Friday, June 29, 2007

Western Conspiracy

Every week, my mom annoys me by watching Mohammed Hassanein Haykal on Al-Jazeera. After the show is done, she goes on about the American/ Zionist/ Western conspiracies to keep Arabs in the slums of history, about the documents he provided, the secret meetings he sited, etc.

Now, what gets me annoyed is not the fact that it's not true, it probably is. But I really do not see how this really changes anything. In my view this whole conspiracy thing is similar to hygiene factor in the management theory of motivation.

Let me explain briefly what a hygiene factor is. In motivation theory, there are motivators, and there are hygiene factors. Motivators are things that give positive satisfaction to the individual (for example recognition increases motivation.) Hygiene factors are things "which do not motivate if present, but if absent will result in de-motivation" For example, a lack of good salary usually results in a lack of motivation, but having a good salary will not guarantee motivation.

Now back to the conspiracy, it does not help Arabs to unit if they have a conspiracy against them. But would they really unit if it were not present?

My answer is no, they would not. I know that people who say yes would argue for a common religion, language and culture as good reasons why Arabs can unit.

Let me refute each one of these reasons and other grounds for the call for unity.


In my previous post, I tackled this subject and so will skip it all together.


Yes, most Arabs are Muslims, but they have totally different interpretations of religion. Arabs from Lebanon and Syria would not look kindly at the Saudi model of Islam and vice versa.

Should the "Arab state" be secular or not?

Should it have freedom of religion? If so how can this be applied in Saudi?

Would the Shea Iraqis be happy in an "Arab state" where they go back again to being a minority?

What would happen to religious minorities?

While they do get equal rights in some Arab countries, their rights are almost none existents in others.

  • The economy. Here I we have three problems:
    1. The unequal distribution of income between oil states and none oil states.

Would there be a federal system like in the US where poor states piggyback rich states.

    1. The totally different economic systems. We have a wide range of economic systems spanning socialism to capitalisms and anything in between.

Would the Saudi government allow opening of banks with interest from other Arab countries on Saudi soil?

Would Syria really have any decent thing resembling a real private bank?

Would something like the common "Arabo" currency ever see the day of light?

How can one reconcile the economy of Saudi with that of Syria?

    1. The problem of protectionism and cheap labor. As it is, and without the need for a conspiracy, most Arab countries exercise various forms of economic and labor protectionism.

Would Jordan allow an influx of cheap Egyptian labor?

Would there be a minimum wage at the "Arab state" level?

  • Political System.

How can one reconcile the different government systems?

Would Syria accept democracy?

Would Egypt accept Islamic law?

Would Saudi accept a proper constitution and a secular democracy?

Would Lebanon want to be part of the same state as Syria?

Who would rule. And how?

Would there be a federal government?

Would Egypt have 25% of "federal" government positions, since it has 25% of the population of the Arab world?

Does the president of the Arab world have to be Egyptian?

What would happen to the various Arab kings and presidents?

What would happen to large ethnic minorities in Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, Sudan? Will they have self rule?

The idea of "Arab Unity" sounds great when examined at face value. But the "devil" is in the details. And upon a somewhat detailed examination, it looks like Arab Unity has many things going against it and is very hard to achieve, even in the absence of a western conspiracy.

Even things like a unity of two Arabs countries seems almost impossible to work out. Using the criteria from above(economic, political, culture, religion) Let us take a quick look:

  • Jordan and Syria. No it would not work out
  • Syria and Iraq. No it would not work out
  • Lebanon and Saudi. No
  • Syria and Lebanon. No
  • Egypt and Lybia. No
  • Egypt and Ghaza. No
  • Jordan and Iraq. No

The other point that I would like to make is that Al-Jazzera did "Arabs" no good by airing such a program. It only helps foster a sense of victimhood. It creates the mentality that goes something like this: "We are victims of the west, no wonder our lives are going nowhere, they did this to us and there is evidence now."

Needless to say, we do not need any talk of present or past conspiracies, we need to focus on what we are doing and that is trying to "progress" and move forward. This can only happen by using progressive thinking, not regressive thinking.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Engagement Customs

I had the lack of fortune (neither being fortunate nor mis-fortunate) of attending an engagement "Jaha." Now, I have been to several wedding "Jahas" before, but this was my first time in a fully fledged engagement Jaha, where the family of the broom-to-be, along with some VIPs goes to ask for the hand of the bride-to-be.

I found this custom to be totally useless and a waste of time. Just like various vestigial structures in human anatomy, this custom has lived on long after its function has been rendered obsolete.

I must concede that the problem of sticking to obsolete customs is not limited to the Jordanian society, but other places also, including the west.

But I digress; I have no concern with the west for now; their customs and traditions in question are generally on the benign side. That is defiantly not the case with the custom of "Jaha." As a matter of fact, I can at least point out four big problems with this concept:

1) It does not place any value on the individual, but the value is derived from the clan, the tribe, the VIPs and the family. The elders have to do the talking, and the "young" broom-to be has to keep his mouth shut. The person in question could be a rocket scientist, and he would still have to allow someone else to talk, even if this person was illiterate.

2) The whole thing assumes that the bride-to-be has no power over yes or no, as she is never present, but instead her father has to do the acceptance or refusal on her behalf.

3) No women are present. This made sense when women did not contribute to the society and had the kitchen as their sole domain. Now things have changed. It would not hurt if various VIP women started to be included in this stupid custom. After all, we started to have female ministers and members of the upper/lower house of the parliament. If they are good enough to run a ministry, or represent the "people," why not be part of a stupid "Jaha."

4) In none pre-arranged marriages, the whole thing is an act. But if one is going to act, why act some stupidity he/she inherited from antiquity.

I know that old traditions/customs die hard. While we can not get rid of our vestigial organs, we can make a conscious choice to replace our customs with new ones or update them for the times. We need to be aware of how stupid, degrading, retarded, and useless they can be. We really need to ask if they are appropriate for the 21st century.


Monday, June 25, 2007

The Clueless FDA

For the last four years, I have been trying to sell compressed air filters to various plastic factories that produce food packaging, without much success.

These filters are used to remove compressor oil from compressed air and prevent it from contacting the packaging. If it is present, this oil could be a potential health risk in the long run for the consumers as this oil is always mineral based and not food grade. This is almost like eating the oil in your car engine, after you have used it to drive the car for 6000km.

I must say that I was not very surprised when not a single plastic factory bought from me, or anyone else for that matter. After all, the health of the average consumer is not worth 500JDs per year.

And I must say that it does not surprise me either that the Jordanian FDA does not know anything about this. Having dealt with the Ministry of health(and the Jordanian FDA) both as a business owner and when I represented the Dairy industry at the Jordanian Institute for Standards, I knew that these people do not know their asses from their elbows, all they know is that the material is food grade, therefore the final package is food grade.

Of course, for anyone who knows anything about the food industry, this is a clear case of non sequitur. The Jordanian FDA should be ashamed of itself for not knowing anything about this matter, but also for not knowing so many things.

The greatest problem with the Jordanian FDA is that the stuff are lacking both in experience and technical knowledge. And while they can be a bit excused for the former, in the age of the internet and electronic documents, the latter is an excusable crime.

IMHO, the Jordanian FDA is a partial waste of the tax payers' money and is only partially effective.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Office for Sadistic Affairs

A typical conversation inside the government's Office for Sadistic Affairs(a fictional office)

X: Sir, we won't make the budget this year.

Y: Right. Is there a way can get more money from the poor bastards, while at the same time making their life miserable.

X: Sure Sir

Y: Like what?

X: We can increase the revenue stamp fees and at the same time make the stamps not available at post offices. Instead they would sell at the closest grocery store, which could be up to a mile away from civilization and would probably sell them for twice the price.

Y: Really!!! Great.

X: Sir, we already tested this at several post offices and it was a great success; already, several citizens shot themselves in the head, mutilated themselves, or tried to jump from the top of a mountain.

Y: Uh-huh, wow.

X: So, we can make it standard procedure everywhere if you would like.

Y: Make it so.

While such an office does not really exist in the government, the various ministries are filled to varying degrees with employees just like X and Y. Of course, the conversation would not be as "intelligent" as this, but the result would be about the same.


Thursday, June 21, 2007


It does not happen often happen that I praise the government on anything, not because I am a government hater(which I am not,) but largely because the Government, more often than not, does not deserve my praise.

However, this time around I must praise the Government for the Hussein Gardens(park.) This is probably the first time that we have a decent park inside Amman itself. It is also the first time that kids have play grounds to play football in, instead of playing on the street and endangering their lives.

Now, the criticisms part, we need more of this, and soon. Probably, a couple of extra parks for Amman itself. But also in other cities like Zarka, Madaba, and Irbid.

It would be nice, also, if the government did not build these out of tax payer's pockets which are already empty.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Arab Values

I was reading some article in the Dustour news paper where they interviewed some people about the subject of "Interracial" and inter-religious marriages.

One of the people interviewed started mumbling about the Arab values and the inconsolable difference between Arab culture and Western Culture.

Needless to say, this got me really annoyed. You see, there is a general assumption about the static nature of Arab values and culture. On top of it there is the misguided belief that values are shared between people in the various Arab countries or even within the same country.

First of all, I would like to get one thing straight, the values were always changing at different points in history, going from one extreme to the other, pretty much like a pendulum. For instance, the era that produced "A thousand and one nights" can be one example of a rather "liberal period." And then the rise of Wahabis in the Arab peninsula can be considered the pendulum swinging the other way around.
Another example is Jordan itself, it was more liberal up the mid 80s and then it went through a period of conservatism which we can not rid ourselves off even to this day.

Secondly, moral and cultural values differ between the different Arab countries and also within one county or even city; West Amman is "liberal," whereas east Amman is not. Amman as a whole is more liberal than say Maa'n.

Then we look at countries; Jordan is more "liberal" than Egypt or KSA, but less so than Syria or Lebanon. For example, a lot of Jordanians might get a cultural shock if they went from Jordan to Lebanon. And a lot of the Lebanese would consider the Jordanians culturally retarded when they visit here.

Third, a lot of the so called Arab values have not even survived to the 21st century. Most people have lost their honesty, generosity, and many other things that are parts of the core of Arab values. The only thing that people mean when they talk about "Arab values" is the relationship between the sexes, and drinking and they leave all the real important issues unmentioned.

So in view of all of the above, the talk of Arab culture as static and a none changing fact taken for granted is not only misguided, but obviously a sign of historical and cultural ignorance. The core of Arab values is not what people are talking about.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tribal Law

I knew this from before, but it did not get to the foreground of my brain until today.

We are now almost 8 years into the 21st century and tribal law is still applied in matters related to accidental killings.

Yes, if someone ran over someone's child and killed him by accident and even if there were witness to testify to this, the driver in question would still have to go through the archaic process of "Atewh" and paying the "Dyeh" as compensation. And this process can almost destroy the life of the driver in question, because sometimes, the family of the deceased might decide to secure their retirement from the "Dyeh" money. Not to mention that the guy could rot in jail until the family of deceased decides that they have no problem with letting him out.

This process makes no sense what so ever. What even does not make any sense is that the government has no problem with it. Maybe modernizing only applies to certain things, but not to others.

I am not sure how this process can be replaced. But we need not look very far; many countries have never had any tribal laws and are doing just fine and have rather successful civil laws in place.

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