Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 6th, 2015

 

Les Conquérants de l’Inutile.  29 janvier 2015

By François El Bacha in Plumes (A published book?

Cette semaine a été marquée par l’entrée triomphale de Hiba  Tawaji pour ne plus la présenter – dans le concours de The Voice organisé en France ou on était pratiquement tous knockout après sa prestation, qui a allié charme et grandeur.

Amal  Alamuddin -, désormais épouse de George Clooney qui passe maintenant même au dernier plan face à elle -, avant elle s’était fait connaitre par le monde entier sur un tout autre registre, celui de la Justice Internationale, n’hésitant pas à combattre  les pires injustices au Monde, celui du conflit israélo-arabe ou les violations des droits de l’Homme commises par des régimes pas vraiment démocratiques.

Moins connues, Sarah, étudiante en Science Politiques à Harvard, Alicia, chercheuse au CDC d’Atlanta, Nathalie, entrepreneuse, toutes ces libanaises qui n’hésitent pas à porter haut les couleurs de leur pays à l’étranger.

Et peut-être n’ont-elles guère d’autre choix, soumises au Liban à des lois d’un autre âge, discriminatoire, en raison d’une société caractérisée par l’emprise politique et économique de quelques mafias.

Quel contraste, quelle déception de les voir s’exiler au lieu de nous apporter les lumières qu’elles portent. C’est bien un rappel, une claque, qu’elles nous ont dernièrement affligé.

« Nul n’est prophète en son pays », prétendait Gibran Khalil Gibran, autre exilé célèbre, reprenant une phrase des Evangiles.

Il fut néanmoins un temps ou les libanais étaient des hommes et pouvaient sortir du lot dans leur propre pays. Un temps ou des Riad el Solh en compagnie de Béchara el Khoury et tant d’autres, s’unissaient, mettant de coté leurs communautés respectives pour établir une nation libanaise, concept de partage.

Un temps ou plus proche de nous, Fouad Chéhab imposait le concept de l’état face au féodalisme imposé par quelques grandes familles.

Un temps ou Maurice Chéhab, lui aussi, opposait à la destruction culturelle et patrimoniale, la protection de l’Etat.

Un temps enfin ou les Charles Malek, participaient à la rédaction de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme au sein d’un comité des Nations-Unis, qui venaient de gagner la IIème guerre mondiale, un temps ou ces Charles Malek devenaient les premiers présidents de l’Assemblée de ces mêmes Nations Unis qui tendront la main aux vaincus pour se réconcilier avec eux et construire un avenir commun.

Un temps ou les Libanais rayonnaient aussi bien dans leur pays qu’à l’étranger. Ils étaient nos conquérants portant les valeurs de l’Humanité comme leur drapeau avec la fierté du Cèdre. Une grande époque.

Un temps bien loin … dont nos ainés demeurent nostalgiques et auquel on a bien du mal à croire, « Jeunesse rêve, vieillesse décompte« , dit l’adage, sauf qu’il s’agit là du contraire, le Liban était synonyme de civilisation dans cette partie du Monde encore sauvage, tout le contraire d’aujourd’hui.

Jean Giono prétendait que « la jeunesse, c’est la passion pour l’inutile ».

Je suis au regret de lui dire qu’il avait tord dans le cas présent: Nul ne peut prétendre que les véritables conquérants de l’inutile que le Liban connait en sont les dignes héritiers, une classe politique occupée à se chamailler au lieu de jeter les ponts d’une entente, à s’étaler sur les photos selfies de Miss Liban au lieu de faire face aux dangers qui menacent d’abattre le Cèdre de notre drapeau – nul besoin de rappeler que Daech est à nos portes et même déjà se confronte à notre armée -.

Il faut également rappeler qu’une mafia économique existe et est plus occupée à amasser richesses au lieu de partager – 34 % de taux de chômage chez les jeunes aujourd’hui alors que les banques libanaises possèdent plus de 150 milliards de dollars d’actifs qu’elles pourraient plutôt investir en emploi au lieu de s’assoir dessus.

Ce ne sont pas les idées qui manquent à ces jeunes pour créer des entreprises mais généralement l’absence de fonds -.

Enfin, une mafia culturelle exerce sa tyrannie, une véritable dictature culturelle si jamais on la critique, une pseudo-élite sociale, plus « anciens riches de la guerre civile » que personnes cultivées en parlant de terrorisme culturel, ils seront d’ailleurs les premiers à avoir un comportement digne de voyous en sortant des armes au détour d’une bagarre nocturne.

Et pendant ce temps-là, les libanais souffrent en silence, s’exilent dans un ultime souffre pour réussir ailleurs et obtenir une chance de briller, ce que dans leur pays qui le leur refuse. 30 000 jeunes quittent chaque année, à l’image des Hiba, Amal, Alicia, Nathalie, Sarah, et tant d’autres qui construisent leurs avenirs dans des pays lointains et qui leurs offrent richesses, leurs talents qui peut enfin s’y exprimer, ailleurs que dans un Liban qui en aurait pourtant tant besoin.

Une fuite de talent.

François el Bacha

– See more at: http://libnanews.com/les-conquerants-de-linutile/#sthash.4ioOy1Pc.dpuf

 

 

do TVs add to the dining experience?

January 22, 2015

by Marie Murray

when i was younger, i remember learning a piece of dining etiquette from my uncle. He told me that if a guy wants to take a girl on a date, he should always allow the girl to take the seat at the table with the greater view of the room.

if the table is in a corner, for example, the polite thing for him to do is to choose the chair facing the walls, so that she becomes the center of his undivided vision. (And the universe should be the prerogative of her undivided attention?)

i forgot all about this dating memo until recently, when i found myself going out to eat in a restaurant with several large TV screens hovering at just the right altitude and angles to ensure everyone’s easy viewing access.

Throughout the evening, our conversations would stop as our eyes continually drifted away from each other and towards the images flashing across the screen.

the presence of TV screens in restaurant settings has now become widespread enough that it would seem almost strange to complain about.

And yet, when you think about it, the presence of a TV screen seems to contradict the very purpose of most restaurants. the whole concept of dining out is typically meant to provide:

  • a chance to spend time with people over a meal and enjoy the company
  • seating and furniture layout set up to facilitate conversation
  • food prepared for you that is often different from what you’re used to

why is it then, that TVs have become such a common feature within restaurants?

a number of studies1 show that people tend to snack more and eat larger portions if they are sitting in front of the TV.

The reason for this is obvious. if people are distracted while eating, they are less mindful of how much they are consuming, and less aware of the signals that the body sends when it is full. perhaps the restaurant industry has taken note of this and realized that customers are prone to consume more when there is a TV present.

a recent study has been conducted on a restaurant that had been receiving poor reviews for the past several years. to best understand why their customers seemed less satisfied than before, the restaurant compared the practices of 2004 with those of 2014. the findings were fascinating.

the only significant difference between the two years was that the 2014 consumers owned smart phones. the 2014 customers were constantly on their phones, asking the waiting staff to take photos, and lingering over text messages and social media. they ended up staying for almost double the time compared to the 2004 customers, and left feeling less satisfied with the overall experience. because they were likely not aware that their smart phones were the problem, they blamed the restaurant. you may wonder what this study has to do with TVs and dining.

the point here is that while considering the concept of your restaurant, you may want to draw up a cost-benefit analysis. there is a good chance that TVs will increase your total revenue, but there may also be the risk that customer satisfaction will decrease.

of course there are certain venues where a TV is very important to the concept. many restaurants or pubs for example, provide a place to meet up with a group of friends to watch a football match. some restaurants show music videos that appeal to a certain age group and add to the ambiance of the environment. in these cases, the concept is meant to provide a space that allows groups of friends, colleagues, or even strangers to unite over a shared entertainment experience, and enjoy some food and beverage in the meantime. a TV is a vital addition to this environment. (Target the main interests of your customers?)

as you are thinking about the concept of your dining space, there are some helpful questions you might want to ask.

  • is the aims to facilitate pleasant conversation amongst diners, or is it to offer customers a place to view a sports game together?
  • does the overall revenue increase brought by TVs outweigh the potential decrease in consumer ratings?
  • will your customers’ attention be pulled away from the quality and taste of the food?
  • if you decide that a TV fits well with the concept of your venue, how can you design your seating and furniture layout to maximize the customers’ experience?
  • if your aim is to bring friends together to watch, for example, a world cup game, are there other times during the day when it is beneficial to keep the TV turned off?

whether or not my uncle’s tip has become outdated, he still makes a good point about the purpose of the dining experience. when consumers are unable to focus on the people they are with, chances are everyone will probably leave feeling less than satisfied. this is where well planned dining concept can help everyone involved to have a richer experience, whether it is through pleasant conversation, or the feeling of shared solidarity that comes from watching an exciting match together.

Note: People who end up watching TV in restaurants have nothing much to converse about, and should not be going on dates?

 

 

 

Were the Arab Springs that disastrous? Is the longer-term much brighter?

The word tragedy is overused, but it seems fitting enough for the Arab Spring. Air crashes, earthquakes, fatal illnesses: these are sad, devastating, but they lack that necessary requirement of Greek drama – an audience clutching their faces and silently, inwardly screaming at the actors: “Don’t do it, you’ll regret it if you do.”

, Middle East The Telegraph Editor, Jan. 23, 2015

The disastrous triumph of the Arab Spring

Four years after the first street protests, the shock waves are still being felt across the Middle East

The Arab Spring has that quality in spades. On Sunday, we mark the fourth anniversary of the first street protests in Cairo that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.  Dozens were killed that day. And many dozens by “terrorist” attacks in Sinai and al Arish.

Every moment of what has transpired since has involved regimes, protesters, political movements, Western and other outside leaders being told that the decisions they were taking would lead to disaster – yet taking them anyway.

On January 28 2011, three days after those first protests, hundreds of people were shot dead in Cairo and Alexandria by police marksmen, and from there on followed the massacres, wars and coups, jihadism and barrel-bombing, that have stalked us like riders of the apocalypse ever since.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are dead, and hundreds of thousands more will die before that benighted country is put back together again.

Libya is divided, with concentric circles of nationalists, Islamists, federalists, non-Arab tribes and plain old thugs enmeshed in an ever-deepening conflict that no one wants but no one can stop.

Tunisia: tourists slow to return after Arab Spring

Last year, Tunisia was deserted by tourists, scared off by Tunisia’s revolution and the war in nearby Libya

In far-off Yemen this week, a bunch of Shia militiamen, followers of a regional warlord few outside the country had heard of before 2011, took control of the presidential palace and television station. Al-Qaeda roams across much of the rest of the country.

Egypt has returned to some sort of order but at a cost of thousands dead, and tens of thousands being raped or otherwise brutalised in prison.

The reality of this Sunday’s anniversary is that only some will mark it, and quietly: under Egypt’s version of the disaster, many of those who initiated the Tahrir Square protests are now in jail, others are dead, and under the country’s new authoritarian ruler the square itself will this weekend be a highly secure, commemoration-free zone.

Everyone cheered Mubarak’s downfall including, it turned out, many of the generals who were eventually to profit from this moment of apparent casting off of military rule. But the pattern of what was to follow was already being set. Amid the euphoria, former Eastern Bloc countries put together a working group to offer advice to the generals who had promised to manage a transition to democracy.

It was led by their ambassadors, who had been young diplomats during their own velvet revolutions of 1989, and who had personal experience of the challenges that lay ahead. They were rebuffed by the Army Council, which said that Egypt had 5,000 years of history, and needed no help from anyone, thank you very much.

Then the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, and the generals decided they had need of outside help after all: billions of dollars poured in from the Gulf, to oust the country’s first democratically elected president, from the very same countries that were supporting the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad in the name of democracy.

At every stage, it could have been different. At every stage, wise heads told leaders that simply turning thugs and the police on their opponents wouldn’t work. It didn’t work for President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, but instead of learning from his humiliating downfall, his colleagues doubled their efforts. More than 800 died during the course of Egypt’s revolution.

It didn’t save Mr Mubarak, but Col Gaddafi tried the same, then President Assad. Mr Assad continued even as officials admitted that the regime’s violent response had been a mistake. By then it was too late, and state violence was already out of hand. Eventually, those officials who had been honest were sacked, or sidelined. Violence, it seemed, was the solution after all.

In some cases, the precedents for disaster were further off; but still recent. In Afghanistan in the Eighties, American attempts to support a revolution against a Russian-backed dictatorship without getting too closely involved went disastrously wrong as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan chose to work with proxies who turned out to be Islamist thugs. In Syria today, American allies have once again presided over the hijacking of a revolution by militant, anti-American Islamists, with America standing off, fearing a repetition of its experiences in Iraq.

It was not just onlookers who shouted that this would happen: President Obama’s own officials warned him of the consequences of his false promises of support for the non-militant revolutionaries, and resigned, one after the other, in protest. They, too, were ignored.

This is water under the bridge. Yet unlike a real tragedy, history has no final curtain. We have wept cathartically with Syria – not quite enough to feed its starving and freezing people, perhaps, but we have wept. Now we have moved on. Now just a trickle of articles emerge, blaming someone (usually “the West”) for everything that has happened, a patronising and ultimately orientalist view that rests on the assumption that Arab countries, their regimes, their armies, their politicians and their people are incapable of taking responsibility for their own fates.

Some reports still pay tribute to the original protesters who took to the streets to call for a better life: for freedom from fear, freedom from police corruption and brutality, freedom to present their views and demands. But these tributes are usually overwhelmed by despair: the whole Arab Spring was a mistake, they sigh, we should never have believed that the Arab world was capable of democracy.

Realpolitik should have dictated that the yearning for freedom simply be suppressed, both by those who wanted it, and Western powers that should have had the vision to foresee the collapse that resulted.

Is this right? I think not. This may be an obvious thing to say, but just because a call for more freedom and democracy isn’t met, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to call for them. The Prague Spring of 1968 plunged Europe back into a Cold War that meant that my own childhood was lived in fear of nuclear holocaust: yet it also led to the revolutions of 1989, which few surely regret, even though they have led to other uncertainties, other conflicts of potentially epoch-breaking proportions.

Above all, we do not know how else the regimes that were toppled by the Arab Spring would have ended, as end all regimes surely must. They were not, despite what you may hear now, paradises of stability, where human rights were traded off against security. Egypt was stagnating into an impoverished, disorderly, chaos; Syria funded terror; Iraq was a breeding ground for violence of sectarian and all other stripes. The regimes played a love-hate game with Islamism that saw enough jihad spread abroad to scare their supporters, both Western and Eastern, into backing them, a vicious circle that meant the boil was never lanced.

The sores of dictatorship and lies, repression and jihad, are now exposed. It is not a pretty sight. But at least we now see and know them for what they are. The struggle against them may last as long as the Cold War, but at least now that struggle has begun. That is the triumph that can be plucked from the Arab Spring’s tragedy.

Richard Spencer is Middle East Editor and has reported on the Arab Spring since January 2011


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