Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 26th, 2012

Western media in the “confused business”: Writing Iran when meaning Saudi Arabia?

The Olympic game charter prohibits States to discriminate between genders  in at least two clauses. And yet, Saudi Arabia will not let women participate in sports, while Iran do send sport-women to games…Suppose Iran was discriminating, wouldn’t international outcry be deafening us? But nobody is willing to make waves when Saudi Arabia is the culprit…

Saudi Arabia Wahhabi, theocratic and absolute monarchic State has executed 76 people in 2011, such as women condemned for witchcraft, non-noble class homosexuals, sodomizers, adulterous women, drug traffickers, apostasy…and cutting hands of robbers…But the UN is not interested in what’s going on in Saudi Arabia.

Except the UN High Commissariat for human rights, no international institutions bring up these violations in Saudi Arabia…Neither the UN Council, nor the G20, nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF)…care of what’s going on in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is practically untouched and never blamed…For example, in 2008, French Sarkozy declared: “Under the vigorous impulse of his Majesty Abdullah, Saudi Arabia is developing a civilized policy…

Currently, Saudi Arabia impulse is still in funding and supporting the most obscurantist Islamic extremists in Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali… They are funding TV cables channels dedicated to Islamic salafism, erecting Mosques in every street, sending free million of Korans (Wahhabi version), and million of books on “How to subjugate wives and daughters in obeying patriarchal systems…”

Saudi Arabia is lethally crushing youth demonstrations under the banner of “New form of terrorism”, killing peaceful Shia demonstrators in the Eastern region, jailing over 20,000 each year for freedom of expression charges, and has sent military reinforcement into Bahrain to crush the civil uprising, and is supporting the Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia…

The irony is that Saudi Arabia is the refuge for all dictators, including Tunisia Ben Ali, and current Tunisia Hamadi Jebali PM visited Saudi Arabia and lauded the good deeds of this archaic monarchy, and refrained from demanding the extradition of Tunisia dictator, or the return of the stolen billion…

Saudi Arabia would want everyone to believe that the main nemesis is Shia Iran, as Israel would want everyone to believe this strategy…As  if peaceful nuclear energy program is the enemy to human rights, democracy, freedom of expression…And it is the Iranian people who are to suffer from economic and financial sanctions, while Saudi Arabia fund and sustain terrorism everywhere in Islamic States…

Western media are persisting in the “confused business” of not politically discussing the current US policies in the Arab World: Are they Writing Iran when meaning Saudi Arabia?

The big picture can be described as follows:

1. China keeps the US economy afloat

2. Saudi Arabia keeps the US Federal budget afloat by cyclically infusing funds, particularly in crisis situations such as preemptive military operations, changing “rogue” regimes, enforcing oil embargoes…

3. The US cyclically rectifies Israel endemic budget deficits, using Saudi Arabia largess. Can’t we claim that Saudi Arabia is the main funder of the theocratic and apartheid Zionist State? Is the US cowing to Saudi Arabia strategy of reducing all States in the Middle-East to theocratic Sunni Wahhabi salafism and archaic regimes and encouraging Israel to be a carbon copy of the surrounding States?

Vulnerability, shame, guilt, regret, introvert…All in one session of discussion

I attended the weekly TEDxSKE salon in Awkar (Lebanon) and Patsy showed 3 TED speakers on various topics such as vulnerability, shame, gilt, regret, introvert, extrovert, ambivert or “neutralvert”, memoriless conditions…and I was very outspoken.

Topic One: On Regret

Is there many kinds of regrets?  Are the difference in magnitude or there are qualitative types of regrets?

The woman speaker started with a personal type of regret

At the age of 29, she decided to have a tattoo, a compass design on her upper left arm, on the premise that she already knew her north direction (what she waned in life…). After the tattoo session she broke down and started weeping and she could not sleep the night recollecting the event and going through the 3 phases of denial, recognizing that the tattoo could no longer be removed, and wondering what went wrong with her for this late decision…

Question: Do you think this kind of regret is a good way to start a long talk on regret?

Do you think if we listened to a mother who lost a child at a very young age, and she regrets her kid that the talk could be very different? Or the talk will be mostly of the feeling of shame that she was not at the level of expectation of the community for a mature mother?

Do you think that if you had a passion as a kid, and you started working on this passion and you failed, that this regret would set the stage for a different talk on regret? Anyway, is any of our passions not a recollection of passions we had as kids? Could we acquire a passion as adult if the source was not from our childhood memory?

So often you hear this statement: “I regret that I never had a passion in life...” Does this saying has any value? How can you regret something you never felt? Or maybe you knew a certain passion but felt it would sound shameful that other know about it, and much less to act on the passion?

I regret that no a single member of my family, or extended family was a public artists. I don’t remember anyone singing or daring to sing in public, or dance, or act in a play, or play the clown, or play music, or discuss freely in any topic…

Not a single member projected this daring sensation: “I dared. I am daring. I dare you to try…”  Is it possible in such condition that I could have ever learned to be sociable and feel endowed with this entitlement of negotiating with “authority figures”? I tried my best, and I failed, and I am ready to try again under appropriate cultural circumstances…

I tended during the talk not to believe that the speaker was serious or the talk is going to be of any value…

Topic Two: On Shame and vulnerability

What’s the difference between shame and guilt?  Is it the difference between “I am a mistake” and “I did make a mistake”?

Brené Brown studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.  Brown explored what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

A man approached Brown and asked her: “How come I constantly feel vulnerable in front of my wife, and not thinking that I am a good enough provider?”  Brown replied: “My Ph.D. research focused on women. I have no answer for you…”  And I wonder: “If the research was not interested in the various interactions between genders, the research must be a boring and monotonous descriptive study:  The real and rich story is based on interactions...”

Actually, the main thing I retained from this exciting talk is the question of the man.  The rest seems vague and not that memorable. Still, Brown is a great talker and she managed the feat of how to make a riveting speech on “How often the terms vulnerability, guilt, and shame could be repeated to cover a 15-minute speech…?

Topic three: On Introvert and Extrovert

During the session, we were handed out a sheet of 29 questions with True or False answers, which was supposed to discriminate among the Introverts, the Extroverts, and the Ambivert.  For example, if you answered True on 16 questions and over you are an introvert, if over 16 falses you are an extorvert, otherwise you are an ambivert.

I liked the questionnaire, though Q27 didn’t make sense:”I don’t think of acquaintances as close friends“.  Is this question makes sense to you?

Or Q 7: “I tend to notice details many people don’t see”. Are designers, particularly artistic designers supposed to be invariable extroverts or introverts?

In my view, an ambivert or neutralvert is a very confused person, an intelligent person who never had the courage to invest enough time to reflect on “who he is”, his limitations, capabilities, passions, emotions…

I can completely comprehend an introvert: this is a very normal person. 

I cannot fathom how an extrovert can be or behave: He must be a nutcase at the very end of the tail, a person whom a brain surgeons in the 30’s would have lobotomized

Susan Cain talked of introvert people and how she managed to spend her girl scout summer camp…I let Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test tell part of my impression:

“When you’re at a party, do you suddenly feel the desperate urge to escape somewhere quiet such as a toilet cubicle and just sit there? Until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, I thought it was just me. I’d see other partygoers grow increasingly effervescent as the night wore on and wonder why I felt so compelled to go home.

I put it down to perhaps there not being enough iron in my diet. But it’s not just me. It’s a trait shared by introverts the world over. We feel this way because our brains are sensitive to overstimulation. I am genuinely astonished by this news.

In fact, I read much of Susan Cain’s book shaking my head in wonder and thinking: “So that’s why I’m like that! It’s because I’m an introvert! Now it’s fine for me to turn down party invitations. I never have to go to another party again!

Cain is an introvert.

Susan wrote: “It has always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communication with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person”.  She argues the current (western world) excessively and misguidedly respects extroverts: We make them our bosses and our political leaders. We foolishly admire their self-help books, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Before the industrial revolution American self-help books extolled character. Nowadays it’s all about personality.

We introverts attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being “true to ourselves” can make us physically and mentally ill. One introvert that Cain knew spent so much of his adult life trying to adhere to the extrovert ideal he ended up catching double pneumonia. This would have been avoided if he’d spent time recharging his batteries in toilet cubicles, and so on.

At the Harvard Business School, socializing is “an extreme sport”. Extroverts are more likely to get book deals and art exhibitions than their introverted counterparts. Cain had to persuade a publisher she could conquer her stage fright and promote herself at book festivals before they agreed to take her on.

In America, extroverted parents have been known to send their introverted children to psychiatrists to have their introversion kids “treated” out of them. We think extroverts are great because they’re charismatic and chatty and self-assured, but in fact they’re comparatively narcissistic and unthoughtful and we’re committing a grave error structuring our society around their garrulous blah.

Most egregiously, we form our workplaces around the extrovert ideal.

I like Cain’s nightmare descriptions of open-plan offices where group brainstorming sessions descend on the startled introvert like flash-storms. Group-think favors the dominant extrovert. The loudest, most socially confident and quickest on their feet win the day, whereas the contemplative and quietly well-informed tend not to get a word in. School classrooms are increasingly designed to reflect this flawed environment.

Children sit in pods facing each other and are rewarded for being outgoing rather than original. “You Can’t Ask a Teacher for Help, Unless Everyone in Your Group Has the Same Question” read a sign in one New York classroom she visited. All this even though Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling and Eleanor Roosevelt have described themselves as introverts, at their best when solitary.

I finished Quiet a month ago and I can’t get it out of my head. It is in many ways an important book – so persuasive and timely and heartfelt it should inevitably effect change in schools and offices.

It’s also a genius idea to write a book that tells introverts – a vast proportion of the reading public – how awesome and undervalued we are.

I’m thrilled to discover that some of the personality traits I had found shameful are actually indicators that I’m amazing. It’s a Female Eunuch for anxious nerds. I’m not surprised it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Cain says introverts are “especially empatic”. We think in an “unusually complex fashion”. We prefer discussing “values and morality” to small talk about the weather. We “desire peace”. We’re “modest”. The introvert child is an “orchid – who wilts easily”, is prone to “depression, anxiety and shyness, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent”.

When I get to this part I think: Yes! We are like orchids! With good parenting we can become “exceedingly kind, conscientious and successful at the things that matter to us”.

Then I feel embarrassed that I derived pleasure from being compared to an orchid and I realise that sometimes Cain succumbs to the kind of narcissistic rhetoric she eschews in extroverts.

Still, Cain’s suggestions on how to redress the balance and make the world a bit more introvert-friendly are charmingly cautious. She argues that the way forward is to create offices that have open-plan bits for the extroverts and nooks and crannies where the quiet people can be quiet. A bit like the Pixar offices.

In this, Cain reminds me of the similarly measured Jonathan Safran Foer, whose anti-meat lectures climax in a suggestion that we should try if possible to eat one or two vegetarian meals a week. Give me this kind of considered good sense over showy radical polemics any day.

But sometimes Cain’s brilliant ideas aren’t written quite so brilliantly. Her book can be a bit of a slog, not always a page turner. I wish she’d spent a bit more time adventuring and a bit less time analyzing and philosophizing and citing vast armies of psychologists.

I love feeling Cain’s pain when she journeys out of her comfort zone to “life coaching” conventions. But those adventures vanish as the book wears on, and it starts to drag on a little, especially during the many chapters about how brain scans seem to demonstrate neurological differences between extroverts and introverts.

I don’t know why popular psychology books feel so compelled these days to cite endless fMRI studies. As any neurologist will tell you, we still have very little idea about why certain bits of our brains light up under various circumstances.

And there’s a bigger nagging thought I couldn’t shake throughout the book. It began during the preface, in which Cain prints an “Are You an Introvert?” checklist. She lists 20 statements.

The more we answer “true” the more introverted we are: “I often let calls go through to voice mail. I do my best work on my own. I don’t enjoy multitasking. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status …” At the bottom of the quiz she mentions: “If you found yourself with a roughly equal number of true and false answers, then you may be an ambivert – yes, there really is such a word.”

I do the test.

I answer “true” to exactly half the questions. Even though I’m in many ways a textbook introvert (my crushing need for “restorative niches” such as toilet cubicles is eerie) I’m actually an ambivert. I do the test on my wife. She answers true to exactly half the questions too. We’re both ambiverts. Then I do the test on my son. I don’t get to the end because to every question – “I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. I enjoy solitude …” – he replies: “Sometimes. It depends.” So he’s also an ambivert.

In the Ronson household we’re 100% ambivert. We ambiverts don’t get another mention in the book. Even for a writer like Cain, who is mostly admirably unafraid of grey areas, we ambiverts are too grey.

Cain’s thesis – built on the assumption that almost everyone in the world can be squeezed into one of two boxes – may topple if it turns out that loads of us are essentially ambiverts. I suspect there are a lot of ambiverts out there.” End of quote


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

March 2012
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