Tuesday, December 19, 2006

gray comes into play

it's intersting to see how people grow up. i'm not talking about the first years from toddler to young adult (although growth in these years is a topic of study in itself), but about the years from being a young adult, to an adult, to, well, a slightly older adult. i can't say this analysis applies to everyone, but if one claims to have grown up without the shades of gray at least affecting that growth then they still have a lot of growing up to do.

young adults have the almost self-destructive habit of looking at things in terms of right or wrong, yes or no, black or white. their view of - and experience in - the world is usually limited by the place they grew up in: home, school, neighborhood, and to some extent movies and tv shows. some are wise (or lucky) enough to be readers and have had the benefit of making use of others' lifetime experiences (a good book is the essence of experience compacted into a few dozen hours of reading), but even those are not enough to truly form a character, as the most powerful motivation for forming one's ideals and convictions is one's own experiences. as such, it's only natural that the decision making process is a fairly straightforward one: according to my parents or against my parents, according to my teachers or against my teachers. this two state perception starts to apply to other things in life, in the very simple extension of according to my beliefs and against my beliefs, which what everyone calls coloring the world in black and white, right or wrong. youth have enough confidence and hubris not only to believe that the world is like that, but to believe that their beliefs are the standards against which the world should be measured.

entering the real world (which typically happens in the early twenties) really changes things. all of a sudden there are other people in one's life, not parents or teachers, who have other opinions (and standards and beliefs) but who don't force others to follow these opinions. just about everyone one meets at such an age is different. one may also become exposed to travel at that time, even within the same country, and the world of difference that one is subjected to may become overwhelming. the reaction of a young adult to that varies, but the two extremes are refusal and embracing. with refusal, the person simply applies the same black and white critera and decides that the new set of values is wrong, and decides to isolate himself from it (or precariously coexist with it, if possible). with embracing, the person decides that this new set of values is more appealing than his current one and thus decides to embrace these values as his own because his original ones are, well, wrong. in between these extremes, people's reactions vary. but even at that stage, the world is still in black and white. some grayness comes into play, when the person starts to take things into consideration in a "hmmm, this may be right" kind of way, when "doubt" (the quotation marks are here for a reason, more on that later) starts to seep into the set of values. it is then that gray comes into play.

the very mark of growing up is realizing that ones' beliefs are not set in stone. it is easy to judge other beliefs, but it is an act of maturity to accept them. it is not embracing other beliefs, nor is it changing your own to suit them, but the ability to view these beliefs as things outside of you, things that bear the analysis without a "right and wrong" tag. as one grows older and wiser, one comes to realize that there is always room to negotiate, room to move back and give some to gain some. then comes compromise, the point where one realizes that one can't get everything one wants. the latter stages of growing up, those bordering on growing wise, is when one starts to look inward, into the set of concepts one takes as beliefs, and to analyze these beliefs as abstract ideals apart from one's ego. this, i think, is where one can say that one is fully grown, where one's limitation to maturity is not in one's prejudices but in the time it takes one to analyze them and others to better form them. it's a constant growing cycle, one that perpetually improves, changes and reaffirms one's beliefs. it is in the ability to self-doubt that one can truly grow, not grow up (which this entry is about) but grow as an individual. doubt is not a bad thing, doubt is a necessity to stop people from turning into self-appointed gods. one's ego must never get so big as to never doubt one's beliefs.

it must be noted, however, that this doesn't mean that one must not hold on to what's right or wrong. on the contrary, if a certain belief has withstood several iterations of critical doubt, then that's all the more reason to hold on it and explain to others why it is a belief and how it's not wrong. a balance can be reached between doubting and criticizing everything and holding on to what really makes sense or is correct.

after all, that what growing is all about.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

making a change

note: i finished this at 0130 in the morning. there will be mistakes in it, i apologize for them. if you read it you might find some disconcert; please treat this as if it were a summary of a longer article. i had to cut many ideas short of their full development for the sake of a readable article that carries through to a conclusion. leave a comment if you would like any ideas discussed in more detail and i'll be more than happy to write some more. please note that the ideas here are generalizations that are built solely on my personal observation and beliefs. not all jordanians are like that and our country doesn't suck, it's just that i try to practice what i preach. i will always be critical of everything around me: from friends to the country.

it's hard to know where to begin when talking about making a change.

this entry is inspired by a comment made by friend about working towards making a change in the country (jordan). she commented that since jordan is a small developing country, it's more rewarding to make a change since you can see it taking place. that is, the change is faster and affects a relatively larger number of people. i think that that is true if one is trying to change a specific phenomenon, such as providing work for poor stay-home mothers, helping orphans or the illiterate or the old or cleaning up a notional park. making an impact is viable there: all you need is a good plan, dedicated people to work, determination and patience (an oversimplification, i know, but change is possible and we've all seen it happen). but the kind of change i have in mind is much more ambitious. the change that will transform a country, not a limited number of people. not that accomplishments like the ones i've mentioned here are any less significant than changing a whole country, it's just that i like to aim high and think big. and my belief is that many of these issues are just symptoms of a bigger picture: that of an ill-structured country.

i think trying to impact a country like that starts with understanding what's wrong, or more specifically, that which should change. many people i know are eager to leave jordan to work abroad. some are after money, some after fun, some after independence, some after self-development and career advancement. this is far from an exhaustive list, but few (including myself) will be able to exactly pinpoint why they left. and i'm not talking about those west-worshipers, who will leave to any other country. i'm talking about those who felt they needed to leave. for me, it was the driving. this may sound silly, but the most stressful hours of my day are those spent driving. driving in jordan is a nightmare for a variety of reasons, but i personally feel that the number one contribution to the bad driving is the our mentality. drivers are aggressive, impatient, rude, disrespectful and angry (as i myself act sometimes; the torrent of swears i unleashed on a particularly rude driver today is highly unpleasant), and such is the general attitude of jordanians in day-to-day life. of course, this was the last straw, the final effort i couldn't put into staying to make a change. i would love to change that about jordan: have the population become more tolerant, respectful, patient and accommodating.

but that's only one facet of a bigger problem. there are many things wrong with our country, and i think this jordanian attitude is as much a symptom of the problem as a part of it (like fever with an illness: although it's a symptom of an infection, too high a fever in itself is problem). the other parts include, for example, disloyalty to our country. and with loyalty to our country i don't mean just working for it, but taking care of it like it's ours. not throwing garbage from car windows. not stealing. not slacking off during work. setting priorities to make the country better and sticking to them. putting the group's interests before the personal ones (making tons of money for me while hundreds more suffer is not a great accomplishment). the list goes on. being loyal is not singing jeishana and believing jordan is the greatest country in the world, but seeing the good in the country, seeing the bad, nourishing the earlier and fixing the latter.

another part is tunnel vision: taking opinions and beliefs with little or no consideration of what others think. this affects our everyday beliefs (like the void between Muslims and Christians, which everyone just denies), our political beliefs (like how we hate everyone not jordanian), our social beliefs (terms like hafartali), our daily acts (the lack of respect with which males treat females), our hypocrisy (which is the ultimate form of ignoring other's beliefs; beliefs in others that are ours!), and many others. this ultimatism is fatal because it undermines the foundation for constructive criticism. this form of thinking only allows for black and white, right or wrong, with us or against us type of acting. there is no middle ground, no common basis, no "this is good from my side, this is good from yours" and the worse, there is no "you might be right, even if partially" kind of thought.

the list of problems is rather long and i am not interested in jotting them down. what i am interested in is seeing why they're there in the first place and how one can hope to tackle them. the weird thing is that it seems that people encourage the behavior leading to these problems even though they know it's detrimental. i've lived in jordan my whole adult life and i still don't understand our society or the way it works. people hate thieves yet won't hesitate for a second to make a "big win". people hate liars but will lie to save their asses. people preach to others to stand in line but will be the first to gain a place at the first opportunity. those are just some of the examples. everyone bitches about how bad things are but they don't practice what they preach.

the difference between knowing what's right and acting upon it is courage and honesty. jordanians just don't take the initiative. we're afraid of what people say, which, paradoxically, is almost always against our beliefs. that is, society's consciousness pushes its individuals further away from the beliefs that the society embraces. it's the ultimate incarnation of hypocrisy. try to look for a garbage can to not to litter. "oh man, just throw it anywhere, the streets are garbage anyway." of course they are, since garbage is a few hundred people throwing one napkin here and there. try to work honestly. "oh come on girl this isn't your company just do the absolute minimum and go home to chill". the examples are numerous and all similarly depressing: we know what's wrong but refuse to avoid it.

so making a change requires people to start thinking critically. that is, thinking about their beliefs, their actions according to these beliefs, and objectively evaluating these actions and beliefs. but being naive enough to think that these patterns of thinking can be magically introduced into the whole society is typical of misguided social reformers. laws, penalties, rules, customs and any other form of enforcement will work as far as the reach of its enforcer. you'll smoke as long as your dad isn't around and you'll steal as long as there aren't police. rules, laws and customs are not the normal way of organizing a society, but are the solution to abnormalities in behavior. typically, a society must embrace these values and beliefs without outside interference or enforcing (normal behavior), and rules and customs, especially those carrying penalties, are set up for the outsiders: those who won't act as the whole sees best without outside enforcement (abnormal). one can't force a society to become reformed. what one can do is plant the seed of that reform and hope that it grows by its own. the biggest deterrent, as naive as it may sound, is peer pressure. if everyone thinks you're shit for stealing money, why would you steal? this argument is naive and overly simplistic but serves as a guideline: if society wants things to work and happen in a certain way they will. saying these things alone will not make them happen; acting upon them will.

the seed is best planted in fertile soil. teaching children to read, to think critically, to evaluate everything they are told before and after taking it to heart, is essential. allowing kids to learn and form conclusions on their own (see this) teaches critical thinking. teaching kids that there are no absolute rights and wrongs, that everything is open to questioning will create a new generation of conscious people. conscious of what? of the ideals in their head: of concepts they embraced not as hypothetical abstractions of supposed events but as hard conclusions to well-thought problems and practical challenges. this will not create anarchy nor will it dissipate our beliefs but it will make them just that: beliefs. not hear-say, not concepts, not teachings but beliefs. things that do guide our lives, not things that should guide our lives.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

second class countries

the american embassy, God curse its presence and its superiority, used to basically degrade people applying for a visa. you used to have to start waiting at 12AM the previous night to be one of the 40 lucky applicants admitted that morning. you would wait outside in the cold in hunger and curse your luck of having to apply. now, of course, there is an appointment system, but it took them 6 months to suffering to realize it.

i was always under the impression that european countries are more civilized, but i learned otherwise this morning. i went to apply for a shengen visa from the germany embassy, and you can't get close to the embassy. you have stand outside, around 30 meters away from the entrance, in the street, like a beggar, and fill out the forms and shit. you have to go through an arab who despite being extremely nice and helpful does patronize you. you have to prove over and over again that you're not going there to bomb them to hell and to never leave. i hate how we're treated, i hate that fact that we're second class countries, and above all, i hate that we have to be treated like that.

horrors of education

"It used to be that the whole purpose of education was to give students a working knowledge of how the world works. We have since opted for "educating the whole child"meaning that we teach people nothing. Unless you have an atypical modern education, you'll have no choice but to teach yourself."

this quotation is from an article about how to create plausible worlds in science fiction books. written in '84, more than 20 years ago. at that time, modern education had already started dictating that learning was not something forced but something that people do on their own by experiencing things.

modern education focuses on asking questions that start with "how" and "explain" instead of "who" and "when". that means that the emphasis is based on cause and effect rather than hard facts. anyone with a history book can quote dates of wars, but only smart students can understand their effects and apply that understanding to modern situations. i finished school around 8 years ago and i can still explain most of the physical and chemical issues we faced then, but i can't remember the names of scientists or the dates of discoveries to save my life.

i was very fortunate to attend a school which focused on these modern approaches. the rest of the country, however, is still stuck in the spoon-feeding method of teaching, or as the quotation names it, atypical modern education. that is, "dear students, the earth is flat, the stars are shy gods and i'm a less shy god". i've had MANY fights with teachers in my old school in which they would not even entertain the idea that they might be mistaken (i still remember them clearly, the idiots) and that i might be correct. of course i was correct, i was blessed with the ability to think critically.

but aside from my petty fights, the horrible status of our country (indeed, our nation) is not because we watch tv's and have cell phones and enjoy going out and like to ogle hot girls like our sheikhs would like to think, but it is because we lack the ability to think critically. from school, where information is forced down our throats, to university, where being active means voting and being a member of the student council without having any real influence, to real life where if you disagree with the status quo you are an enemy of the state. this isn't a political article, but it is a critical one: the status quo is that we live our lives as sheep, with no chance to think on our own. i'm not saying we should start a revolution. i'm saying that if things were done correctly we won't need a revolution. we need to start embracing the "learn for your own approach", where one is put into a real "learning" environment, not a mimicking one.

so yes, education in our world is rather horrific, and the only chance we get to think is to think of what to have for lunch.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

we're moving on

in all honesty, this might be the last blog entry dedicated to the unjust war israel has led and lost against lebanon. the world, as it almost always does, is moving on.

except for the jews and the holocaust (hell, the jews still remember babel), most of the events in the world are forgotten, fade into oblivion and are replaced by more exciting, more recent, more relevant news. it's a curse and a blessing. it's a curse when people forget things that are not supposed to be forgotten (like palestinian refugees or the victims of hurricane katrina), but it's a blessing when the event is over and it's a time to rebuild (like the death of a loved one or the ).

i'm not sure where the end of the lebanese crisis is. i'm not sure it's really over, but for now it seems things are quieting down a bit. so the world is moving on. an edgy ceasefire is maintained. the lebanese are now returning "home" for the long and challenging task of rebuilding their country. seems that hezbolla is taking a very active role with that. they're spearheading the operation, giving money, logistical aid, food and medicine, and anything else that may be needed for the effort. but rebuilding is not only about money: it's about the patience, strength and perseverance needed to follow through. it's about burying the dead and taking care of the ones left alive. it's not about creating new houses, it's about rebuilding homes. it's about returning life as close to normal as possible.

the world has moved on, so must we. but not they: they need to rebuild.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

and the real losers are

the lebanese people.

it is easy to talk about winning and losing, about who started a war, who is right or wrong, about many things that pertain to war, because that's what makes news. even death is talked about in numbers, in cold abstractions that take away from painful the reality of it. 10 civilians. 100 civilians. 1000 civilians. a million. this side. that side. when numbers are that large they cease to have any meaning other than the quantitative. and death isn't the only outcome. displacement, injury, pain, fear proceed a war. and anger. anger at an unjust war.

when 700 people are killed, at least 3000 people are affected: wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, fathers, brothers, sons and friends... those people are left in misery, in loneliness, in orphanhood, in bewilderment, in sorrow, in anger and in resignation. i can't imagine what a person must feel like to lose a loved one like that, in a meaningless indiscriminate war that was unleashed by a murdering state. i hope i never would.

other than those 3000 bereaved, there are the thousands that were forced to leave their homes. after israel so nobly warned them that it will destroy their villages and towns, around half a million new refugees moved out of their houses into other areas of lebanon. those aren't just numbers. those are families, mothers, fathers, children, babies, elderly, and sick people who need food, water, shelter and medicine. thank God the weather is fair: a cold winter could've spelled death to thousands. imagine worrying about clean water, or diapers for your baby, or medicine for your grandfather or food for your family. and moving away not the end of it, merely the beginning. those refugees in their own country have to go back to broken homes, destroyed villages, unearthed buildings, pitted streets and roads.. they need to search for where their houses were between the ruin. they have to face the cold fact that their house is no longer there, that instead it's a pile of rubble.

the bill of destruction will definitely run into the billions. a country that suffered a long civil war and only recently started recovering, lebanon will need to rebuild, refinance, regather and find the strength to recreate the country its people worked so hard to build and preserve. so yeah, the lebanese, with the destroyed houses, dead relatives, damaged ports, unearthed infrastructure, the lebanese, are the ones who lost the war.

who won?

so the "war" is over. i'm not even sure we can call it a war since wars are between countries, but hey, what the world wants the world gets.

so both sides are claiming victory (has israel or the us ever admitted to defeat?), which isn't surprising, but really, how can one measure victory? one can argue victory as a successful invasion or deterrence, or maybe control over a resource. personally i think the most basic definition of success (which in wars becomes a victory) is to achieve the set goals. part of why the us is suffering in iraq is that they didn't set long-term goals. the problem with the israeli war against lebanon from the very beginning is that it didn't have a goal. was it to get the prisoners back? was it to destroy lebanon's infrastructure? was it to disarm hezbolla? was it to destroy the "state within state" that hezbolla has in the south?

i think the official statement was eventually that israel decided to attack because of the capture of its soldiers. if so, i believe the goal would be to free the soldiers. if that was the case then israel was not victorious in this war (since it didn't achieve its goal). however, my personal opinion is that israel had only used the kidnap as an excuse to attack southern lebanon. but even then, let us assume that the original intention was to attack southern lebanon to somehow weaken hezbolla. weakening hezbolla can be achieved through several means: cutting off its supplies, attacking it directly, killing its members, and other methods of war. so what was israel's goal? to weaken hezbolla. how? i think from the events we can see three ways of weakening hezbolla.

first, weaken hezbolla by cutting off its supplies. i think israel achieved that rather foolishly by destroying lebanon's infrastructure. no bridge or road was left intact. the airport and seaports were destroyed. power was cut off from all of lebanon. there was no gas, water, medication or anything else for all of lebanon. a million lebanese were displaced or fled as refugees. israel, as it does usually, decided to wipe out the country to try to suffocate hezbolla. kinda like cutting a person's nose off because he has a zit on it. in that respect, i think israel did achieve its goal, if only by cutting off the whole country's supples. the question is, did that weaken or disarm hezbolla? the number of rockets fired and the resistance showed in the south tell us that it did not.

second, weaken hezbolla by cutting off its popular support. hezbolla are shiite, a sect of Islam that is always at odds with sunni. as such, it did not generally have the support of sunni's. no surprise there. i think israel attempted to weaken its support further by blaming them for the death of civilians, and that moron bush says the same, that it's hezbolla's fault. not a single muslim or arab agrees with that idiot. if anything, the israeli aggression which is illegal by international standards was hailed as an attack against muslims and arabs everywhere. all muslims and arabs stood behind hezbolla in its resistance, and lebanon was united against the aggression. some saudi fatwas were against that, but those were utterances similar to bush's: the words of idiots. so i guess in that sense israel has failed as well, creating the opposite effect.

third, weaken hezbolla by killing off its members and depleting its weapons. that is a natural outcome of any war: the resources of each side are depleted and they both emerge railing. the total number of rockets fired into israel is said to be 4000. i am not sure what kind of armament stores they have, but it seems that they had enough to sustain a 30 day war with israel (who claims to be superior). there is really no way to tell how much they have left in terms of weapons, but in terms of manpower they claim to have lost around 70 soldiers. israel says 400. i say it doesn't matter, i bet 10 thousand joined hezbolla through the course of this war. so in that area, it's kind of shady when it comes to weapons, but in terms of members, israel not only didn't achieve its goals but it backfired.

israel might be after more subtle goals, like the occupation of southern lebanon, the disarming of hezbolla in the south, the tainting of syria and iran as supporters of terrorism, a show of force against other countries, and many more, but according to the government speakers, they considered what they achieved as a victory because they were rid of a state within a state in the south of lebanon. how so? by the security council resolution. if that were a victory then the arabs defeated israel many times over.

so what did israel achieve? they destroyed lebanon's infrastructure, re-colored their international image in blood, weakened its internal moral, caused the death of hundreds of civilians and came out a fool.

what was hezbolla's goal? when they captured the soldiers they wanted to have a prisoner swap. israel instead reacted with war. what was hezbolla's goal then? to defend southern lebanon from an israeli invasion. i believe it succeeded in doing that.

seems to me like hezbolla won.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

lebanese blog

seems this is the semi-official lebanese blog.

check it http://lebanesebloggers.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 05, 2006

links to other great sites

interesting sites.

this one, called terrorism news, is well documented and with pictures and stuff of what is happening in the region due to israel's agression there.

this one, blah3, which is a cross between a forum and a blog, talks about how bush and his gang of republicans are ruining america and dragging the world down with it.

finally, this article shows us one side of what's happening in lebanon. cook is a british journalist living in nazareth and is generally very critical of israel.

israel has no right to do any of what it's doing in lebanon. if we can't stop it then we can at least speak against it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

israel and the world

everyone is chocked at qana's second masacre. 50 civilians hiding in a building were killed. the un is shocked. france condemed. germany condemned. the arab world is in turmoil over it.

israel says it's hezbolla's fault, and that they had warned the civilians to flee. america supports. wtf. it's like a spoiled 10-year-old who beats other 5-year-olds, accompanied by his bitch mom: "mom, it wasn't my fault, it was that boy, he teased me until i beat the shit out of his whole class. i warned i warned the other boys to move away or i'll bust their teeth in but they didn't" and the mom is "of course dear, you had every right to cripple them, and no one will stop this beating until we can work a way to stop the kid from teasing you".

how come every other nation in the world is calling this a massacre while israel simply started another enquiry (which will lead, beyond a doubt, to the statement that this was an accident)?

how come not a single israeli sees the horror of what they're doing? how can they be so scathed? how can they be so heartless?

this is beyond me