arms.

What if a sticky myth can’t be disproved? Who is Tah Hussein?

I lean for the notion that a myth has factual features, though the story becomes fundamentally a myth by successive alterations.  So what?  Most novels are claimed to be fictions, though there is no doubt authors are describing their own feelings and positions in many sections of the novel.

For example, there is this story of Abraham and his sons Ismael and Jacob and his many wives, legitimate or not.  Obviously, there is no way to disprove this story (this story should not be a big deal: it must have been a common story among families and societies, related to customs and traditions at the time and in the region…)  

For example, all the monotheist, which I prefer to label mono-idolatery, religions (Jewish, Islam, and Christian) claim Abraham for father figure, and they discriminate their religions based on Abraham’s descendents.  In fact, if these religions didn’t disseminate the Abraham story as true, who would care if it was a factual story or one of the famous mythical fictions?

The process of disproving a myth, or its inherent value and the futile labor in investing time in non-documented research, is not the theme of this article. 

My question is: “If you know that there is no adequate means to tackle disproving a myth connected to religious beliefs then, is it worth antagonizing religious people just by stating that (their convictions are based on myths) and not having the moral courage to specializing in all the aspects of the myth?”

Some people would say: “If this myth is wrecking havoc to the unity of society (meaning  of disturbing conformity) then, is it your moral obligation to say that a myth is a myth until proven otherwise?”

Some people would say: “If the impacts of this myth is redundant on society then, it is a crime to approaching and taking out the skeletal of this myth and making it an issue that harms peaceful coexistence and encourages extremist, racist, and obscurantist elements around the myth.”

For example, in 1926, the late Egyptian author Tah Hussein published “On poetry in Jahilyya” (the pre-Islamic period in the Arabic Peninsula.)  First, who is Tah Hussein?

Hussein was blind by birth and is dubbed “Dean of Arab literature”. He continued his education in France and received a doctoral on his thesis related to Ibn Khaldoun (Ibn Khaldoun lived in the 15th century Tunisia and is known as the founder of sociology or ethnography). Hussein divorced his Egyptian wife and married a French woman Suzanne.

“On poetry in Jahilyya” Hussein claimed that his critique is Cartesian; which means a rational method requiring the author to “forget” or set aside all that he knew on a subject matter and then, starts with a clean sheet re-studying the topic from a rational and scientific perspective. Obviously, the sentence “forgetting what we knew” cannot be feasible; saying that an author has to do his best to starting with a neutral position might seem more accurate, but it is not:  How can you get interested in a topic if you are essentially neutral about it? (see note 2)

In one of the chapters of this monumental manuscript, Hussein proposed several views.

First, Hussein claimed that Abraham is a fictional character (but he failed to back up this contention) in his drive to discrediting many religions meddling in literature, which obscured and prevented serious investigations for the development of the Arabic language and literature: religions asserted facts that are principally myths in nature.

For example, Islam (submission to Allah), by claiming Abraham as the founder of Jewish and Islam religions, was a gimmick  adopted by the Prophet Muhammad to uniting Jewish and Christian sects into one comprehensive and common denominator system of belief.

Hussein might not have known then that:

1. Muhammad’s father was a convert to one of the “heretic” Christian-Jewish sects in Mecca (“heretic” was a label extended by the orthodox Byzantium Church);

2. One of Muhammad’s uncles was the Patriarch of this sect;

3. Muhammad joined his uncle once a year, and for an entire month of fasting, prayer, and meditation;

4. Muhammad was versed and immersed in the belief system and the stories of his uncle’s sect.

Second, Hussein proposed that the Prophet Muhammad read his verses in seven Arabic dialects corresponding to the main Arabic tribes in the Arabic Peninsula. (The Coran was finally codified during the third Caliph Othman bin Affan (from Quraich tribe of Mecca) into the Quraichi tribe dialect.)

Third, Hussein claimed that it is not true that Islam was the first religion that the Arabic Peninsula experienced.

Fourth, Hussein denounced the zeal of claiming that the genealogy of the Prophet (the successive clans and tribes) must be the best among the tribes.

There are more propositions which incited the ire of the clerics in Al Azhar who took Hussein to court.  Hussein didn’t hesitate to cancelling this “controversial” chapter from his next versions titled “On Jahilkiyya literature”.  Actually, the press coverage of the proceedings had disseminated the views of Hussein extensively among the intelligentsia in Egypt and the Arab World.

What was striking in these court proceedings is that the prosecutor basically defended the book in a 40-page investigation; the investigation was balanced and rational and the book was not condemned.  That was Egypt between the two world wars; a period of enlightenment that the Lebanese immigrants participated mightily in promoting freedom of speech and opinions in dailies and magazines.

Note:  Tah Hussein published another highly controversial book “The future of Egypt’s culture”.  In this book, Hussein claimed that Egypt culture is basically a Mediterranean Sea culture and a close relative to Greece, Italy, and France, but in no way related to the cultures in Persia and India.  Hussein demonstrated that most of Greek and Roman intelligentsia studied in Egypt, before a few returned to their City-States and established their own schools.

Hussein proposed that ancient Greek and Latin be taught at Egyptian schools as was the case in Europe at the turn of the century. (I think that is the case of the culture in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. It was the case of coastal Turkey till the 16th century).  In the 16th and 17th century, the Ottoman Empire experienced total embargo with Europe, economically and culturally, due to its military expansions in Europe. The Ottoman Empire had to turn toward Iran and India to satisfying all its demands in all fields and sectors.  You may read my article “Lions and lionesses in the Fertile Crescent”

Note 2: The famous poet of the 8th century (Baghdad) Abu Nawas was asked by his mentor to memorize 1,000 pieces of poems.  The next season, the mentor demanded from Abu Nawas to doing his best forgetting all the poems he has memorized.  This was an exercise of renewing with your own personality and character…

Pentagon: PowerPoint mania demoralizing troops?

Stanley McChristal, former commander in chief of the forces in Afghanistan (before he was sacked by Obama for expressing his opinion publicly) , has this right to two briefings a day in Kaboul on PowerPoint and 3 supplementary briefings per week. Once, McChristal commented acidly: “When we manage to comprehend (these spaghetti strategy) represented in PowerPoint then, war will be won!”

In 2009, Company Command, an internet site specilized in military matters, asked an army chief section in Iraq: “How do you spend most of your time?”  The officer replied: “I do presentations on PowerPoint.  I constantly have to prepare story-boards, strong with numerical images, diagrams and text summaries on everything that is happening.”

General James Mattis recently declared: “PowerPoint is driving us to stupidity.  It is dangerous: it gives the officers the illusion that they understand and that situations are under control.”

The Italian contingent in Afghanistan are livening up PowerPoint presentations accompanied by symphonic music.  PowerPoint is the ideal tool to hypnotizing officials and press journalists; only 5 minutes out of 25 are reserved for fielding questions; the remaining 20 minutes are for PowerPoint snoozing.

Apparently, as PowerPoint failed to hurt Stanley McChrista,l  the Senate defense group did: McChristal fainted during cross examination. Most probably, the Senate thought McChristal must be a PowerPoint guru and was trying to comprehend PowerPoint presentation on the state of war in Afghanistan.

It seems that PowerPoint graphics was the rage before the Iraq invasion in 2003.

General David McKiernan was commanding the land forces and he was losing patience waiting for orders in Iraq.  Instead of clear orders, General Tommy Franks kept sending McKiernan PowerPoint graphics that were already presented to this genius of Defense minister Rumsfeld.




June 2010

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