Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 29th, 2015

Move on stupid. Let go of Your God

On September 10, the morning of my seventh birthday, I came downstairs to the kitchen, where my mother was washing the dishes and my father was reading the paper or something, and I sort of presented myself to them in the doorway, and they said, “Hey, happy birthday!”

And I said, “I’m seven.” And my father smiled and said, “Well, you know what that means, don’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, that I’m going to have a party and a cake and get a lot of presents?”

And my dad said, “Well, yes. But more importantly, being seven means that you’ve reached the age of reason, and you’re now capable of committing any and all sins against God and man.”

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.|By Julia Sweeney

00:52 Now, I had heard this phrase, “age of reason,” before. Sister Mary Kevin had been bandying it about my second-grade class at school.

But when she said it, the phrase seemed all caught up in the excitement of preparations for our first communion and our first confession, and everybody knew that was really all about the white dress and the white veil.

And anyway, I hadn’t really paid all that much attention to that phrase, “age of reason.” So, I said, “Yeah, yeah, age of reason. What does that mean again?”

And my dad said, “Well, we believe, in the Catholic Church, that God knows that little kids don’t know the difference between right and wrong, but when you’re seven, you’re old enough to know better. So, you’ve grown up and reached the age of reason, and now God will start keeping notes on you, and begin your permanent record.”  

And I said, “Oh … Wait a minute. You mean all that time, up till today, all that time I was so good, God didn’t notice it?” And my mom said, “Well, I noticed it.”

And I thought, “How could I not have known this before? How could it not have sunk in when they’d been telling me? All that being good and no real credit for it.

And worst of all, how could I not have realized this very important information until the very day that it was basically useless to me?”

So I said, “Well, Mom and Dad, what about Santa Claus? I mean, Santa Claus knows if you’re naughty or nice, right?” And my dad said, “Yeah, but, honey, I think that’s technically just between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” And my mother said, “Oh, Bob, stop it. Let’s just tell her. I mean, she’s seven. Julie, there is no Santa Claus.”

Now, this was actually not that upsetting to me. My parents had this whole elaborate story about Santa Claus: how they had talked to Santa Claus himself and agreed that instead of Santa delivering our presents over the night of Christmas Eve, like he did for every other family who got to open their surprises first thing Christmas morning, our family would give Santa more time. (That’s the smart way of buying gifts: When they are on sale)

Santa would come to our house while we were at nine o’clock high mass on Christmas morning, but only if all of us kids did not make a fuss. Which made me very suspicious.

It was pretty obvious that it was really our parents giving us the presents. I mean, my dad had a very distinctive wrapping style, and my mother’s handwriting was so close to Santa’s.

Plus, why would Santa save time by having to loop back to our house after he’d gone to everybody else’s? There was only one obvious conclusion to reach from this mountain of evidence: our family was too strange and weird for even Santa Claus to come visit, and my poor parents were trying to protect us from the embarrassment, this humiliation of rejection by Santa, who was jolly — but let’s face it, he was also very judgmental. So to find out that there was no Santa Claus at all was actually sort of a relief.

I left the kitchen not really in shock about Santa, but rather, I was just dumbfounded about how I could have missed this whole age of reason thing.

It was too late for me, but maybe I could help someone else, someone who could use the information. They had to fit two criteria: they had to be old enough to be able to understand the whole concept of the age of reason, and not yet seven.

The answer was clear: my brother Bill. He was six. Well, I finally found Bill about a block away from our house at this public school playground. It was a Saturday, and he was all by himself, just kicking a ball against the side of a wall.

I ran up to him and said, “Bill! I just realized that the age of reason starts when you turn seven, and then you’re capable of committing any and all sins against God and man.” And Bill said, “So?” And I said, “So, you’re six. You have a whole year to do anything you want to and God won’t notice it.”

And he said, “So?” And I said, “So? So everything!” And I turned to run. I was so angry with him. But when I got to the top of the steps, I turned around dramatically and said, “Oh, by the way, Bill — there is no Santa Claus.”

04:48 Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but I really wasn’t turning seven on September 10th. For my 13th birthday, I planned a slumber party with all of my girlfriends, but a couple of weeks beforehand my mother took me aside and said, “I need to speak to you privately. September 10th is not your birthday. It’s October 10th.” And I said, “What?”

05:13 “Listen. The cut-off date to start kindergarten was September 15th.”

 “So I told them that your birthday was September 10th, and then I wasn’t sure that you weren’t just going to go blab it all over the place, so I started to tell you your birthday was September 10th. But, Julie, you were so ready to start school, honey. You were so ready.”

I thought about it, and when I was four, I was already the oldest of four children, and my mother even had another child to come, so what I think she — understandably — really meant was that she was so ready, she was so ready.

Then she said, “Don’t worry, Julie. Every year on October 10th, when it was your birthday but you didn’t realize it, I made sure that you ate a piece of cake that day.”

Which was comforting, but troubling. My mother had been celebrating my birthday with me, without me.

06:05 What was so upsetting about this new piece of information was not that I had to change the date of my slumber party with all of my girlfriends. What was most upsetting was that this meant I was not a Virgo.

I had a huge Virgo poster in my bedroom. And I read my horoscope every single day, and it was so totally me.

And this meant that I was a Libra?

So, I took the bus downtown to get the new Libra poster. The Virgo poster is a picture of a beautiful woman with long hair, sort of lounging by some water, but the Libra poster is just a huge scale. This was around the time that I started filling out physically, and I was filling out a lot more than a lot of the other girls, and frankly, the whole idea that my astrological sign was a scale just seemed ominous and depressing.

06:55 But I got the new Libra poster, and I started to read my new Libra horoscope, and I was astonished to find that it was also totally me.

 It wasn’t until years later, looking back on this whole age-of-reason, change-of-birthday thing, that it dawned on me: I wasn’t turning seven when I thought I turned seven. I had a whole other month to do anything I wanted to before God started keeping tabs on me. Oh, life can be so cruel.

One day, two Mormon missionaries came to my door. Now, I just live off a main thoroughfare in Los Angeles, and my block is — well, it’s a natural beginning for people who are peddling things door to door.

Sometimes I get little old ladies from the Seventh Day Adventist Church showing me these cartoon pictures of heaven. And sometimes I get teenagers who promise me that they won’t join a gang and just start robbing people, if I only buy some magazine subscriptions from them.

So normally, I just ignore the doorbell, but on this day, I answered. And there stood two boys, each about 19, in white, starched short-sleeved shirts, and they had little name tags that identified them as official representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they said they had a message for me, from God.

I said, “A message for me? From God?” And they said, “Yes.” Now, I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, around a lot of Church of Latter-day Saints people and, you know, I’ve worked with them and even dated them, but I never really knew the doctrine, or what they said to people when they were out on a mission, and I guess I was sort of curious, so I said, “Well, please, come in.”

And they looked really happy, because I don’t think this happens to them all that often.

08:35 And I sat them down, and I got them glasses of water — Ok, I got it, I got it. I got them glasses of water. Don’t touch my hair, that’s the thing.

You can’t put a video of myself in front of me and expect me not to fix my hair. Ok.

 So I sat them down and I got them glasses of water, and after niceties, they said, “Do you believe that God loves you with all his heart?” And I thought, “Well, of course I believe in God, but you know, I don’t like that word ‘heart,’ because it anthropomorphizes God, and I don’t like the word, ‘his,’ either, because that sexualizes God.”

But I didn’t want to argue semantics with these boys, so after a very long, uncomfortable pause, I said, “Yes, yes, I do. I feel very loved.” And they looked at each other and smiled, like that was the right answer.

And then they said, “Do you believe that we’re all brothers and sisters on this planet?” And I said, “Yes, I do.”

And I was so relieved that it was a question I could answer so quickly. And they said, “Well, then we have a story to tell you.”

09:53 And they told me this story all about this guy named Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem in 600 BC. Now, apparently in Jerusalem in 600 BC, everyone was completely bad and evil. Every single one of them: man, woman, child, infant, fetus. And God came to Lehi and said to him, “Put your family on a boat and I will lead you out of here.”

And God did lead them. He led them to America. I said, “America?

From Jerusalem to America by boat in 600 BC?” And they said, “Yes.”

10:29 Then they told me how Lehi and his descendants reproduced and reproduced, and over the course of 600 years, there were two great races of them, the Nephites and the Lamanites.

 And the Nephites were totally good — each and every one of them — and the Lamanites were totally bad and evil — every single one of them just bad to the bone.

Then, after Jesus died on the cross for our sins, on his way up to heaven, he stopped by America and visited the Nephites.

And he told them that if they all remained totally, totally good — each and every one of them — they would win the war against the evil Lamanites. But apparently somebody blew it, because the Lamanites were able to kill all the Nephites.

All but one guy, this guy named Mormon, who managed to survive by hiding in the woods. And he made sure this whole story was written down in reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics chiseled onto gold plates, which he then buried near Palmyra, New York.

Well, I was just on the edge of my seat.

Americans, here in the U.S.” And I said, “So, you believe the Native Americans are descended from a people who were totally evil?” And they said, “Yes.”

Then they told me how this guy named Joseph Smith found those buried gold plates right in his backyard, and he also found this magic stone back there that he put into his hat and then buried his face into, and this allowed him to translate the gold plates from the reformed Egyptian into English.

12:05 Well, at this point I just wanted to give these two boys some advice about their pitch.

 “Ok, don’t start with this story.” I mean, even the Scientologists know to start with a personality test before they start telling people all about Xenu, the evil intergalactic overlord.

Then, they said, “Do you believe that God speaks to us through his righteous prophets?” And I said, “No, I don’t,” because I was sort of upset about this Lamanite story and this crazy gold plate story, but the truth was, I hadn’t really thought this through, so I backpedaled a little and I said, “Well, what exactly do you mean by ‘righteous’?

And what do you mean by prophets? Like, could the prophets be women?” And they said, “No.” And I said, “Why?” And they said, “Well, it’s because God gave women a gift that is so spectacular, it is so wonderful, that the only gift he had left over to give men was the gift of prophecy.”

What is this wonderful gift God gave women, I wondered? Maybe their greater ability to cooperate and adapt?

13:17 Women’s longer lifespan? The fact that women tend to be much less violent than men?

But no — it wasn’t any of these gifts. They said, “Well, it’s her ability to bear children.” I said, “Oh, come on. I mean, even if women tried to have a baby every single year from the time they were 15 to the time they were 45, assuming they didn’t die from exhaustion, it still seems like some women would have some time left over to hear the word of God.” And they said, “No.”

Well, then they didn’t look so fresh-faced and cute to me any more, but they had more to say. They said, “Well, we also believe that if you’re a Mormon, and if you’re in good standing with the church, when you die, you get to go to heaven and be with your family for all eternity.”

And I said, “Oh, dear. That wouldn’t be such a good incentive for me.”

14:12 And they said, “Oh.

Hey! Well, we also believe that when you go to heaven, you get your body restored to you in its best original state. Like, if you’d lost a leg, well, you get it back. Or, if you’d gone blind, you could see.”

I said, “Oh. Now, I don’t have a uterus, because I had cancer a few years ago. So does this mean that if I went to heaven, I would get my old uterus back?” And they said, “Sure.” And I said, “I don’t want it back. I’m happy without it.” Gosh. What if you had a nose job and you liked it?

14:48 Would God force you to get your old nose back? Then they gave me this Book of Mormon, told me to read this chapter and that chapter, and said they’d come back and check in on me, and I think I said something like, “Please don’t hurry,” or maybe just, “Please don’t,” and they were gone.

Ok, so I initially felt really superior to these boys, and smug in my more conventional faith. But then the more I thought about it, the more I had to be honest with myself.

If someone came to my door and I was hearing Catholic theology and dogma for the very first time, and they said, “We believe that God impregnated a very young girl without the use of intercourse, and the fact that she was a virgin is maniacally important to us.”

15:27 “And she had a baby, and that’s the son of God,” I mean, I would think that’s equally ridiculous. I’m just so used to that story.

So, I couldn’t let myself feel condescending towards these boys. But the question they asked me when they first arrived really stuck in my head: Did I believe that God loved me with all his heart?

Because I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about that question. Now, if they had asked me, “Do you feel that God loves you with all his heart?”

Well, that would have been much different, I think I would have instantly answered, “Yes, yes, I feel it all the time. I feel God’s love when I’m hurt and confused, and I feel consoled and cared for. I take shelter in God’s love when I don’t understand why tragedy hits, and I feel God’s love when I look with gratitude at all the beauty I see.”

But since they asked me that question with the word “believe” in it, somehow it was all different, because I wasn’t exactly sure if I believed what I so clearly felt.

Select the Lebanese personality (dead or alive) you can be proud of

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to celebrate this Independence Day in Lebanon!

We may not have a president, or a functioning government – but when have those ever been what made Lebanon great?

We give you 72 Lebanese people who make us proud – with compatriots like this, who needs a president?

(Add to the list other personalities and leaders who made us proud)

Some of these are the legends we grew up admiring, some are relatively unsung heroes, and some are legends in the making.

But they all share one thing: They show the strength of the Lebanese spirit, and that’s something worth celebrating this Independence Day

1. Fairuz (80) (Singer) Like

‎قناة الميادين - Al Mayadeen Tv‎'s photo.

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2. Ahmad Kaabour (Singer) Like

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3. Georgina Rizk (Universe Beauty Queen of 1969)

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4. Late Ghassan Tueni (Journalist and founder of daily Al Nahar) Like

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5. Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah (Inventor. Electrical engineering genius. He and Tesla discoverer of Alternative current and who invented most of the electrical equipment in use today) Like

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6. Aida Sabra (Actress/Director)

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7. Joumana Haddad (Writer)

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8. Kim Ghattas (Reporter)

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9. Late Chouchou (Actor. Most famous ironic icon) Like

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10. Fadi El Khatib (Basketball Player)

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11. Philemon Wehbe (Composer) Like

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12. Carlos Ghosn (Businessman. General manager of Nissan and Renault) Like

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13. Zuhair Murad (Fashion Designer)

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14. Late Said Akl (Poet, Writer)

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15. Yasmine Hamdan (Singer)

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16. Late Samir Kassir (Journalist/Activist)

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17. Late May Ziade (Writer. Launched the first literary salon in Cairo) Like

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18. Maxime Chaya (Sportsman. Climbed highest mountain peaks and reached the North Pole) Like

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19. Charif Majdalani (Writer)

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20. Bernard Khoury (Architect)

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21. Amal Alamuddin Clooney (International Lawyer) Like

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22. Late Pierre Sadek (Caricaturist) Like

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23. Nidal Al Achkar (Actress/Director of theatre/Activist) Like

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24. Elia Abu Madi (Poet)

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25. Ziad Rahbani (Musician/Actor/Director of theatre/Singer) Like

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26. Nadine Labaki (Actress/Director) Like

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27. Ounsi el-Hajj (Writer)

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28. Mazen Hajjar (Investor)

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29. Serge Hochar (Winemaker)

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30. Majida El Roumi (Singer) Like

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31. Walid Toufic  (Singer)

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32. Amin Maalouf (Author/Journalist/French Academy member) Like

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33. Ray Bassil (Sportswoman)

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34. Melhem Barakat (Singer) Like

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35. Reem Acra (Fashion Designer)

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36. Silvio Chiha (Sportsman)

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37. Bushra El-Turk (Composer)

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38. Lebanese Rocket Society Like

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39. Fady Raidy (Comedian)

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40. Xriss Jor (Singer)

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41. Octavia Nasr (Journalist)

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42. Eddy Maroun and Elie Habib (Entrepreneurs)

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43. Jalal Khoury (Playwright/Director) Like

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44. Hamed Sinno (Musician)

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45. Late Charles Malik (Philosopher/Represented Lebanon at the UN session of 1946 in San Francisco)

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46. Ramzi Haidamus (President of Nokia) Like

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47. Joseph Harb (Poet/Song Writer) Like

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48. Late Nasri Shamseddine (Performer) Like

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49. Hind Hobeika (Techie)

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50. Abdallah Absi (Entrepreneur)

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51. Karl Sharro (Writer)

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52. Guy Manoukian (Musician)

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53. Late Wadih El Safi (Singer/Musician/an icon)

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54. Sabah (Singer/Actress, an Icon) Like

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55. Late Mikha’il Na’ima (Writer/ Friend and contemporary of Jubran in the USA) Like

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56. Late Gibran Khalil Gibran (Writer/Drawer. Famous for “The Prophet”) Like

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57. Marcel Khalife (Musician. An Icon) Like

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58. Late Rahbani Brothers (Musicians/Writers/Playwriters. Icons) Like

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59. Habib Haddad (Entrepreneur)

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60. Nicolas Jebran (Fashion Designer)

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61. Zeina Daccache (Actress/Director)

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62. Rabih Alameddine (Writer)

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63. Lucien Bourjeily (Director/Writer/ Activist) Like

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64. Charles Elachi (Scientist/Director of Jet Propulsion Lab) Like

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65. Mona Bawarshi (CEO)

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66. Elie Saab (Fashion Designer)

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67. Ralph Debbas (CEO)

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68. Bassam Jalgha (Engineer/Musician)

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69. Rudy Rahme (Sculptor)

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70. Georges Khabbaz (Actor/Writer) Like

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71. Hilal Khashan (Scholar)

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72. Adel Termos (National Hero/Tackled a suicide bomber) Like

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 I also like Antoun Saadeh, founder of the first secular political party in Lebanon in 1933, during the French mandate. He was summarily executed for insisting on the strategic value of our oil and the threat of the nascent Zionist movement, and the strategic danger of expansionist Turkey

Happy Independence Day ‪#‎Lebanon‬!|By Ghida Ladkani


Sound like an expert with these phrases about Middle East politics

But you are just another talking head who refuses to due his due diligence.

Many people are hesitant to talk about the Middle East and its politics because it seems to be quite a complex place that requires extensive knowledge to understand it.

While this is certainly true, there are handy phrases you can use that will make you sound like you know what you are talking about without actually bothering to study the area.

We have collected these phrases in the form of a handy guide below. Note that if used properly, you can even go on to become a certain moustached celebrated columnist allowed to pontificate on the region with very little knowledge to go on.

Karl reMarks posted this April 2015

1. ‘It’s all about the oil’

This is the mother of all phrases about Middle East politics. It is one of the most effective phrases in the context of Middle Eastern geopolitics and one that can explain everything.

It has even been used to explain Saudi Arabia’s 8-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2002 World Cup and the backlash against Haifa Wehbe’s latest video clip.

‘It’s all about the oil’ is best used along with a patronising phrase such as, ‘you’re so naïve, it’s all about the oil’, or ‘don’t believe everything you read in books, it’s all about the oil’.

Generally it’s better to use it about countries that actually have oil reserves. (Just a reminder, a few countries here have none or nothing has been extracted so far, like Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian occupied territories…Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania are in north Africa)

But in case you’re stuck and you’re discussing a country that doesn’t have oil, you can claim that ‘an American expedition found a large reserve of oil in Lebanon in 1917 but kept the information secret.’

2. ‘Saudi Arabia, pffft!’

‘Who do you think created all terrorists in the world?’ ‘Saudi Arabia, pffft!’ ‘What is really happening in Syria?’ ‘Saudi Arabia, pffft!’ ‘Who is responsible for the decline of the Arab novel?’ ‘Saudi Arabia, pffft!’

These are typical exchanges that explain how to use this very effective phrase in the right context.

Used correctly, the phrase will make both you and the person you’re talking to sound knowledgeable and wise and avoid going into pesky details.

But it is essential to make the sound pffft, simply saying ‘Saudi Arabia’ will make you look like an amateur. For added emphasis, you can throw your hands up in the air when you say pffft.

A warning though, in case the person you’re talking to likes Saudi Arabia, skip to the next phrase.

3. ‘The Shia Crescent’

Alternately called ‘Iran’s fingers behind everything’ this is a very popular phrase when talking about Middle Eastern politics.

The beauty of the Shia crescent as a concept to explain Iranian expansion is that it actually looks like a crescent and therefore must be true.

Other variations like ‘the Shia triangle’ or ‘the Shia Mickey-Mouse shaped region of influence’ failed to inspire the public imagination despite being more geographically accurate.

A popular elaboration on ‘the Shia crescent’ is to use the phrase ‘the Persians are the true enemies of the Arabs’.

By calling them Persians instead of Iranians you gave the weight of history to an otherwise mundane statement. See also the next item.

4. ‘Sultan Erdogan’

‘Why is Turkey….?’

‘Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman Empire.’

Much like with Iran, everything about Turkey’s modern politics can be explained by Erdogan’s secret desire to revive the Ottoman Empire, including Turkey’s decision to no longer compete in the Eurovision song contest. Well, clearly the rules were biased against neo-Ottoman revivalist electro-pop.

The strong evidence that backs this approach is Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman presidential palace and the historic uniforms for his honour guard.

Whenever anyone brings up Turkey, throw your hands up in the air melodramatically and say ‘Sultan Erdogan!’ Everyone will agree with you and you will feel very clever.

5. ‘Obama is an idiot’

Who was responsible for giving the Muslim Brotherhood control over Egypt? America. Who was responsible for the coup that removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power? America.

Who is responsible for Saudi expansion in the region? America.

Who is responsible for the Iranian rise? America.

Pretty much the answer to any question that starts with ‘who?’ in the Middle East is always America.

While this might not be strictly true some of the time, America is a very popular choice that everyone can agree on holding responsible for everything.

(We used to say in the 20th century “Al 7ak 3ala al Tolyains” blame the Italians. The USA has demonstrated time and again that it is the real culprit in destabilizing the region after WWII)

In order to use this correctly however, you must simultaneously hold two seemingly contradictory opinions: that America is a clever and scheming power that controls everything in the Middle East and that America is extremely stupid.

If you’re questioning this, then you’re Not quite mentally prepared to discuss the Middle East intelligently.

On a similar note, you must remember that America is either completely controlled by Israel and does its bidding all the time, or is the puppet master using Israel as its tool in the Middle East, whichever is more convenient under the circumstances.

Regardless of which direction you follow, always close by nodding and saying ‘Obama is an idiot’. Everyone will agree with you.

6. ‘Ancient Tribal Rivalries’ (Especially valid in Yemen and Iraq?)

If all else fails, you can always resort to the ultimate trump card: ‘these are ancient tribal rivalries’, which can explain any conflict in the Middle East. Sunnis and Shias?

Ancient tribal rivalries. Saudi Arabia and Qatar? Ancient tribal rivalries. Fairouz or Um Kalthoum?  Ancient tribal rivalries.

Clearly, colonialism, Western interventions, political rivalries and ideological conflicts have nothing to do with anything happening in the Middle East today.

It’s all down to who stole whose camel centuries ago. Because the Middle East is that simple.

Lastly, remember not to attempt any nuance or complexity when using those phrases, that will completely ruin them.

When talking about the politics of the Middle East, it’s crucial to stick to one-dimensional clichés that everyone can agree on.

This guide will soon be available as a smartphone app in case you can’t remember all the phrases correctly




December 2015

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