Friday, April 30, 2010

Human Rights Activism… A La Libanaise!!!

And our famous Human Rights Activist turned Interior Minister commented again today on the lynching of AL Msallem by describing his murder as a “Legal crime” – or a crime in the legal sense – all the while conclusively asserting that Al Msallem is indeed behind the murder of the Abu Merhi family as proven by a DNA test performed on a piece of bloody cloth found at Al Msallem’s home. The human rights activists did not fail to express his sympathy and understanding of the people’s rage and anger although he argued again that “rights should not be retrieved outside of judiciary procedures”. This is, ladies and gentlemen, human rights activism a la Libanaise. So, the public lynching of an alleged criminal is a “crime” in the legal sense!? Seriously Mr. Baroud?! Then of course, the miraculous DNA test result that surfaced – just like that – a mere 12 hours after the public lynching came to save the day! How convenient…

In related news, the President of the Republic – who is as interesting as a cup of still water – threatened Israel on one hand and condemned the crime committed in Ketermaya. He also issued firm directives to his underlings to punish those responsible of the lynching and bring them to justice – both security/judicial personnel and people; yeah right!!! Of course, both the President and the Interior Minister did not fail to remind us – while expressing their sympathy and understanding to the rage of the people of Ketermaya – how much such acts hurt….. Yes, you guessed it…. Lebanon’s image!

What was even more interesting was the statement issued by the Egyptian Embassy condemning the crime while stressing its faith in the Lebanese judiciary which is akin to expressing one’s faith in the virginity of Paris Hilton. Even the Egyptian Embassy did not forget to express its sympathy to the families of the victims of the heinous crime and its understanding to the rage it has caused. Of course, the Egyptian Embassy as well did not fail to remind us how much this behavior – atypical of Lebanese civility – hurt….. Yes, you guessed it again…. Lebanon’s image! I would like to know who are the smart asses who draft these official statements! Atypical of Lebanese civility!?!?! I mean, haven’t they heard? The Lebanese spent close to 3 decades displaying their well known civility by slitting each others’ throats; an exercise they renew every now and then in a bid to keep their civility in throat slitting well in shape for the next round….

Modern Day Lynching… A La Libanaise!

This ties in pretty neatly with my previous post about opting out and enjoying the carnage. A murder suspect – Mohamed Salim Al-Msallem - detained by the security forces investigating the crime was brought in to the crime scene in order to reenact the alleged crime he committed. In Lebanon, investigating authorities are not normally content by only extracting confessions through torture, they drag them poor suspects to the crime scenes and force them to reenact whatever crime it is they were forced to confess to. For lesser value crimes such as robberies, a reenactment is not necessary; what happens instead is that the police calls for a press conference and lines up the criminals in front of the cameras while showing off their loot – cell phones, cravates, watches, etc… – as a display of Lebanese investigative brilliance.

So, our murder suspect was escorted by the Lebanese improved versions of Inspector Clouseau to the village of Ketermaya to reenact his crime. While doing so, a rowdy crowd of villagers stormed onto the crime scene and almost beat Al Msallem to death under the noses of his security escort and judicial authorities. After firing some bullets into the air, the security forces somehow managed to pull him away from the crowds and drove him to a nearby hospital. But the villagers were not content with the beating; they wanted blood. So, they broke into the ambulance driving him to the hospital, dragged Al Msallem out while he was still handcuffed, and continued their savage beating now with clubs and daggers. Al-Msallem let out his last breath as he was stripped naked and dragged to the village center on top of a car to continue the blood party. His naked dead body was then raised on top of an pole in the center of the village where villagers – men, women, and children – all participated in the carnage either by reciting prayers and Koran verses, by chanting slogans and death songs, or by taking photos with their cell phones.

Our ineffectual joke of an Interior Minister – who used to be a rights activist of the type I abhor most – expressed his regrets that the “rights were retrieved through means other than judicial procedures and before revealing all the details of the crime.” Are you fucking joking? The “RIGHTS” were retrieved through other means than judicial procedures and before revealing all the details of the crime?? What RIGHTS are you – O Glorious RIGHTS activist - talking about? This is a modern day lynching by an unruly angry mob. This is not an issue of how “RIGHTS” were retrieved but one of a collective murder in broad daylight under the watchful eyes of your inefficient security apparatuses and that joke of a Lebanese judiciary. So spare us your regrets about how the “RIGHTS” were retrieve and kindly explain to us “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO FUCKING DO ABOUT IT!”

Before I leave you with the graphical story let me just dedicate this post to my compatriots who think themselves more educated, enlightened, liberal, advanced, modern, civilized, hygienic, intelligent, and deserving - in summa better - than the rest of the hoards that inhabit this planet. Do you now understand why I abhor your hypocrisy much more than your barbarity?

 

Marching for Secularism or Marching Away?

So there was a march for Secularism in Lebanon. How cool is that? I should be thrilled, shouldn’t I? You know, being the disgruntled atheist that I am who harbors nothing but contempt to that failed joke of a country that should not be. I am not thrilled actually but rather amused. Simply put, I am too much of a cynic to be moved by the sight of a few hundred gay (happy!) people chanting a makhlouta of slogans about a vague concept that is so foreign to the reality of that failed state. Yes, secularism is a nice concept; but what secularism are you exactly talking about? the abolition of the institutionalized sectarianism? The abolition of religious courts? The institution of civil marriage and inheritance laws? What is secularism to each one of you and how many other lebanese do actually share your opinions/views?

As I have stated before, I feel sorry for activists who waste their time and energy and sometimes lives trying to provoke societal changes. The problem is that societal changes are so much slow moving that those activists normally don’t live enough to see their causes triumph – if they ever do – or to even reap the benefits of their struggles and be able to live their ideals. This is why I am a proponent of abstention and withdrawal. My time is too valuable to be squandered for the comforts of generations to come. I seek my own comfort and peace of mind trying to make the best of my situation constantly adapting to the societal shackles around me. If I don’t like reality, I do seek to change it for the better, but I chose the shortest path: Move. Change geography, change society, change reality by physically withdrawing to another geography, society, reality. Of course, not all are endowed with the opportunities to move aimlessly trying to find the most comfortable space to settle down; but I luckily am.

Where does that leave the march for secularism? It will just probably wither away like all such attempts. Those who participated enjoyed their slogans and felt invigorated by the experience nothing more. They will live the illusion that their numbers will grow with time and that they will be able to watch that failed state turn into their dreamland. I of course will watch from afar. I will see Maroun, Ali, and Omar, slaughter each other multiple times throughout my life, I will watch their shouting matches and their feuding lords distribute the loot amongst themselves. I will watch hopes crushed and aspirations destroyed. I will watch tyrannies ending only to be replaced by more repressive tyrannies. I will watch sects entrapped in a zero sum game that none can escape and where the gains for one is a loss for the other. I will watch sects lose their privileged status while other sects gain privileges of their own; both will ironically call them “rights”! And the saga will continue. Slogans will change, causes will emerge and disappear, people will live and die, lives will be bought and sold, and I will keep marching, marching away!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thou Shalt NOT Kill…

I have always been awed by the amount of self-deception and intellectual dishonesty required to proudly call oneself a believer. But, let’s forget about the mythological garbage and spiritual nonsense for a moment and look instead and the practical applications of religions. One of the aims of religions is to provide man with guidance on how to live a “good” life by referring to moral imperatives as decreed by their founders. Little do people notice that religious absolutes are as relative as they come. Let’s investigate one of those famous imperatives: “Thou shalt not kill” the first precept of every self-respectful religion. Quite an unequivocal and unambiguous statement, isn’t it? Thou shalt not! But is it really?

Enter the exceptions: apostates, witches, dissenters, atheists, reformers, criminals, enemies of the state, enemies of the collective, adherents of other faiths, etc… The list goes on and on. One can’t but respect the creativity of the interpretations. The bible prohibits the spilling of blood. The solution? Easy, burn them at the stake and no blood shall be spilled!

Taking a deeper look one discovers that it is not the action itself that is condemned but rather its consequences on those in power and its effect on the cohesion and well being of their flock – perceived or real. So, the actual precept is thus: Thou shalt not kill as long as it is not for the good of your herders or the well being of your herd as decided by your herders.

What about the individual’s well being you ask? Well, all religions are unanimous in their denigration of the individual. One needs only look at their shared attitude towards the act of killing oneself..That most vilified of offenses that is either the culmination of the most lucid realization of the undesirability of a purposeless existence or the result of mental degeneration. In either case, as with all moral imperatives, what is condemned is not the act itself - for the value of the act itself is, as strange as it may seem, of no concern to religious quacks - but what lies beneath. The individual’s rejection of the collective and renunciation of his desire of being part of that collective; the only real and unforgivable offense. It matters not what man wants, wishes, desires, needs, or wills; what matters is that he forcefully accepts the will of the collective and consciously rejects his own. To unwill oneself is the sole acceptable pledge of submission.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Randomness and life…

What are the odds of me sitting here three decades after I was conceived typing away a post on the internet? Obviously, I know that the average life expectancy is around 75 – 80 but that is not the point. Think about how many billions and billions of variables have had to be lined up in just the right way to make possible this particular existence of mine. Any infinitesimal difference in any one of those billions and billions of variables could have potentially given me an alternate existence or a non-existence altogether. How do we become what we are and how much chance is involved in this becoming? One half a second too late or too early and I would have had a totally different life story. One half a moment too fast or too slow and a whole lifetime could have taken a different path. There are those variables in our environment over which we have no control – disease, hereditary deficiencies, accidents, nature, etc.. – and then there are those variables over which we do exert a semblance of control – these are called choices. I ascribe to the notion that human choices are always whimsical with the brain being a rationalization instrument that kicks in after the fact to rationalize and justify those decisions. 

I recently lost a friend in an accident and it got me thinking about how fragile this life truly is. I had a flashback into my own past and it was scary. I have cheated death so many times. Yes, I have been extremely lucky. Not that my existence is any different from any other human being; anyone living now reading this post is as lucky as I am. Every second of one’s existence has the potential to change the whole direction of one’s life. A single change in a single variable amongst the billions of variables can have devastating effects. Think about the life changing calls you answered; and those you left unanswered. Think about the accidents you’ve been through, those you avoided, and those you avoided while never knowing about them. Think of all the people that could have given your life a totally different direction; those you met, those you never met, and those you decided not to meet. But then, there is the cascade effect; and the randomness exponentially multiplies to infinity when taking into consideration the interconnectedness of everyone and everything.

Everything and everyone is interconnected in the randomness that is this world. A single decision you took 25 years ago can potentially change the life of a total stranger today or a multitude of strangers 30 years from today. This thought is overwhelming.  It is like a huge billiards table with 6 billion balls, billions and billions of hazards, billions and billions of variables, billions and billions and billions of potential outcomes, and a totally random initial jerk of the queue ball. Supposing that the initial move has only two variables: angle and velocity; think of the billions of billions of billions of billions of possibilities if the angle is changed by 1 degree or the velocity is reduced by 1%. The randomness at play cannot be fathomed by the human mind. The thought is inconceivable. Hence we create mechanisms of self-delusion. We drug ourselves with the idea that we do have control over our lives and our environment, that the decisions we make are rational, and that we are who we where we are when we are as a matter of choice not chance; ability not luck. We also create spirits, religions, ghosts, and myths that help in our delusion of control – if we do not exert control over our lives and our environment how comforting is it to know that a benevolent god does.

I relish in this randomness. Life would not be worth living if it were not for the infinite multitude of forces randomly shuffling our decks and invisibly mapping our existence and being; leaving us clueless balls on a gigantic billiards table. Renounce the delusion of control, embrace this life for the randomness that it is, love your ever changing fate, take the plunge into the dark abyss of the unknown with one purpose and one hope; to enjoy the ride as it comes with the hope of having the deck stacked in your favor….

Friday, April 16, 2010

Irony…

Maron Vatican

A few days ago, I was questioning the veracity of the claim by the Lebanese Maronite Church about the “Momentous event” of the Vatican placing a Statue of St. Maron in the Basilica of St Paul.  The argument was based on the fact that Google and all its might could only find 2 relevant results about the story. Today, I’m convinced the story is a hoax. Why? Simply because running a search on Google now just leads you to the most relevant page of all; Dionysos’ take on the topic!

I mean how ironic. A modest post by a a sarcastic atheist on a virtually unknown blog with a poor readership gets featured on Google as the most relevant result for the search handle “Saint Maron Statue Vatican”!

If that is not ironic, I do not know what is….

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

J’veux pas d’ Visite…

I am not a sociable person. In fact, I partially am, WHEN I WANT TO BE; and that does not happen quite often. Why do people show up uninvited? I mean, sure, I can understand that they are bored and have nothing better to do; but I almost always have something better to do!! And it’s not as if I do not show it quite rudely although it seems that my rudeness is not always enough. Okay, you’re sitting comfortably on the couch and I’m ignoring you typing away on my laptop; hello?!? does it not ring any bells in that defective brain of yours? Your questions and requests are for the most part being ignored; is that not a sign that you are not welcome? Your attempts at starting up a conversation trigger a bunch of disinterested “uh”, “aha”, “hmmm”; does that not indicate that I do not feel like listening let alone talking?

I admit, I am to blame. If I’m not achieving the desired outcome – your departure – then I must be doing something wrong; but what else can I do save from bluntly asking you to leave? I do not have many options, do I? This will be my social experiment for next week; when you show up uninvited I will just candidly lay it out for you that I do not wish to have any company and would rather spend my time doing whatever it is that I want to do ALONE. They say that 75% of communication is done through body language. This is probably true although I am finding more and more people who just lack the ability to interpret body language and thus they just miss 75% of what I’m trying to communicate to them. Talking about statistics, 85% of all my problems with women have been the constant struggle between them and me over me – my time. My insistence on shielding my aloneness was always misunderstood as either a lack of emotional involvement or a devious ploy to cover up for my cheating. Wrong on both accounts. Simply put, I am a proud egotist who has no qualms admitting that “I” supersedes everything else. This is true for everyone although few are honest enough to admit it and fewer are those who understand the transactional nature of human interactions and the capitalistic principles underlying the emotional banter. Think of it this way, we are all buyers and sellers of commodities (happiness, support, fun, joy, fulfillment, love, tenderness, sex, appreciation, knowledge, etc…). Spending time with one another is the method through which we freely barter those commodities. Of course, such as in any market, the value of each commodity – or basket of commodities – is different depending on each individual’s preferences and needs. Then there is the opportunity cost of forgoing a basket of commodities for another; which highlights the negative effect of unsolicited visits where one is forced into a barter one does not want to be engaged in. The choice dilemma occurs because of the conflicts between short/long term interests, short/long term needs, and value systems; such conflicts generally impose compromises.

Okay, that was my rant for the day. I leave you with a nice piece written and composed by Lynda Lemay on the subject of unsolicited visits…

 

 

La visite

Parce qu'la visite, c'comme les fourmis
Ça rentre et puis ça s'multiplie
Ça revient tout le temps comme un cauchemar
Ça pense qu'on est content d'les voir
Ça coupe les films en plein milieu
Ça prend l'divan le plus moelleux
Ça nous condamne à la chaise droite
Ça prend racine, ça mange comme quatre

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Free Death…

Many die too late, and some die too early.The doctrine still sounds strange:“Die at the right time!”
Die at the right time: thus Zarathustra teaches it.
To be sure, how could the person who never lives at the right time ever die at the right time? Would that he were never born! – Thus I advise the superfluous.
But even the superfluous boast about their dying, and even the hollowest nut still wants to be cracked.
Everyone regards dying as important; but death is not yet a festival. As of yet people have not learned how to consecrate the most beautiful festivals.
I show you the consummating death that becomes a goad and a promise to the living.
The consummated one dies his death, victorious, surrounded by those who hope and promise.
Thus one should learn to die; and there should be no festival where such a dying person does not swear oaths to the living!

To die thus is best; second best, however, is to die fighting and to squander a great soul.
But your grinning death, the one that creeps up like a thief and yet comes as master – it is hated as much by the fighter as by the victor.
My death I praise to you, the free death that comes to me because I want.
And when will I want it? – Whoever has a goal and an heir wants death at the right time for his goal and heir.
And out of reverence for his goal and heir he will no longer hang withered wreaths in the sanctuary of life.
Indeed, I do not want to be like the rope makers: they stretch out their threads and in doing so always walk backwards.
Some become too old even for their truths and victories; a toothless mouth no longer has the right to every truth.
And everyone who wants to have fame must take leave of honor from time to time and practice the difficult art of leaving – at the right time.
One must stop letting oneself be eaten when one tastes best; this is known by those who want to be loved for a long time.

There are sour apples, to be sure, whose lot demands that they wait for the last day of autumn; and immediately they become ripe, yellow and wrinkled.
With some the heart ages first and with others the mind. A few are hoary in their youth, but the late young stay long young.
For some life fails: a poisonous worm eats its way to their heart. Let them see to it that their dying succeeds all the more.
Some never become sweet, they rot already in summer. It is cowardice that keeps them clinging to the branch.
Far too many live and far too long they hang on their branches. Would that a storm came to shake all this rot and worm-food from the tree!
Would that preachers of the quick death came! They would be the right storms and shakers of the trees of life for me!
But I hear only preaching of the slow death and patience with all things “earthly.”
Indeed, you preach patience with earthly things? It is the earthly things that have too much patience with you, you slanderers!
Truly, too early did that Hebrew die, the one who is honored by the preachers of slow death; and for many it has since become their doom that he died too early.
He still knew only tears and the melancholy of the Hebrews, together with the hatred of the good and just – the Hebrew Jesus; then longing for death overcame him.

If only he had remained in the desert and far away from the good and the just! Perhaps he would have learned to live and to love the earth – and even to laugh!

Believe me, my brothers! He died too early; he himself would have recanted his teaching if he had reached my age! He was noble enough for recanting!
But he had not yet matured. A youth loves immaturely, and immaturely too he hates mankind and earth. Still tethered and heavy to him are his mind and the wings of his spirit.
But in a man there is more child than in a youth, and less melancholy; he knows more about death and life.
Free for death and free in death, a sacred nay-sayer when it is no longer time for yes: thus he knows about death and life.
Do not allow your death to be a slander against mankind and earth, my friends: that I beseech of the honey of your soul.
In your dying your spirit and your virtue should still glow, like a sunset around the earth; or else your dying has failed you.
Thus I myself want to die, so that you my friends love the earth more for my sake; and I want to become earth again, so that I may have peace in the one who bore me.
Truly, Zarathustra had a goal, he threw his ball. Now you my friends are the heirs of my goal, to you I throw the golden ball.
More than anything I like to see you, my friends, throwing the golden ball! And so I linger yet a bit on earth: forgive me that!

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Miracles…

Yesterday was my 5th straight day spent at home with a case of Acute Tonsillitis. Of course, being the conceited Moi that I am, I tried to medicate myself as I do not trust doctors enough. Needless to say, my self-devised cure did not work and the antibiotic course I put myself on was more geared towards curing Bronchitis than Tonsillitis! Anyway, the situation was rectified with a morning visit to the doctor who changed my antibiotics and gave me a milder anti-inflammation drug – yes, the one I was using, although extremely effective, turned out to be one of the strongest used to alleviate severe cases of Arthritis and what have you. In any case, late at night I ran out of movies to watch and started zipping through the Lebanese channels trying to pass some time. I landed on MTV. Hiyam Abu Shdid (or is this her name) was on with a program on the Miraculous medical interventions of Christian Saints! How convenient I thought to myself.

It turns out that St. Charbel is quite a skilled surgeon; he fixed the eardrums of a little girl after her mom stuffed some of his sacred oil in her ears. I always wondered, what kind of oil is Saintly oil? Do them priests and nuns use commercial oils? Do they go for high quality oils or do they have strict budgets for saintly oil?

St. Raf2a was just as slick as Charbel; only her miracle was performed when the mother mixed dirt from her tomb with a strawberry juice she prepared for her sick son. Yes ladies and gentlemen, dirt taken from Saintly tombs is indeed miraculous. Jesus personally intervened to prevent a Thyroid cancer from recurring after the Thyroid gland was removed by human surgeons.

I won’t go into much detail but naturally I found the whole charade ridiculously annoying. I mean, sure, believers piss me off; devoted believers more so. But most irksome of all was the attitude of the doctors especially the cancer surgeon who removed the Thyroid gland of the cancer patient. No you fool, you are not a tool of God who’s glory alone was responsible for curing the patient you operated on. It was your training, your knowledge, your ability, your mind, and the precision of your hands that ensured the malignant growth was completely removed. You and you alone deserve the credit for extending this person’s life; why for fuck’s sake do you choose to renounce your achievement and attribute it to spirits and ghosts?

Glory to you great minds who have discovered antibiotics. I can only imagine my anger if I were asked by my doctor to mix some dirt from a saint’s grave with some magic oil from another saint’s grave to cure my Tonsillitis.

PS: Anyone figured out the mystery of St. Maron’s Statue yet?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Fading Memories…

The mental decay has not only begun but is accelerating. The sights, sounds, aromas, and touches accumulated throughout three decades of existence are withering away. The first date, the first embrace, the first kiss, the first dance, the first drink, the first smoke, the first bet, the first concert, the first CD, the first book, the first fight, the first breakup, the first rebellious thought, the first blasphemy; all gone! Nothing! Nada! Zilch! It would have been okay had it been restricted to the first acts only; but it is not. Most events have just vanished and the ones that did not are nothing but distant blurry memories or more accurately reconstructed memories of memories I once had. How can one forget intimate relationships? Not one single memory remains! How odd is that? Not even the good ones! And the friendships? Hundreds of people with whom I crossed paths throughout; nothing remains there either! Neither the faces nor the names!.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments” Cesare Pavese said; well he was wrong. Eventually, we do not remember anything. Years of existence I have no – or very little – recollection of. Very little recollection amounts to a couple of snap-shot like non-animated blurry pictures of people and places hardly discernible and most probably distorted.

I used to think forgetfulness is one of the most important attributes of the human mind; the ability to let go of unnecessary information in order to replace it with what is more pertinent. It apparently does not work this way and the process seems to be random with a bias towards keeping earlier formed memories lived through the first 2 decades of existence. I still do venerate forgetfulness as a necessary attribute to live a healthy life but have grown extremely skeptical of the human ability to remember over extended periods of time. The random process of memory formation/deletion makes it so that I have a collection of stupid and irrelevant memories that seem to persist for no apparent reason while much more important ones have just vanished. I can remember the team a retired coach played with a couple of decades ago – I am not a big football fan and this information i must have randomly picked up watching a match twenty years ago – but can’t remember the details of a single romantic night I spent with this or that Ex-girlfriend! Three years I spent playing cards daily with a group of people of whom I forgot all the faces and half the names!

I used to hate taking pictures but now realize that a picture is the only witness of time that persists and that can keep memories alive. My new resolution is to take pictures every day of everything and anything – however trivial or unimportant – for pictures are and will be the only link between today and tomorrow.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

On lying…

The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.

Friedrich Nietzsche