Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Kouly

Culture of Contempt: Misplaced comprehension of Personal Failure

A week ago, I sent a link https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/mostly-a-hoax-from-limitation-to-inspiration-slogan-of-tedxbeirut/to ten speakers at TEDxBeirut, asking for their feedback.  I received a single reply.  Two of the speakers’ email, as noted in the biography booklet, were not functional. I reminded TEDx electronic address on these facts, and I have yet to receive an answer.

Was I expecting such result?  The first realization was that most of the speakers’ enterprises were Lebanon-based, and consequently, behaved within the realm of culture of contempt prevalent in our societies.

For example, when I taught at the Lebanese American University, I sent administrators, Chairpersons of departments, and “professors” many emails.  Fact is: I didn’t receive a single reply over 4 years. Never received “Thank you for letter”, “read your mail”…Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got into thinking: “Is this lack of civility a consequence of our society culture of contempt? Or this contempt is a tradition acquired from the “classes of authority” that indulged in humiliating communities, or is it basically an “elite club” ethics of ignoring non-members…?

Speaker at TEDxBeirut, Ali Jaber, answered my request and replied: “I very much enjoyed your critical piece. Such critical thinking is required in our Arab World, so we can move ahead. Two thoughts I would like to share with you.

1.  The most oppressive of limitations for the Lebanese expatriates is to realize (achieve) what they aspire to (becoming) abroad, and not in their own country.
2.  Collaboration, listening and turning to others for support, — whether they know you or not — is very important in the creative and liberal process. Creating a collaborative environment around the activities that you endeavor in the land of big egos, increased individualism and egotistical attitudes, is the road less traveled.”

(I have discussed at length the second thought in many articles.  For example, mankind intelligence evolved because they managed to realize the great advantages in trading goods, expertise, and culture…)

People in the Arab World expect to be ultimately recognized by the restricted clan, in the general modern meaning of restricted community, as a member who can be of real support.  If by the age of 40, an individual fails to be perceived as a “useful” member of the clan; for example, the members stop paying him regular visits and asking for his input and opinions, then he thinks that he is a failure.

This misplaced comprehension of personal failure blocks any further attempts to continuing education, to trying harder, to looking at failure from a different perspective…He has reached the psychological dead-end for trying to changing and transforming his life and his “destiny”.

This urge to be recognized as an “Important” person, who can be relied upon to come to the rescue (of the clan members), is the direct link to our view of the meaning of personal failure:”Officials”, public servants, or private employee who are unable to dissociate the “good positions” with personal failure when they are fired or transferred to a job that is viewed by the community as a downgrade in importance.  The job has been personalized: I am the position and I refuse to go but higher in responsibilities and recognition, as a very important person in the community…

For example, when I taught at the Lebanese American University, I sent administrators, Chairpersons of departments, and “professors” many emails.  Fact is: I didn’t receive a single reply over 4 years. Never received “Thank you for letter”, “read your mail”…Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got into thinking: “Is this lack of civility a consequence of our society culture of contempt? Or this contempt is a tradition acquired from the “classes of authority” that indulged in humiliating communities, or is it basically an “elite club” ethics of ignoring non-members…?

At this university, it was a Russian Poutine/Medvedev style of chair swapping among the tenure-track “professors.  My course of Human Factors in engineering was very popular. One semester 60 students registered; it is not a math class, and there are plenty of reading, writing, reflecting on many issues…I asked for the class to be divided into two sections. My request was declined.  In reaction, almost all engineering departments decided to drop the course as optional.

No wonder that our universities are chaperoned by foreign powers:  How to disperse this climate of stagnation, which is poisoning attempts for healthy development and improvement in academic affairs. Part-timers were disposed of so that tenure-track teachers fill in course, which they were never expose to and not proficient in.

The irony is that US appointed Presidents of Lebanese universities can remain in their posts as long as they are serving according to dicta, and repressing opposition opinions and free speech zeal among the students.  And you can understand why our region enjoys natural dictatorial regimes.

For example, was it the custom of the club of full-teachers or tenure-track “professors” of ignoring part-time teachers and professors?  Why is it that, in general, foreign professors answer your request and reply to your email, even if they are originally from your home country, and your countrymen refrain from basic civilities at home?  The irony is: As a foreign teacher stays in Lebanon for a couple of years, the culture of contempt sets in, and he stops replying to mails…

This is normal behavior.  The difference in social behavior among developed and non-developed communities is the availability of sustainable institutions, which can be transformed and be changed, by taking seriously the input of the communities…a culture of respecting individual opinions and intelligence, regardless of position, clan, genders, or religious affiliation…

Note 1: My four-year stint of part-time teaching courses related to Human Factors in engineering was challenging.  It was an opportunity to publishing over 50 articles in my field, and also describing my various teaching methods to adapt to university student tendencies in Lebanon. You may go to my two categories “Human Factors” and “Educational methods”.

Note 2: A speaker at TEDxBeirut, Michael Kouly, was specifically on the perception of personal failure as jobs are transformed. He said: “Never take as personal failure changes in positions or job transfer…Current responsibilities are basically temporary roles and they are volatile.  We are NOT our role.  Conflict is the norm and we need the heat to cook a conflict into resolution. Thus, your main job is to staying on stage and confront conflicts.  Learn to identify and understand authority, the psychology and system of authority: How to dance with elephants, learn the many manifestation of dynamics in role-playing. The default value of 5 in the middle of the scale of ten is: Respect yourself and respect authority.  Going overboard on the two kinds of respect defines your status in the hierarchy.

Be flexible and negotiate with authority. Nelson Mandela was scared shit of the warden on his first day in prison but he took a chance on saying “I am a lawyer, don’t forget it…” Nelson went on “I wished the warden was not looking at my shaking knees…”

Note 3: I received today a short “thank you” reply from Yorgui, but no feedback.

Sketches of a few speakers at TEDxBeirut by David Habchy

Note:  I have published 4 posts on TEDxBeirut. You may start with session One. https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/session-one-of-tedxbeirut-inspiration-regardless-of-lack-of-limitations/

The English version of the Lebanese “Daily Star” commented on TEDxBeirut conference held on Sept.24 at Berytech institute (Mkales): “It’s a surprising and impressive feat to get 19 speakers, four performers, a 27-member organization team, numerous volunteers (about 55 in all) and over 600 attendees into a lecture hall at 9 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning, but TEDx Beirut achieved it.”

Daniel Habib & Tony Oudaim

Yorgui Teyrouz

Farid Younes

TEDx Staff

Michael Kouly

Katia Saleh

Ali M. Jaber

Mahmoud Natout

Farid Younes

Reine Abbas

Najat Rizk

Mazen Hajjar

Ziad Abichaker

Ziad Abichaker

Hassan Aziz

Arne Dietrich

Bassam Jalgha

Gilbert Doumit

Hala Fadel

Halim Madi

Joanna Choukeir

Andrew Bossone

Session One of TEDxBeirut: Inspiration regardless of lack of limitations
 
I have been postponing publishing my article on theTEDxBeirut one-day conference with the slogan “From Limitation to Inspiration”: I had a backlog of a dozen posts to be edited and published. TED means Technology, Education, and Development… 

Note: You may read my previous post on that event for details on eight speakers https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/mostly-a-hoax-from-limitation-to-inspiration-slogan-of-tedxbeirut/ 
 
I woke up at 6:30 and Cedric game me ride to the conference.  On the way, Cedric saw the car of David Habchi (the event cartoonist), and the usual conversation lead to something like this: “Wait for me at such and such place…I have to pick up someone…I follow you…” I am thinking: “Great! I’m going to miss the vegan breakfast…”
 
We arrived in good time and safe. Getting my badge and the bag containing the program and the starting process… were to start at 8:30 am, along with breakfast.  The conference was to begin at 9:30, but effectively was opened at about 10.  I had a slight difficulty because I refused to attach my picture (via internet) to the required information, but TEDx gang knows me (anyway, I brought my ID card for emergency reason). The badge lacked the required information on email address…simply because it lacked my photogenic picture…
 
I received a black bag as a long time supporter: many had a white/beige color bag.  I guess the content of items were the same:  I needed many items in the bag such as the special TedxBeirut pen and the notebook from Memac Ogilvy, a booklet on the speakers’ biography…Surprise! The breakfast was not vegan by a long shot.  We had French croissants, Lebanese croissants, bastered croissant of bouche manakeesh…Juices, and hot water for mixing Nescafeewith an assortment of powdered cream, sugar (regular and brown)…
 
People who wanted plain hot water had to wait in line for the others to take time mixing their Nescafee…As the event began, I had this impression that I might be the only one taking actual notes: Most of the audience relied on the audio-visual material to be posted on the internet and the constant stream shown on big screens.  Thus, the audience could play with their balls (the bag contained a red/pink rubber ball for finger-pressing to relieving frustration).  I was cool and relaxed but worked on the ball, and suffered fingers-cramp and had to stretch every finger, one at a time.

Session 1

At 10:08, Sarah Sibai hosted for the entire day (She had just graduated from Oxford). Sarah asked the audience to meet the people who sat next to us, so we did. My neighbors were Hani and Rola Asfour, Hala and Nadine in the row ahead of mine.  It turned out that Rana Abu Rjaili worked at the same company.
 
The first speaker was Michael Kouly who announced that he was blessed with a new-born Paul-Anthony.  He won’t be the only speaker to delivering these interesting news, as if they are running for election and asking for our compassion…

Michael’s speech was on “Never take as personal failure changes in positions or job transfer…Current responsibilities are basically temporary roles and they are volatile.  We are NOT our role.  Conflict is the norm and we need heat to cook a conflict into resolution. Thus, your main job is to staying on stage and confront conflicts.  Learn to identify and understand authority, the psychology and system of authority: How to dance with elephants, learn the many manifestation of dynamics in role-playing. The default value of 5 in the middle of the scale of ten is: Respect yourself and respect authority.  Going overboard on the two kinds of respect defines your status in the hierarchy.

Be flexible and negotiate with authority. Nelson Mandela was scared shit of the warden on his first day in prison but he took a chance on saying “I am a lawyer, don’t forget it…” Nelson went on “I wished the warden was not looking at my shaking knees…”

Katia Saleh, was next at 10:35 (see the link).  She talked us through her journey into “for dummy movie documentaries” such as the making of Shankaboot, an Emmy award-winning Lebanese web drama. She knew how to make me crack up!
 
Daniel Habib (at 10:45), accompanied by Tony Oudaimy on the lower bass told us a very intense, supposed be “inspiring” story of survival. I frankly didn’t comprehend the story. It felt like an irresponsible son got his shit together as his mother, the matriarch of the Eskimo tribe or some fast going extinct tribe, died.
 
Yorgui Teyrouz spoke at 10:50 (see link for details) told us how a car accident sent him to prison, and made him start Donner Sang Compter (a Facebook network of volunteers giving blood) that would eventually save 12,000 lives!
Yorgui Teyrouz behind bars in Roumieh prison; sketched by David Habchi.
 
Farid Younes spoke at 11:06.  Farid is an Environmental designer, and teaches architectural design and cultural issues in design…He is writing a book “The fallacy of architectural discourse: an idealistic nihilism”.   He spoke on something like bacteria in our body are far more numerous than our body cells…Awareness (wa3i) is responsible to our behavior…rethinking our bad habits?  Probably, I was not that inspired to taking more notes…
 
Tammam Yamout took the stage at 11:20.  He is a newly wed graphic designer and enjoys long-distance running…He talked of his method to direct people to locating hard addresses to discover and save time explaining how to get there… Tammam co-founded PenguinCube providing services in identity design, “wayfinding design?”…Good speaker, but topic was not inspiring to me…
 
Mahmoud Natout, spoke at 11: 28.  Mahmoud stood, one leg within the circle of light (for the LBC TV cameras) and the other outside the red circle, and wondered “Should I speak?” Mahmoud had trouble with TED style and didn’t feel comfortable emulating TED speakers: Speakers taking the stage for less than 10 minutes and doing their best to explaining sweeping claims on life, knowledge…He said that he was reluctant being another TED speaker, before conversation with the group of organizers convinced him to go ahead with audition and the long process.And I wondered: “Why the organizers had to convince him the hard way if Mahmoud had nothing to say in the first place?  Couldn’t Mahmoud find a story to tell after he was convinced to speak, except saying that he has reservation…?” I had written and published many posts on my reservations of TEX program…I could find many stories to tell the audience on TED shortcomings, if I knew this could be a fine topic…A coffee-break pause and a few sweet bites at 11:40 before we rejoined the vast auditorium around 12:05.

Note: The English version of the Lebanese “Daily Star” commented on TEDxBeirut conference held on Sept.24 at Berytech institute (Mkales): “It’s a surprising and impressive feat to get 19 speakers, four performers, a 27-member organization team, numerous volunteers (about 55 in all, I counted them on stage) and over 600 attendees into a lecture hall at 9 a.m. on a rainy Saturday morning, but TEDx Beirut achieved it.”

Note 2: Chamas published a post under “Toward Inspiration beyond limitation” a summary of the event. He wrote: “I attended the main TEDxBeirut event, after attending the V2.0 salon. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.  Unfortunately in Lebanon, any major event is often a big disappointment, but today I am very proud to say that TEDxBeirut topped off any other event this country had in a very long time!
This amazing gathering of so many brains, delicious brains gathered in a very small area, all sharing ideas and thoughts about our world and how to make it better couldn’t have been any more interesting. Today I spent the entire day, and yes, I woke up at 8AM on Saturday, at Berytech Mkalles and got to chat with a gentleman who’s originated from Ohio, USA but happened to be in Lebanon at the time of TEDxBeirut and decided to come.”



adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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