Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2012

Beyond clichés on “who is a poor”: How poverty can be vanquished? What are the battles facing poverty?

“If a progeny of young colored children (slaves) is brought forth, these are emancipated…”.  This statesman describes the  only way out of slavery condition during colonial periods.

It means that unless the kid of a slave family does not demonstrate mental abilities, skills, and potentials early on, the odd is that this kids will remain a slave…Change the word slave or colored children with “poor kid” and the meaning is the same.

“If a progeny of young Poor children is brought forth, these are emancipated to higher class systems…”  The concept of why someone is cataloged as poor is fundamentally related to this racist ideology, very prevalent even today, that a poor kid is mostly born lacking entrepreneurship abilities, characters for a sense of entitlement, education,…

A few new dimensions were added to the racial discrimination of “who is a poor” such as physical famished conditions, total lack of sanitation facilities…

Discourse on poverty has to bypass the “accepted” traditional clichés, such as viewing poverty as mainly related to famine, no access to direct financial aid, lack of healthcare facilities…

Unless the discourse on poverty is shifted to lack of education and early detection of “what’s wrong” with a baby, a community… there will be no pragmatic alternatives: Traditional public consciousness will end up guiding the non-performing policies and forms of aids…

Poverty cannot be resolved by adopting extreme ideological positions such as “pouring in massive financial aids in order to getting out of this trap…” as advanced by Jeffrey Sachs in “The end of Poverty”, or “aids do more harms than goods for the poor and we should correct and facilitate the forces of the market mechanisms…” as promoted by William Easterly in “The White man burden”

Solutions are not readily available by enhancing UN financial and political potentials, or curtailing liberal capitalism in the medium-term, or deposing despots and oligarchies…

Poverty is related and based on daily actions and activities of the masses.

Poverty eradication requires multiplying efficacious pragmatic programs supported by trained and caring personnel, willing to focus on identifying the problems and tending to the details, and having the courage and persistence to overcome the many daily problems, instead of slapping ready-made traditional solutions that do not correspond to the poverty problem.

Sure money can go a long way when used properly to priority pragmatic programs in education, healthcare, preventive medicine, sanitation, access to small enterprises, job opening…that produce fast positive effects, which do not need to wait for the Big Miracle of market “stimulation”

Sure, money can become a major barrier when not invested properly on projects not targeting essentially the most needy, through various administrative levels of waste, and squandering the good will and efforts of the workers

Any aid should be focused on the details of each program, no matter how long the process in the planning and study take…

It has been proven that educating “poor people” on the value of a facility is Not strictly monetary in nature.  For example, studies have demonstrated that those who received free mosquito nest used it as efficiently as those who could afford to pay for the nest…The usage of the mosquito nest was not as bad from both groups, even though the most poor had never used nest or believed it would make a difference…

The cost of massively offering free mosquito nests is insignificant to the expense of curing a few cases of malaria, polio, and many diseases transmitted by flees…

The contention that education is only efficacious when this need is reclaimed by parents and students is false.

The traditional schooling system is based on the pragmatic colonial exigencies in “colonial lands ” of quickly producing “elites” administrators and functionaries in the colonies.  Consequently, this schooling system focused on the brightest 10% students and ignored the remaining students who ended up dropping pretty fast or not learning anything…

This trend has reinforced the concept with the parents that “If my kid is not showing interest in learning, it is much better to take him out and get him working early on…Either you get the jack pot in education with a promising kid or education is a total waste of time and money…”

Another false concept says: “If there are no job market after the learning period, it is of no use wasting time and money on national education system…”

Fact is, the more the masses learn, the more job openings are created in the market:  The masses will adopt the necessary pressures for alternative political and economic policies…

Fact is, it is not enough to send kids to “school concentration camps“:  while in school, the kid has to learn something. at least learn to read, write and do basic math…

Teaching means enhancing the reflective power in kids, extending to them a sense of entitlement to negotiating with authority (like the teachers, the administrators…), and encouraging kids to be patient in solving problems: The longer time is spent on resolving a problem the easier the learning matter will be approached such as in math, writing, reading...

It is far less expensive in the long-term to focus on every student’s needs and potentials than pouring in money on scoring standard tests and bonuses to teachers and “performing” schools…

If the policy is to educate and train well the teachers, and institute a culture that teaching is the highest prestige in a community, and allow more than one teachers to tend to small classrooms, you’ll reap an educated citizen.

The education system in Finland does not take seriously test scores until way later in secondary higher levels.  Thousands apply to teaching positions and competition is harsh within this culture where teachers are the most respected, although not paid as highly as in other countries…

It is obvious that educated parents have assimilated the precept that preventive medicine programs (like early vaccination…) are far superior to the expensive hospital treatments.  Actually, many poor families forget or don’t take seriously preventative programs, and thus, in developed States, vaccination programs are made obligatory because the States can afford the programs and have the proper trained medical personnel.

In developing countries, forced health preventive programs are not applicable, simply for lack of resources in money, personnel, and medical facilities…

The irony is that in India, parents are refusing polio vaccination.  Why?  

The parents didn’t forget or forgive the Indian government lies for practicing in the 80’s  secret sterilization programs under false vaccination programs

As the feeling of security and safety are the most basic needs in individuals, education is the most basic building block for human development indicators and programs.

Without a sense of security and safety within a family and extended community, the individual will be constantly worried for his daily bread to survive…

Without a vast primary and secondary schooling system accessible and affordable to all, the society will be constantly facing daily survival problems, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Note:  This post was inspired by an interview of Sophie Fay with Esther Duflo in the French weekly magazine “Le novel observateur“.

Esther Duflo is professor at MIT, has published “Rethinking poverty“.  She had published “Human development”, and “The politics of autonomy“.

Trust the Lebanese to dwell on ancient events: Who is this Lara Fabian anyway?

In the last three weeks, Lebanon was confronted with two groups related to the programmed event of Lara Fabian (42 year-old) singing at the Casino du Liban in mid February (on the occasion of Valentine Day).  One group, Campaign to Boycott Israeli Supporters is intent on blocking “artists” who performed in Israel and blatently expressing their “love to Israel” to performing in Lebanon, and another group claiming that “prohibiting” these artists to performing in Lebanon will hurt the “cultural” image of Lebanon and handicap tourism activities,… I previously published on that flap and the letter of the opposing movement to Lara in

This post is intended on displaying the position of the “art for art sake” group. The Lebanese daily Al Nahar wrote: “Activists slammed over the weekend anti-Israeli campaigners who had rallied against a planned, but now canceled, visit by singer Lara Fabian to Lebanon.

The Campaign to Boycott Israeli Supporters in Lebanon cited an online video showing Fabian singing in a 2008 concert on the anniversary of the creation of Israel. Fabian sang in Hebrew and then later before getting off the stage said: “I love you Israel.”

The establishment of Israel in 1948, termed the Nakba (catastrophe) by Palestinians and many in the Arab region, saw the forceful expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. Lebanon and Israel are technically in a state of war and last fought each other in a 34-day conflict in 2006. (Lara Fabian had expressed her love to Israel as Gaza was being burned by phosphorous bombs and babies reduced to living torches…)

The managing company of Lara’s concerts dispatched a letter to the Casino stating: “For security reasons, Lara Fabian will not satisfy her contract…We cannot handle the physical threats we received…”  Bilal Sh3ib,  managing director of concerts in the Casino said: “There is no basis for Fabian to cancel out. Singer Fabian didn’t receive any threats, physical or otherwise…” and he went on to  state the “love of Lebanese” for culture, art, and bla, bla, bla…

The Association of Reporters Against Violence released a statement on Saturday:

“These suspicious campaigns do not affect Israel but reflect on Lebanon’s image and reputation. On Thursday, Belgian-Italian singer Fabian canceled her tour to Lebanon scheduled for Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 at Casino du Liban after anti-Israeli campaigners rallied against her visit.

“The Lebanese authorities are responsible for the cancellation and the distortion of Lebanon’s image. The government should have provided the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of performers. But the government failed, as usual, to the campaigners and organizations that have nothing to do with Lebanon, its culture and role.

“One of the campaigner’s goals is to isolate Lebanon from the world and transform it to (Iran Islamic jurisprudence) image which Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani of Iran’s elite Al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards Corp seeks to create in (south Lebanon).”

On Friday, local media quoted Suleimani as saying that south Lebanon was under the control of Iran and its ideas. His remarks, carried by Iran’s official news agency IRNA Friday, were mistranslated by Arabic media and interpreted by March 14 politicians to mean that south Lebanon was under Iran’s influence.

In an apparent reference to Hezbollah, the pro-Israel Lebanese activists also slammed the tripartite formula of  “army, people, the resistance,” which they claim is for the purpose of transforming the system in Beirut to a Tehran-style regime.

There have been other incidents where artists have called off their visits to Lebanon over links to or showing sympathy with the Jewish state.  For example, in 2009, French stand-up comedian Gad Elmaleh canceled his three-day tour to Lebanon after activists, saying Elmaleh was pro-Israeli and served in the Israeli army, rallied against his visit.

On her Facebook official page, the singer wrote: “I will not sing under menace…I don’t work well with hate…I appreciate tolerance, generosity, and truth…Those who didn’t comprehend my position and refuse my visit to your beautiful country where I had previously sang, they don’t have to be worried…”

“Example of censuring are multiplying: Prohibiting extracts of Anne Frank Journal in school texts, erasing the name of Steven Spielberg in Tintin billboards…”

The latest survey shows that 300,000 families live under the poverty line (less than $100 a month), and you have the kids of these “rich families” receiving weekly stipends in the hundreds of dollars in order to have fun (concert tickets costing over $100) and not giving a hoot to the precarious condition of Lebanon…We could not afford the fuel for our central heating system this winter, and my old parents are keeping warm in beds…

Read more: (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Why to identify the problem? Is it completely up to you? Who is caring for details?

You feel something is fundamentally wrong in your lifestyle, your business, the company you are working with…

And you can feel that uneasiness is shared by colleagues, your extended family…

And nobody is willing to investigate the problem.  A few have sensed a major problem is pervasive and destroying the spirit, the communication among peers, employees…and nobody dare explode the problem to the open air:  They have settled on an understanding that there are no alternative solutions before trying to identifying the problem or set of problems.

Generally, serious problems are not of technical nature:  Technical difficulties have a large pool of professionals to fine tune and resolve in the short-terms, just to keeping business rolling.

The cancer is in the work culture, the social and community structure that are preventing brave spirits to taking the lead and sacrificing their comfort zone and jobs in order to focusing on identifying the problem.

The main difficulty is how  to:

“Put yourself and your people on a path to finding problems without regard for whether or not they are capable of solving them”.

The process of “Queue the problems up, prioritize them and then go find the help your organization needs to solve them…” is not as difficult as the first phase: Queuing and prioritizing are within the technical nature of problems…

Often, we’re hesitant to identify a problem out of fear we can’t solve it. Knowing that we have to live with something that we’re unable to alter gives us a good reason to avoid verbalizing it, and highlighting it just makes it worse.

While this sort of denial might be okay for individuals, as a survival tactics just to get by for a period, it’s a lousy approach for organizations of any size. That’s because there are almost certainly resources available that can solve a problem if you decide it’s truly worth solving.

Serious problems are people related and are of longer-term natures, the time to re-educate, retrain, infusing a cooperative spirit, a sense for caring to details…

Actually, a culture for caring to details is the main hurdle to overcome:  Until almost every member in the company, the extended family, and the community acquire this culture of being responsible to the details of any task assigned to him, we should not expect general recommendations and orders to have any major impact.

Just because you don’t know what to do about it doesn’t make it less of a problem.

Unless the culture of tending to details becomes habit things will frequently fray around the edges.

Often it’s the CEO or the manager who sets a standard of caring about the details, but this constant watch from the superiors and supervisors are no long-term substitute to the culture where everyone cares, and where each person reinforces that horizontally throughout the team.

Two hotels or two institutions offer the same services for the same price, but with various qualities and satisfaction to clients and consumers. It is not the price or the nature of the business that are making this huge difference in clients satisfaction: It is how the business  gets the details right.

“It’s obviously not about access to capital (doing it right doesn’t cost more). It’s about caring enough to make an effort.”

If we define good enough sufficiently low, we’ll probably meet our standards. Caring involves raising that bar to the point where the team has to stretch.

There are plenty of “great excuses” to neglecting details:  Times are tough, money is tight, the team wasn’t hired by me, nobody else cares, I’m only going to be doing this gig for a year, our customers are jerks… who cares?

Caring, it turns out, is a competitive advantage, and one that takes effort, not money.

Like most things that are worth doing, it’s not easy at first and the one who cares isn’t going to get a standing ovation from those that are merely phoning it in.  The lack of early positive feedback makes caring in service businesses so rare.

Our daily harsh reality is that “It’s completely up to you”

So many things are now completely up to us, more than ever before. Where and how and when we work and invest and interact and instruct and learn…

If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now, you’ve already made a serious error.

Passing the buck because it’s easier than choosing is precisely the wrong strategy.

It enables an abdication of power that will be very hard to reverse. It’s up to you, and that’s part of the power that you’ve got. Choose, pick an alternative: That’s your job.

It is in human nature to lack focus on issues they are not passionate about.  The group leader main job is to tactfully attend seriously to diverging topics, such as alternative solutions to yet non-identified problems, and to  encourage the group to refocus on identifying the problem first.

The longer the identification phase for a problem, the shorter the phase for applying and executing valid solutions.

It is a long process to getting the group members to frequently concentrate on the identification phase, and the various valid extended solutions on the ways will be considered as “matter of fact”, as common sense resolutions, due mainly to the protracted process.

Note:  This post was inspired from 3 short notes of Seth Godin “Solving problems (vs. identifying them)”, “It’s completely up to you”, and “Who cares?” and I transformed them into a unifying concept with ramifications.

Couples and families prohibited to living together: This is the new law in Israel

In 2003, the Israeli Knesset enacted a series of laws prohibiting couples and families with Israeli citizenship who married to non-Jewish people originating from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan…from living together in Israel.

Even Jewish citizens who married to non-Jews from the set of “enemy countries” have difficulties living together, and are under constant threat of being separated, at the whim of the military administrative officer order in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza…

These couples and families have been denied permission to meet and celebrate under the “Law of citizenship and entrance to Israel

Since then, Israel “Supreme Court” has refused all petitions to amending and revisiting this law.

Since 2006, the Knesset decided to expand this law to including many other States deemed “unfriendly” with Israel.

Ten of thousands of families are living separate and are prohibited to rejoin.  Couples who decided to live within Israel proper are not given any guarantees for any kinds of steady and stable conditions for staying united and raising a family together.

This discriminating law is not found in any other States recognized by the UN.

This law is one of the last straws indicating the racist and apartheid nature of Zionism.

This law is smack within the “soul of Israel” which states: “More lands for far less Palestinians” and “Conducting preemptive policies to preserving the dominance of Jewish demography in the occupied lands”

These colonial policies within Israel is not new, but they have been rooted deeper and deeper in the last two decades, and made explicit by laws.

Recently, Israel has been expanding its settlements in the Negev (Naqab) desert, dismantling and erasing nomad towns and displacing the bedouins…

Thirty years ago, Israel “imported” Ethiopian “Jews” by cargo planes.  Since then, the Ethiopian Israeli citizen Jews have been subjugated to all kinds of discriminations, relegated to a third class citizens in all aspects of social and political facilities and positions. 

The Ethiopian Israeli Jew, Amir Ghethoun, wrote in the Hebrew daily Yedehot Ahronot:

I know that in the settlement of Keryat Malakhy, a group of people in the quarter of Bar Yehuda has explicitly displayed their resentments saying: “We don’t sell to Ethiopians. You recognize that a block is inhabited by Ethiopian from the stench. They are robbers.  They plant their tents in the middle of the street. They slaughter a cow and start cooking as they did in Ethiopia…

Ethiopian Jews have been blatantly discriminated against and treated as third class citizens in all social and administrative facilities…

There are no laws in Israel controlling and administering to discrimination cases. Whenever such a law exist, it is never applied...”

Discrimination in Israel is pervasive.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Ashkenazi class of citizens  considered all the other Jewish citizens as second class citizens.

The Ashkenazim Jews are not Semite, but mostly slavic people who adopted the Jewish religious laws governing daily customs and traditions and instituted a Kingdom in the Caucasus region that was dismantled in the year 900 and the people dispersed in Eastern Europe, living in shtetl, and inventing a new language based on the German language.

Two decades ago, the Semite Jews have been infiltrating the political scenes and the army and imposing the ancient religious daily customs.  In fact, four Jewish sects in Israel do not recognize Israel as a State: They reject the Israeli citizenship and demand to be mentioned as Jews, on the premise that only their Jewishness is representative of their status…

For examples, the extremist ultra-orthodox Jewish sects of Habad (the Lubavitch branch), Hasidim of Gour, Toldot Aharon (based in the colony of Mea Shearim), and Neturi Karta (and the radical sicairs) are mostly “anti-zionist” movements that demand the dismantlement of the State of Israel.

These sects are labelled the “crasies for God” and they refuse to work for survival, but insist on the government to support their task of focusing on reading the religious books…

Note: Post inspired from an article by Antoine Shalhat (an Israeli Palestinian correspondent) to the Lebanese daily Al Nahar, and the French weekly “Le nouvel Observateur”

Arabs and Moslems are anti-Semite? How is it defined? Isn’t this statement ridiculous?

Last November, Zionism, for the first time, held a conference outside Israel and in Buenos Aires (Argentina) under the title “Modern antisemitism: Arabs and Moslems antisemitism behaviors…”.  The governors of the Jewish lobbies “for Israel” around the world attended this conference.  Among the Zionists “dignitaries” were Abraham DofDigani, Gosty Grabirman, Dan Meridor, Nathan Charensky…

It appears that the Zionists are very worried of the social platform medias and the facility of the Internet to spreading variations and opposite opinions to what Zionist wanted to have the main say in.  This new accessibility to audio-visual medium and the facilities to becoming not only receivers of information, but each consumer to be a producer of news is driving Zionists to the walls. 

Monopoly of major news medias is shifting to individual producers, customers willing to reflect, outsource and diversify their knowledge and viewpoints…

What? I thought that Near Eastern people and Arabs were classified as Semite by the Western civilization.  Or Zionism is taking the task of reclassifying people according to current political exigencies? 

Who but the successive Arabic Empires respected the Jews and permitted them to accede to the highest political and administrative positions in the Orient and in Andalusia?

What is Islam if not an extension to and an adaptation of the Jewish and Christian religions?

I received a developed comment from a reader to my blog that says:

“The more I research 9/11 and focus on getting to the bottom of the actual facts, the more I see that, invariably, when anyone points out anything about unethical or criminal activities of Israel or Israelis or Jews, regardless of whether these statements are cold, hard facts, or logical conclusions, that person is viciously attacked, fired, harassed, intimidated, threatened, and called “anti-semite,” even though the Israeli or Jewish  individuals named as perpetrators are almost always not of semite descent or indigenous semites, and the language may be devoid of any ethnic or derogatory slurs.

The paranoia and censorship and irrational venom directed toward anyone who simply states or investigates facts, revealing any Israeli or Jewish corruption as individuals or as an organization, is adding more veracity to the argument that the critics of said activities are reasonable in their assessment.

My native ancestors (US Indians) suffered a holocaust of over a hundred million, the largest in history, so I am familiar with genocide and have empathy for the Jews and anyone who has been unjustly subjected to racism and inhumanity and it is unthinkable to me that anyone could support the acts committed against them.

This is exactly why I do not support Israel or any Jewish person or Mossad in any criminal or deceptive act that inflicts those same atrocities upon others, and why it is necessary that there is a rational, unbiased presentation of any evidence that any country or group of people are involved in manipulating power, and money to control the wealth and sovereignty and freedom and well-being of MY people.

As natives, we are well aware of how the government and people who place foreign interests and exploitation above those of indigenous people lies and conspires to turn us against one another to divide us and conquer us.

The Boston Tea Party was the first false flag operation, where white invaders in our land disguised themselves as my ancestors to shift the blame onto us to achieve their agenda.

We are aware how the Europeans operate through subterfuge and lies. We were given smallpox-infested blankets by the government to kill us. The conspiracies to exterminate us started the day Columbus walked onshore.

We don’t call them “theories,” – we call it not making the same mistake again and trusting the white man. We don’t call that racist, we call it smart. We also claimed the right to defend our lands against any neighboring tribe or group who it became clear was working to destroy us, and we still do.

The Pueblos drove out the catholics and Spaniards who oppressed their people. The Apaches fought the Mexicans. The Lakota fought the Crow. This is not racism. It is anti-whoever makes themselves into your enemy.

It is the right of all people to identify any person or country or conspiracy of people who make war against them. Someone has deceived us into invading countries and killing people who never attacked us, and someone is responsible for the murder of every person killed as a result of 9/11 and the destruction of our economy and freedom.

If the Jew fits, wear it. If Muslim, Christian, white, black, Pakistan, German, American, male, female, native,  whoever it is, I am not afraid of information. We have corrupt tribal officials here, too, and just because we have been victims of racism doesn’t mean we have the right to defend them when they are exposed for crimes by calling everyone a racist who tells the truth.

Yes, there are some people who hate Jews for no reason. But the more I try to analyze the facts, the more evidence I see that some of the claims that Israelis (and Americans and others) are involved in suspicious and criminal activity related to 9/11 is apparently reasonable. They are welcome to leave.”  End of quote

Note: It is ironic that early Zionists suggested part of Argentina to be their “Homeland”, instead of Ouganda that England had suggested… The people in Argentina are very lucky not to suffer what the Palestinians have been suffering in genocide, humiliation, and indignities in the past 65 years of Zionism racism, apartheid, a crimes against humanity…

“Be the change you wish to see”: Back to TEDxBeirut?

 Count on Lebanese to review past event, like the TEDxBeirut that was held in late September.  This time around, it is worthwhile a serious recollection of this non-profit project that came through with flying color. It was a great event that required 6 months preparation and the exhausting last month, which prevented two dozens in the board from getting a couple of sleep daily. 

A few members in the organizing board had quit secure and well-paying jobs, a few risked being fired by spending work-hours doing something else other than their paying work, a few stacked up phone bills of around a $1,000, and a few shifted the entire focus of their consultancy towards a non profitable project.

I have posted four articles on TEDxBeirut, and on Jan. 23, YOUSSEF Chaker published his version of the event under “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Youssef wrote (with slight editing): “I told my co-founders and our interim board members to fuck off (a big deal for an entrepreneur who poured everything into his startup for the past year). The stories of individuals, sacrificing so much for this non-profit project, span the entire group of VOLUNTEERS that come from varied backgrounds (including different countries) who worked around the clock, for days on end, to bring to Lebanon an event of a different caliber.

TEDxBeirut wasn’t about the speakers and the big names featured on the program. The theme for TEDxBeirut 2011 was “From Limitation to Inspiration.” What people outside of the TEDxBeirut organizing team didn’t realize is that it was a theme for the journey the team went through.

TEDx events (x = independently organized TED event) are special no matter where they are held in the world, but in a country like Lebanon, organizing such an event comes with its own set of difficulties. Unless you are a well-known group or company backed by some good contacts, getting past the paperwork alone is an overreaching goal.

When Patsy thought out loud about organizing a TEDx event in Beirut, she was merely expressing a wish (maybe some event company would make it happen). Little did she know that she was going to be the one spearheading the effort to see her dream go from idea to reality. And this is why I say it was an event of a different caliber.

It wasn’t the major players and usual suspects who were behind the event,  but it was, according to many attendee testimonials, one of the best organized and professional events that people in Beirut have ever experienced.

TEDxBeirut Team Members Hard at Work
TEDxBeirut Team Members Hard at Work, Patsy, William, Marc…

Now why am I talking about an event that’s more than 3 months old? I promise you it will all come together at the end of this post. Bare with me as I take you through parts of the journey that will explain to you why if we ever talk about Lebanon, I might say something along the lines of “I live in a different Lebanon than you do!”

What I experienced during the days leading up to TEDxBeirut was only a fraction of what some people went through before I had joined. But I got the opportunity on many occasions to sit back and take a distant view of the behavior of the team members. It’s important to mention the HUGE differences on all levels among the people involved.

This organizing group was a typical Lebanese blend (makhlouta) like mixed nuts  in interests, skills, personalities, backgrounds, education, all of it was different. But the situation was atypical: There was a common goal. The entire team was working on a single goal, with no personal interest at all. We were all volunteers.

None of us was gaining anything from participating in this effort on a personal level. I saw people work their ass off, to put together a one day event in Lebanon, knowing that with the Lebanese mentality all they were going to get in return were complaints and criticism because the Lebanese are never pleased.

It didn’t matter, we were doing something that we cared about, that we wanted to see happen, and if others wanted to be part of it that would be great. Keep in mind, when Patsy started organizing the event, she meant it to be for about a hundred or so people. The expectation was bumped up to 300, and again to 800, to eventually get an 800 seated audience and about 200 other people sitting on the stairs in the theater or watching the stream in a different room (not to mention those who tuned in for the live stream on the web)!

Exposure, recognition, TV spots or seats in the parliament were never the objective, this time around.

I urge you to take a moment and let that last paragraph sink in. It might not impress you at first, you might think it’s weak, your reaction might be meh, so what, what a big deal… But take a moment to put it in perspective. We are talking about a “do it yourself” mentality coupled with a “do it FOR yourself, fuck everyone else” attitude…

I am an entrepreneur, I don’t mean to keep mentioning it just for the sake of rubbing it in, there’s a mindset at the root of it. It is important to understand that so much goes into planning an event of this caliber. It takes certain personality traits, but also education and culture to foster such a mentality, which is not the case for most people in the world (especially Lebanese people).

And not only is it not part of our upbringing, it’s also discouraged in favor of ‘secure’ jobs:  We are reminded most of the time that individuals not seeking stable secure jobs are different, geniuses, basically not us. With TEDxBeirut, the group of individuals who participated broke that mold. They showed that ideas belong to everyone, and the execution is as possible for the common person as it is for the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

TEDxBeirut created a platform and an opportunity for other members of the community to follow suit. Donner Sang Compter (Give Blood/Without Counting, a play on words) is an initiative, by student founder Yorgui Teyrouz, to promote blood donations in Lebanon in an organized and continuous manner and raise awareness about the importance of contributing. Yorgui During his Speech at TEDxBeirut

Yorgui Teyrouz talk at TEDxBeirut 

This same network of people were very important to Joanna Choukeir who wanted to get an ambitious project rolling called “Imagination Studio”.  Joanna said:

“The impact that TEDxBeirut had on this idea was inspirational! Straight after the talk, a queue of “imaginers” wanted to help bring the idea to life. At home my inbox was already loaded with sign-ups, and the twitter and Facebook accounts with mentions and messages.”

The Lebanese community is a very capable group of people who unfortunately have been dormant and passive for many years. But all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling and action starts happening: “Together, we moved from one idea – Imagination Studio – to 22 brilliant ideas that can be put in action right now, right here, with the support of voluntary teams!”

Imagination Studio happened, and an open call for volunteers took place for people to contribute in their own way and using their own expertise to solving a problem.  Joanna compiled a list of people interested in contributing along with the actionable ideas that need to be implemented. The effort is still in its beginnings.

I am sure many of the skeptics out there who are used to bringing down others who are pushing for change will say that nothing will come out of Imagination Studio. There might be plenty of obstacles and many discouraging days, but what TEDxBeirut has demonstrated is that the only obstacle between us and change is ourselves and our own doubt. Everything else can and will be overcome.

Imagination Studio FunImagination Studio Fun

The TEDx movement is hard to explain, and hard to explain in terms of impact, or for the business people out there in terms of ROI. But it does have the IT factor that you do experience once you take part. No wonder there’s a book being written about it by an author who’s traveled to a dozen or so countries in 2011 and attended about 30 TEDx events and will attend double that number in 2012.

At the moment, the efforts might be on a small-scale. But we have a blueprint for social change that can be the example and inspiration for others. One pretty well-kept secret, which I’m sharing with you right now, is TEDxSKE.

TEDxSKE is a weekly gathering where a bunch of us (not just TEDxBeirut team members) get together to watch TED and TED like talks (TEDxSKE is run by Patsy who is licensed by TED which is a requirement to run TEDx events, but any group can get together and do the same without using the TED name although the license is not hard to get).

TEDxSKE was the precursor to TEDxBeirut and has grown since then. The activity changes from one week to the other, usually around a certain theme. It is not limited to TED talks alone, it could be any idea worth sharing. Of course, the evening doesn’t stop at the video/talk level.

The highlight of these gatherings is usually the discussions or activities (games) that we participate in between talks. And the result varies from one person to the other. I can not claim to know the effect that TEDxSKE has on each and every one of us, not even on myself. As this is an ongoing thing, a process of growth for all of us.

I can tell you that I see the change in the others and they see it in themselves as well. Some of us are trying to find out who we are, why we are on this planet and what we are supposed to be doing. Others are looking to affect change. And a few are, for the first time ever, getting exposed to alternate points of view.

TEDxSKEers are discovering aspects of their own personalities that they did not know about themselves, broadening their horizon and challenging their beliefs. And trust me, this is not poetry or empty talk. This is paraphrased directly from the participants themselves. TEDxSKE is a collective of passionate and motivated people who are a support system for each other. Many of whom are or will be important pillars in the social entrepreneurship change in Lebanon in the coming years.

SKEers Participating in an Activity
TEDxSKEers Participating in an Activity at Patsy apartment in Awkar

It might be a tad bit early to talk about results and accomplishments, but it is not too late, nor too early to talk about inspiration or even a different kind of movement in a country that has not adopted the Tunisian or Egyptian model of the Arab Spring. So when you drive or walk around Beirut, and you think about the potholes, the traffic and the corruption that Lebanon represents to you, remember that there is another Lebanon. A Lebanon you are more than welcomed to be part of, where DSC and Imagination Studio are not just ideas and where Thursdays (replaced by Tuesdays) are for the spoken poetry and arts club… Such a thing exists, stay tuned for more details.

It’s another kind of Lebanon which promotes action over wishful thinking, local change over change of country of residency. Just remember, be the change you want to see in the world.

What Inspires You?
Examples of “What Inspires You in TEDxBeirut”?

The skipper-type.  Jennifer? Jo-Ann? Not Linda…Though very appropriate

It has been terribly cold these past two weeks,

Lebanon standard of cold.

We do enjoy central heating systems…

I cannot afford the fuel.

It is 2 am, and I am not sleepy, but cold is creeping in my bones.

I got inside my “warmer” bed, and could not sleep.

Memories flooding in, dispersing haphazardly, converging, diverging,

Refocusing on a beautiful face, a beautiful face I met 37 years ago.

It was winter of 1976.

A Friday, and about 8:30 pm.  Alone, I am to watch a foreign movie,

Shown by the University Film Club at the Microbiology department.

She showed up with her girlfriend. She is blonde, blue/green eyed, not tall, not skinny.

For my candid eyes, just the perfect beauty.

I cowered. I should have made haste, join her, and say: “Fair lady, have a good look at my face.

I need you to remember my face.

I need you to recollect that this face once told you

“You are the most beautiful girl around…”

The microbiology department, a stupid two flat floors, a couple of microscopes, and an auditorium.

The second “complex” by the Main Library, looking south,

The South long lawn, ideal for mass student demonstrations,

I used to demonstrate around it twice a week,  with a couple hundred of Iranian students,

Scanding: “Down with the Shah of Iran”, “Down with US imperialism“, Down with the Savak”…

Three years later, the Shah fled to exile.

Only Sadat of Egypt dared give him shelter.

No, I didn’t chicken out: I terribly lack conversational skills, and still do.

No, I didn’t chicken out: I had never carried out a conversation with a beautiful girl,

I didn’t understand girls, or human interconnection…

And time never came to the rescue in any important skills: It aches,

And the aches are exacerbated with time.

A couple of months later, I met her in my apartment.

I was returning at midnight from the library.

It was a cold night, and I must have biked or walked, no other alternatives.  And I had to piss badly and profusely.

I stepped out and this beauty had vanished like a mirage.

“Where is she?” I asked my room-mate Fouad.  “You know, the one I once told you was the most beautiful girl around that I met?”

Fouad looked me up in total surprise. “You mean Jennifer?”…

That’s another story: She was taking a pharmacy class with him…

Twelve years later, I met her at Zanzibar, a night club in the town of Norman.

She was sitting alone, at the bar, waiting for her new beau serving drinks,

She didn’t change a bit.

Twelve years later, and another round of “higher education” stint,

A stint that grew me old:

My Ph.D advisor told me: “At your age, I had married my three kids…”

And he didn’t look that old.

Some people mature fast and very soon.

Maturity? I am waiting for this phase to take a peek at me.

I am  the skipper-type:

From everlasting naive kid to rotten wise.

I sat by her and whispered her name: I could still recall her name.

I introduced myself and simply reminded her of the name of Fouad, my former room-mate.

She “recognized” me instantly.

Fouad must have told her about the devastating impression she made on me…

Count on a girl to retrieve a guy’s face, formed in a split-second,

Many years later, a face attached to “You are the most beautiful girl around…”

We had no conversation: She didn’t contribute.

She was selling pharmaceutical products…

I could have said: “Has one of the two bartenders invited you tonight? Are you intending to invite a particular bartender…?”

Any small talk, the most outrageous talk would have been swell…

This cavernous silence.  She didn’t change a bit

I bet, if I meet her again, another 37 years later, this girl will still be the same girl,

Unchanged, not a bit:

The eyes register the first impression,

And it was good.

My eyes: setting on the most beautiful girl around.

My eyes, refusing to sleep a wink tonight.

US Supreme Court on Presidential Contribution: “Unlimited spending on negative ads…”

The US citizens have been exercising successive pressures to limit the influence of money of the elite 1% class on selecting the candidates in campaign contributions.

It is obvious that money contribution selects the candidates for the final show down, on the assumption that it is the “people” who has the final say in selecting between the final two contenders of the two main parties.

For a century, there has been slow but steady improvements to reforming election contribution.  For example, Theodore Roosevelt prohibited in 1907 the large companies to directly contributing to candidates.  During the last Obama campaign, the little people amassed enormous cash flow with small amounts.

Lately, the Supreme Court butted in and upheld that “monetary contribution is a form of free expression…” such as free speech and writing of the richest citizens?

Sure, contributing money is a serious form of expressing opinions, but the Supreme Court took the extra step for codifying how the collected contribution should be spent. And what are the constraints?

The Supreme Court opened the door wide for establishing “Super PACS” with the specific purpose of collecting “unlimited” amount of contribution.  And what are the constraints?

First, the “Super PACS” must be “independent” of the campaign staff of the candidate.  Like, the head of the “Super PACS” that contributed $5 million to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina was his former spokesman…Most of that contribution was from a single rich person…

Second, all “Super PACS” contribution money should be spent on negative ads.  For example, the “Super PACS” can generate contributions from the rich in outside States, as long as the money is spent on negative images of the candidates in the other States…

Do you think the Supreme Court is being captured by the financial multinational liberal capitalists?

Something is going awry in this formation of the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court is another branch of the power-to-be, and if all the branches at a particular period converge on a consensus, dictatorship is well rooted.

Should the citizens start another campaign of Occupy the Supreme Court?

In any case, the people have this right, guaranteed by the Constitution and confirmed by Supreme Court to occupy the Court.

Note: Post inspired from an article by Hisham Melhem in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar

Killing for the thrill? Is that what soldiers serving in Iraq do?

Itzcoatl Ocampo is 23-year-old, a slender former Marine, and was considered a troubled man after he returned from Iraq in 2008.   Itzcoatl’s father, Refugio Ocampo, said that his son came back from his deployment a changed man:  his son expressed disillusionment and became ever darker as he struggled to find his way. After Itzcoatl was discharged in 2010 and returned home, his parents separated.  So what’s new here?

A neighbor, a Vietnam veteran, and Ocampo’s father both tried to encourage Itzcoatl to get treatment at a veterans’ hospital, but he refused.  The same month, one of Itzcoatl’s friends, a corporal, was killed during combat in Afghanistan, and Ocampo visited his friend’s grave twice a week.  Again, what’s new in this story?

A newspaper in SANTA ANA (California) reported “An Iraq war veteran charged with stabbing to death four homeless men in Southern California was a thrill seeker who took pleasure in killing his victims, prosecutors said Wednesday”.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters outside a jailhouse courtroom that 23-year-old suspect Itzcoatl Ocampo appeared lucid, calm and intelligent and showed no signs of mental illness.  Rackauckas said“He gets a thrill out of it. This is a serious, vicious killer who went out there intentionally going about killing people and terrorizing a whole area.”

Ocampo was charged Tuesday with four counts of murder and special allegations of multiple murders and lying in wait and use of a deadly weapon. Three victims were stabbed more than 40 times each, with a single-edged blade at least 7-inches (17-centimeters) long, authorities said.

After the brief hearing, defense attorney Randall Longwith declined to comment on the allegations and said his main concern was gaining access to Ocampo, who was being held in a medical ward, wearing only underwear and wrapped in a blanket designed to prevent him from hurting himself, and denied visitors.

Longwith told reporters: “We’re just concerned that he hasn’t really had access to an attorney or to anyone at this point.  He seems very scared.”

Ocampo was arrested Friday night when bystanders chased him down after a man was stabbed to death outside a fast-food restaurant in Anaheim, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. He was caught with blood on his hands and face. Authorities have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Ocampo will be given a psychological evaluation and is being held in isolation and monitored around the clock to prevent him from hurting himself or being harmed by other inmates, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the county sheriff’s department.

The killing spree began in December and prompted police to fan out across the county known as the home to Disneyland and multimillion-dollar beachfront homes to urge the homeless to sleep in groups or in one of two wintertime shelters.

Police allege that Ocampo would stalk each of his victims, then stab them repeatedly with a knife that could cut through bone. He selected his last victim, 64-year-old John Berry, after he was featured in a Los Angeles Times story about the killing spree, prosecutors said.

Berry filed a police report the day before he died, saying he feared he was being stalked, but officers didn’t have a chance to follow up amid a flood of nearly 600 leads and tips.

“It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to him before the suspect did,” Anaheim Police Chief John Welter said.  Like the homeless men Ocampo is accused of preying on, Itzcoatl’s father is also homeless. His father lost his job and ended up living under a bridge before finding shelter in the cab of a broken-down big-rig he is helping to repair.

Days before his arrest, Ocampo visited his father, warning him of the danger of being homeless. He showed him a picture of one of the slain men, his father said. “He was very worried about me,” his father said. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. I’m a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.'”

Note 1

Note 2:  Associated Press writer Kevin Freking in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.




January 2012

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