Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 2012

Are Palestinians an “Invented People”? And Israel, how was it created?

I received a developed feedback from a reader, probably from a collection of posts on Palestine, and I decided to publish it, with minor editing.
“The name “Palestine” has been around for a long time. “Peleset” is transliterated from Egyptian hieroglyphics “P-l-s-t”. Palestine is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighboring people or land starting from around 1150 BC.
The “Philistine” States existed concurrently with the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, above the coastal plain between Jaffa and south to Gaza. This supposed Kingdom of Israel never contemplated reaching the seashore.
In the 5th Century BC, Herodotus wrote of a “district of Syria, called Palestine”. About a century later, Aristotle described the Dead Sea in Meteorology and located it in Palestine:
“Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it, it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salty that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them.”
This writer frequently engaged in debates with Zionists (a bad habit I need to kick out!) who often tend to seize on small ideas, such as “When did the Palestinians ever have their own country?”
In order to win such an argument I would have to reduce myself to their terms, and produce a map that shows a country and borders: “Palestinian Kingdom, 1587- 1702”, and then let them present their map of ancient Israel and Judah, and then get into a wrestling match, and the winner would claim the territory of their own. 
Or perhaps the issue would be better settled the way the New York colony won Staten Island from New Jersey: with a boat race.
If the goal is exclusivity, as it always has been with Zionism, then the only criterion in achieving it is winning, whether a war or a race.
There was no 17th century Palestinian Kingdom, or 18th or 19th. There were, prior to Allied victory in World War I and the League of Nations “mandates”, which granted European powers control of the region.
Various provinces in a larger Ottoman empire, ruled from Istanbul (previously known as Constantinople, and before that, Byzantium), much as there are today various American States governed from Washington.
Objectors will cry “Foul!”, as Americans are governed by Americans in Washington, whereas Arabs were governed by Turks, a different ethnic group with a different language.
Fine. So I modify my comparison to the Spanish speaking Puerto Ricans governed from Washington, or the French speaking Quebecois governed from Ottawa. Neither the Puerto Ricans nor the French Canadians are being ethnically clean.
Prior to Zionism, there was no need for the Arabs of Palestine to focus on Palestinian identity. They were citizens of the Ottoman Empire. When, during the mandate years the British made contradictory promises to the Zionists and the Arabs, and the Arabs expected, and had the right to expect, eventual self-rule, it was certainly not a foregone conclusion that there was going to be an independent Palestine.
Palestinians might well have been a part of a larger South Syria, or of a Greater Syria, and happily so. They certainly would not have been ethnically cleansed under those circumstances. The Arabs of Palestine have always had their own distinct Arabic dialect, and various other cultural attributes that set them apart from other regional Arab cultures, but that was never particularly relevant.
Many various subcultures existed within the Ottoman Empire, and continued to exist within British and French mandates. Interestingly, during the years of the Yishuv, the pre-Israeli-statehood, Zionist community in Palestine and Jewish-Zionist settlers called themselves “Palestinians”.
In this way, the Zionists ironically affirmed the thing that many of them wish now to deny: Palestinian identity. In 1948, amid the massacres and military forced mass expulsions of the “nakba” (Arabic for catastrophe, the name commonly given to the events of 1948), as the State of “Israel” was recognized by the UN by a majority of a single vote, all of the Jews who had been calling themselves Palestinians became “Israelis”.
When the dust cleared after expelling the Palestinians from their towns and villages, the Arabs who remained within the green line became “Arab Israelis”, like it or not.
The designation “Palestinian” was more actively embraced beginning in 1964, with the forming of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), this out of necessity, because a people who had been ethnically cleansed, who were in a state of shock and humiliation, and who were desperate to recover and regain what was rightfully theirs, found it useful to rally around symbols representing themselves: A name and a flag are two of the basics.
Golda Meir famously said in 1969, during her tenure as Israeli prime minister;
“There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian State? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
I would not have been able to show Golda a map that says “Kingdom of Palestine” or “Grand Duchy of Palestine” or any of dozens of designations that might have satisfied her. But this I can say for sure: There were human beings on that land, and they had been there all their lives, and their families for many generations before them down through the centuries.
And many Palestinians were actually descended from ancient Jews who later converted to Christianity and Islam, while our ancestors, Golda’s and mine, the Ashkenazi Jews, were converting to Judaism in the Khazar Kingdom on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Golda actually knew and the information, which has become available to the general public in the decades since, that: We Jews did come and throw them out and take their country away from them. It’s been thoroughly documented. It wasn’t when she made this statement in 1969.  
Golda was able to get away with it then. But since an entire generation of Jewish-Israeli scholars, (and many others, but we Jews need to hear it from Jews first!) has carefully documented the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and presented the history that she personally knew, but actively hid and denied.
Golda and her colleagues concealed the truth from Jewish supporters of Israel all over the world including my family, who taught me lies quite innocently, because they didn’t know any better.
In 1984 a book written by Joan Peters, entitled From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine, was released to the world. The book claimed that the Palestinians were not resident in Palestine long-term, but were recent arrivals, having come to take advantage of economic opportunities in Palestine which were largely the result of Zionist Jewish settlement.
What a perfect way for us Zionist Jews to massage ourselves (I was one at the time!) and drive a wedge between ourselves and the growing awareness about Palestine in the world around us! So it really was a “land without people for a people without a land”! Those Arabs were all immigrants!
And how ungrateful that the Palestinians hate us after all the opportunity we gave them! A wave of related claims surfaced among the Zionist community. An essay by Mark Twain describing his touring of a sparsely populated 19th century Palestine, was offered up into the mix of “Palestinian-denier” evidence.
Twain, whose writing was full of humorous and ironic opposition to human bullshit, was no doubt rolling in his grave over this. And claims were often heard that prominent Palestinians, from Edward Said to Yassir Arafat, were “not really Palestinian”.
Enter another book, in 2003, The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz. In case 19 intervening years had given anyone a memory lapse since the publication of Peters’s book, Dershowitz borrowed heavily from same, giving the same statistics and making the same conclusions.
Enter yet another book, but this one very different: In Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, published in 2005, Norman G. Finkelstein exposed Peters’s statistics as fraudulent, and with that revelation both her argument and that of Dershowitz, collapsed.
However, the damage is done among those who wish to ignore Finkelstein, and there are many! “Isn’t Finkelstein a holocaust denier?”, I’ve been asked. I respond: “No. His parents were holocaust survivors.”
Zionists have long used a familiar tactic against those who challenge their propaganda: Defamation. And so the lies persist. This writer still has people putting From Time Immemorial in his face to prove their argument. They refuse to be embarrassed.
At the time of this writing (January 2012), the American public is being treated to an entertainment we get every four years: the run up to our presidential election. As the Democratic candidate will obviously be the incumbent, we are witnessing the Republican candidates claw at each other in their striving to win support for the Republican nomination.
Enter a billionaire Jewish American Zionist named Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and the 8th wealthiest American alive, who along with his wife has donated $10 million to candidate Newt Gingrich. Adelson, whose holdings include the Israeli newspaper Israel HaYom (Israel Today) made some interesting statements while in Israel at an Israel Media Watch event in 2010:
“I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back– his hobby is shooting – and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF.”
“All we (the Adelson family) care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart.
Does it sound like this guy has “divided loyalties?” Maybe like the Jewish neocons in the Bush administration who got us to fight a proxy war for Israel in Iraq? No- you can’t say that! It would be “anti-Semitic”!
So is it any wonder that Newt Gingrich has made the utterly incorrect and profoundly idiotic statement that he has made about the Palestinians being an “invented” people? It has nothing to do with any education on the subject of the history, or any awareness of the current situation. 
It’s simply a question of wanting to win, and of reiterating nonsense he has heard in conversations with a very rich and generous supporter, nonsense which jives with the general impressions that Americans get from our Zionist-controlled media, and that no doubt circulate in Gingrich’s Republican circles. Does anyone think Gingrich has read Finkelstein? I doubt it! And if he did, would he turn down $10 million in favor of truth and justice?
The people native to the land of Palestine were not “invented” as Rich Siegel said, and foolishly repeated by Newt Gingrich . It is indeed unfortunate that someone who is supposedly educated, and who has achieved position in life where he is poised to potentially become the next president of the United States, is putting forth such foolishness

Recklessly abused your ears: And suffering from “Acouphenes”?

What they share? Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend (the Who guitarist), Barbara Streisand…all suffer greatly from hearing noises, an irreversible hearing ailment called “Acouphenes” in French.

All these musicians and singers attended countless extremely loud concerts, as loud as jet taking-off at 130 dB, and they spent at least 10,000 hours in practice sessions wearing directly loud earphone-kinds over their ears, and ruined their ear physiology…

At least, these famous musicians made plenty of money in returns for “hearing noises”, but why most youth are engaged in ruining their hearing, listening to loud music, full volume, via their MP3-type earphones, for hours on?

Acouphenes has becoming an epidemic in the last 3 decades, and increasing exponentially. A patient started hearing voices after a visit to his dentist. The metal mixture of his tooth filling played the role of radio antenna

Maybe there are other  “antenna culprit” in a few of these noise hearing cases that physicians never had taken seriously or occurred to their one-dimensional minds, but hearing noises is a debilitating phenomena that drive people mad, and eventually to committing suicide…

Any cures for hearing noises?

If your acouphenes syndrome is recent, there is a new treatment.  Acouphenes is the symptom of permanently hearing background noises or repeated beats that may drive patients crazy.  The majority of patients hear high frequency noises that become intolerable.

Getting old is one major factor, or a sudden loud bang, or recently the constant listening to the MP3 type gadgets.  It is known that high dozes of aspirin induce temporary symptoms of acouphene:  It is due to the active component salicylic.

The new treatment for recent patients is a first breakthrough in reducing or eliminating background noises for three weeks. A micro-pump is being readied to allow the patient at home to inject the solution when noises reappears.  The solution of gacyclidine is administered to the proximity of the “round window” in the inner ear; then the solution leaks in to the junction of the cochlea and then to the auditory nerve.

A catheter pierces the tympani membrane and then reaches to the “round window”.  A few surgeons actually pierced the “round window” with very thin needles.

Gacyclidine is generally used on patients suffering cerebral trauma; this substance has neuro-protective properties that blocks nerve dysfunctions.

For “ancient” acouphenes patients, electro-magnetic treatments are being tested to stimulate the auditory brain through a process of “re-organization”.  The patient listens to recorded specific sounds for about 6 months.

Refrain from loud close ear direct listening of music, and give your ears frequent breaks.  You don’t need to be listening to music all the time; remedy this music addiction behavior to ward off crazy noises.

Note: For further description of the symptoms and the other treatments link to my previous post Hearing Voices

Anthropologists poking at Capitalism? With the Four-Field Manifesto? Part 1

Anthropology documents human possibility, and demonstrates that the “way things are” is not the way things must be. Anthropologists do not need to support market-capitalism at any costs:  This prevalent need to believe capitalist’s fairy tales of power and allure.

What kinds of fairy tales that capitalists dump on us?  

The premises of the market-capitalist religion are:

  1. Humans are naturally greedy-selfish.
  2. Capitalism harnesses greed and selfishness for productive dynamism.
  3. Capitalism successfully delivers the goods.
  4. Capitalism is invincible.

I have read a lengthy article by a team of anthropologists, and I will split it into two parts, with minor editing.

The first part is to refute the claims of triumph and inevitability of capitalists, and the second part on how Capitalism has not delivered the goods

“Anthropologists recognize the U.S. does not have a functioning government. Officials who have signed pledges to never increase taxes–even as they bemoan deficits; officials who refuse to consider jobs programs–even after years of unemployment; this is no longer a functioning government capable of acting on behalf of the governed.

What is this Moral Optimism? Michel-Rolph Trouillot wrote: “We owe it to ourselves and to our interlocutors to say loudly that:

1.  We have seen alternative visions of mankind and we know that the alternative economic growth constructs as the ultimate human value may not be the most respectful of the planet we share, nor the most accurate, and  nor the most practical.

2. We owe it to ourselves to say that it is not the most beautiful and nor the most optimistic”.

A specter is stalking Capitalism–the specter of Anthropology. All the Powers of Capitalism have bound themselves in a crusade against this spectre: the Florida Governor and the U.S. President, Dominique-Strauss Kahn and the IMF, Wall Street and Congress.

Trouillot resumed:

“Anthropology knows that what currently exists does not have to be.

Anthropology knows more about capitalism than any other academic discipline.

Anthropology needs to make “an explicit claim to the moral optimism that may be this discipline’s greatest appeal and yet its most guarded secret”

It is high time that the Anthropologists openly set forth before the whole world their perspective, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this fairy tale about Capitalism with a Four-Field Manifesto.

To this end, Anthropologists of the most diverse nationalities and sub-fields assemble on open threads like Academia and #OWS, informing the following Manifesto.

On the fairy tale of capitalist triumph and inevitability:

One mistake of  The Communist Manifesto was to accept the claims on Capitalism four premises. Its first chapter reads:

“The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, making river-traffic possible, whole populations conjured out of the ground–what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?”

Marx and Engels portray capitalism as a revolutionary and inevitable force, and communism as a further inevitable revolution. Later, in the reflective-historical mode of the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx was much more circumspect about the influences of past traditions, the complexities of class analysis, and the non-inevitability of historical transformations.

Anthropology cannot make the mistake of accepting the capitalist fairy tale. We must challenge each part of the fable. Trouillot wrote:

“When powerful financiers, politicians, and economists tell billions of humans that they should adopt the market as sole social regulator, anthropologists are well placed to show that what is presented as a logical necessity is actually a choice”

Fortunately anthropology has a four-field rebuttal to the four parts of the fable.

Part 1. Biological Anthropology: Humans are not naturally greedy-selfish

Greed and selfishness are certainly present across human groups and our non-human primate relatives. But this does not mean greed and selfishness are any more fundamental to human nature than altruism or empathy, as Sarah Blaffer Hardy demonstrates in Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding.

As Daniel Lende writes in a beautiful and moving post Why We Protest:

“Our sense of fairness, and the human emphasis on cooperation and reciprocity, is something with deep evolutionary roots, to chimpanzees and Capuchin and beyond, and yet uniquely developed in humans so that we can do it in generalized ways.”

Biological anthropology reveals primate plasticity, variability, and flexibility. We are not programmed for any particular kind of life, a point I hope emerges from the fatherhood and testosterone studies: It is not that men are biologically programmed for fatherhood, or women for motherhood, but that our abilities and biological capacities emerge within a process of development.

Tim Ingold wrote: “Human beings are not naturally pre-equipped for any kind of life; rather, such equipment as they have comes into existence as they live their lives, through a process of development. And this process is none other than that by which they acquire the skills appropriate to the particular kind of life they lead”

Mankind, even as they might be bio-culturally reinforced and developed, depend a great deal on context. Someone marked as greedy in one context can be quite altruistic in another. The values we ascribe to particular contexts can make all the difference. This is a further contribution of biological anthropology–questioning all those just-so stories about gender relations and domesticity, lately served up by evolutionary psychology, and rightly taken to task in posts like Kate Clancy’s Mate magnet madness.

Even Adam Smith, falsely enlisted by fairy-tale capitalism as the defender of self-interest, saw a buffer in the idea of sympathy, that other human beings take the role of a moral spectator. In fact, what Adam Smith viewed as the essential human characteristic of sympathy is quite like what Hardy describes as evolutionary empathy.

The world needs biological anthropology and primatology more than ever before: we can have our disagreements about testable hypotheses, the precise role of biology in the patterns of human behavior, the degree of hierarchy in non-human primate societies–but we can agree humans are not by nature programmed to be greedy and selfish, not by nature condemned to the vast inequalities of contemporary capitalism.

Back to Lende: “Chimpanzee society does not function on 1% versus the other 99%. Life does not function that way.”

Part 2. Archaeology: Countering dynamism with sustainability

The second part of the capitalist fairy tale is how capitalism harnesses natural greed to purposes of productive dynamism. The Communist Manifesto over-celebrates this dynamism, ascribing to capitalism incredible transformation and constant revolution. We can now look historically and see other periods of non-capitalist dynamism: there were many who admired Russia in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, or Cuba in the 1960s because these regimes seemed to deliver more rapid economic development and dynamism than capitalism.

But these systems withered, and today are not a counterpoint to capitalist dynamism.

Fortunately, anthropology has archaeology, which gives us a long-range perspective on dynamism. McAnany and Yoffee in Questioning Collapse wrote:

“Can anyone say that the present balance of economic and political power will be the same in 2500 as it is today? For example, in the year 1500 some of the most powerful and largest cities in the world existed in China, India, and Turkey.

In the year 1000, many of the mightiest cities were located in Peru, Iraq, and Central Asia. In the year 500 they could be found in central Mexico, Italy, and China. . . . What geographic determinism can account for this? Is history a report card of success or failure?

Whereas capitalism has been dynamic for 100-200 years, archaeology shows us incredibly diverse and dynamic societies, flourishing and ebbing, sometimes over a 700-800 year span.”

Archaeology invites us to consider sustainability. For example, what will the balance of economic and political power be in 2500? Or can our planet endure 500 more years of capitalist dynamism?

At present trend we could be facing vast species death and massive dislocations. Jared Diamond was surely wrong about agriculture as the Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race, but industrial capitalism is looking very much like the worst mistake in human history, as it continues to take us to the brink of global annihilation.

As Questioning Collapse rightly demonstrates, we do not need to stress the Collapse of ancient societies–many of which feature remarkable long-run resilience, creativity, and non-capitalist dynamism–in order to question our present course.

The world needs archaeology more than ever before. We may disagree on process’s versus post-processual approaches or the comparability of complex societies–but we can agree on the need for a long-term archaeological perspective to counter the extreme short-term horizon of contemporary capitalism.

With respect to the specifics of our political-economic situation and the condition of capitalism, anthropology urges:

  1. That poverty and inequality–globally and regionally–be placed at the forefront of policy agendas.
  2. Progressive income taxes and taxes on conspicuous consumption, with revenue devoted to a true national healthcare system: Medicare-for-All.
  3. Increasing inheritance taxes and other measures addressing wealth inequalities, with revenue devoted to prenatal care, infant nutrition and early childhood education. Particular attention to the ongoing racism manifest in infant-mortality disparities.
  4. Abolition of off-shore tax havens, declaration of all income from investments, and full enforcement of capital-gains taxes, with revenue devoted to reparations.
  5. Regulations on credit and banking so the financial industry becomes a boring sector dedicated to allocating investment, not a glamorous parade of outsized returns. Make banking boring again.
  6. Investment in mass-transit and regional infrastructure to provide alternatives to individual automobiles.
  7. An agricultural plan to phase out subsidies for mono-cropping, to encourage environmentally-sustainable farm management, and eliminate the tariffs harming the world’s poorest farmers.
  8. A true jobs program to increase employment, with work targeted toward infrastructure improvement and environmentally-sensitive retrofitting. Consideration of measures such as reducing the work week in order to address contradictions of a high unemployment rate coupled to overwork by the employed.
  9. Comprehensive immigration reformto bring rationality and humanity to a broken system.
  10. Investment in education to create truly informed citizens. An educational system based on human holism, not just mono-dimensional economic efficiencies…

Anthropology has expertise and knowledge about each of these issues. Anthropologists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their objectives can be attained only by breaking the shackles of tradition.

Franz Boas in “An Anthropologist’s Credo, 1938)” wrote:

“In fact, my whole outlook upon social life is determined by the question: how can we recognize the shackles that tradition has laid upon us? For when we recognize them, we are also able to break them”.

Wallerstein wrote in The End of the World As We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-First Century: “There is nothing to lose but our irrelevance. We can make the world less unjust; we can make it more beautiful; we can increase our cognition of it”

The life expectancy of irrelevance tends to be short. More courageous and healthier is the acknowledgment of the many dead ends within the human disciplines brought about or brought to light by current global transformations, including the death of utopia. Trouillot wrote:

“We might as well admit that all the human sciences may need more than a facelift; most will be deeply modified and others, in their current institutional shape, might disappear. As the world changes, so do disciplines”

Anthropologists and allies of all lands unite!

Note 1: Most excerpts were borrowed from the Findlay edition

Note 2: You may read Class Theory or Class Analysis? A Reexamination of Marx’s Unfinished Chapter on Class

Note 3:  You may read Rosemary Joyce Don’t Know Much About History, Don’t Know Much Anthropology…

And Alex Golub at Savage Minds In America education should produce citizens, not workers.

How powerful are consumers? Demonstration in a few examples

I have watched recently documentaries on the power of consumers in action and a book of interviews with famous brand designers.

There are two professors at Berkeley, and they form a team to coming to the rescue of engaged consumers who want safe and healthy products…

One of the professor is in charge of examining and investigating the toxic and poisonous ingredients, and the other professor handle the data-base and the online internet program that evaluate and rank products on a scale of 1 to 10 according to their health content and environmental quality…

For example, a serious consumer goes to a supermarket and take a picture of the ingredients and then check the value-rank of the product as designed by the Berkeley teamAny product lower than 7 for example is discarded for a better healthy quality product…

Maven, those people who are addicted to gathering knowledge and information and disseminating what they know, like this consumers taking pictures of products, were rare a couple of decades ago.  Currently, Mavens are increasing exponentially due to the affordable ease to use tools to connect fast and efficiently to internet data-bases and social platforms.

Modern mavens are putting the heat on corporations to change their habit and culture. Corporations are being flooded with angry feedback on their less than satisfactory quality products.

Amazingly, corporations are buying this validation system from the Berkeley team and other ready data-bases doing the same work of evaluating products, and doing their best to interchanging harmful ingredients with safer substitutes.

This system is spreading in the US and in Europe.

A few years ago, designer and advertiser guru Alex Bogusky developed the Eco-Index to measure everything about a product by computing a sustainability score.  This Eco-Index is an open-source index.

Alex Bogusky recalls that, as a Miami kid, he lived on Burger King Whoppers “Burger King, yeah! McDonald’s, screw them!”  And Burger King’s products were no longer different from McDonald’s: “Corn and soy get cut up and sliced and diced up, and turned into tasteless beef system…”

Alex Bogusky created FearLess Cottage to in order to change the equation to: “In exchange for my dollar, I demand from the corporation a transparent look at how “you behave and how you create this product…” Building consumer awareness and giving him the easy tools to investigating the health, safety, and ecological nature of a product will vastly increase the expectations from a relationship with a corporation…

The other example is the proliferation of “Connectors“, those rare species who have the capability to connect to vast network of people and clients.

Four years ago, a 30 year-old guy from San Francisco got an idea and decided to apply it. He visited his local small supermarket and struck a deal with the owner: “Listen, your lighting and freezing systems are archaic and need to be replaced by energy-saving systems.  I can flood your shop with plenty of customers, and in return you invest a quarter of your revenue generated during that day in renovating your energy system…”

At the marked day, people responded to the call.  Consumers even drove an hour just to join the line outside the street in order to transform an energy waster of a supermarket into an ecological and sustainable outlet.

In Texas, an engaged consumer bring with her a team of specialized contractors in lighting and cold spaces.  Once the client agree on a deal to renovate, the contractors get into action: a win-win situation for everyone concerned.

This idea is spreading in Europe as a wild-fire.

A new Constitution for Syrians: 58% of eligible voters participated and 89% of them said YES

The Constitution the Syrian were invited to vote on in this referendum is a “heavy book” of about 80 pages, and very comprehensive. Many clauses target the workers rights, syndicates, rights for education, for health care…and many wishes that were available and decently extended, before Bashar Assad decided to privatize national enterprises and hand them out to his family members, military officers, and oligarchic element of the regime…

The main clause is the abolition of the “one-party Baath” dictatorship and substituted by multi-party “democratic process”.  The clauses relevant to Islam Sharia considered as an important source for laws, and the President to be Moslem were unchanged.

I would have loved to see these religious clauses eliminated from the Constitution  so that the referendum would exhibit the deeper secular nature of the Syrian society.  This opportunity was missed in order to validate the claims of the Syrian intelligentsia that the Syrian people are mostly secular.  The French ambassador has written a report claiming that “Islam fundamentalists” can barely secure 15% of the vote, and this claim will not be validated for the time being.

Since the Constitution can be reviewed and modified after 18 months, I expected the Constitution to take a good risk for evaluating the secular tendencies in Syria by abolishing two clauses most preponderant in most Arabic States that have a supposed Constitution like in Tunisia and Egypt and Iraq…It was an excellent opportunity to alleviate the fear of religious minorities who constituted 20% of the Syrian population and sending the strong message that “Syria is different from the other Arabic communities…”

Maybe the Syria and Near-Eastern intelligentsia (in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq) are more violent and more ideological in their behaviors than the ones in Egypt and Tunisia, but they are definitely different from the other Arabic intelligentsia…

There are two other very nasty clauses:

One: The President is elected for 7 years, and be re-elected for another term! Don’t you think that a 7-year stint will enable, even the most idot of president, to secure another term?  When a President has been in function for 14 years, isn’t that a strong precursor for dictatorship and stable oligarchic system?

Two: The President appoint the vice presidents who swear allegience to “Him”, and he names the Prime Minister, the ministers, the civil servants, and military officers…And he has the right to dissolve the Parliament, and to constitute the councils in the Parliament and define their tasks…And the President appoint the highest Supreme Court members, as well as the Constitution Council…What else lacks the Syrian President to be characterized as an absolute monarch?

Basically, the Syrian President will have qualitatively the same power as the US president, with the exception that it is not the Supreme Court (appointed by the US President) that is eligible to destitute the US President.

What the latest counts demonstrate? What that mean that 58% participated (about 8.4 million)?

The districts of Aleppo and Damascus (the least engaged in this uprising) constitute 50% of the population.  The other 50% are mostly Sunnis in Homs, Hama, and the districts at the extremities of the country.

In the best cases and best available conditions, less than 80% of the eligible voters participate.  Let us suppose that the voters in Aleppo and Damascus voted heavily, their contribution would account for 40% at best.  Thus, the remaining 18%, let’s say 20%, were Sunnis excluding the Sunnis living in Damascus and in the troubled regions.  Which means, less than 20% of who abstained from voting are those opponents refusing any political settlement or engaging in negotiations for a transitional government.

This referendum should be a valid basis for the western powers and the tiny absolute monarchies of the Arab Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia to desist carrying on their offensive push for military resolutions and sending arms to the opponents who refuse any negotiation…

The vast majority of Syrians have said it loud: “We want a negotiated political resolution”. Period.

The constitution is not serious in the kind of change expected, but Russia and China wanted the regime to demonstrate two things:

First, that the regime is in control of all the institutions capable of carrying out a referendum, and

Second, that the military of the regime is capable to putting down the armed uprising in Homs.

The Syrian regime of Assad has no alternative choices but to offer these two practical proofs of its viability.

For more details

After all “Who is a credible designer”?

I have read the interviews of about renown 22 designers of brands and products, and almost all of them said:

“A brand is a story, best if the story is telling an archetype mythical story that people are familiar with…”

“A brand is a promise, and experience…”

“A brand is joining a tribe of satisfied customers adopting common social values…”

“A brand is supposed to make you feel better, after enjoying the experience…”

“A brand must be human-centered…”

“A brand should send an authentic message…”

“A brand should be seductive to attract our short attention span…”

“Designers are excellent in pattern recognition and quickly ferret out what normal people skip in unusual situations…”

My position is that a success brand is wittily sending a daring message: “I challenge you to try this product…” People respond to daring challenges like the bitten Apple, the archetype mythical story of Adam accepting Eve challenge to try a state of consciousness…of the invitation of Nike to try sport…

The story is the witty means to conveying the daring proposition.  After the first experience with the product, it is no longer the brand responsibility, but the company sustainable promise to deliver good on the experience…

After all “Who is a credible designer”?

First, a designer must have a rich and varied background knowledge on the product, the history of the client company, the target users, their idiosyncracies, their particular culture…

Second, a designer is a modern “Renaissance Man” who dabbed in many artistic fields and was initiated to a variety of art production…

Third, a designer must conduct usability research with the targeted users..

Four, designers implicitly tap into the current sociopolitical ideology of value system and figure out where the balance is leaning (conservative or protest behaviors…)

A credible designer must be able to say to his client: “You cannot promise something you have no intention of delivering…Your product with fail and my brand will fail on its challenge and my name will be tarnished…”

A credible designer would say to his client: “You should not expect me to design a success brand that will provide jobs so that you fail on your deal to delivering better than expectation experiences…I am not interested in a project that will ruin the first experience, my name, and my credibility…”

A credible designer would say: “You need to negotiate, educate, and come forth as a force of change:  offering beautiful, accessible, affordable, safe and healthy products, friendly with the environment and exempt of toxic materials…”

A credible designer is not in the business of “art for art sake”: “I am designing in a human-centered mind, and I am not interested in a one-piece, museum product for downtown galleries…”

What of consumerism, power of consumers…? Any benefits when you let consumers lead?

Consumerism” was a term coined in the 60’s to mean a movement for protecting consumers and pressuring companies to caring for the safety and health of consumers in their products.

Currently, “Consumerism” connote over-consumption, the frenzy with which people keep buying things that they really don’t need or will rarely use. Actually, fans of a brand get very upset when it becomes mainstream…

Apparently, there is a Consumer’s Bill of Rights that was authored by John Kennedy in 1964, and this is an indication that relationship between company and consumers could evolve.

Companies have many more rights that individual citizens lack:  companies have limited liability, they have the right to give in unlimited ways to political campaigns, they can make an employee take a urine test…

Morning exercises at Ojom community primary school, Katine

Photograph: Dan Chung
If a company wants to bring about positive change, should it involve consumers from the outset?
Are consumers rarely engaged in developing a company’s social mission?
Is there any opportunity for higher benefits if business “gets it right” connecting with consumers in the beginning phases?

 Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton wrote on how companies can benefit if they let consumers lead:

“Few organisations are better at engaging their customers than businesses. Whether it is developing sophisticated insight into audience characteristics or top-quality customer service… the commercial sector still leads the field. Without it, individual businesses could not compete.

So it’s surprising that we don’t always see this level of engagement when businesses set their social missions.

While some do engage their customers, particularly those who must directly and regularly interact with consumers, the relationship is usually one in which business takes the leadership role.

For example, supermarkets stocking green products or utility companies encouraging households to save energy are positive signs. But they are relationships in which business is in the driving seat, with consumers being led – or “nudged” – into positive social change.

Letting consumers lead is something that the public sector is doing with increasing frequency and success.

Local (British) authorities and NHS organisations throughout the country have produced effective, innovative solutions, to issues as thorny as anti-social behavior, harmful drinking and energy efficiency, by engaging the public and letting them shape the agenda.

When we’ve worked with public sector organisations to help tackle difficult social challenges, each case has involved recognition that the people on the receiving end of an initiative cannot always be led into a solution.

If you really want to bring about positive change, you must involve your audience from the outset. By doing this, not only will you deliver social benefits, but create stronger customer relationships and more cost-effective services.

Our work with Barking and Dagenham council is one example.  Collaboration between residents and council staff led to improved waste disposal in the area. Rather than ask us to address a specific issue, our brief was to see how engagement with residents could uncover and solve local problems.

To do this, we developed a method called “conversations for improvement” (CFI), which involves engaging residents, listening to what they have to say and then bringing them together with council staff to co-create ideas for improvements. This approach led the council to find that some residents were confused about how to get rid of bulky waste.

Giving their customers a voice, and the chance to contribute and develop suggestions for how things could be improved, led to innovative ideas, a more effective service and cleaner streets. And beyond the immediate gains to the social environment, it also created a positive relationship between the council and local people. The council is now rolling out the CFI model in a number of localities.

The CFI model works because it enshrines consumer participation. It recognises that since people are experts in their lives and many of the problems that affect them, they should be allowed to contribute to the responses – especially when these involve expectations that they behave in a certain way.

So why don’t businesses tend to involve their customers in defining and devising social missions?

Is it because consumers don’t care or would prefer to be left alone?

Not according to Asda’s Julian Walker-Palin. And even if we accept that some consumers’ intentions to do more to improve society don’t translate into action, there remains a significant proportion of people who will act if they are engaged in the right way.

For example, the Co-operative Bank routinely empowers its customers to lead its social agenda by letting them vote on which courses of action it pursues.

There are other examples where degrees of consumer empowerment have led to a range of benefits for both business and the public.

The first of the seven “pillars” of Marks & Spencer’s acclaimed Plan A was “involving our customers”.

At a local level, Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, which allows customers to vote for the social initiatives pursued by individual stores, recently won the prime minister’s “big society” award.

Quentin Clark, Waitrose head of sustainability and ethical sourcing, told us that devolving decision-making has resulted in gains for customers, the business and the wider community. Clark said: “Not only does the scheme provide the obvious financial benefit to good causes and charities, but research shows that it also significantly raises our customers’ awareness of what goes on in their local area, helping them feel part of their community. Many of our customers choose to shop with us because they know that we are committed to doing the right thing, and research shows us that the scheme helps enhance our shoppers’ loyalty and trust in our brand.”

Given the opportunity and appetite for business to do well by doing good through consumer collaboration, why don’t we see more?” End of quote

Note:  Post inspired from “The benefits of letting consumers lead” by Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton for the Guardian Professional Network, on Monday 20 February 2012;

Mary Rose Cook and Zoë Stanton are co-founders and managing directors of Uscreates, and Toby Hopwood is a communications associate at Uscreates

“You buy into the experience first, then the product…” : Stanley Hainsworth

Stanley Hainsworth said in an interview with debbie Millman: ” Emotional connection is a repeated, reliable satisfaction of consumers wants, desires, or needs. Best brands work on the unconscious need: As the brand offers a little bit of higher performance fun, a connection is established.  Best brands create the “End-State” first.  For example, the after effect of Apple commercial in 1984.

There was a big ambitious and deliberate scenario when Howard Schultz came to Starbucks.  For example, in Milan (Italy), people caught up on the news while drinking their first cups of espresso.  Designing a social environment for people to connect in the US, to communicate certain culture…creating a “third place” with proper and comfortable furniture, artwork, music was necessary for the coffee business to take-off…

Experience is generated at every single brand touchpoint such as ads, retail environment, online facilities… For example, Nike’s message is “I play sport and Nike’s shoes look good with jeans…”

Microsoft has never been able to tell a story: There’s no love there. The story must fit with target consumers ‘characteristics.

I clearly remember the day and the store I first bought my pair of Adidas.  I had to maw lawns to get the Adidas and then, my world changed: I felt I needed toearn more money to buy what I wanted…

Brands have always to go back to their core and get rid of most of the created frills not connected directly with the core business.

You need to go back to the origins when the brand connected with consumers and identify how the process worked and became relevant to family, community, culture…The question is: “What niche the brand filled at its start?”

The irony is that nobody has to have Starbucks coffee or Nike shoes: We can live without and they are not essential to life

Note 1: I overheard that Starbucks is contributing money to Israel army, to building more Israeli settlement on Palestinian occupied lands…Is supporting apartheid the message of Starbucks?

Note 2: Stanley Hainsworth is chief creative officer of Tether. He was a former vice president of Global Creative at Starbucks, and creative director at Nike…

Any direct connections between slavery and capitalism?

How Slavery Led to Modern Capitalism?

A slave being auctioned, 1861

A slave being auctioned, 1861. Source: Sketch by Thomas R. Davis, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The story told about slavery is that it is almost always regional.  Wrong. It is an inherent US national story.

The story goes that slavery was a cruel institution of the southern States that would later secede from the Union. Slavery, in this telling, appears limited in scope, an unfortunate detour on the nation’s march to modernity, and certainly not the engine of American economic prosperity.  That’s a very funny story. For example:

“New York City banker James Brown tallied his wealth of $1.5 million in 1842. Brown investments in the American South exceeded a quarter of his wealth, which was directly bound up in the ownership of slave plantations.  Brown was among the world’s most powerful dealers in raw cotton, and his family’s firm, Brown Brothers & Co., served as one of the most important sources of capital and foreign exchange to the U.S. economy.   Most of James’ time was devoted to managing slaves from the study of his Leonard Street brownstone in Lower Manhattan.

Nicholas Biddle’s United States Bank of Philadelphia funded banks in Mississippi to promote the expansion of plantation lands. Biddle recognized that slave-grown cotton was the only thing made in the U.S. that had the capacity to bring gold and silver into the vaults of the nation’s banks.

The same facts were recognized by the architects of New England‘s industrial revolution watched the price of cotton with rapt attention, for their textile mills would have been silent without the labor of slaves on distant plantations.

Consider the history of an antebellum Alabama dry-goods outfit called Lehman Brothers or a Rhode Island textile manufacturer that would become the antecedent firm of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.”

The story goes that the civil war was to abolishing slavery in the southern States.  That a lie and big smokescreen to reality.  

The northern modern capitalists, specially those born in the 1840’s and made their fortune building railways, telegraph, and media…wanted to keep controlling the southern gold goose: Cotton production transformed into gold by export, and worked by the black slaves.

The southern elite class of “nobility” wanted the gold to be kept in the south and not be controlled by the new northern capitalists class.

After the war, the north wanted gold to be the currency, and the south wanted the “Green-buck” paper currency as the national money because they had no gold.

Gold or Green-buck, it didn’t matter to the north: the money presses were in the north anyway.  And slavery remained in the south, and was transferred in the north to making hats, shoes, hoes

The enterprises transformed slave-grown cotton into clothing; market other manufactured goods to plantation owner.  Or invest in securities tied to next year’s crop prices in places such as Liverpool and Le Havre….

America’s “take-off” in the 19th century wasn’t in spite of slavery; it was largely thanks to it.

And recent research in economic history goes further: It highlights the role that commodified human beings played in the emergence of modern capitalism itself.

Such revelations are hardly surprising in light of slavery’s role in spurring the nation’s economic development.

The U.S. won its independence from Britain just as it was becoming possible to imagine a liberal alternative to the mercantilist policies of the colonial era. Those best situated to take advantage of these new opportunities — soon to be called “capitalists” — rarely started from scratch, but instead drew on wealth generated earlier in the robust Atlantic economy of slaves, sugar and tobacco.

Fathers who made their fortunes outfitting ships for distant voyages begat sons who built factories, chartered banks, incorporated canal and railroad enterprises, invested in government securities, and speculated in new financial instruments.

This recognizably modern capitalist economy was no less reliant on slavery than the mercantilist economy of the preceding century. Rather, it offered a wider range of opportunities to profit from the remote labor of slaves, especially as cotton emerged as the indispensable commodity of the age of industry.

This network linked Mississippi planters and Massachusetts manufacturers to the era’s great financial firms: the Barings, Browns and Rothschilds.

“A major financial crisis in 1837 revealed the interdependence of cotton planters, manufacturers and investors, and their collective dependence on the labor of slaves. Leveraged cotton — pledged but not yet picked — led overseers to whip their slaves to pick more, and prodded auctioneers to liquidate slave families to cover the debts of the overextended.

The plantation didn’t just produce the commodities that fueled the broader economy, it also generated innovative business practices that would come to typify modern management.

As some of the most heavily capitalized enterprises in antebellum America, plantations offered early examples of time-motion studies and regimentation through clocks and bells. Seeking ever-greater efficiencies in cotton picking, slaveholders reorganized their fields, regimented the workday, and implemented a system of vertical reporting that made overseers into managers answerable to those above for the labor of those below”.

Capitalists reworked the accounting methods: labor force was incorporated in human property depreciation in the bottom line as slaves aged, as well as new actuarial techniques to indemnify slaveholders from loss or damage to the men and women they owned.

Property rights in human beings also created a lengthy set of judicial opinions that would influence the broader sanctity of private property in U.S. law.

As scholars delve deeper into corporate archives and think more critically about coerced labor and capitalism, (perhaps informed by the current scale of human trafficking) the importance of slavery to American economic history will become inescapable.

Reparations lawsuits (since dismissed) generated evidence of slave insurance policies by Aetna and put Brown University and other elite educational institutions on notice that the slave-trade enterprises of their early benefactors were potential legal liabilities.

Recent State and municipal disclosure ordinances have forced firms such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wachovia Corp. to confront unsettling ancestors on their corporate family trees.

Note: Post inspired by the article of Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, historians at Harvard University and Brown University respectively.  They are  co-editing “Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development,”

To contact the writers of this post: Sven Beckert at and Seth Rockman at




February 2012

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