Adonis Diaries

Culture of Contempt: Misplaced comprehension of Personal Failure?

Posted on: October 3, 2011

Culture of Contempt: Misplaced comprehension of Personal Failure

A week ago, I sent a link https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/mostly-a-hoax-from-limitation-to-inspiration-slogan-of-tedxbeirut/to ten speakers at TEDxBeirut, asking for their feedback.  I received a single reply.  Two of the speakers’ email, as noted in the biography booklet, were not functional. I reminded TEDx electronic address on these facts, and I have yet to receive an answer.

Was I expecting such result?  The first realization was that most of the speakers’ enterprises were Lebanon-based, and consequently, behaved within the realm of culture of contempt prevalent in our societies.

For example, when I taught at the Lebanese American University, I sent administrators, Chairpersons of departments, and “professors” many emails.  Fact is: I didn’t receive a single reply over 4 years. Never received “Thank you for letter”, “read your mail”…Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got into thinking: “Is this lack of civility a consequence of our society culture of contempt? Or this contempt is a tradition acquired from the “classes of authority” that indulged in humiliating communities, or is it basically an “elite club” ethics of ignoring non-members…?

Speaker at TEDxBeirut, Ali Jaber, answered my request and replied: “I very much enjoyed your critical piece. Such critical thinking is required in our Arab World, so we can move ahead. Two thoughts I would like to share with you.

1.  The most oppressive of limitations for the Lebanese expatriates is to realize (achieve) what they aspire to (becoming) abroad, and not in their own country.
2.  Collaboration, listening and turning to others for support, — whether they know you or not — is very important in the creative and liberal process. Creating a collaborative environment around the activities that you endeavor in the land of big egos, increased individualism and egotistical attitudes, is the road less traveled.”

(I have discussed at length the second thought in many articles.  For example, mankind intelligence evolved because they managed to realize the great advantages in trading goods, expertise, and culture…)

People in the Arab World expect to be ultimately recognized by the restricted clan, in the general modern meaning of restricted community, as a member who can be of real support.  If by the age of 40, an individual fails to be perceived as a “useful” member of the clan; for example, the members stop paying him regular visits and asking for his input and opinions, then he thinks that he is a failure.

This misplaced comprehension of personal failure blocks any further attempts to continuing education, to trying harder, to looking at failure from a different perspective…He has reached the psychological dead-end for trying to changing and transforming his life and his “destiny”.

This urge to be recognized as an “Important” person, who can be relied upon to come to the rescue (of the clan members), is the direct link to our view of the meaning of personal failure:”Officials”, public servants, or private employee who are unable to dissociate the “good positions” with personal failure when they are fired or transferred to a job that is viewed by the community as a downgrade in importance.  The job has been personalized: I am the position and I refuse to go but higher in responsibilities and recognition, as a very important person in the community…

For example, when I taught at the Lebanese American University, I sent administrators, Chairpersons of departments, and “professors” many emails.  Fact is: I didn’t receive a single reply over 4 years. Never received “Thank you for letter”, “read your mail”…Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got into thinking: “Is this lack of civility a consequence of our society culture of contempt? Or this contempt is a tradition acquired from the “classes of authority” that indulged in humiliating communities, or is it basically an “elite club” ethics of ignoring non-members…?

At this university, it was a Russian Poutine/Medvedev style of chair swapping among the tenure-track “professors.  My course of Human Factors in engineering was very popular. One semester 60 students registered; it is not a math class, and there are plenty of reading, writing, reflecting on many issues…I asked for the class to be divided into two sections. My request was declined.  In reaction, almost all engineering departments decided to drop the course as optional.

No wonder that our universities are chaperoned by foreign powers:  How to disperse this climate of stagnation, which is poisoning attempts for healthy development and improvement in academic affairs. Part-timers were disposed of so that tenure-track teachers fill in course, which they were never expose to and not proficient in.

The irony is that US appointed Presidents of Lebanese universities can remain in their posts as long as they are serving according to dicta, and repressing opposition opinions and free speech zeal among the students.  And you can understand why our region enjoys natural dictatorial regimes.

For example, was it the custom of the club of full-teachers or tenure-track “professors” of ignoring part-time teachers and professors?  Why is it that, in general, foreign professors answer your request and reply to your email, even if they are originally from your home country, and your countrymen refrain from basic civilities at home?  The irony is: As a foreign teacher stays in Lebanon for a couple of years, the culture of contempt sets in, and he stops replying to mails…

This is normal behavior.  The difference in social behavior among developed and non-developed communities is the availability of sustainable institutions, which can be transformed and be changed, by taking seriously the input of the communities…a culture of respecting individual opinions and intelligence, regardless of position, clan, genders, or religious affiliation…

Note 1: My four-year stint of part-time teaching courses related to Human Factors in engineering was challenging.  It was an opportunity to publishing over 50 articles in my field, and also describing my various teaching methods to adapt to university student tendencies in Lebanon. You may go to my two categories “Human Factors” and “Educational methods”.

Note 2: A speaker at TEDxBeirut, Michael Kouly, was specifically on the perception of personal failure as jobs are transformed. He said: “Never take as personal failure changes in positions or job transfer…Current responsibilities are basically temporary roles and they are volatile.  We are NOT our role.  Conflict is the norm and we need the heat to cook a conflict into resolution. Thus, your main job is to staying on stage and confront conflicts.  Learn to identify and understand authority, the psychology and system of authority: How to dance with elephants, learn the many manifestation of dynamics in role-playing. The default value of 5 in the middle of the scale of ten is: Respect yourself and respect authority.  Going overboard on the two kinds of respect defines your status in the hierarchy.

Be flexible and negotiate with authority. Nelson Mandela was scared shit of the warden on his first day in prison but he took a chance on saying “I am a lawyer, don’t forget it…” Nelson went on “I wished the warden was not looking at my shaking knees…”

Note 3: I received today a short “thank you” reply from Yorgui, but no feedback.

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adonis49

adonis49

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