Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 2011

To protect civilian casualties? How’s the UN prosecuting its involvement?

Former French ambassador to Libya, Francois Nicolo, wrote in the French daily Le Monde:

“In the sky, large planets reflect the path of light.  On earth, it is the superpower States that distort the principles of international laws according to their vested interests. This fact was demonstrated on the Libyan ground.

On March 17, the UN council agreed to taking all necessary steps, save land invasion, to protect Libyan civilians (from a brutal dictator Qadhafi).

Two days later, a summit held in Paris decided to execute the UN resolution.  Since then, the superpower forces of the US, France, England, and the NATO have dropped thousands of tons of bombs in Libya, in a conflict that quickly turned to civil war.

This massive foreign intervention has proven how considering the protection of civilian can be used as an excuse for States private interests.

It is going to be extremely hard to bring the proposal of “protecting civilians” as a viable and plausible excuse in further UN assemblies for direct foreign interventions in other States.”

Ann Mary Sloter wrote in The Atlantic: “The discussions on foreign intervention in Libya are considering the 3 consequences that occurred in Libya:

First, Foreign interventions change the nature of autonomy in States succumbing to such interventions,

Second, Has the decision to intervene in Libya bad, good, or lead to nothing of value?

Third, Should the US and the other foreign States intervene in Middle-East troubles?”

It is reported that Libya suffered over 60,000 casualties since the beginning of the civil war.

Would the UN have the guts to publish what was the ratio of casualties done by “collateral damages” and “friendly fire” in a country of barely 4 million and as vast as the US?

A State leader said in the UN General Assembly:

“The Security Council in the UN is practicing political feudalismSince the creation of the UN, we witnessed 65 wars that, not only the UN could not prevent, but many superpower States contributed to igniting and supporting these wars, and directly participated in these wars. The veto power States (monopolizing nuclear arsenal), enjoyed by the US, Russia, China, France, and England, have started most of these wars for their own geopolitical interests.

I declare that the veto right is contrary to the charters of the UN.  Who gave these superpower States this right?

How these States secured permanent seats in the security council?

It is written in the UN Charters that all recognized State are equal. Are we indeed?

The veto right is illegal and dictatorial in nature.

I demand that the prerogatives of the Security Council be transferred to the UN General Assembly.  We can no longer accept to be considered as decorative States.  We are being mocked at every meeting. We are simply entitled to deliver speeches.

We are marginalized. The superpower States don’t give a hoot of the remaining recognized States.

We refuse to be allocated a few seats in the Security Council (10 out of 5 seats) in order to fight us.

Security Council was instituted as a tool of terror and to sanction States that disagree with the superpower States dicta.

Security Council never condemned one of its members.

Security Council made us wear cloths dating from the 40’s.

I demand that Africa, the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, the Latin American Union, and world organizations… have a seat in the Security Council.

I demand that the UN starts investigating crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated by the superpowers.

Why the genocide witnessed in Rwanda, the Palestinian camps of Sabra, Chatila, Jenine, and Gaza are not investigated by the UN?

Why Israel should have the privileged of denying entrance to UN investigative teams?…”

Suppose that this speech was delivered by Qadhafi in 2009, would the facts be considered nul and void, simply because voiced by Qadhafi?

Would the rights of neglected 120 States to enjoying recognition as equal in the UN be mocked and sidetracked, simply because Qadhafi (the lunatic) expressed their opinions?

Note: Massive leaks and evidence are coming out proving that France and England have planned (politically and militarily) ousting Qadhafi, way before the Tunisian upheavals.  Why? Qadhafi decided to purchase Russia military hardware and declined the offers of France and England.  Does anyone think that superpowers get involved out of the compassion in their hearts for foreign civilians?

Mostly a Hoax: “From Limitation to Inspiration” slogan of TEDxBeirut

The slogan or motto of TEDxBeirut was “From Limitation to Inspiration”.  At first, this slogan didn’t inspire me much, in the sense I felt I have read that slogan before, or that is essentially the theme of TED in the first place.  When you read that slogan what comes first in your mind? What does it mean to you?

I interpreted the motto as: “Your are an individual with huge limitations (physical, mental, financial, connections, unstable family, poor country with no institutions, a disintegrating social structure with no community cohesion and support…) and yet, you managed to struggle and be a “success story” that can be “inspirational” and benefit society and people connected to you…”

You may send me the alternative interpretations to inspire me further, but my article will be based on my interpretation of the slogan.  From the 19 speakers, I could barely isolate four who actually fit my understanding of the slogan, and will demonstrate my case shortly.

I am convinced that the slogan was meant to catalyze the basic two organizers of this huge undertaking, and to inspire the other members and support network to surmount the difficult obstacles and limitations in Lebanon for coordinating the event.  William Choukeir and Patricia Zoghaib overcame many real limitations and inspired thousands for a “big cultural and reflecting events, which connect engaged youth and set them to communicating pragmatically, can take place in Lebanon!”

My impression is that the organizers failed to take advantage of opportunities in order to define what is “limitation” and the wide range of limitations in the Lebanese society, and gather categories and define what could be “inspirational”.  If they invested the time to meeting individually all who submitted a one-minute video and had a talk with potential candidate, they would have been far more inspired and would have an excellent background to establishing meaningful criteria for the selection process.

Mind you that the first six months were kind of trial and error journey, and meeting the potential candidate would have aided in what “From Limitation to Inspiration” means to them, instead of the common biased understanding that “success means establishing an enterprise that generates profit or acceding to a CEO position her and there…”

For example, is it impossible to find handicapped or autistic people who could be considered “success stories”?  Should all speakers be very much ambulatory and looking “presentable” so that the event doesn’t give the impression of a gathering of “retarded” Lebanese?

For this article, I will selected sample speakers from each of the three sessions who do not fit the slogan, and the speakers who do fit.  It is very likely that I will re-edit this post and be as exhaustive as possible to proving my case.

Group one: Speakers who do not fit the “limitation” criterion.

Speaker Ali Jaber was born in Lebanon in 1961 (he looks much older). Ali was correspondent of New York Times, chief correspondent for the German Press Agency (DPA), founded and managed Future TV and Zen TV. In 2004, Ali  was hired as consultant to head Dubai Media Incorporated…He is currently General Director of the MBC Group TV.  He founded the Mohammad Bin Rashed  School for communication at the American Univ. in Dubai and working on a PhD degree at Cambridge Univ. on Arab satellite TV… What was the story of Ali at the TEDxBeirut?  Ali Jaber wanted to link the University via internet to other universities (ultimately, hooking with 148 university in the US). Selim Edde told Ali to shoot for 100 Mbite.  Ali made a few phone calls to higher-ups in Dubai government and got the funding and facilitation…70% of the students receive scholarships…

What kinds of limitations did Ali Jaber had to surmount? He had the connections, the money, the position…Does this case applies to the slogan? Good work Ali Jaber: Inspirational talk.

Speaker Hala Fadel is chair of MIT Entreprise Forum of the Pan-Arab region.  She has been organizing the MIT Business Competition for the last 5 years: Over 3,000 participate from 17 Arab States.  Hala manages $13 billion at Comgest…She is married with 3 children. What’s the story?

Hala was 21 and happily married. One evening, her husband (currently a deputy in the Parliament) asked her: “Hala, are you happy”.  That set Hala into deciding to continue her education and on the path of success.  What kinds of limitations Hala was confronted to?  She had the support, the money, the brain… Does Hala fit the slogan?  Great job Hala: I enjoyed your speech.

Speaker Ziad Abi Chaker is CEO of Cedar Environmental.  The enterprise specializes in building Municipal Recycling Facilities on the communal level, contrasting with central Mega recycling plants. The three-way deal is for banks to extend soft loan to build the local plant, and the municipality to paying only the services of recycling/composting in monthly installments, not exceeding $5 per household per month.  Ziad told me that the Hariri clan, having monopoly of the wast disposal for the last 20 years, offered him $5 million to get out-of-the-way… Ziad studied industrial engineering at Rutgers Univ. (New Jersey).  How limiting was Ziad situation?  He has the brain, the energy, the family support (rich and into import business…) and the connection…Does Ziad fit into the slogan?  Cudo Ziad: Great idea, great project and highly sustainable, and wonderful presentation.

Speaker Arne Dietrich teaches psychology at the American Univ. of Beirut.  He surfs the “stream of consciousness” and his favorite topics are daydreaming and the “transient hypofrontality” induced state, generated by swimming, biking, and hiking for miles on end… What’s the story?  His “objective” research on what is called “higher level of consciousness” experienced by yogi and … are in fact in the lowest level of consciousness of our primitive brain…

What were limiting Arne? Maybe the case of Arne is a moot one: the biography stated that he was diagnosed with incurable curiosity and spent time in an “educational” institution…and what of going globe-trotting for years?  If Arne was from my hometown, he would be elected “Town certified idiot“. If Arne was from my hometown, I would rank him top in “limitations” among the speakers who managed to “inspire” against all odds! Informative talk, and “inspirational to me”, though many were dozing after lunch…

Group 2: Speakers who fit both the limitation and inspiration criteria:

Katia Saleh is founder of Batoota Films and producer of “Shankaboot”, winner of the 2011 International Emmy Award… Katia produced and directed award-winning documentaries “Beirut: All Flight Cancelled” (2006), “Iraq: Womens’s Stories” (2006), “Return to Basra” (2003), “Inside Saddam’s Iraq” (2003), the documentary “Ashura: Blood and Beauty” (2005)…

What’s the story?  Katia is from Kfarshouba, Lebanon,(on the border with Israel) and the town of her mother is Nabatieh.  She worked as usher in London while pursuing her study. A British asked her where she was from. He had no idea where Palestine was and she said: “Jesus is my neighbor”.  When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, an Israeli soldier asked her mother for her ID papers and she replied: “It is up to you to show me your papers”.  This incident was very inspiring to Katia. She received many threats on YouTube.  Any limiting handicaps with Katia? What about chasing danger for shooting documentaries that are worth recounting?

Speaker Yorgui Teyrouz is currently a pharmacy student at Lebanese American Univ. He is founder of “Donner Sang Compter” (Give blood selflessly).  The on-line group on Facebook saved 12,000 lives since 2007.  What’s the story? Yorgui was very young, 19?, when he overrun and killed someone in a car accident.  He was sentenced in Roumieh prison, one of the worst overcrowded prisons in Lebanon.  How a young man surmounted the indignity and humiliation of being incarcerated, and went ahead to coming to the rescue of people in need of blood? Very inspirational.

Najat Rizk is CEO of Firehorse Films and was acclaimed the second most successful CEO in Lebanon by Harvard Univ. Firehorse tagline “Making Television Worth Watching” is a commitment to producing knowledge-base and innovative media that engages audience.  Samples of her documentaries are “The Great Trade-off” on prisoners swapping between Hezbollah and Israel; “From Herat to Baghdad” “The living martyr: Hezbollah unveiled”…

What’s the story.  Najat lived in isolated Ashrafieh section of East Beirut during the civil war; her mother is from the town of Ghosta in Kesruwan.  She decided to make a documentary on Hezbollah.  Najat was so persistent that she got an interview with media director of Hezbollah.  She ended up living an entire year in Dahieh and changing her guard-robe…and was finally adopted as one of them. And her journey started filming the ceremony of Ashoura, going to Jordan and filming a Qaeda base in Salt, meeting the Dalai Lama

Just this guts to taking vile myths by the horns and taking the plunge; it is inspiration enough to breaking taboos instituted by ignorant communities…

Speaker Joanna Choukeir Hojeili is doing her PhD at the University of the Arts London.  She is exploring “how communication design methods and interventions” can contribute to social integration. She is using four design methods. For example, “Exploration” method is an innovative cultural probes toolkit.  “Connection” refers to a new perspective in networking method. “Expression Corner” is designed as a diary room for virtual interviews.  “Imagination Clinic” is intended as co-creation workshop.

The four methods aim to inform the development of communication design interventions for social integration among youth from different social groups and communities in Lebanon. Lebanon is a society heavily segregated along religious, political, geographic, linguistic, and cultural lines. The design package is transferable across other socially segregated communities worldwide.  What’s the story?

Charbel (18 year-old) from the district of Bshare has never visited south Lebanon, and barely stepped out of his restricted district.  Sahar (19 year-old) from Tyr didn’t visit much of tiny Lebanon.  Charbel and Sahar are curious to meet other youth of different religious, cultural, and geographical locations.  Many are plain apathetic in mixing with other people.

On October 1st, the first pilot workshop “Imagination Studio” will be held, inviting 25 of those who participated in the virtual interview so that they agree on a practical program that they will implement as a group.  This pilot workshop is sort of co-creation process: Every member will combine “what he knows” in expertise.  Outside experts will participate to put in shape a feasible program for application.

Joanna got a job pretty quickly: She was first of her class.  Two years later, Joanna realized there was no prospects for fulfilling her life dreams.  Short on money, she applied relentlessly to different overseas universities for scholarship.  Finally, she set her target on University of the Arts London and took the dive, working in London on several jobs and continuing her higher education.

Group 3: Speakers who do not fit the “inspiration” criterion.  For example, they failed to “inspire me” in any shape or form. I will refrain from expanding on this group, at least, not in this post.

Let’s consider a few limitations to inspiration in this modern society.  Do you think not being able to own a computer a serious limitation? How about not getting connected to the internet? What if you cannot afford the expenses of a cellular phone? You have no transportation means, and you have got to walk 2 miles to the nearest library to getting connected to internet in order to publish, rain or shine, hot or cold, and the library has no English books and you have got to translate…

If within 4 years you managed to publish 2,400 articles on in 50 categories…On a scale of one to 10 (highest inspirational case study), how would you rate inspiration within the above limitations? Does the extra piece of intelligence that the person is over 60 years make a difference?  How about this person does not enjoy any family or community support, like someone exhibiting self-autonomous behavior, and is starting to be viewed as one of the idiots of the town with “mild autistic” syndrome?

I say: “What has been done and properly executed is the best at the moment.”  I suggest the next program will have the same slogan to demonstrate the versatility of this powerful slogan.

Note: The sketch or cartoon is from David Habchi who covered the TEDxBeirut conference

Israel 2011: Less “democratic” and far more sectarian. By Antoine Shalhat.

The Palestinian/Israeli journalist reported from Akka, translated from Arabic and published in the Daily Al Nahar:

“Today is the Hebrew New Year.  It is the occasion for the census bureau to submit its report on Israel demographic status, and for Israel Democracy Center to transmit statistical analysis on democratic trends in Israel communities.

That is going to be tough to dealing with Israel society tendencies, retrograding in its concept of democracy and increased base of religious political ideology.

Secular people have dropped to 42% and religious Israelis have increased to 58%.  The Jews who want a “pure Jewish State” have jumped to 78%.  Meaning:

First, they want to transfer every citizens who is not Jewish by origin.

Second, they want to prohibit non-Jewish citizens to have a say in the discussions pertaining to social and economic matters

Third, cancelling the right to discussing self-autonomy alternatives.

Democratic spirit in Israel is declining.

About 51% of the Jews want to prohibit free-expressions in attacking government political decisions.

Another example, 58% are saying that speakers are not to extend political opinions in universities.

Another example, 63% want to impose political censorship on educational materials in schools and academic institutions…

The political climate in Israel, in the last two years, is for greater power to the extreme right religious parties: The Parliament (Knesset) has legislated many laws

1. prohibiting opposition to preemptive war policies,

2. any condemnation to “Israel Defense Forces” behaviors such as actions against civil rights and assaulting associations and organizations investigating activities smacking of violence on civil rights, or

3.  any discussion on resolving the Palestinian problems

The Legal consultant in the “Association of human rights in Israel” said: “In the last two years, we are witnessing increased signs on the field that demonstrate growing polarization of religious intransigence among the sectarian parties.  The trend is to killing any position out of the “National consensus” because it constitutes a serious threat to Israel security.  Any critique is viewed as anti-patriotic…

The trends in Israel, year after year, are of communities less democratic and far more sectarian.

The French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur published last week:

“Israel Shin Beth (internal intelligence agency) is worried of the good organization of the Jewish terrorist cells in the colonies, or Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Jewish terrorist cells, called “youth of the hills”, adopted Al Qaeda principles in organization and decentralized formations, and have in possession large supplies of military hardware.  They certainly have tight connections in the army and many public institutions…”

(How could this happen if the organization and facilitation of these cells are not generated from the Shin Beth itself? The Shin Beth has all the potentials, the means, and the intelligence pieces for these kinds of terrorist activities)

Note:  You may read this article on the varieties of Jewishness  jewish-ashkenazi-sephardim-hebrew-israeli-semitic-hasidic-and-what-else/

“Fleeing to Hell” by Samir Atallah

This post is inspired by an article published by the Lebanese journalist Samir Atallah in the daily Al Nahar Sept. 28.  I will be mostly translating liberally from Arabic, and not in the order the article proceded.

“The French daily “Humanitee” is celebrating its 107 birthday.  It was turned to a communist media in 1920 and the communist party still hold 40% of its shares. Joan Baez sang in the festivity along with Jane Fonda…You had the impression that the “Arab Spring” revolutions are behind us, a momentary curiosity, and part of history…

Late French President, Charles de Gaulle, said that “Religion is an extension to moral standards. The prophet has to apply his own guidelines and principles…I will call the first part of my Memoires “Years of hope“.

Hope always sounds a slap and an offense to whoever utter that word in the Arab World: Hope is understood as an offense to reality and frustration, contrary to the golden dictum “Silence is gold and keeping your tongue warm is the road to safety and security“.

What could be worst than encouraging social civil wars by keeping silent of the causes that will ultimately ignite a civil war?

Qadhafi wrote a short story titled “Fleeing to Hell“.  He said: “Not only you fail, but you also fail to learn the lessons…What set you apart is that you are unable to recognizing right from wrong no matter how you deny it…The citizens want you to build a road to the sea, to plant the garden, to kill the dogs and replace dogs with cats…”

Maximilian Robespierre, the bloodiest French revolutionary was the role model of Qadhafi. Why? Because Robespierre understood that the people are heartless and practiced the motto “Do not spare anyone of your companions and never trust the people“.

Qadhafi learned from Romania dictator Ceucesco to build underground tunnels under every property you live-in, in  order to secure an exit route. But this tactic never worked.

Indeed, Qadhafi fled to hell, and his people got out of hell.  And returned to hell…

Still, Qadhafi keeps shouting and threatening to exterminate all the rats and roaches that rose to dislodging his regime.

Communism did not end because of any success story of capitalism, but for the arrogance they ruled the people, as if they never learned from their Caesar the Emperor.

Communism played the game of Russian roulette, while liberal capitalism is playing Las Vegas kinds of roulette. The consequence of any political system that enslaves the mind of its citizen.

The western societies lambasted the oriental people of accepting their fate…What kind of rational processes the west is applying nowadays? It is a wide open casino:  The Greeks want money and enter the European Union totally drunk, the Italians are stealthy inserting their hands in other States pockets, and the US enters all guns out, hoarding the cash register and funding the largest army that mankind ever imagined.

Charles de Gaulle decided to retreat to his house in the Boiserie as he realized that his staying in power is liable of initiating mass upheavals…

Apparently, the period of Orientalism is not over yet: The western societies see the Arab World in romantic visions, as exceptions to the rules: All these mass popular upheavals are just attempts at looking out the window, but not a purposeful decision to exiting from the doors of jails…

Western scholars still believe that the only rational mind was Ibn Khaldun (6 centuries ago) and no rational mind and leader succeeded Ibn Khaldun.

(Sprawling cities, surrounded with shantytowns, dying out of boredom in Amman, Algeria, Riyadh…

Sprawling cities transformed into caves, tunnels, and bunkers in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Syria…to be followed by Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain…)

Any “secret ingredient to inspiring a team”? did it again with an inspiring article posted on Sept 27  “How TEDxBeirut revealed the secret ingredient to inspire a team“:

“It’s Friday. The day before TEDxBeirut (a day-long conference in three sessions, involving 19 speakers). I’m driving to the venue. I’ve been barely sleeping an hour every night, for the past week. I’m exhausted, and have little energy left.

Today is the final rehearsal with all the speakers, performers, and production crew. It’s going to be a long and intense day. There’s so much that needs to be done. Too much for just one day.

As I’m driving, I think to myself: “I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the day. I’ll probably go in, and when anyone asks how I am, I’ll reply “Exhausted”!  That way, I’ll show them that I’ve been working my ass off. That’ll give me enough attention and energy to keep me going just a little bit more.”I pause, get my thoughts together, and continue (my line of thinking):

“Bad idea! We’re all exhausted. Why would I expect myself to be more exhausted than anyyone else? Why would I demand attention from everyone else? Bad idea!”

That’s when a smile forms on my face. “I’m OK” I think to myself. “Actually, I feel great! This is what we’ve all been working very hard for. It’s almost here. I’m excited!” And all of a sudden, everything changes.

I arrive at the venue. I’m all hyper and ecstatic. I go inside and start hugging and loving everyone. I can’t get the smile off my face. Everyone smiles back. I can see the light in their eyes. Little do I realize on that day, the effects of my attitude-change on everyone around me.

It’s Saturday. It’s the day of TEDxBeirut. It’s 7:00am. I’m driving to the venue. I’ve only slept for 1hr. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m beyond exhaustion. It’s as if there are no thoughts in my head. I’m blank. I’m irritated. I don’t have nor the energy, nor the patience to deal with anything that comes my way. And suddenly, I remember the day before.

I remember the attitude change. And for the first time, I realize that by smiling and by being ecstatic yesterday, I was affecting the attitude of everyone around me. I think to myself: “I gotta do this. Everyone is exhausted. If I’m exhausted too, how will we make it through the day? How will we deal with all the problems that’ll arise? How will the audience feel? I gotta be ecstatic and exploding with energy!”

Suddenly, I feel a bust of energy! A smile forms on my face. This energy, along with the smile, both stay with me the whole day. All the way throughout the event. And this has a huge effect on everything. Of course, I wasn’t aware of that during the day.

At the end of the day, while driving back home, I remember Patrick telling me: “I don’t know why, I can’t help it but smile every time I see you.” I reply automatically without thinking: “Maybe it’s because I’ve been smiling all the time?” That’s when it hit me.

I get a zillion flashbacks from that same day. I remember all the instances when Patrick tells me how I’m inspiring. The instance that Maya tells me how she can feel my energy, and how different that is from others. The instance that Chawki tells me how inspiring I am. All the instances that I’ve spoken to team members, and all of a sudden their eyes spark. All the instances that I’ve briefed a team member who has slept less that I did, and see them jump into action with excitement beyond this world.

That instance, after all those flashbacks, I finally understand what inspiring a team is all about. I’ve been trying to inspire different teams, within and outside of TEDxBeirut for years now. I’ve failed every single time. And now, on the last day of TEDxBeirut, I finally get it.

Inspiring a team isn’t just about being ecstatic, energetic, and passionate. Yes, all these are vital. Yet, a secret ingredient is missing.

To inspire, you have to be under the same, or worst conditions yourself. Please, read this line again.

During the day of TEDxBeirut, I finally managed to inspire, not just because I was full of energy. It’s because I was as tired and as un-slept as everyone else. Yet, I managed to show everyone that even though we’re all exhausted, we can still be full of energy. We can still have a constant and contagious smile. We can still be ecstatic. And when we’re all like this, the crowd can’t help but get infected with this blissful energy.

I’ve come to learn that inspiring a team might just be this simple and reproducible. To inspire a team to act in a certain way, act yourself in that certain way. And as long as you’re under the same, or worst circumstances than the rest of your team, they’ll get inspired.

Martin Luther King was as black and as mistreated as his community. Gandhi was under worst conditions than his community. And they both inspired big time.

On Friday, that day before TEDxBeirut, I had never imagined that my change of attitude will have such a deep impact. I thank everyone single one of you. You inspired me to inspire.” End of quote.

You are likely to miss the essential idea in that post and think: “Keep smiling to inspire the team” is the secret ingredient.  Smiling is the catalyst, the best catalyst to inspiring, but “How can you keep a genuine smile if the entire team does not believe that you worked harder than anyone else?”

One of the speaker on TEDxBeirut (Hala Fayad) said: “To be a successful entrepreneur you have got to slave harder than anyone in team.  Ego is not useful in any endeavor you undertake…” (I assume that Hala got down on her knees and rubbed the floor and participated in the daily chores, as any slave is asked to do. Otherwise, success was pure luck, regardless of all the energy invested in the business and opportunities that were taken advantage of…)

In general, Gandhi is an excellent example in that line of thinking.  But Martin Luther King ? Simply because he was black and obviously mistreated and put in prison several times?  Malcom X and many other Black leaders in the US worked far harder than Martin Luther King  and they were mistreated harsher, not just by the white community, but amid their own black communities.

Note:  TEDxBeirut was a huge success in many ways, particularly in this awfully limited society and State of Lebanon. The slogan of TEDxBeirut was “From limitation to inspiration”.  That motto applied perfectly to the organizers of TEDxBeirut, though not to most of the speakers. I am preparing an article titled “Mostly a hoax: “From limitation to inspiration” slogan of TEDxBeirut”

TEDxBeirut: At Last, Auditions. Round One?
TEDxBeirut conference was a success story last Saturday Sept.24.  I reported previously that I submitted a one-minute video, as required, in order to be eligible for the screening process for the candidates to be selected for a first audition.  I was turned down with no feedback, but I was invited for free to attend the event.  My topic was on How rare are dangerous events? How dangerous are “rare” species? Even when extinct?
So how the audition process might have taken place? This is how Jessica Dheere reported on Sept. 14:

“Ah you’re here! Right on time. A little early actually. That’s good. Please, do come in,” the one with the vivid red-brown braid said with a hearty smile.
As she gestured gaily, stretching her arm into the vastness of the site, the whiteness of her teeth sparkled starkly against the contrast provided by the darkness of her shirt.
“Take a seat. Yes, any seat you like. Make yourself comfortable. Are you ready? You can go whenever you’re ready.”
The one with the bouncy curls, having finished marking red several X on the ground, proceeded to his touch-screen contraption. He made all sorts of seemingly whimsical gestures, unobstructed by his injured hand, a la Tom Cruise in Minority Report, and produced a glaring stopwatch, set at 6 minutes sharp.

They got up, one after the other, sensing their initial intimidation getting numbed by the homeliness of their surroundings. It was when the ideas started burgeoning, flowing, and ultimately filling up the entire place, inducing cheers, tears, laughter and much more.
This was not a classical audition with an air of formality and detachment between the judging panel and the presenter. This was the first round of the TEDxBeirut Auditions –an invite for each speaker to share his/her idea on just the right platform for that ideal: Ideas Worth Spreading.

The Speakers’ Team truly upped their game this time. Donning their TEDxBeirut Titans regalia composed of black t-shirts, earnest looks, and hearty smiles, they welcomed the speakers in a way that helped relieve their concerns, yet conveyed an appropriate air of seriousness –if selected, the speakers will be delivering the most important talk of their lives!
Sandra, the Lara Croft Titan, and Marc, the Restless Roman Titan, were there since the early hours of the day, taking care of every vital aspect pertaining to the success of the auditions.

Ten speakers presented their ideas, achievements, aspirations, theories, and passions. A quick recap that treads the fine line between revealing too much and getting you intrigued? Consider the following: Ten Commandments for winning an Emmy from an Emmy winner, a record-breaking NGO campaign with a moving background story, music meeting electronics to give a young entrepreneur his 15 minutes of fame and a lifelong dream to pursue, “addressing” uncharted territories, in addition to invisible balloon propping and popping –this is only a handful of the topics presented on Day One of the auditions.

The team and the speakers alike benefited from valuable input presented by members of Toastmasters Lebanon, the NGO helping people hone their public speaking skills.

The speakers’ relaxation largely stemmed from the homeliness of the location: nSITE Raouche –a great Thank You goes out to Hala Makarem for her invaluable involvement with TEDxBeirut.

“How many speakers from Round One were picked? Who were they? How was Round Two like? And would you please tell us what’s the deal with the new nicknames?!” The readers questioned loudly, but the Titan with the keyboard typed only this: “Worry not, devoted readers. Tomorrow, a great deal will be uncovered!”

I still would like to know “what a one-minute” video may give hints as to the adequacy of a speaker?  What are the criteria that selection team agreed upon, as they required this video.  What they were intent on sorting out at first glance? Shouldn’t a face to face one-minute talk be of better quality?

Apparently, this event has been in the making for 9 months.  The first six months were kind of trial and error exploratory expedition. As WilliamChoukeir said on the talk of Helweh wa Morra (Sweet and bitter) on LBC cable:  “Things gelled in the last three weeks before the event”

The organizers are young people and this huge event is their first.  And the event was a huge success anyway you analyze it: Just imagine the work, patience, time consumed, energy invested to getting 20 speakers auditioned and trained, and catering to the minute details to satisfying over 800 people, and keeping them energized during three sessions of presentations.

What’s for dinner? Why Zombies to be eaten alive? sent me this link on Sept. 21 “Choose the dinner and you’ll become dinner”

“Imagine the world has been overrun by Zombies. You’re the only group left. You’ve managed to lock yourselves in an abandoned prison.

You’ve prepared yourselves a nice dinner. You’ve lit a few candles. You’ve found a nice red table-cloth and an aged bottle of wine.

Do you now sit and enjoy your nice dinner, and pretend that you’re not surrounded by lifeless Zombies struggling to get in and rip you apart? Or do you face your situation and try to get rid of the Zombies?

Of course enjoying the dinner is less painful than facing the Zombies. The problem is that one day the food will run out; the Zombies will find a way in. And you’re going to suffer immensely.

You can only run away from your problem for a little while. You can’t pretend that you’re having a nice dinner all the time. The question is, do you fight now, when you’re healthy and strong? Or do you wait until you’re helpless?

Let’s come back from Zombie world to our daily lives for a  minute. Everyday in our minds we face a choice. Do we face the problems and resolve them? Or do we keep running away from them, until one day they find a way in, when we’re most helpless?

Of course, distracting ourselves from our painful thoughts is as pleasant as that temporary dinner in prison. Facing our thoughts and resolving them is as satisfying and as liberating as defeating the hoard of Zombies.

Except that, when you face your own thoughts you can’t lose. You’re in a safe environment. No physical harm can come to you. And you can stop at any point, and continue later.

But the consequences are very real when you keep choosing the dinner.

Sit with your thoughts today and face them, before it’s too late.”

William example is too drastic:  Very few people ever confront such a life threatening situation in their entire life.  Otherwise, people would have learned to survive more efficiently through repeated dangerous conditions.  I think that, if I were cool enough to prepare myself such a romantic and wonderful dinner, I might as well sit very coolly and enjoy my dinner.

The odds are high that the Zombies will feel frustrated when they notice your relaxed state, like if you had a secret mass destructive weapon…The Zombies, like smart creatures, will move on to another individual that their “objective analysis” of human behavior demonstrated to be within the range of “normal person.”

Most probably, William might throw a tantrum claiming that I failed to comprehend the gist of his idea, that the article was made simple for my mild “autistic syndrome”… 

“Turkey Erdogan PM: You must read Byzantium civilization. You have got no excuses” by Bishop George Khodr

Turkey Erdogan PM delivered a speech in front of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo last week.  He said that “Turkey shares with the Arabs the same ideology, culture, and set of values.  In 1453, Mohammad II captured Constantinople and put an end to the Byzantium Black civilization…”

Orthodox Bishop George Khodr reacted and responded in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar on Saturday Sept.24.  I am translated from Arabic a large portion of the article, taking a few liberty. Khodr wrote:

“What was so black in Byzantium civilization that the Ottoman Empire managed to whiten?  What Erdogan means by ideology is Islam. Are the 12 million Christians in the Arab World excluded from sharing in that ideology?  Erdogan said that a rebirth of civilization was erected on the ashes of Byzantium Black Civilization.

Byzantium civilization was the cornerstone for Europe Renaissance and the diffusion of scientific reasoning and investigation.  Byzantium was the leading civilization for 4 centuries before the Arabic Empire and two centuries afterward.  Byzantium disseminated public health and hospitals, primary and secondary schools, instituted universities… Byzantium was leading in medical fields such the eye, teeth, animal medicine…Byzantium spread philosophy, rhetoric, knowledge of public administration, translation of Greek works to Latin…

The Greeks of Byzantium immigrated to Europe and aided in establishing modern societies.  In the first century of Arabic Empire, located in the Capital Damascus, the Omayyad dynasty focused on translating the Greek works  (Math, engineering, music, cosmology, medicine, natural sciences…) into Arabic via the Aramaic language (Syriac) before it expanded and lead the world civilization in all fields till the 15th century…Erdogan PM: You must read Byzantium civilization. You have got no excuses”

The article expanded also on religious topics, which are out of the domain of my blog to disseminate. Fact is, it was during Byzantium Empire (325 AC to 1453) that Christianity started persecuting other Christian sects (named heretics) on the ground of not bowing to the State proclaimed religion.  This centralized tradition in religious affairs was transmitted to Catholic Rome, which imposed the Dark Age in Europe ( particularly the Inquisition) from 400 AC to way after the 17th century.  Catholic Rome prohibited sciences and tamed all kinds of rational thinking and expression of opinions…

Fact is, it was during the Byzantium Empire that Christian sects in the Middle -East suffered the largest waves of immigration to Empires that didn’t persecute on religious ground such as the Persian Sassanian Empire, and even reached China (the Nestorian sect, which translated their Bible into Chinese). (See note 3)

Note 1:  If it were not for the nascent Arabic Empire of the Omayyad dynasty in Damascus, which translated the Greek works into Arabic, most probably Europe would have not found any Greek work left to boast being descendent from…You know, democracy, rational thinking, and all that mythical stuff.  Fact is, it was the Christian scholars in the Near -East who undertook the task of the translation, either directly from Greek or via the language of the land Aramaic (later called Syriac)

Note 2:  You may read

Note 3: Good background to the genesis of Byzantium and State Christian religion




September 2011

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