Archive for November, 2010

29
Nov
10

What is the one most crucial asset of a Nation identity?


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15
Nov
10

Of Politics and Education


Did you ever ask yourself why developed countries don’t have wars on their soil?
Did you ever wonder why developed countries are actually developed?
Did you ever wonder why are we still followers?
Did you ever wonder why very few of us ask questions? And even fewer seek answers?
If you answered “no” to any of the above, you’re on the wrong blog. If you answered “yes”, keep reading.

My theory is simple, so simple in fact, that we always look for answers elsewhere. Let me tell you a story:

 

There was this family of farmers living in the remotest area possible. They had none of the modern life facilities; no electricity, telephone, television and certainly no Internet. Mom and dad had 12 children. All were raised in the fields. All the children learned and knew was about plowing, seeding, harvesting, feeding, milking and waking up at 5 in the morning (just to make sure the rooster was doing its job!)

Twelve children in the field, mom in the kitchen and dad overlooking the operations. He sells what they did not consume and makes enough money to… well fill the mattress. Every morning of every week of every month of every year was the same… Checking if the rooster was doing its job.

All was going great, the same routine, the same productivity, the same way of life. Dad was the only one to go to the city, and have all the fun. At home, a strict regimen was applied, which insured the daily sequence ran like clockwork.

One day, the eldest of the children asks his dad about the city and wished he could visit one day. Dad was categorically opposed, then reluctant. Eventually he bowed to the pressure and the begging looks of mom. He took his son with him to the city. The boy was amazed at the lights, the streets, the bookshops. He was overwhelmed by the cellphones, cars, and sharp-looking people. Restaurants, high-rises, small delis, all seemed like a different planet for him. Dad was finalizing a transaction and left his son standing next to a newspaper kiosk. The young man started staring at the plethora of magazines, newspapers, comic books… Everything seemed different from the life he had.  He could not read, but he was smart enough to tell that he, and his siblings, were living in a different era, and missing a lot. Not that he hated his life, he simply could not. He never had a yardstick against which to benchmark the life he’s living. For him, that was it, the daily routine, with his dad on top.

Now the boy wants more.

Back home, the young man started asking his dad questions, and telling his siblings about the newly discovered world. He aroused their interest so much that they all wanted to go visit the city. Dad said no and pledged to never take anyone to the city again.

It was too late, the “harm” was done.

The “city-son’s” life mutated for ever. The vision of what he witnessed overshadowed the fields and the sunrise. His dreams were invaded by the city sights and he never woke up at 5 anymore. His routine turned into a cycle of boredom… And he doesn’t check on the rooster anymore.

He wanted more. He wanted change. He rebelled. He kept telling his brothers and sisters about the city and how they should visit to understand. He felt that his understanding and knowledge have attained a level far beyond his family’s and even his dad’s.

Then, his dad stopped being on top.

The boy understood that his father was the ruler not because he knew more, but because they knew less.

The boy ultimately fled home, went to the city and managed to bring in few of his brothers and sisters. Those who stayed back did so because they were either afraid or simply still believed that what they had is better, and those were the very few. Productivity was affected dramatically, the family starved, dad died… on top, leaving behind a starving wife and a couple of children who were forgotten by time, until a development project forced them to sell what was left of their land and relocate to a small shack next door.

There was my story.

 

I believe that countries should not be ruled. They should be guided. But to guide means to explain, and to explain means to educate, and to educate means to provide knowledge. Knowledge means power, and power means vision, and vision means insight, and insight tells you if those guiding or ruling you are good or bad, and that; is very bad.

The one single most powerful weapon used in non-developed countries is education. You can’t starve an educated population. You can’t make it follow you blindly. You can’t trigger a war and get re-elected with an educated population, and you can’t be uneducated and rule either. You can’t establish religion as law with an educated population, and you can’t establish a law as sacred either.

Lack of education is the real weapon of mass destruction. You want proof? Look at the Internet! In a country like Lebanon, nothing is censored but you can’t get it because we still have speeds equal to dial-up, and in the Gulf countries speed is high but you can’t see anything because of censorship.

Look at most schoolbooks where children learn about the French revolution but not the Cedars revolution, you learn about world wars but not Israeli invasions, you learn to read and write and then are taught to never dare read or write…

That’s how war was started here, and that’s how it was won. That’s how the status quo was kept, and that’s how they’re keeping our mouth shut.

They refused to take us to the city, but when some of us finally woke up and did manage to visit, we simply swayed the balance, threatened the equilibrium and threw away the blindfold.

And what did we discover? People on top but not at the top, people who rule, not people who guide, people who know what “they” want instead of knowing what we need.

The drawback? Now, we lost both the green fields and the city.

So, next time you hear a rooster, think of it as your wake up call.

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud

 

01
Nov
10

Of driving and drivers. Another nail in Brand Lebanon coffin


She’s in a top of the class dark grey Range Rover with a four digits plate number, on the left lane of the road. Her cell phone is held between her left cheek and shoulder. She’s confirming her 11:00am Botox appointment. Her right hand is holding her $200 Mascara stick. She’s staring at the rear view mirror trying to work her eyelashes into giving her a more slutty look. A super slim mint-flavored cigarette is dangling from her lower lip glued by the thick layers of deep red lipstick glazed by another two coats of gloss. On the right seat – the one we call “la place du mort” in French or “the seat of the dead”- is her five years old daughter standing, leaning against the dashboard looking at the traffic. In the backseat the Philippine maid is the only one with her seatbelt on. A Starbuck’s coffee is sitting in the cup holder on the dashboard. On the rear windshield is a small round sticker with the Army logo. Oh, and by the way, she’s driving!

He’s in a black 1982 BMW 316. He changed the model number to 325. You could buy these chrome digits from any parts shop. He’s also driving slowly on the left lane of the highway. They must have all earned their driving license in Great Britain! His car windshields and windows are all shaded with a 90% black Fumé that he had had installed few months ago at Tiger. You could tell from the “Tiger” letters stuck under the newly installed “325”. The driver’s window is open. He’s there wearing a green 100% glossy Polyester short sleeve shirt open all the way to his pelvis. Abundant chest hair is proudly protruding and almost hiding a thick gold chain that rivals 50Cent’s and with a gold cross at the end that rivals the Pope’s official cross. His left arm is dangling, fully, outside the window, so low it could touch the asphalt. There’s a tattoo on his shoulder. You can only guess few letters, under a hidden graphic, that say “Shirine”. On the dashboard, a panoply of dials lit in blue. There’s even one for his IQ always stuck at zero. He’s from a special race of people genetically afflicted with a rare disease; when you honk at them, they slow down! Science has yet to find an explanation and cure. On his rear windshield, there’s an A4 poster of some dead relative with the “we will never forget you” line underneath the photo. Seems this poor youngster was ran over by another BMW.

On the same highway, same lane, an old crumbling Vespa is coming towards them, against the traffic. All that’s left from the “mobilette” is her bare mobility! Riding it is a 15 years old boy. He’s wearing a sleeveless navy blue tshirt with a huge white Armani eagle on the back. I always strongly believed that these guys genuinely think that Armani is from Bourj Hammoud! He’s got more gel on his hair than at Elie’s my barber, so much that his wannabe mohawk styling is creating a wind sheer factor that’s slowing him down. Between his legs, resting precariously on the cycle’s floor, is a blue gas canister he’s delivering to a nearby shawarma outlet. While his right hand is clinging to the throttle handle, constantly keeping it twisted to the extreme, his right hand is holding a $20 violet Nokia cellphone. He’s organizing his shisha night. Replacing what used to be his only headlight, is a plastic yellowish skull with 2 blue lights for eyes. He’s keeping the traffic driving at his pace. Probably the wind on his face gives him the impression to do 80Kmh.

He’s just crossed the intersection towards which the chick in a dark grey Range Rover and the macho in the black BMW are heading. There, is standing a caricature of a traffic officer. From afar, you can first guess his beer belly, and the closer you get, the more you find out that he’s standing right in front of the cars he’s asking to move, blocking them! He’s wearing over-sized trousers that barely hold to his lower waist and are so long they actually fold under his shoe heels. By contrast, his short sleeves shirt is so tight, it reminds you of the Village People, not that he’s well built… Few salt and pepper belly hair are trying to make a run for their lives through the gap between two buttons struggling to keep the two sides of the shirt holding together. Right beneath his left chest pocket, is a dark spot left by a clumsy cleaning of some taratour from the Falafel sandwich he’s just had. He’s wearing white gloves. They’re not white anymore but rather a gradation of grey that starts light towards the wrist and end up in a dark warm grey at the tip of the fingers. Thank God he removes them to “clean” his nose… So he’s waving the traffic frantically to move and clear the intersection, but he does not notice that he’s standing right in the middle of the road making it impossible for cars to move. He’s actually on the phone, you could tell it’s his wife (or mom) from the uncomfortable look on his eyes. Then, he suddenly asks the cars to stop, and forgets to wave the other lane to move. And now, he’s standing all alone in the middle of the intersection speaking to his wife (or mom), while the whole frozen traffic is anxiously awaiting a sign to move, just like a well-trained dog awaits a signal from his master to hit the food plate.

Not far from there, a 95 years old taxi driver in a 1989 orange Hyundai Accent has stopped in the middle of the road trying to pick up 2 Ethiopian maids on their day off. They want to go to Hamra, but he’s only getting to Clemenceau. Traffic piles up behind him, honking, curses, ranging from “Ya hayawen” (You animal!) to things that brings him back in memory to the day he was conceived… He’s either deaf or playing deaf.

Few meters behind is a black Mercedes with a blue plate carrying 2 digits, and flanked by two black Chevrolets TrailBlazer. Sirens, honking and the whole works. Some deputy is late for work… or lunch… or his mistress… or just like that, for the fun of playing deputy! They push everyone aside, pass and speed away…

 

They always speed away. They learned that the farther you get from a problem, the less of a problem it is.

 

Someone commented a while ago on my blog saying that the beauty of Lebanon is in its chaos… If this is the case, Lebanon must then advertise for providing “quality” heart attacks, unparalleled quality of CO2 pollution therapy, and being the only place on Earth that teaches CSL (Cursing as Second Language)!

I drive slowly on the right lane and fast on the left. I wear my seatbelt before starting the car. I use a headset to speak on the phone, I don’t have shaded windows. My car’s model is genuine and I keep my chest hair well tucked under my shirt!

What I have a problem with is working my ass out to pay the salary of deputies, ministers, and traffic officers. Being a boss who can’t fire is annoying. I have a problem paying taxes every time I renew my car’s license, only to drive on roads that resemble Himalayan donkey tracks. I have a problem with newly installed traffic lights that don’t light! I have a problem with police officers that scare me more than they protect me. I have a problem with Black Mercedes, BMW and Range Rovers. I have problems with Picantos that think they’re Ferraris.

No, The beauty of Lebanon in not in its chaos. It is in its diversity, where idiots live in harmony with the cultured. It’s in its fauna, where all sorts of animals cohabit with humans. And most of all, the beauty of Lebanon is in its flora, where vegetation exists along the vegetables we became!

I know someone will gloriously comment on that blog entry by asking why don’t I do something about to start with! I am… Can’t you read? Ah, sorry I forgot… In Lebanon words don’t count anymore. I’ll honk!




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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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