Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back to "normal"

(downtown Beirut)

Driving to work seemed oddly ordinary today. Traffic was not stopped as it would normaly have been at 9:00AM, but there were plenty of cars on the roads. I was coasting along the highway when the sound of sirens interrupted my thoughts. Suddenly a black suburban with black tinted windows aggressively passed on my right, followed quickly by a second, third and a fourth all identical vehicles revving fast with identical plates, diplomatic ones, characteristically yellow. A gun barrel hung out the window of the last vehicle.The Americans are so obvious, I thought.

Although things seemed to be getting back to normal, I wondered how the mission would be received today. Usually the motorcade, which has been dramatically scaled down over the past ten years, featured a mix of white and tan suburbans—ten years ago they had gun turrets cut out of the roofs. But today they were all black, somber, like a funeral procession or perhaps something more sinister, at least in the eyes of some, maybe most. I remembered the bartender from last night, so brash in his socio-political commentary, accusing me of being unable to comprehend reality, when I questioned his view that “the Americans, the British, the French, all those who fucked us should be kicked out!” In particular, the American mission, he restated. The Lebanese prime minister would have done well, he said, to kick them “the fuck out”.
Joe is a bartender at one of the trendiest pubs in town. He is tattooed, light skinned, muscular, and loud, his accent vaguely American. Rumor has it that he often takes on work as a shipman to make a few extra bucks. He probably wouldn’t have much trouble fitting in as a New Jersey mechanic either.
“I saw you on CNN” he bellowed at me when I ordered a beer. “You’re on my shit list,” he said seriously, producing a mischievous smile. Later he would come around the bar and slap me five, saying he was just joking. The conversation seemed to deteriorate though when I suggested that Lebanese were a mix of all cultures and that Lebanon, by default, should be open to the rest of world. “What do we need from America,” he demanded. “We have oil, we have all the countries from here to North Africa.”
Do you like rock and roll? I asked. He hesitated, as if they question was irrelevant, but finally answered yes balefully, then waived me off. “You don’t understand,” he sputtered, his tone hardening. “You, you, you,” gesturing with his hands over his head as if to indicate some kind of indoctrination. “We are all a mix, aren’t we?” I asked. He winced, then briskly walked off with our spent ashtray and a couple of empty beer bottles.
Earlier I spoke to the bar owner, another stoic character but somewhat milder-- soft-spoken and aloof. He is an Italian-Lebanese and a well known entrepreneur in the local club scene.
He explained to me how he had forbidden many foreign news crews from filming at his bar. When I asked about a threat from militant groups, he recalled 1984 when in the midst of civil war the party of God had shut down many liquor stores in West Beirut. “It was my birthday,” he recalled, “and it was so hard to find alcohol.” Joe was more blunt. “Why?” he cried, when I asked about having the pub filmed. “Because people will be pissed off if they show us partying and drinking here while others are dying.”
I guess it was Joe’s attitude that I remembered most, perhaps unconsciously, when I looked upon the American motorcade as if it they would be seen more of as merchants of death rather than diplomats. After parking my car, I took the usual route to the office, walking in front of Lebanon’s largest mosque adjacent to the tomb of its founder, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. It’s not exactly clear when the mosque will open. Final touches on the ornate yellow stone building, which dwarfs all surrounding edifices with its towering minarets, have been ongoing for the last few months, just over a year after Hariri’s assassination. A man holding a hose pumped water at the landscaping out front as traffic passed by on a green light at the intersection behind him. Could I be wrong about worrying about all this stuff, I wondered. Is it right to just carry on now, as if nothing really had happened?

30 Comments:

Blogger Chris Baker said...

Cheers to Tony Blair's Deputy Prime Minister Prescott, who calls Bush administration Middle East policy CRAP! This is according to the US TV and radio program "Democracy Now":
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

According to the London Independent, Prescott told a gathering of Labour parliamentarians this week he believes White House policy for the Middle East is "crap." Prescott is also quoted as saying President Bush is "just a cowboy with his Stetson on." Prescott denies making the comments.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe everyone here who constantly quotes Democracy Now...I would imagine many of you also rip on Rush Limbaugh all day too. DN is a freakin joke.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous sam said...

Anon 7:10

It's not worth the fight. Seriously, name calling bashing all of it closes the door. The door is already closed but when you give them the responces like you are it gets worse. I'm indifferent either way but I thought I'd pass along some simple advise.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous racism said...

sam are you feeling okay?

10:46 PM  
Blogger Carmel said...

hi, i feel a bit weird too to just get back to normal. it's like i can't believe it's really over and maybe it is just a time out? i wish not. i wish we'll be very bored during this year. i wish I'll be too busy to come back to your blog, guys. and i wish some day i could visit Beirut, it looks beautiful.

12:49 AM  
Anonymous sam said...

I feel fine!

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK-there should be major investment in Lebanon, as there was before this glorious, asanine conflict. And as one blogger put it, more in the south--they really need improvements (even before the war) in infrastructure, business, employment etc. Hariri did start this before his passing, and I think this need to be thought about more clearly.

Will HZ allow it? Who cares if they do or dont--it needs to be done--there is only 1 Lebanon and not North, South. This is the prime opportunity.

1:55 AM  
Anonymous i care said...

Something that struck me watching TV, young Lebanese commenting from the sidewalk cafes in Beirut ~ enjoying coffee, stating this is not their war, it does not affect them. They made it clear they were Christian. I was struck by this; when Hurricane Katrina affected all of the Gulf Coast I assisted in helping the poor with needs because it is my country and ultimately Americas problem. I have compassion, this is why it affected me. I did not have to know the person or the population not to feel and want to do something to bring unity. Those affected did not ask for Isreal to unleash its hatred. As a Christian with Christ consciousness, compassion is in my heart. I do not sense compassion from certain Christian population in Lebanon. The divide remains and is very obvious. This is a callous attititude "not my problem". In a country 60 miles at its widest, it is very sad to see such prejudice. Arrogance such as this will further separate Lebanon. When you reach out to those you despise or fear, you will break down walls and bring the country closer. Compassion and understanding is so important. In other words, just let Iran pick up the pieces then complain Iran supports Hezbollah! I say to any Lebanese arrogantly stating this is not their problem, that it is a muslim population problem ~ get off your butt, find the compassion in your soul, reach out to the people if not just for one day!!! Mercy Corps stated today there is so much to do and help is needed. Wish I could be there to help as it kills me to watch. In the words of Khalil Gibran ~ ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. If you are Lebanese, drop the religious divide, put down your beer and help!!

3:36 AM  
Blogger Lilu said...

Carmel, let me know when you go, I'm looking to hitch a ride..

It's the Tel Aviv paradox - on the one hand there is war, it goes on in our own streets (heck I could give directions to my house using just the sites of suicide bomber attacks), on the other hand, can't help but go on with every day life. I think that strange co-existence, of war and destruction side by side with ordinary routine life, IS "normal" in this mad house of a region.

But I don't think it's over either. I think we mustn't be lulled into a false sense of security - I think more is on the way, and we shouldn't just dismiss what has happened as "over" - there is still work for all of us, to try and prevent a second round(or is it third, or fourth, or fifteenth, I think I lost count).

3:42 AM  
Blogger Chris Baker said...

carmel - well said. I find Lebanon interesting because you have religious groups in Lebanon who literally hate each other after a long and destructive civil war, yet now those groups are grappling with democracy, freedom of speech and all the rest. Nasrallah himself has showed a little flexibility toward that direction, although he may be out in front of Hezbollah supporters on that. Dealing with religious hatred is one of the most important issues in the world today, including in the US to an increasing extent.

Then you have Prime Minister Siniora who almost certainly wants to move Lebanon closer to the EU, while re-building Arab nationalism and eventually leading other Arab countries in the same general direction. Against all this Lebanon has to deal with countries that are contributing huge sums to resisting Israel, plus there's the Bush administration with it's moronic Israel-first Middle East policy.

P.S. I don't reply to anonymous comments.

4:18 AM  
Anonymous All 4 One & One 4 All said...

What is normal anyway? Who defines what is normal and not normal? We are living in a dynamic environment. Always learn from your yestedays. Never regret the solid decisions you make for yourself and always work to better yourself since that is the key to bettering your environment.

Normality is being natural, naturaly ;)

5:13 AM  
Blogger Bash said...

Haven't you realised yet that that bar is run by a bunch of characters? --It has the best music and atmosphere though you gotta admit (when Joe isn't being Joe)

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Asia

To be a leader one must have very good I.Q and E.Q. One will not be able to manage his/her family, department, people, company, and country without good E.Q

How many of current leaders equipped with good I.Q and E.Q.

I wish to share with you the articles written By Carole Nicolaides

We will be able to asses where we stand after reading the articles.

By Carole Nicolaides

Those are only natural feelings. Everyone has had them from time to time. However, what you DO with those feelings and emotions is what counts. Controlling your anger and frustration and learning to perform more productively under stressful circumstances is the defining factor.

Unfortunately, changing your emotional response to others is considered a "lifestyle change". And, as we all know, those are the most difficult to implement and maintain. If changing unproductive habits were as simple as being aware of them, we'd all be living ideal lives. Changing habits and behaviors takes more than awareness and self-knowledge. This is why traditional training (such as books, audio tapes, video training and workshops) often falls short in creating long-term change. They don't offer a consistent support system… the one thing that is vital to maintaining new behaviors.

I recommend that you find a mentor or coach to assist with this process. After all, there is an elegant beauty apparent in people that can remain calm when no one else can. Aristotle said, "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, in the right way - this is not easy."

The insights below will help you lay down a solid foundation for managing your emotions and progressing forward in your career.

1. Learn rather than defend. Instead of going into a defensive mode and trying to protect or force your views, learn from the situation. Ask yourself what is really going on with that upset employee or coworker. The old saying is true, "When you change someone's point-of-view against their will, you've never truly changed them." From the moment you lose control and retaliate (even if you are right) you've lost the battle. However, by controlling your emotions and investigating the other's viewpoint, you open yourself to a calm and enlightening discussion.

2. Acknowledge rather than agree. It is possible to acknowledge that someone has a different point-of-view than you have without agreeing with their point-of-view. What happens, more often than not, is that the more strongly someone disagrees with us, the more adamant we becoming about convincing them we are right. Before the situation gets out of control, ask yourself, "How important is it that they agree with me?" If the answer comes down to a matter of personal pride - let it go. Acknowledge and respect other's views, the fact that you have a conflicting opinion and allow the conversation to drift to another topic.

3. Express your emotions. Expressing empathy and being emotionally honest is one of the things that will make you a true leader. Everyone you work with already knows you are human. When you share your strengths, weaknesses, triumphs and trials honestly with those around you, you make a more personal connection. Let us never forget, people follow those they like. While your primary concern at the office may not be to make friends; opening yourself up to your team will help develop a sense of trust and loyalty towards you.

4. Stay in integrity with your values. Emotional control does not equate to silence. Just the opposite. When a difficult subject needs to be addressed, you will be fully able to do so… with a level head. When the truth needs to be told, you will be a person other's look to. By showing others you are filled with integrity and you stand by your values will help to define your reputation. Respect always follow those whose "yes" means "yes" and whose "no" means "no".

5. Tactfully handle the negative. It seems, regardless the size of organization you work for, that negative people will always be present. These are the ones that continually complain, create confrontations and lack control of their emotions. If their contribution to your team does not outweigh the damaging attitude, you may want to consider having them transferred to a position where they would be more suited. Be aware of these personality types. Also be prepared to handle the challenges they will bring to you as you prepare to develop your new emotional steadiness.

Progressive leaders are emotionally stable leaders. They are the ones others turn to during a crisis. They are the ones that become the beacon of true leadership. They are the ones that make it to the top!

Digest

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Asia

Low EQ

Since negative emotions, lack of emotions, and indirect expression of emotions are all contagious, it is generally smart to avoid negative, low-EQ people who may infect you with their bitterness bugs and victim viruses. These people are no fun to be around, and you certainly don't want to pick up their bad habits. Here is a summary of what kind of people to watch out for and steer clear of. These are people who:

· Don't take responsibilities for their feelings.

· Can't put together three word sentences starting with "I feel..."

· Can't tell you why they feel the way they feel. (Be especially wary of those who make you the focal point when they explain their feelings.)

· Attack you, blame you, command, criticize, & advise you.

· Interrupt and invalidate you.

· Lecture you.

· Judge you.

· Lay guilt trips on you.

· Withhold information about their feelings.

· Lie about their feelings.

· Exaggerate or minimize their feelings.

· Let things build up, then they blow up, or react strongly to something relatively minor.

· Have little integrity.

· Carry grudges.

· Don't tell you where you really stand with them.

· Withhold information.

· Are uncomfortable to be around.

· Act out their feelings, rather than talk them out.

· Play games.

· Are insensitive to your feelings.

· Have no empathy, no compassion.

· Are not emotionally available.

· Offer little chance of emotional intimacy.

· Do not consider your feelings before acting.

· Do not consider their future feelings before acting.

· Are insecure and defensive.

· Often have low self-esteem.

· Find it hard or impossible to admit their mistakes, tell you when they feel bad for something they did, or apologize sincerely.

· Show no remorse.

· Perceive themselves as helpless victims.

· Avoid responsibility by saying things like: "I had to do it. What did you expect me to do? What was I supposed to do? I had no choice."

· Attack you for criticizing them.

· Think the world is not fair.

· Frequently feel disappointed, bitter or victimized.

· Frequently feel inadequate, dumb, or stupid-- or are afraid of appearing so.

· Are either extremely or not at all concerned with appearances.

· Frequently either complain, or pretend nothing is wrong.

· Need to use profanity to express themselves.

· Lock themselves into courses of action against common sense.

· Avoid personal relationships and seek substitute relationships with everything from their pets and plants to imaginary beings.

· Rigidly cling to their beliefs.

· Can tell you all the details of something that involves other people, even something years earlier, but can't tell you how they feel right now.

I've found that there are any number of ways which we all avoid facing our own negative emotions and unhappiness. Some common ways people do this are by:

Judging everyone else. Labeling everyone else. Acting self-righteous. Finding others to blame. Hiding their pain behind degrees, offices, positions, titles, fame, status, etc. Minimizing their own unhappiness & negative feelings. Denying their unhappiness, loneliness, emptiness, fears, anger, bitterness, etc. Finding someone worse off than themselves to focus on. Trying to please everyone else by telling jokes, laughing at everything, and pretending to be ever-happy. Distracting themselves through various compulsions and addictions such as work, hobbies, exercise, sports, entertainment, religion, drugs, etc. Analyzing and intellectualizing. Expressing their thoughts but never their feelings. Acting either cocky or self-deprecating. Identifying with externalities such as movie stars, sports stars, club memberships, political parties, and religious groups.

Because emotions are contagious, the more you can avoid those with low EQ, the better your chances for happiness.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Asia

HIGH EQ

Signs of High EQBesides not displaying the characteristics mentioned above, a person with high EQ:

· Expresses his feelings clearly and directly.

· Is not afraid to express his feelings.

· Is not dominated by negative emotions such as: Fear, Worry, Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment, Obligation, Disappointment, Hopelessness, Powerlessness, Dependency, Victimization.

· Is able to read non-verbal communication.

· Let's his feelings guide him through life.

· Balances feelings with reason, logic, and reality.

· Feels empowered.

· Does what he does because he wants to do it.

· Does not feel forced.

· Is not dependent on others.

· Is intrinsically motivated.

· Is not motivated by power, wealth, status, fame, or approval.

· Is emotionally resilient.

· Expects success.

· Does not internalize failure.

· Is interested in other people's feelings.

· Is comfortable talking about feelings.

· Is not immobilized by fear or worry.

· Is able to identify multiple feelings.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous i care too said...

I care: wished that lebanese govt and citizens would have taken the lead in the reconstruction but the displaced were advised not to rely on others and their king did not waste any time showing appreciaton toward those who fed and sheltered their population for weeks during the hostilities. We will do what we can but unfortunately the power of a personality cult is overwhelming if not intimidating. Looking at the poor on TV is one thing-seeing the hatred flowing out of their eyes and mouths is another. It gives one pause to say the least.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Rex said...

bash - do you mean Joe is more like a Joana ? :-)

2:37 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

The hatred is what's most important, now. Nothing else is even remotely as important - especially not UN or other resolutions or treaties. Likewise, the "International Force" or the Lebanese Army moving in to patrol the devastation. All that does is had to the anger, hate and humiliation. But, of course, there's the very real possibility of rockets being fired just to demonstrate the impotence of whoever is supposed to be stopping them. Lilu made the point the Israeli soldiers should not be humiliated by being forced to clean the oil spills. An armed force wandering around Southern Lebanon looking for someone to kill simply adds insult to the injury.

But - you say - what to do about Hezbollah? They must be disarmed. The answer is, if they aren't disarmed by now, they aren't going to be disarmed by the Lebanese Army (which, if I understand it, may be sympathetic to the people of the south). They for sure are not going to be disarmed by an "international force" - They will say, simply, "first it was Israel and now it's this ad hoc army. Go to hell."

It will be done one way and one way only, I think. Look at the United States model following our civil war. It was called Reconstruction. President Lincoln immediately recognized the psychic wounds and said they were the first that had to be treated. It didn't work as he had planned but it did stop a lot of suffering and got the country back on track. The ku klux klan rode and die hard ex soldiers from both sides did terrible things but we moved forward. And then, in 1965 - a hundred years later - we passed the civil rights acts. And we're still fighting - not with armies but with words.

If you keep the wound open, it will never heal and it will be civil war or international war or guerilla war or terrorism - forever. Go to Nasrallah in the name of peace. Tell him and his followers that no matter what else, the suffering must stop and the Lebanese must - themselves - find a way to cooperate to that end. The goal is stability and assuaging the hate and horror and hurt. It should not be to say, "I win, you lose." Or, "do it my way or die."

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, good to see you turned into a big pussy, though I have a feeling that you are not the real Sam but a fake put forth by the authors of this racists blog.

4:32 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

And, by the way, the Lebanese - as a unified government - should present their requests and demands for aid for reconstruction. "Reparations" is not the appropriate word at this point. But "aid" to do what so many foreigners have been saying must be done is completely appropriate.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Nehal said...

Hola,

Here is a little fact sheet with supporting original documents the Arab media Watch whipped up for us to use. They tackle quite alot of the things we would need to answer to get our voices heard.

http://www.arabmediawatch.com/amw/CountryBackgrounds/Lebanon/WarFactsheet/tabid/341/Default.aspx

Also there is website called "Have your say" by the BBC. We need your help to increase the recommended posts that are pro-Arab. Although they make up the majority of the posts they are not the most recommended, they most recommended are the pro-Israeli point of view.

Check it out:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/default.stm

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck you Nehal, we can make up our own minds without the false encouragement to vote pro-arab.

you twat.
get a life

6:32 PM  
Anonymous pablo said...

hola Nehals pero tu eres un idiota ija de puta maricon!

6:41 PM  
Blogger HCB said...

We never know which "anonymous" is saying what. I realize the names used are also anonymous for contact purposes but at least we can keep track of who said what if names are used. Otherwise, it's like a room full of people just popping up and saying something. Its' not that hard to use a username. If you're not a blogger, just check the "other" box and create a name.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maya- usa
ok hcb

7:40 PM  
Anonymous sam said...

As for the "real sam" and me being a pussy. It's the real Sam and thanks, thats fine with me. You're impressions of me mean nothing in the bigger picture.

I've been called an ass, twat, f!@ker, son of a bitch, dick sucker, gay, fag, dog, bitch and a few more. So I'll add it to the list and move on. You should too.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maya-USA
thank God HZ did not hit Tel Aviv, although they could have if they wanted.

As far as HZ and Israeli motive, they are one in the same. One wants to get rid of the other and one wants to defend themselves from the other.

So the Lebanese need to be clever to deal with HZ as to give them importance outside of weapons and defense.

More important though, is to step in quickly and fill the void that was left by the lebanese gov't in the south: provide economic and other aid to people in the South, so that HZ doesnt receive the boost it needs to continue its existence. The Lebanese dont care about HZ as a force to destroy Israel, but rather as a force to defend against Israel...remember that HZ is also a huge social organization...without them, alot of people would not be so well-off. If the Leb govt stepped in to take care of its people adequately (e.g. defense, economic, health care), then HZ would be less necessary or valuable in the eyes of the people. Why do you think Nasrallah called on the displaced refugees to return to the south immediately? These are his constituencies...without them, HZ would be nothing.

The international community needs to think outside the military box and start thinking wisely and innovatively to curb the popularity and necessity of HZ.

11:39 PM  
Blogger clare said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Neil Williams said...

Hear George Galloway UK Respect MP views on Lebanon,Israel, the USA and terrorism in the UK.

NEW!
George Galloway Respect MP speaks out.

Video/Audio on the Respect Blog at:
http://respectuk.blogspot.com/

Neil Williams
Respect Blog
http://respectuk.blogspot.com/

The Blog recommended by:
http://www.georgegalloway.com/

10:45 PM  
Blogger Charles Malik said...

Habib,

That sure sounds like Mike, the insane bar man who offends many a customer.

7:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home