Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 26th, 2013

White-Clad Mani: Ultimate in condescending attitudes

Mani is a guy who early on decided to confront the puzzle of life, finding answers on his behavior and attitudes, retreating into nearby forests… and learning to mediate on his own.  He ultimately attended sessions with King Raja meditation methods and techniques, joined this cult, slaved for it, and realized that he can do all the training on his own… He got out of this cult by failing to attend and “help” with the endless chores…

Mani claims, and I have to believe him, that he manages out-of-body excursions, during his waking sessions…

Mani was born with a heart defect: Blue blood mixing with red blood, or what is called in French “soufle“. For the first 18 months, Mani had to frequenting sit on his heels in order to catch breath or rest. finally, a surgical operation was performed in Paris and Mani is normal, healthy and growing stronger.

In his childhood, Mani could repair anything, mechanical, electrical or computer equipment. He would never leave a manual for a new equipment before he “mastered” all its functionality and problem solving recommendations…

He travelled to India for 10 days, to join a meditation mass gathering retreat, with hundreds of members converging and getting further advanced training… Mani purchased half a dozen white trousers, white shirts… all in cotton, and brought back a bagfull of things white.  The rational for white garment is that it reflects sun rays and is a symbol of purity, of the spirit, a guiding symbol for his daily behavior…

Mani is consistent with meditation exercises, and the schedules vary with his mood change. Sometimes, Mani wakes up before daybreak, go to bed by 6 pm… And in other periods, like during rushing deadlines, he extends the time for going to bed… sort of depending on his “energy level”.

He studied 6 years for an architecture degree and then decided not to do his final project. In the meantime, Mani was doing dual degree, adding graphic design and sticking to that discipline.

He is an independent contractor, related to graphic designs and promoting companies matching his “philosophical” penchant, going green, vegan, vegetarian diet… drinking expensive exotic teas and other imported powders containing specific ingredients…

Mani would select his clients to match his life-style and world view: So far so good…

Mani is a vegan, and he relishes experimenting with various beans and peas. Frequently, most of the beans and peas reveal negative side effects on Mani’s digestive system… and internet proved to be short on esoteric cures for a healthy mind-body programs and concoctions…

One stable myth that stuck in Mani’s eating habit was “Never consume onion or garlic, in any shape, form or cooking method“. Why? These two natural ingredients are very bad for concentration. Mani’s grandmother is beside herself: How could a Mediterranean cuisine be cooked without garlic and onion?  She has to split the dish: One for Mani and one for the rest of the family…

After a decade of “personal search and training improvement…” Mani nailed down a second nature of talking and appearing as a wise man: He learned to talk softly, starting with a developed introduction, which is meant to cover all kinds of objections, disagreement, and particularly what he calls “argumentation displeasure“.  The problem is that his opinion turns out to be odorless, confusing because devoid of passions.

Mani was never a talkative person, and he preferred to listen…

In general, these kinds of talks appeal in the first encounter with a riveted audience: Who is really searching for confrontation and argumentation when the speaker admits that the topic needs further study and reflection?

People are no fools: You cannot repeat this acting wise-man performance and not be implicitly mocked if you do not demonstrate genuine passion and human natural behavior.  What is conveyed is the ultimate of condescending attitudes “I’m teaching you methods for avoiding argumentation sessions…”

My latest encounter with Mani disturbed this image of the soft talking person, the mediator per excellence, the one who considers both sides of the story… in order to be fair.

As long as the discussion and experiences are not related to close family matters, Mani is very comfortable in his image. When Mani feels that his family is in “moral danger” by an outsider, even a very close outsider, poison drips from his lips and his eyes gleam as if he is about to lose his mind.

In my last encounter with Mani, I felt that he is indeed well advanced in mind distortion, but he doesn’t know it yet.

Actually, Mani tends to experience frequent “depressive mood swings”.  He locks himself up for days and cure this nasty depressive period using a modern treatment: Watching a 100-TV serial episodes, loaded on his laptop. As the series end, the depression has been over for days, but Mani is hooked on the series. It is better to lay it on depression… His younger sisters have been emulating this behavior and spending hours on the same series…

Lately, Mani crossed the red line: This second nature condescending attitude had to reach a the nasty flavor of contempt. You cannot reach the level of contempt to another person and still claim to be a better person.

Mani needs to start from scratch: Bottling up anger under the guise of “passion control” cannot persist and be sustained for a healthy spirit. Time to acknowledge that we are passionate and it is far better to express openly our passion and control our physical outbursts. Recognizing our passions is the best way to tame the beast.

“People Oriented” individuals assimilated this human behavior to argue: It is their way to express their individuality. It is never a Waste of time to argue with people.

Note: This is the third character description for my fiction story.  Fiction characters are far milder than trying to seriously describe a real person. Fiction characters are very funny.  Don’t you think that real people are horrible? All these bloody ideas and thinking about harming others when frequently angry and upset…? How can you ever claim that you do know a person?

Political Negotiation: How does it functions in Lebanon?

I recall many decades ago, patiently trying to finish my graduate studies, that I volunteered to help another Lebanese to set up his data base and input his data in an environmental study.

Two months later, while also involved in setting up my experiments and collecting data, this Lebanese asked me: “I want to pay you for your trouble and time invested…” I never got into any negotiation before, but I blurted out: “I volunteered to help you, so forget about the money issue…”

This graduate student insisted that I be paid, and for the form I said: “Okay, $100”. That was a pittance, given that the student is well-off, family and teaching jobs…

I recall when I came to the university 5 years ago, another Lebanese undergraduate student called up this guy and arranged that he spare me a room in his vast apartment out of town. There were no public transportation whatsoever, and I had to go with him to the university and return in his car in the evening.  I stayed for about a week.

All these years, I biked and lived in basements, and 4 part-time jobs could barely pay for my tuition: I was frequently broke and many nights I sleep with an empty stomach.

The “negotiation” was not about to end and it took another turn. The graduate student replied: “What? You have the guts to ask for payment?”  I said: “I said that I did it for free, if you want me to ask for $1,000 or ten dollars just decide…” He got even more upset: “What? Do you think that I am cheap and could not afford $100?”

Finally, he wrote up a check for $100, and I never heard from him. I think that I forgot his name. He was telling me that he was negotiating with many geology companies in California for a package over $60,000, at a time there were no jobs and no companies were hiring even graduate students…

It’s a warm spring afternoon in Beirut, the birds are chirping and Hamra street is as busy as usual. There’s a lottery salesman staring into the distance, and occasionally he takes a puff from his cigarette then goes back to staring.

An old woman is trying to cross the street, and a nearby family is watching the scene from a balcony on the second floor. A typical calm Beirut Afternoon.

Karl reMarks posted on April 19, 2013:

A man strolls into a shop and starts inspecting the bags on display with as much disgust as he can summon.  The salesman look at him then goes back to reading his newspaper. The psychological warfare has begun and neither man wants to reveal any interest.

It’s a battle of nerves, skill and composure.

The customer decides on an opening gambit. He sighs as if the bags on display have thrown him into an existential crisis, then points half-heartedly to one of the bags and asks “how much is this one?”

The salesman looks up from the newspaper: “you are a man of good taste, that’s one of our best bags. It’s 100 dollars.”

The customer draws two incredulous arches with his brows, whistles and says: “What do you think I am, a tourist? Don’t plan your retirement on this sale. I’m Lebanese, now how much is it really?”

“God forbid. Believe me, I’m only making five dollars on this sale. Come downstairs with me and I will show you the receipt. But I don’t want to make any money on this, you look like a gentleman, I will give it to you for $95.”

“I’m trying to buy a bag from you and you are performing a comedy show. I  don’t buy bags every day, I have to go to a relative’s funeral in Jordan. Do you want me to take my clothes in a plastic bag? Because of you, I will have to do that. You have no mercy.”

(Both the salesman and the customer know this is a lie, but the rules stipulate that you’re not allowed to point that out.)

“I am saddened for your loss. My condolences, this is God’s wish. Your story has really affected me, I will take a loss on this. $90 for you.”

“This is not meant to be. I am going to your neighbour’s shop, I heard that he’s a more reasonable man.”

The client makes for the door, the salesman pauses a bit then says:

“Be a patient man. How much do you want to pay?”

“$20”.

“$20? Are you trying to start a fight? That’s it, I’m fed up with this business, I’m closing the shop.”

The salesman pretends he’s about to move, but the customer decides a quick follow-up is needed.

“Look here, all my cousins will need bags. Give me a good price and I will send them here. How does $30 sound?”

“How about I give to you for $30 then take my children out of school and have them beg on the streets? Would that satisfy you? Because that’s the only way I can give it to you for $30. My last word is $80.”

“I will tell you what I will do. We will skip dinner for a few days just because you’re an inflexible man and give you $40 for it. I can’t pay one Lira more, I swear by God.”

“I will give you this Chinese one for $40, why do you need the Italian one? It’s not for you.”

“What will the neighbours say if I they saw me with a Chinese bag? You’re trying to ruin my reputation? $40 is a good price.”

“My brother, I told it cost me $95, I am already losing money on this.” Here he takes out a calculator and starts punching numbers at random while muttering some figures. Then he looks up:” Ok, just for you, I swear, I wouldn’t do this for anyone else, take it for $70. This is my final last word, not a Lira less.”

“Here’s $50, take it and give me the bag. But you’re robbing me, I swear this is illegal.” He tries to forces the money into the salesman’s hand, but the latter withdraws his hand quickly.

“God forbid. Khallas, that’s it, take it for free. I’m not taking any money. Here.” As he says that, he starts packing the bag and tries to hand it over to the customer.

“You’re insulting me. What do you think I am, a beggar? I am going to cancel this trip.”

“You are so stubborn. You have broken me, I have never met a customer like you before. Here, have it for $60 but please don’t tell anyone. They will think I am crazy.”

“$55 it is. Yalla, shake my hand and pack it for me.”

“No way. Not going under $60. I don’t know why I’m still in this business.”

“Ok, I swear by God you have exhausted my soul. $60 and you give me three of these pens with it.”

“$60 and I will give you one pen.”

He shakes his hand and takes the bag. “Have a good evening. You are a man of impeccable taste and generosity.”

“God forbid, you are the best customer I have ever had.” The customer takes the bag and walks way.

As he leaves, both men are left celebrating their victories.

Now, are you interested in understanding how political negotiations work in Lebanon?

For example, the current debate about the parliamentary election law.  Imagine that there are 20 salesmen and 20 customers and try to picture all the possible permutations of the scenario above, and repeated among all parties.

A decision can be made only when they all agree. That will give you a rough idea of the complexity involved.

Actually, make that 19 salesmen and 19 customers (number of officially recognized religious sects), but that’s my last word.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

April 2013
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