Adonis Diaries

Archive for the ‘economy/finance’ Category

How a “Transparent accounting” for tax purposes? Away from biased Elite Class “Net profit” laws?

Transparent accounting: Based on revenue,

This is one of my Daydream ideas.

Revenue is the one item in the balance sheet that no corporation is about to cheat on, Not even gang and drug criminal organizations cheat on it. Why?

You cannot have a balance sheet or working statement or any other accounting gimmick without accurate revenue…

Board of director members take their cuts directly from the total revenue.

They know how much the company is generating in gross profit, excluding side revenues and under the table bonuses and favors…

For example, they that the percentage on the revenue cut must correspond to 50% of the gross profit, and they get first cut, ahead of time, and all other items can be changed to correspond to the expected net profit.

Even without the huge amount of data, financial and economical data, companies in particular line of business have an appreciation of the gross profit before the legal year starts, based on the previous revenue and accurate forecasting…

Every item in the balance sheet is known as a percentage of the revenue.

You change a percentage and you know what the managers should be doing as consequences: Fire employees and how many, reduce facility costs, save on energy, training, quality of spare parts, inspection, quality control,…

Actually, all the accounting standards and accounting schools and degrees are Not meant to fine-tune the accounting records of anything. Mostly, these degrees are to know and apply the laws that benefit the Elite Classes in a society.

The government and the corporations have no need for all the accurate numbers and inspection of records and papers: They know the revenue and the proper percentage on the revenue that each item is measured accordingly.

Government can as easily and more accurately get the taxes on revenue, instead of waiting for the gross profit computation, and saving the citizens the exacerbation of enacting loopholes as large as the State of Montana.

If the financial and business communities consider the tax rate on revenue high or exaggerated, they can lobby to simply reduce the rate of the percentage on the revenue…What’s the big deal?

Is transparency anathema to governing?

Should government persist on creating more mysterious laws than the citizens are ready to swallow?

Is governing meant to constantly resume the financial emulation of cult organizations with code-names, secrecy, childish gimmick…?

Why the top 1% of corporations have to skim 20% of total revenue, then rearrange all the items in the balance sheet, so that the workers and employees sweat out negotiating on a better minimum wage?

Who is taking advantages of the small prints as footnotes in the balance sheet and other accounting gimmicks?

Why should the nation needs expert on how to comprehend the meaning of the footnotes, if transparency is the goal in transactions?

Occupy Wall Street protests should demand that accounting ratios should be transparent on a special accounting sheet:  Citizens must know how much the top 1% are actually paid, how much the middle management is paid, and how much the rank-and-file of workers are paid as a proportion of the total revenue…

Actually, who is generating the profit if Not the workers and employees, and who is making the economy grow, and who is defending the interests of the top 1%?

Occupy Wall Street protests task is to demand transparency in all financial undertaking, starting with a transparent accounting.

Daydream project? Restructuring medical profession and health care providers

Daydream project: Restructuring medical  profession and health care providers systems

My daydreaming started by recollecting that nurses are the ones who took care of me, smiled to me, and had compassion to my predicament after each surgery: Surgeons spent less than a minute after their job was done, if they ever found it necessary or had time to visit their patients.

The entire health care system is fundamentally run by nurses, carried on the shoulders of nurses…

For example, Philippinas  (from the Philippine) in the US constitute the vast majority of nurses (at least a decade ago).

Eduardo Galeano wrote this story:

“It is 1984, in the prison of Lurigancho at Lima (Chili).  Luis Nino is inspecting the prison for the count of a human rights organization.  Luis is crossing sick prisoners, vomiting blood, agonizing, open wounds, with fever…

Luis meets the chief medical staff and ask why the physicians are not making any routine health rounds…The physician replies: “We, physicians, intervene at the calls of nurses…”

And where are the nurses? The chief retorts: “The budget for the prison didn’t allocate funds for nurses…”

I got into thinking:

“If I ever come into big money, or get in a position of power, I will take care of the nurses, improve their standard of living,  extend material values and dignity to their hard work, get engaged with Occupy Health Care protests

I will rent buildings close to hospitals and rent affordable rooms to nurses, and let the nurses run the building…

And install a modern facility in the building for continuing education and provide vans and affordable transport system for the nurses who can barely make ends meet…”

My daydreaming ideas went wild and I got into thinking:

“The entire medical system and health care providers need restructuring in order for nurses to receive their fair share in the gratitude of patients and return on the huge profit and…”

I saved the post as a draft, with the intention to publish it as my daydreaming project is complete, and then I said: “This project is hardly ever going to be complete. Publish whatever you have and let readers be inspired and finish it for you…”

The project is not meant to abolish current health institutions, medical schools and health services, but to establish an alternative system, funded by States until the new alternative institutions start generating followers and fund-raisers and…

The idea is that students in all medical fields (nurse, dietetics, massage provider, biologist, veterinarian, dentist, Red Cross volunteer, hospital administration, hospital manager, pharmacist, psychologist, psychiatrist, medical students, Ergonomics designers, medical equipment designers and operators…) share nursing practices in the first couple of years, get paid from year one, and are of practical service to the communities, particularly in rural areas, poorer districts, and in time of catastrophic events.

The University program and curriculum are reviewed so that practical initiations with patients and health institutions are offered in tandem with theoretical and general knowledge are focused on.

All students enrolled in one of the medical fields mentioned above have to learn and work as nurses for the first two years, and earn their living.

Year One:

Medical students, in all fields mentioned above, work in hospital and learn to deliver first aides services (like Red Cross volunteer courses), how to communicate with patients, get initiated with hospital administration and procedures…

Practical initiation: trauma cases, drug cases, vaccination procedures, types of contagious diseases, curable diseases

Formal courses: Physiology, musculoskeletal disorders, introduction to Human Factors issues, health and safety in hospital and workplaces, experimental design, statistical analysis…

Year Two:

Medical students learn to be exposed to surgery room practices and procedures, anesthesiology room, pharmacy section, and hospital administration…

Practical initiation: blood testing procedures, urine testing procedures, tropical diseases diagnostics, injection, administering medication,

Formal courses in Anatomy, designing surveys and collecting data, analysing and interpreting peer-reviewed scientific research and sorting out valid experiments, introduction to pharmacology,…

Year Three:

Students targeting fields in (medical equipment design and operation, hospital management and administration, dietetics, massage provider, biologist, and psychology) part from the other students into specialized universities and sections.

The remaining students get skills in small skin surgery, dialysis procedures, intensive care units, hard to cure diseases…

Formal course in neurology, in-depth reading of peer-review scientific research articles, designing and performing controlled experiments,…

Year Four:

The students in the medical fields part ways.

Except for the general physician practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, psychoanalysts, the other students should be ready to graduate in their preferred subject of interest.

At worse, a couple of courses might be needed to achieve their requirements.

Rationales for this alternative system:

1. The “psychological” divide between physicians and nurses is “physically and mentally” reduced

2. Physicians will be readier to empathize with patients

3. Physicians will be initiated with the “physical understanding” of the job of nurses, and will feel readier to support nurses demands and syndicates for continuing education and resume the study to becoming full-fledged physicians…

4. Communities will enjoy a much larger pool of health providers in the events of catastrophes, war, economic downturn…

5. Earning a living from year one and feeling confident as a valued citizen

6. Efficient interactions and interrelations among health institutions

7. Nurses playing vaster roles as communicators and transmitters links among patients and specialized physicians, particularly for remote patients, neglected patients in residences, uncovered patients with any health insurance…

8.  How about you forward me with all your rationales, suggestions, and developed comments?

Note: It is becoming evident that modern schooling system is principally a big detention center for the youth in order to keep them “away from the streets”.

Kids do Not need 13 years of formal schooling before going to universities or learning practical skills and talents to earn a living by the age of 15. It is not knowledge that they are learning, but regurgitation of consensus information.

Reflective learning and self-learning are not appreciated on the ground that kids are not “ready to discuss, ponder and ask the right questions…”

Kids have to earn a living from skilled maintenance professions before considering higher education in fields of their interests…

In general, in almost every society, you have about 15% of the population deemed unnecessary for producing and contributing to the development of the” system”: They are confined in ghetto quarters to fend for their survival and are basically the ones incarcerated in order to show “statistically” that the police force is doing its job…

Can we define most Lebanese as chatel “pseudo-citizens”?

Note: Re-edit of “A shitty people. Un peuple de mer(de)?June 28, 2017

Finally, an ired Lebanese woman blowing her top and describing our status “Nous sommes un peuple de mer(de)”

Mind you that what this article was written 3 years ago, before Corona pandemics and before our pseudo-State declared total bankruptcy at all levels: government, Central Bank and private banks...

Médéa AZOURI | OLJ

Un peuple minable. Un peuple composé de criminels, de voyous, de lâches, d’inconscients, des anarchistes, de fourbes.

Un peuple qui ne mérite pas son appartenance Libanaise (ou aucune autre appurtenance?).

Nous sommes un peuple indigne (de quoi? d’être citoyen?). Un peuple honteux.

Que nous sommes honteux. Nous, les complices de la République.

Complices de l’immense crime écologique qui a détruit à jamais nos côtes et notre mer.

Complices des crimes commis dans la rue par des ordures aux veines shootées, au cerveau atrophié, appuyés par des hommes véreux.

Nous sommes complices des bûcherons-bouchers qui abattent les arbres de nos forêts pour en faire des carrières.

Complices des hommes qui bafouent inlassablement les droits des femmes. Complices de tous ceux qui augmentent leurs prix allègrement C’est-à-dire tout le monde.

Complices des politiciens qui nous volent. Des députés qui s’auto prorogent un nouveau mandat. (Our parliament actually extended its tenure for another mandate on false excuses of security reasons)

Complices de ces meurtres insensés de notre pays, que nous commettons jour après jour.

Nous sommes nuls et abjects.

3 200 tonnes de déchets se déversent chaque jour dans la mer à Bourj Hammoud, Jdeidé et Dbayé, à la demande de notre ministre de l’Environnement.

Chaque p*** de jour. « Ah bon ? Yay quelle horreur, c’est inadmissible. Il faut faire quelque chose… Mais dis-moi, tu vas à Anfeh demain ? Il paraît que c’est propre là-bas. »

L’aveuglement à son paroxysme.

Nouvelle loi électorale, prorogation d’une année, cartes magnétiques à 35 millions de dollars. « Ma32oul ! Ce n’est pas permis. On n’a pas besoin de ces cartes, ce sont les mêmes qui vont revenir. Ils ne savent plus quoi faire pour continuer à piller le pays… Dakhlak, tu vas voter pour qui ? » La connerie à l’état pur.

Augmentation des prix.

Des prix hallucinants pour tout. Les restaurants, la bouffe, les bars, les plages, les fringues, les cafés, les billets d’avion, internet, les forfaits de mobile. « Tu te rends compte que ma journée à la plage en Grèce – aller-retour en bateau, location des transats, espressos, cafés frappés, petites bouteilles d’eau, Caïpirinha sous le parasol, déjeuner – m’a coûté le prix de l’entrée de n’importe quelle plage au Liban. Si ce n’est moins… L’été prochain, je vais deux mois à Mykonos, Skiathos, Sifnos, Poros… » Bref, partout où ça finit en os.

Le mépris dans toute sa splendeur. (Someone told me that renting a condo in Tyr cost $250 per day, just to enjoy the beach)

L’électricité sera enfin donnée 24h/24 et les prix vont probablement augmenter. « Yi, c’est génial. » C’est vrai que c’est extraordinaire que l’un des services fondamentaux auxquels un citoyen (qui paye ses impôts, aussi minimes soient-ils) puisse accéder soit enfin disponible 24 heures sur 24.

C’est donc normal que ça soit plus cher. La bêtise comme on n’en fait plus. Roy Hamouche meurt assassiné, d’une balle dans la tête, logée par un monstre, après une altercation routière.

Le parquet requiert des poursuites contre les meurtriers présumés, et le crime ne restera pas impuni. « Walla, c’est bien. » Bien ? Bien de condamner un meurtrier ? C’est normal, bordel, de condamner un meurtrier. D’ailleurs, a-t-on appris quelque chose de nouveau sur l’affaire depuis le 15 juin ? La naïveté à son summum.

Un mec nous insulte alors qu’il est en sens interdit, on klaxonne, rouspète et on cède le chemin. On ne sait jamais, peut-être qu’il a une arme.

On paye 300 dollars une salade, une viande et un verre de vin. Légitime, c’est un Black Angus Premium élevé dans les pâturages d’Aberdeen, croisé avec un Wagyu de Fujiyoshi et ramené à Beyrouth par DHL… « Je te jure, c’est le meilleur resto du Liban. »

Mais bien sûr. À New York, c’est combien ? Et à Tokyo ? Tokyo, où si l’on y passe ses vacances, coûterait moins cher qu’un week-end dans le Chouf.

Et la plage à 125$ la journée, pour nager dans une piscine chaude (la mer étant impraticable, à moins qu’on ait des pulsions suicidaires), s’éclater les tympans sur de la très mauvaise musique, manger une glace fondue et re-glacée, coincé sur un bed (à 50$) entre deux mecs bedonnants à cigare… C’est normal ?

Normal qu’on soit le pays le plus cher de la région ?

Celui qui a le taux de cancer le plus élevé de la MENA ? Normal que l’on croule sous une dette indécente au profit de quelques hommes et de leurs pay-rollers ?

Normal qu’on fonce droit dans le mur et qu’on le fasse le sourire aux lèvres en clamant à n’importe quel sourd qui voudrait l’entendre : « Mais noooon, la qualité de vie est top au Liban. Et la nightlife aussi. Et les services (pas ceux avec la plaque rouge évidemment). »

Et c’est normal que nous ne fassions rien ?
Effectivement, c’est tout à fait normal.

Parce que, même si nous applaudissons quelques (très) belles initiatives par-ci, par-là, ce que nous savons faire de mieux tient en un mot : rien.

Note 1: I demand that we get daily boats to take us to Cyprus. Why this is Not feasible in Lebanon? Why Lebanon is prohibited to have maritime transport?

Note 2: I posted a harsh article on the entrepreneur mentality of Lebanese in general. https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/clever-enterpreneur-my-ass-who-is-the-lebanese-entrepreneur/

Consequences of Forensic investigations of Lebanon Central Bank and ministry of finance

Financial Forensic investigation of the Central Bank deliver all the private banks shakky dealing

Financial Forensic investigation of the ministry of Finance exhibit all the rotten ministries and ministers

لو عرف السبب لبطل العجب .

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Again, what this militia/mafia clan want from Lebanon?

-What did they do with our saving? (the militia/mafia leaders, the Central Bank, the private banks, the religious sects clergies…)
– They spent it in the name of preserving the civil peace and fighting corruption.

– And now?
– Erasing its traces in silence, while we are watching their shows on TV, tweeting and posting on FB and WhatsApp.
$115 billions of total deposits in banks…

– That are worth no more than 30% of their value in real dollars, about $34 billions…
– And the plans, the IMF…

No need. They were only used to divert the attention. The only real plan was the ongoing erosion of deposits that have been trapped in the banking system. And it is pretty successful…
– What next?

– Moving to the next phase: expropriating and sharing the resources of a rogue state among bands of thugs…

– What is depressing is the return to normality for the victims of such a scam…It’s a weird feeling by an entire people of having been raped…
– And to remain obedient to its serial rapists for the rest of its life, the feeling is that bad…

– What to do?
– Exactly the opposite of what you are doing (or not doing) now…

Note 1: Greek former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said:  Lebanese must have the courage to nationalize the banks and restructure the Central Bank, issue a new currency and desist from seeking IMF money…”

Note 2: Finance Minister, Ghazi Wazni, the stooge to Nabih Berry (Head of Parliament in the last 25 years) opposed the Kroll Forensic financial company to do its job. The militia/mafia leaders, headed by Berry want just accounting firms so that no names are brought to justice.

Actually, the only people brought to justice are low level criminals at the sold of the militia leaders. These “criminals” are interrogated and released.

Total bankruptcy at all levels, government, banks and Central Bank: Even the finance director is forced to resign.

Alain Bifani, le directeur général démissionnaire du ministère des Finances.

“Certains politiciens veulent accaparer l’or, les actifs et propriétés de l’Etat”

Par Newsdesk Libnanews -30 juin 2020

Alain Bifani était l’invité de l’émission “Vision 2030” sur LBCI présentée par Albert Kostanian.

Ce projet de tout accaparer est celui de l’Association des Banques du Liban (ABL) dont l’auteur serait Riad Salamé, le gouverneur de la Banque du Liban (BDL) et qui est, semble-t-il, soutenu par la Commission des Finances et du Budget au Parlement.

Bifani a appelé à la fin du secret bancaire et à une enquête sur les propriétés immobilières au Liban et à l’étranger.

Le directeur général démissionnaire du ministère des Finances a confirmé que sa démission est définitive même si le gouvernement a aujourd’hui reporté d’une semaine son acceptation.

Alain Bifani a rejeté les critiques sur ses calculs de l’impact de la hausse des salaires que certains lui reprochent.

Le haut-fonctionnaire a conclu en disant qu’il est possible de combler le gouffre financier en poussant ceux qui ont profité de la politique financière désastreuse en place depuis 1993 à contribuer.

Il a estimé que les prix augmentent du fait de l’utilisation par la BDL de la planche à billet (impression de livres libanaises).

Selon lui, l’échec actuel du mandat du Président Michel Aoun est dû aux résistances des milieux politico-financiers contre les réformes.

Note: Greek former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said:  Lebanese must have the courage to nationalize the banks and restructure the Central Bank, issue a new currency and desist from seeking IMF money…”

What courage should we be expecting? In a pseudo-State since independence and a chatel “pseudo-citizens” stooges to the sectarian militia/mafia/feudal leaders?

Lire la suite: https://libnanews.com/alain-bifani-certains-politiciens-veulent-accaparer-lor-les-actifs-et-proprietes-de-letat/?no_cache=1&fbclid=IwAR09TIE1ojjjxbeMbMh6I7h63w54gSmjempHB2AaetK6bZ8M2QGYLnYOruw

A repeat of 1915 famine? Lebanon economic situation

‘People will die within months’:

Is Lebanon heading for famine as Corona pandemic accelerates hunger?

And as the colonial powers, headed by USA, sanctioning Lebanon and Syria economy and financial weak conditions?

Hit by its worst economic crisis in modern history, there are fears the country is about to repeat the 1915-18 famine

Note: Hassan Nasrallah, general secretary of Hezbollah, promised that the organization will never let famine set in. Hezbollah maybe the only organization bringing in dollars into Lebanon. I trust in the promises of Hassan.

Greek former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said:  Lebanese must have the courage to nationalize the banks and restructure the Central Bank, issue a new currency and desist from seeking IMF money…” We have a pseudo-State and a pseudo “citizen” 

The following description of the situation could be accurate from the Pseudo-State perspective of managing the helplessness morale of the 90% of the “citizens”

Mohamad barely looks surprised when his phone vibrates with an update on the devaluation of the Lebanese pound.  

“Great, now my salary is worth $60,” the 30-year-old Syrian economics teacher turned refugee said, shaking his head.

In the past week alone, the Lebanese pound has lost over 40% of its value.

Millions of people are watching their savings and salaries disappear as food inflation hits nearly 200%.

(For example, my retirement monthly wage with the Engineer Order is supposed to be $900. The bank where the money of retirement is deposited is still valued as 1, 350,000 Lira. Practically, with one $ worth 8,000 Lira, my net check is barely $160 today and being devalued repeatedly. Basically, I am receiving 1/6 th of what is my due)

Mohamad stood in the market in Beirut’s Shatila refugee camp, trying to calculate how much food he could afford for himself, his wife and two children.

In the end, he decides on potatoes for dinner: three potatoes sliced up, with half a red pepper and some cucumbers on the side. That would have to be dinner for four.

“Before the dollar crisis, my monthly salary as a freelance accounting assistant would last 15-20 days. Now it’s only enough for five days. I think they will probably make us all leave our jobs at the end of July… my family are already past the minimum that we can survive on. We borrow from the market to eat for the rest of the month.”

Hit by its worst economic crisis in modern history, the Lebanese pound has lost over 80% of its value since October, when nationwide anti-corruption protests began to rock the country.

Despite a decades-long peg of 1,500 to the dollar, people now widely use the black market value of the pound as a reference of the currency’s real worth.

(The Exchange syndicate, legit or not,  is in cohort with the Central Bank and the Banks: They receive the orders and supplies for the exchange rate that devalued to 8,000 Lira to the $)

According to a recent UN report, by the end of April over half of the country was struggling to put the most basic produce on the table as food prices had risen by 56% since October. Preliminary results show that between mid-March and May, they rose by another 50%.

(Actually, all produces and product have more than tripled in price, and the locally prod

Workers wearing protective face masks serve a large crowd of customers at the counter inside a local bakery in Beirut, Lebanon
Workers wearing protective face masks serve a large crowd of customers at the counter inside a local bakery in Beirut, Lebanon CREDIT: Hasan Shaaban /Bloomberg

Accelerated by the pandemic, unemployment is soaring, the value of wages are plummeting and prices continue to skyrocket. Lebanon is also host to around 1.5 million refugees – the most per capita in the world.

And it is no longer refugees and other vulnerable people who are concerned about being able to feed their families as Lebanon’s economic turmoil continues to spiral out of control.

“From aid given by the WFP, refugees could afford some food in the past,” said Martin Keulertz, Assistant Professor in the Food Security Programme at the American University of Beirut.

“They were able to consume some lentils, some labneh and so on, but rarely vegetables. Fruits were difficult and meat was out of the question. What is very concerning is now the majority of Lebanese people are on a similar trajectory,” he said.

Could Lebanon be heading to a repeat of the 1915-18 famine in which the country lost half of the population? “Absolutely,” said Dr Keulertz.

(Germany and Turkey imposed a stop to any import to Lebanon during WWI and hoarded what was still available in foodstuff. Lebanese were forced to go with their mules and donkeys to Syria (Houran province) in order to bring wheat and basic foodstuff)

“By the end of the year, we will see 75% of the population on food handouts, but the question is whether there will be food to hand out.”

“Surely in the new few months we will see a very grave scenario in which people will be starving and people will die from hunger and the knock-on effects of starvation.”

Mohamad Chreim in his butcher's shop
A kilogram of meat in Mohamad Chreim’s butcher’s shop used to cost the equivalent of $11, but now costs $33 as he has been forced to almost triple his prices since October. CREDIT: Abbie Cheeseman

The prospect of widespread hunger in Lebanon also raises increased fears over a second wave of coronavirus, Dr Keulertz explained, as people with compromised immune systems are far more likely to die.

Mohamad is among the more fortunate Syrian refugees in Lebanon in that he still has some work.

According to a survey published last week by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 3 out of 4 Syrians in Lebanon have lost their job or have no income.

Abdullah Al-Wardat, WFP country director for Lebanon, told the Telegraph that WFP now estimates 83 per cent of the estimated 1.5 million Syrians here are surviving on less than $2.90 per day, the minimum needed for physical survival and a category that is aligned with abject poverty.

After paying rent, Mohamad has the equivalent of $66 to spend on food for his family.

Milk for his children cost $18 before the dollar-crisis began, now even after choosing a lower-quality option, the cheapest he can buy it for is $33. A bag of rice is now $10, sugar is $8. The basic staples he used to be able to buy for those $66 would last his family ten days, now they last two.

Much like the economic collapse, Lebanon has been sliding towards food insecurity for decades.

Crumbling infrastructure, a lack of state investment and political mismanagement have left the agriculture sector contributing just 3% to the annual GDP, despite providing jobs for a quarter of the national workforce.

Like every sector in Lebanon, agriculture is riddled with corruption and powerful traders exploiting both farmers and consumers. Now, coronavirus and the economic crisis have brought Lebanon’s unsustainable approach towards almost every part of its economy crashing down.

The result is that Lebanon imports up to 80% of its food, leaving it vulnerable to price fluctuations and now the collapse of its own currency.

The struggle for food importers is only set to get worse as they are now forced to buy around 80 per cent of their foreign currency for imports on the ever-increasing black market rate, aside from a list of 30 essentials that are subsidised by the government.

There are two initial pillars of food security, explained an official at the UN’s World Food Programme.

Firstly, having enough food in the country and secondly, people having the purchasing power to access it.

Lebanon is facing a double whammy with a hit to both pillars at the same time.

Imports have already dropped by an estimated 50 per cent on last year, said Hani Boshali, president of the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuffs, Consumer Products and Drinks.

The struggle for food importers is only set to get worse as they are now forced to buy around 80 per cent of their foreign currency for imports on the ever-increasing black market rate.

According to Dr Keulertz, Lebanon needs around $500 million per year for food imports, particularly as only 13 per cent of its land is arable.

“If you do the maths, Lebanon can only feed around 130,000 people per year. The food crisis needs foreign intervention – it is a lot cheaper to save this country than it will be to allow a country that has done Europe a service by hosting refugees to collapse,” the AUB professor said.

Crowds queue to buy bread at a local bakery in Beirut, Lebanon
Crowds queue to buy bread at a local bakery in Beirut, Lebanon CREDIT: Bloomberg

In all corners of the tiny Mediterranean country, the middle class are becoming poor and the poor are sliding into destitution, as food prices are pushed beyond the means of most people.

Sixty-year-old Mohamad Chreim has owned a butcher’s shop in central Beirut for over 40 years. “I was doing well before the crisis, making at least one or two million pounds. I was so busy I wouldn’t stop all day”.

Now Mr Chreim is paying 200,000 pounds per day out of his pocket just to keep his business open. “People who used to buy in kilograms cannot afford meat anymore, so when they come in they buy in the grams.”

A kilogram of meat from Mr Chreim’s shop used to cost the equivalent of $11, but now costs $33 as he has been forced to almost triple his prices since October.

“If the economic crisis continues, who knows, I may not be able to open tomorrow. I am paying out of my own pocket to stay open because I’ll be depressed if I stay at home”.

Like everyone living off their savings, Mr Chreim is unsure how long he will be able to survive this way.

While restaurants went empty, the queues for bakeries stretched over the weekend amid news that bread would stop being distributed to supermarkets and shops in light of the collapsing currency.

(Cost of flour is supposed to be mostly shouldered by the State, but it is Not correct. Anyway, fancy bakeries and sweets are forcing the traditional bread bakery to increase the price of 900 g of bread to 2,000 Lira)

The sight of people searching through bins for food and long queues for aid distribution have become commonplace in a city that was not too long ago a playground for the rich and famous.

As cash runs out and the purchasing power of the average Lebanese continues to plummet, a barter economy is emerging. (Lebanese have no tradition in business barter, just bartering in ceremonies)

With commodities reaching almost triple their original prices, Facebook is slowly filling with posts of people trying to trade their personal belongings for basic necessities.

“Trading for a bag of Oui Oui diapers and a bag of Kleo milk”, one post read with a picture of a set of drinking glasses attached.

  • Additional reporting: Angie Mrad

Who is still Fighting for the Man?

Food aplenty for the few:

They are addicted to junk food.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Delicious: hungry

 

Fighting for the signs, given and wanted traits,

Thriving for characters of the beyond;

Fighting for the provocation of the ambient collective;

The objective environment and the living one;

The social, psychological, and family entities;

Fighting for the Man.

 

Toys aplenty for the few;

They are addicted to one-on-one machines.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

 

A piece of paper and threads gets kites flying high; smiles even higher;

A couple of sticks get a team running and laughing;

An old makeshift ball got kids gamboling and shrieking with joy.

 

Fighting for the society of objects, consumer goods;

The historical environment, of body and soul;

The cosmic belonging, the instinctive thrust;

The defense of the ego and the taste to live;

The denying and utilization of the other;

Fighting for the Man.

 

Vaccines and antibiotics for the few;

Open heart surgery for the few;

They got to be ninety and end up in nursing homes.

 

Alone: the refuse of humanity.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Barely first generation antibiotics dispatched to them;

They don’t get to live long,

They were Not meant to live long.

 

Their young memory didn’t erase the fresh good time.

They die within their community and among parents.

 

Fighting for the nutritional instinct, sexuality,

The race, age, gender, and life;

Variations in metabolism, language of the forms,

The sick body and the domesticated body;

The presence and ascendancy of the other.

 

Fighting for the Man.

Spaces and green horizons for the few;

They are addicted to tiny cubicles in overcrowded megalopolis.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Wind, dust, eroded land, dry earth,

A shade under an old resilient tree out in the nowhere;

A trickle of water of a drying source;

Crying babies, skeletal babies, over-stretched stomachs;

And white carcasses dotting the parched landscape.

 

Fighting for the emotive duality, the emotive matrix,

The emotive root of characters;

Getting a grip on the conscious, rhythm, perseverance;

Space and living duration;

The I, here, and now; in extension, in tension, and in intention;

Generosity and avarice.

 

Fighting for the Man.

Homes, gardens, and highways for the few;

They are addicted to driving and drinking.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Trekking for hundreds of miles for a handful of food;

Bare foot, crackling skin, sore dried up eyes;

To reach one of those Blue Tents

Erected and tended by romantic hearts.

 

Fighting for accepting reality;

Refusing reality, imaginary refusal;

The real, irrational and the surreal;

 

Carnal intelligence, dramatic intelligence,

Dialogue, rational arguments, democracy, discrimination,

The master action, the power of deciding,

The struggling with obstacles,

The greatness and misery of the will;

 

Fighting for the Man.

A car accident, a mugging,

A child left unattended, locked in a car,

A dog, a cat, an iguana for the few.

One million widowed, two millions disappeared,

Three millions refugees,

Four millions disabled in pre-emptive wars,

To depose a dictator here, a tough-minded leader there.

 

Five millions orphans, dislocated institutions and social fabrics;

Fifty thousands incarcerated:

Potential terrorists, with no hope for legal due processes,

For the leftover of humanity.

 

Fighting for the moral character, the moral act,

The religious expression of moral limitation;

Comprehending the Man is a science;

Far more complex and exhilarating of sciences

Than inanimate physical sciences.

 

You don’t need to be neutral in human behavioral sciences,

Just be plainly unbiased.

You don’t need to be odorless and insipid in social sciences;

I have got to be fighting for the Man!

 

They are exhausting: Legitimate, Temporary, and Necessary. And all are faked terms

Note: Re-edit of “Legitimate, Temporary, and Necessary. June 5, 2009″

It is the temporary term that is the most frustrating: it means for ever.

And basically, nothing was legitimate since the “independence” of this pseudo-State in 1943.

 On June 7, 2009, the Lebanese will vote for a new Parliament.

Two groups of citizens will vote; the group constituted of the patriotic, secular, and reformists and the group of an amalgam of confessionals, feudalists, isolationists, statue quo,  and “colonial minded” mentalities.

The “colonial minded” citizens follow leaders who invariably rely on foreign interventions to balance a broken alliance among confessional castes system and perpetrate the conditions for weak central governments.

A brief current history might elucidate this drastic splitting among the Lebanese citizens. I

n May 24, 2000, Ehud Barak PM of Israel withdrew from most of south Lebanon with no preconditions, the first ever in Israel 61 years history of colonial implantation in our midst.

The joint strategy of Lebanon President Lahoud and Bashar Assad of Syria enabled Hezbollah a resounding victory.

The Arab League decided to hold its annual meeting in Beirut in August 2002 as a good gesture for its acknowledgment of the victory in 2000 of this tiny State.

In 2003, Syria had plans for partial withdrawal to the Bekaa Valley but the vehement rhetoric from the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Patriarch of the Maronite Christian sect slowed down the execution process.

Before the assassination of late Rafic Hariri in February 14, 2005 the Bush Jr. Administration and Jacque Chirac of France issued the UN resolution 1559 for the retreat of the Syrian forces from Lebanon and the dismantling of Hezbollah’s military wing and the return of its heavy armament.

The withdrawal of the Syrian troops was not the main objective because the international community and the main “Arabic” States wanted and kept high hopes that Syria will ultimately be pressured to do the dirty work of taming Hezbollah.

The Syrian government factored in many variables to oppose the frequent lures and pressures of what is expected of her to do in order to remain in Lebanon.

The targeting Rafic Hariri for assassination by the US, France, Saudi Arabia, and mainly Israel was not one of the variables considered and Syria strategy was shaken violently.

In fact, Rafic Hariri received so many encouragements and acted in such confidence that the Syrian government forgot to contemplate such an evil and drastic eventuality by foreign colonial powers.

The mass demonstration on February 14 was not a threat to Syria; General Aoun was still in exile in France and was pressured by the French government Not to return to Lebanon.

What Syria comprehended the loudest was the mass demonstration by Hezbollah on March 8, 2005.  Hezbollah thanked Syria for its sacrifices, which meant “Now it is time for your complete withdrawal

Hezbollah was always nervous of the Syrian presence in Lebanon because it was the only power capable of restraining its activities.

Hezbollah was sending the message to Bashar Assad “We can take care of ourselves and still continue the resistance against Israel if you definitely put an end to the international pressures for getting out of Lebanon”

The mass demonstration in March 14, fortified by the supporters of General Aoun (The Tayyar Horr), was not even a threat to Syria.  It was the realization of Syria that its continued presence in Lebanon will ultimately confront its army directly as the Lebanese government lost control over events and cowered under uncertainties.

Syria withdrew quickly to the frustration of the US and France who realized that they wasted Hariri for naught: Hariri could still be of great benefit to their policies in the Middle East region alive rather than dead.

The International Community, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia had to fall back to plan B: rekindling the civil war in Lebanon.  They initiated a series of bombing in Christian quarters hoping that the Christian will side en mass with the Sunni/Hariri clan.  Plan B petered.

Israel/Saudi Kingdom came back with more vigorous scare tactics by assassinating Christian personalities.  Samir Kassir, George Hawi, and Jubran Tweiny were marked as potentially Not reliable allies and could shift sides because they were independent minded and honest characters.

This wave of select assassination backfired because General Aoun signed a pact with Hezbollah and de-activated a potential civil war targeting the Christians.

Plan C also failed and civil war did not flare out.

Thus, direct intervention from outside was considered and Israel trained its forces for incursion into Lebanon with the US total aids and support in all phases.

Hezbollah, intentionally or by coincidence, preempted the completion of the plan in June 12, 2006.  Israel launched its offensive for 33 days and failed miserably in all the goals.  The attack backfired and the stature of Hezbollah ballooned and overflowed to all the Arab and Muslim populations.

The International Community, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia did not desist.

Plan D was to re-enforce the Sunnis with a military wing of extremist salafists called “Jund Al Sham” and financed by Bandar Bib Sultan of Saudi Arabia.

In the summer of 2007, a few ignorant and violent Sunni extremists preempted the timing by slaughtering Lebanese soldiers; the army pride and dignity reacted with an all out attack and crushed this insurrection in Nahr Al Bared Palestinian camp after many months and many martyrs.

The International Community, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia studied for two years to dismantle Hezbollah secured communication lines and to start a mini civil war in Beirut between the Shia and Sunnis.

Plan E backfired again on May 8, 2008 as Hezbollah occupied all the Israeli secret intelligence centers in Beirut, as well as the quarters of the so-called security organizations.

The Lebanese leaders had to meet in Dawha and agree on the election of a President to the Republic, an election law for Parliament, and the constitution of a national government.

Lebanon has suffered for 4 years of an incompetent and illegitimate government; the Lebanese lived in a totally insecure political vacuum; the economy was farmed out to the size of the Hariri clan and the financial debt skyrocketed to $60 billions.

This “political” debt is intended to pressure the Lebanese government into accepting the settling of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in return for debt cancellation.

We need to compare 4 categories of leaders along the two dimensions of principled leaders and pragmatists.

In the dimension of principled leaders we can discriminate the hate monger isolationist leaders versus the principled for the public and State good.

In the pragmatic dimension we have the individual interest oriented and the public/State pragmatists.

For example: Walid Jumblatt, Marwan Hamadeh, Amine Gemayel, Samir Geagea, and the Patriarch of the Christian Maronite sect can be categorized in the isolationist, confessional, and personal minded leaders.

Ex-President Emile Lahoud, General Michel Aoun, Hassan Nasrallah and the ancient secular parties (Communists and Syria National Social Party) could be classified as the principled and public/State object oriented pragmatists.

The classification of the remainder of the semi-leaders I leave it to the readers as exercises.

The Mufti of Beirut is a non entity: he is the bugle of Saad Hariri.  Saad Hariri is a non entity: he re-edited the slogan of the chairman of General Motors to say “What is good for the Saudi Monarchs is good for Lebanon”.  General Motors has declared bankruptcy; the Hariri/Seniora clan will declare bankruptcy on June 8, 2009.

With the exception of General Aoun who refused any kind of occupations, all leaders welcomed the mandate of Syria for 20 years; they kept repeating the mantra “The presence of Syria in Lebanon is “Legitimate, Temporary, and Necessary”.

Marwan Hamadeh and all the actual ministers were the ones repeating this mantra to the nauseating public for 20 years.

The Maronite Patriarch Sfeir was against the Syrian presence but was pretty cool regarding Israel’s occupation.

The members of the Seniora PM government did not voice out their refusal of Israel’s occupation of part of south Lebanon and constantly conspired to weaken the resistance forces against the Israeli occupiers on the basis that only international diplomacy can pressure Israel!

Only President Lahoud stood steadfast with Hezbollah and refused to deploy the army in areas of the resistance’s operations.

Thanks to Hassan Nasrallah and President Lahoud Lebanon managed to secure its integrity and unify its army.  Thanks to Hassan Nasr Allah and General Michel Aoun Lebanon buried any likelihood for the resurgence of a civil war.

My spirit went to statesman General Aoun who said once the Syrian troops crossed the borders “Syria is now out of Lebanon.  I have no qualms with Syria anymore. This is the time to open a new page in our relations”.

This position stands in contrast to those who begged Syria for crumbs and privileges for 20 years and once Syria withdrew they refrained from normalizing relations with Syria; the fictitious excuses to antagonize Syria were dictated by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  What kind of state leadership is that?

The election results of June 7, 2009 should fortify Lebanon as a Nation and project the image of a solid central government with serious reforms and changes to the archaic political system.

That are my wishes but I know the struggle will be long and protracted.  Sweet revolutions need time to mature in this diversified Lebanon.

Note: All parliament elections in Lebanon bring in sectarian and feudal candidate. In 2020, Lebanese were left with a totally bankrupt State economically and financially. We are to suffer many years of “famine” conditions and no realistic hope in the future for any change or economic development.

Rise of Default Man And its fall

White blob, middle-class, heterosexual, middle-aged Silent Majority man

Note: Re-edit of “The rise and fall of Default Man. November 2, 2014″

Paddle your canoe up the River Thames and you will come round the bend and see a forest of huge totems jutting into the sky.

Great shiny monoliths in various phallic shapes, they are the wondrous cultural artifacts of a remarkable tribe.

We all know someone from this powerful tribe but we very rarely, if ever, ascribe their power to the fact that they have a particular tribal identity.

Grayson Perry in The rise and fall of Default Man, October 8, 2014

How did the straight, white, middle-class Default Man take control of our society?

And how can he be dethroned?

I think this tribe, a small minority of our native population, needs closer examination.

In the UK, its members probably make up about 10% of the population (see infographic below); globally, probably less than 1%.

Attack of the clones: Default Man is so entrenched in society that he is “like a Death Star hiding behind the moon”. Artwork by Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry’s guest-edited issue of the New Statesman is on sale on Thursday 9 October. Visit newstatesman.com/subscribe to get a copy

They dominate the upper echelons of our society, imposing, unconsciously or otherwise, their values and preferences on the rest of the population.

With their colourful textile phallus hanging round their necks, they make up an overwhelming majority in government, in boardrooms and also in the media.

They are, of course, white, middle-class, heterosexual men, usually middle-aged.

And every component of that description has historically played a part in making this tribe a group that punches far, far above its weight.

I have struggled to find a name for this identity that will trip off the tongue, or that doesn’t clutter the page with unpronounceable acronyms such as WMCMAHM.

“The White Blob” was a strong contender but in the end I opted to call him Default Man.

I like the word “default”, for not only does it mean “the result of not making an active choice”, but two of its synonyms are “failure to pay” and “evasion”, which seems incredibly appropriate, considering the group I wish to talk about.

Today, in politically correct 21st-century Britain, you might think things would have changed but somehow the Great White Male has thrived and continues to colonise the high-status, high-earning, high-power roles

(93% of executive directors in the UK are white men; 77% of parliament is male).

The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”, as I like to call it) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power.

Of course, the main reason he has those qualities in the first place is what he is, not what he has achieved.

John Scalzi, in his blog Whatever, thought that being a straight white male was like playing the computer game called Life with the difficulty setting on “Easy”.

If you are a Default Man you look like power.

I must confess that I qualify in many ways to be a Default Man myself but I feel that by coming from a working-class background and being an artist and a transvestite, I have enough cultural distance from the towers of power. I have space to turn round and get a fairly good look at the edifice.

In the course of making my documentary series about identity, Who Are You?, for Channel 4, the identity I found hardest to talk about, the most elusive, was Default Man’s.

Somehow, his world-view, his take on society, now so overlaps with the dominant narrative that it is like a Death Star hiding behind the moon.

We cannot unpick his thoughts and feelings from the “proper, right-thinking” attitudes of our society. It is like in the past, when people who spoke in cut-glass, RP, BBC tones would insist they did not have an accent, only northerners and poor people had one of those.

We live and breathe in a Default Male world: no wonder he succeeds, for much of our society operates on his terms.

Chris Huhne (60, Westminster, PPE Mag­dalen, self-destructively heterosexual), the Default Man we chose to interview for our series, pooh-poohed any suggestion when asked if he benefited from membership or if he represented this group.

Lone Default Man will never admit to, or be fully aware of, the tribal advantages of his identity. They are, naturally, full subscribers to that glorious capitalist project, they are individuals!

This adherence to being individuals is the nub of the matter. Being “individual” means that if they achieve something good, it is down to their own efforts.

They got the job because they are brilliant, not because they are a Default Man, and they are also presumed more competent by other Default Men.

If they do something bad it is also down to the individual and not to do with their gender, race or class.

If a Default Man commits a crime it is not because fraud or sexual harassment, say, are endemic in his tribe (coughs), it is because he is a wrong ’un.

If a Default Man gets emotional it is because he is a “passionate” individual, whereas if he were a woman it would often be blamed on her sex.

When we talk of identity, we often think of groups such as black Muslim lesbians in wheelchairs. This is because identity only seems to become an issue when it is challenged or under threat.

Our classic Default Man is rarely under existential threat; consequently, his identity remains unexamined. It ambles along blithely, never having to stand up for its rights or to defend its homeland.

When talking about identity groups, the word “community” often crops up. The working class, gay people, black people or Muslims are always represented by a “community leader”.

We rarely, if ever, hear of the white middle-class community. “Communities” are defined in the eye of Default Man.

Community seems to be a euphemism for the vulnerable lower orders. Community is “other”.

Communities usually seem to be embattled, separate from society.

“Society” is what Default Man belongs to.

In news stories such as the alleged “Trojan Horse” plot in Birmingham schools and the recent child-abuse scandal in Rotherham, the central involvement of an ethnic or faith “community” skews the attitudes of police, social services and the media.

The Muslim or Pakistani heritage of those accused becomes the focus.

I’m not saying that faith and ethnic groups don’t have their particular problems but the recipe for such trouble is made up of more than one spicy, foreign ingredient.

I would say it involves more than a few handfuls of common-or-garden education/class issues, poor mental health and, of course, the essential ingredient in nearly all nasty or violent problems, men.

Yeah, men – bit like them Default Men but without suits on.

In her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, published in 1975, Laura Mulvey coined the term “the male gaze”. She was writing about how the gaze of the movie camera reflected the heterosexual male viewpoint of the directors (a viewpoint very much still with us, considering that only 9% of the top 250 Hollywood films in 2012 were directed by women and only 2% of the cinematographers were female).

The Default Male gaze does not just dominate cinema, it looks down on society like the eye on Sauron’s tower in The Lord of the Rings.

Every other identity group is “othered” by it. It is the gaze of the expensively nondescript corporate leader watching consumers adorn themselves with his company’s products the better to get his attention.

Default Man feels he is the reference point from which all other values and cultures are judged. Default Man is the zero longitude of identities.

He has forged a society very much in his own image, to the point where now much of what other groups think and feel is the same. They take on the attitudes of Default Man because they are the attitudes of our elders, our education, our government, our media.

If Default Men approve of something it must be good, and if they disapprove it must be bad, so people end up hating themselves, because their internalised Default Man is berating them for being female, gay, black, silly or wild.

I often hear women approvingly describe themselves or other women as feisty.

Feisty, I feel, has sexist implications, as if standing up for yourself was exceptional in a woman. It sounds like a word that a raffish Lothario would use about a difficult conquest.

I once gave a talk on kinky sex and during the questions afterwards a gay woman floated an interesting thought: “Is the legalising of gay marriage an attempt to neutralise the otherness of homosexuals?” she asked. Was the subversive alternative being neutered by allowing gays to marry and ape a hetero lifestyle?

Many gay people might have enjoyed their dangerous outsider status. Had Default Man implanted a desire to be just like him?

Is the fact that we think like Default Man the reason why a black female Doctor Who has not happened, that it might seem “wrong” or clunky? In my experience, when I go to the doctor I am more likely to see a non-white woman than a Default Man.

It is difficult to tweezer out the effect of Default Man on our culture, so ingrained is it after centuries of their rules.

A friend was once on a flight from Egypt. As it came in to land at Heathrow he looked down at the rows of mock-Tudor stockbroker-belt houses in west London. Pointing them out, he said to the Egyptian man sitting next to him: “Oh well, back to boring old England.” The Egyptian replied, “Ah, but to me this is very exotic.” And he was right.

To much of the world the Default Englishman is a funny foreign folk icon, with his bowler hat, his Savile Row suit and Hugh Grant accent, living like Reggie Perrin in one of those polite suburban semis.

All the same, his tribal costume and rituals have probably clothed and informed the global power elite more than any other culture. Leaders wear his clothes, talk his language and subscribe to some version of his model of how society “should be”.

When I was at art college in the late Seventies/early Eighties, one of the slogans the feminists used was: “Objectivity is Male Subjectivity.”

This brilliantly encapsulates how male power nestles in our very language, exerting influence at the most fundamental level. Men, especially Default Men, have put forward their biased, highly emotional views as somehow “rational”, more considered, more “calm down, dear”.

Women and “exotic” minorities are framed as “passionate” or “emotional” as if they, the Default Men, had this unique ability to somehow look round the side of that most interior lens, the lens that is always distorted by our feelings.

Default Man somehow had a dispassionate, empirical, objective vision of the world as a birthright, and everyone else was at the mercy of turbulent, uncontrolled feelings. That explained why the “others” often held views that were at such odds with their supposedly cool, analytic vision of the world.

Recently, footage of the UN spokesman Chris Gunness breaking down in tears as he spoke of the horrors occurring in Gaza went viral.

It was newsworthy because reporters and such spokespeople are supposed to be dispassionate and impartial. To show such feelings was to be “unprofessional”. And lo! The inherited mental health issues of Default Man are cast as a necessity for serious employment.

I think Default Man should be made aware of the costs and increasing obsolescence of this trait, celebrated as “a stiff upper lip”.

This habit of denying, recasting or suppressing emotion may give him the veneer of “professionalism” but, as David Hume put it: “Reason is a slave of the passions.”

To be unaware of or unwilling to examine feelings means those feelings have free rein to influence behaviour unconsciously. Unchecked, they can motivate Default Man covertly, unacknowledged, often wreaking havoc.

Even if rooted in long-past events in the deep unconscious, these emotions still fester, churning in the dark at the bottom of the well. Who knows what unconscious, screwed-up “personal journeys” are being played out on the nation by emotionally illiterate Default Men?

Being male and middle class and being from a generation that still valued the stiff upper lip means our Default Man is an ideal candidate for low emotional awareness. He sits in a gender/ class/age nexus marked “Unexploded Emotional Time Bomb”.

These people have been in charge of our world for a long time.

Things may be changing.

Women are often stereotyped as the emotional ones, and men as rational. But, after the 2008 crash, the picture looked different, as Hanna Rosin wrote in an article in the Atlantic titled “The End of Men”:

Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions.

The picture emerging is a mirror image of the traditional gender map: men and markets on the side of the irrational and overemotional, and women on the side of the cool and level-headed.

Over the centuries, empirical, clear thinking has become branded with the image of Default Men. They were the ones granted the opportunity, the education, the leisure, the power to put their thoughts out into the world. In people’s minds, what do professors look like?

What do judges should look like? What do leaders look like?

The very aesthetic of seriousness has been monopolised by Default Man. Practically every person on the globe who wants to be taken seriously in politics, business and the media dresses up in some way like a Default Man, in a grey, western, two-piece business suit.

Not for nothing is it referred to as “power dressing”.

We’ve all seen those photo ops of world leaders: colour and pattern shriek out as anachronistic. Consequently, many women have adopted this armour of the unremarkable.

Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, wears a predictable unfussy, feminised version of the male look. Hillary Clinton has adopted a similar style. Some businesswomen describe this need to tone down their feminine appearance as “taking on the third gender”.

Peter Jones on Dragons’ Den was once referred to as “eccentric” for wearing brightly coloured stripy socks. So rigid is the Default Man look that men’s suit fashions pivot on tiny changes of detail at a glacial pace. US politicians wear such a narrow version of the Default Man look that you rarely see one wearing a tie that is not plain or striped.

Suits you, sir: Grayson Perry as Default Man.
Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra/New Statesman

One tactic that men use to disguise their subjectively restricted clothing choices is the justification of spurious function.

As if they need a watch that splits lap times and works 300 feet underwater, or a Himalayan mountaineer’s jacket for a walk in the park. The rufty-tufty army/hunter camouflage pattern is now to boys as pink is to girls. Curiously, I think the real function of the sober business suit is not to look smart but as camouflage.

A person in a grey suit is invisible, in the way burglars often wear hi-vis jackets to pass as unremarkable “workmen”.

The business suit is the uniform of those who do the looking, the appraising.

It rebuffs comment by its sheer ubiquity. Many office workers loathe dress-down Fridays because they can no longer hide behind a suit. They might have to expose something of their messy selves through their “casual” clothes.

Modern, over-professionalised politicians, having spent too long in the besuited tribal compound, find casual dress very difficult to get right convincingly.

David Cameron, while ruining Converse basketball shoes for the rest of us, never seemed to me as if he belonged in a pair.

When I am out and about in an eye-catching frock, men often remark to me, “Oh, I wish I could dress like you and did not have to wear a boring suit.” Have to!

The male role is heavily policed from birth, by parents, peers and bosses. Politicians in particular are harshly kept in line by a media that seems to uphold more bizarrely rigid standards of conformity than those held by any citizen.

Each component of the Default Male role – his gender, his class, his age and his sexuality – confines him to an ever narrower set of behaviours, until riding a bicycle or growing a beard, having messy hair or enjoying a pint are seen as ker-azy eccentricity.

The fashionable members’ club Shoreditch House, the kind of place where “creatives” with two iPhones and three bicycles hang out, has a “No Suits” rule. How much of this is a pseudo-rebellious pose and how much is in recognition of the pernicious effect of the overgrown schoolboy’s uniform, I do not know.

I dwell on the suit because I feel it exemplifies how the upholders of Default Male values hide in plain sight. Imagine if, by democratic decree, the business suit was banned, like certain items of Islamic dress have been banned in some countries. Default Men would flounder and complain that they were not being treated with “respect”.

The most pervasive aspect of the Default Man identity is that it masquerades very efficiently as “normal” – and “normal”, along with “natural”, is a dangerous word, often at the root of hateful prejudice.

As Sherrie Bourg Carter, author of High-Octane Women, writes:

Women in today’s workforce . . . are experiencing a much more camouflaged foe – second-generation gender biases . . . “work cultures and practices that appear neutral and natural on their face”, yet they reflect masculine values and life situations of men.

Personally, working in the arts, I do not often encounter Default Man en masse, but when I do it is a shock. I occasionally get invited to formal dinners in the City of London and on arrival, I am met, in my lurid cocktail dress, with a sea of dinner jackets; my expectations of a satisfying conversation drop.

I feel rude mentioning the black-clad elephant in the room. I sense that I am the anthropologist allowed in to the tribal ritual.

This weird minority, these curiously dominant white males, are anything but normal. “Normal,” as Carl Jung said, “is the ideal aim for the unsuccessful.” They like to keep their abnormal power low-key: the higher the power, the duller the suit and tie, a Mercedes rather than a Rolls, just another old man chatting casually to prime ministers at the wedding of a tabloid editor.

Revolution is happening. I am loath to use the R word because bearded young men usually characterise it as sudden and violent. But that is just another unhelpful cliché.

I feel real revolutions happen thoughtfully in peacetime. A move away from the dominance of Default Man is happening, but way too slowly.

Such changes in society seem to happen at a pace set by incremental shifts in the animal spirits of the population. I have heard many of the “rational” (ie, male) arguments against quotas and positive discrimination but I feel it is a necessary fudge to enable just change to happen in the foreseeable future. At the present rate of change it will take more than a hundred years before the UK parliament is 50% female.

The outcry against positive discrimination is the wail of someone who is having their privilege taken away. For talented black, female and working-class people to take their just place in the limited seats of power, some of those Default Men are going to have to give up their seats.

Perhaps Default Man needs to step down from some of his most celebrated roles. I’d happily watch a gay black James Bond and an all-female Top GearQI or Have I Got News for You.

Jeremy Paxman should have been replaced by a woman on Newsnight. More importantly, we need a quota of MPs who (shock) have not been to university but have worked on the shop floor of key industries; have had life experiences that reflect their constituents’; who actually represent the country rather than just a narrow idea of what a politician looks like.

The ridiculousness of objections to quotas would become clear if you were to suggest that, instead of calling it affirmative action, we adopted “Proportionate Default Man Quotas” for government and business. We are wasting talent. Women make up a majority of graduates in such relevant fields as law.

Default Man seems to be the embodiment of George Bernard Shaw unreasonable man: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to make the world adapt to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Default Man’s days may be numbered; a lot of his habits are seen at best as old-fashioned or quaint and at worst as redundant, dangerous or criminal. He carries a raft of unhelpful habits and attitudes gifted to him from history – adrenaline addiction, a need for certainty, snobbery, emotional constipation and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement – which have often proved disastrous for society and can also stop poor Default Man from leading a fulfilling life.

Earlier this year, at the Being A Man festival at the Southbank Centre in London, I gave a talk on masculinity called: “Men, Sit Down for your Rights!”. A jokey title, yes, but one making a serious point: that perhaps, if men were to loosen their grip on power, there might be some benefits for them.

The straitjacket of the Default Man identity is not necessarily one happily donned by all members of the tribe: many struggle with the bad fit of being leader, provider, status hunter, sexual predator, respectable and dignified symbol of straight achievement.

Maybe the “invisible weightless backpack” that the US feminist Peggy McIntosh uses to describe white privilege, full of “special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks”, does weight rather a lot after all.

In a phrase used more often in association with Operation Yewtree, they are among us and hide in plain sight.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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