Category Archives: Anthropology


Worth a read, and if you’re not into reading, worth a watch…


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Coping Strategies for Anxious Times

We are now, more than any other time in history, connected.  All the time and everywhere: we are connected to a worldwide network that narrows and expands.  Through our phones, our televisions, our computers… in our cars, in our homes, in the office, in the park, in the restaurant, we have become reachable.  It is now harder than ever before to just ‘disconnect’.

I will not go into the obvious benefits of these connections, but I want to talk about one disadvantage: Anxiety.

Anxiety that comes mainly from too much information about too many details about too many violent events all over the world, and especially this region  which is as the saying goes:  على كف عفريت , loosely translated “in the devil’s palm”.

So the information stream keeps coming and anxiety keeps growing, how to cope? Disconnect?  Easier said than done… I’m not saying that we should become apathetic (may be I am, I’m not sure), but all this bad news can really wear on one’s thinking.  It creates a negative atmosphere where  logic and creativity can’t thrive, and where no real reflection can take place.

I remember a time when the internet was fun,  when TV was entertaining, and when people didn’t freak out if they couldn’t reach you by phone for a few hours…

Here are some coping strategies that have helped me in the past that I thought I’d share:

Get your news only once a day, preferably in the late afternoon and for only half an hour.  Find a place that summarizes stuff for you.

Watch only silly comedies and cartoons on television, skip over any station that has that annoying news reel on the bottom.

Follow up on the stupid gossip about celebrities, instead of browsing news on the web, browse the worst and best dressed photo galleries.

Turn off the computer and the TV and read an actual book.

Remove all apps and services that stream breaking news to your phone.

Bake a cake or cookies, I have found that baking is great therapy for anxiety, it’s when I do my best thinking.

Go out more, with people who are not into current events, like artists,  athletes, etc… they are mostly into what they are doing, and are not prone to engage in too much political talk.

Spend time nurturing a hobby.

There are other coping strategies of course, like drinking, drugs, pornography, etc.. but those can come back and bite you in the ass and create additional anxiety later.

And I must admit, that none of the strategies listed above work for me anymore, so I am seeking new ones and welcome any suggestions.


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Freedom, Justice, Peace and all that Jazz

Terminology is potent: Key words, slogans, catch phrases, can manipulate emotion, and many times incite to action.  One must be careful though of terminology that is wielded around while devoid of real substance.

I will only go through a few terms that are being tossed around these days, terms whose real meanings remain to be pondered.

Freedom:  Now here’s one that gets your blood flowing!  Freedom: to think what you like and do what you like (within the confines of acceptable social behavior and civil or religious laws).  Here’s something I always wondered about:  we have created laws to restrict our freedom in order to be protected from each other, there is a fear factor attached to freedom.  It is a big word and every person that feels restricted in any way will grab on to it for hope.  But beware the freedom peddlers they will more often than not exchange one form of restriction with another.

Truth:  here’s another highly charged term, what we hold as true is what shapes our lives.  But somehow, truth can also be relative in nature: what is true for a certain time and place, may not be true for another, truth is never reality, but more of a process of seeking.  So whenever someone is offering you a truth, remember to take it with a grain of salt and here I’m going to use a movie quote: ” can you handle the truth?”

Justice:  also very relative in nature!  I don’t think that there is a consensus on what is truly just, I mean we measure justice based on moral codes, and moral codes differ (maybe not to a great extent) from place to place and from time to time.  In collective terms, what may be just for one society or country may entail an injustice to be incurred on another.  We all want fair treatment and should not confuse that with the big J.

Peace:  ahhhhhhh peace, that lovely state of being where conflict is nonexistent!  It is a transient state at best, peace like truth is never a  permanent reality but a temporary process of seeking.  Conflict is inherent in human nature, what we have control over is how to deal with conflict in the best ways possible and to lessen its impact on our lives.  So always think of peace as a prelude to conflict, and of conflict as a prelude to peace.

Words and terms that can best be defined by conjuring their opposites are often   dynamic and not static in nature, they are conceptualizations of certain states in the human mind, and they have strong emotional impacts.  Buyer of words beware!

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Ridiculing Ourselves…Sarcasm and Change

I have noticed that the there is an ongoing trend in Lebanese thought, literature, art, and general attitude: the “caricaturization” of our vices with a sarcastic and condescending tone of voice.

It seems everyone has something to say about how ridiculous Lebanon has become, politically and socially. Everyone is a critic with a sharp eye and rapier wit… Lebanese wit is definitely thriving!

I just have to stop and say this: it has become tiresome.  I don’t want to read another book or article or social media status, and I don’t want to listen to another song cleverly describing the following subjects:  The vanity of Lebanese women, The chaos of traffic, The corrupt officials, The night life, The plastic surgery, The treatment of domestic workers, The price of gas, The electricity, The slow internet, The deforestation and other environmental disasters, The hypocrisy, The decline of musical taste, etc…..

Mockery and cynicism seem to have become the communication outlet of choice:  Oh we are so smart, we see the problems and we tell them in a way that makes the reader or listener chuckle “a la Ziad Rehbani”.  But guess what? It ain’t funny anymore; it’s gone on for too long, we have taken a good look at ourselves in the proverbial social mirror and many times we don’t like what we see, and I believe it is a little dangerous to keep mocking ourselves and finding the humor in a bad situation. This can be counter productive and makes us less prone to find solutions, or to accept these changes as inevitable in the highly dynamic Lebanese environment.

One more thing:  Perspective is a very important thing.  To those writing so drolly about the vices of our society, I urge you to reconsider your perspective and your purpose.  Do you just want to amuse people by tormenting them with their weaknesses? Do you want to share your perspective for fame and profit?  Do you want to hold up a mirror to show people their true selves in order to initiate change?

We have serious problems, and I think we’ve ridiculed ourselves long enough about them, let’s either accept them as the reality of who we are, or find serious ways of eradicating them.

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Who’s Really Running the World? Part 2

The individuals I talked about in Part 1, you know, the ones with good intentions, become part of organizations, large and very influential organizations.  Mostly they are known as Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). NGO’s however, especially the multinational ones, have very close ties with governments, especially the multinational ones!

And as I also mentioned in Part 1, these individual become united and bound by terminology and not ideology.  They join organizations with high ideals and shiny ideas of how to make the world a better place.  Some join for a career that takes them places.  What happens once they become part of these organizations is a sort of induction into a different society, with its own passage rites and its own way of doing things.  Eventually, and in an almost cult like way, the terminology takes over and becomes the goal.  These huge organizations take on a life of their own, and their shiny banners of equality, development, empowerment, relief, and advocacy draw the admiration and respect of the masses.

But what is really happening in the corridors of these humanitarian mega structures?  All sorts of political agendas, and what is really dangerous about that in my opinion, is not the existence of these political agendas, but the fact that those working on disseminating them are more often than not oblivious to them, and still believe “The Terminology”.  Furthermore, they have knowingly or unknowingly been stripped of their previous belief systems, (it happens in the induction stages) and now ascribe to the new terminology based philosophy of the organization.

Another danger of these political agendas is that they usually originate in places far away from where they are meant to be put into action.  They are always based on studies though, highly empirical and done by excellent academicians and researchers.  Studies and papers and journals produced in the upper echelons of “developed” countries, meant to be totally objective, and I can safely say, that from the point of view of those “developed” countries, the studies are objective.  But the danger lies when the belief systems and values of one culture are used to fix whatever ails another, with often times different belief systems and values.

A large amount of power is wielded by these new “humanitarian” conglomerates, and this power is largely accepted because it lives under the umbrella of human rights.  I am not “advocating” against these NGOs, I’m just saying that in a very covert way, they really are running the world!


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Media Terminology Deciphered (101 Level)

Just a word to the wise, even the most objective media can slant your opinion: not by overt propaganda (as most Middle East media do) but with simple language nuances.

Language: a system of symbols that help us to communicate facts, thoughts, and feelings.  Sounds innocent enough, well it isn’t, and the media and advertising industries have known this for a long time, and so have some of the world’s best writers.  Since these are the “communication” times, where information is disseminated at dizzying speed and in overwhelming quantity, it’s important for those who want to be well informed to be able to do a quick analysis and an instant filtering in order to discern the real facts and arrive at some sane opinion.

Below you will find different terms used in media today to describe one situation, occurrence, or phenomenon,  using different terminology (in both English and Arabic), as well as some suggestions as to what they may really mean to imply. This is just the very short list, as this is a 101 level, feel free to add your favorite “synonyms”.


Fundamentalist-Extremist-Ultra Orthodox    أصولي-متطرف-ارثودوكسي متطرف

All very close in meaning, I mean a fundamentalist is an extremist ultra orthodox believer.  But note how Ultra Orthodox is a little less threatening than fundamentalist, and how fundamentalist is a little less threatening than extremist.


Dead-casualties-martyrs   قتلى-ضحايا-شهداء

The dead simply ceased to be living, casualties were victims, and martyrs are heroes, that’s how we quickly interpret these words in our minds.


Killed-Murdered-Slaughtered  قتل-ذبح

Killed implies some violence, murdered implies violence and criminal intent, while slaughtered implies barbaric violence.


Hundreds-Thousands-Tens of Thousands… مئات-آلاف-عشرات الآلاف-مسيرة مليونية

Ah, the numbers game! When do hundreds become thousands? Is 999 about a thousand? Or is around 800,000 a million?


Demonstrations-Riots-Civil disobedience  مظاهرات-أعمال شغب-عصيان مدني

Civil disobedience is perceived to be the tamest and most peaceful, demonstrations are a bit scarier, but riots are really scary.


Rebels-Insurgents-Freedom fighters   متمردين-مقاتلين-ثوار-مجاهدين

Freedom fighters are noble, rebels are romantic, insurgents we don’t really know what to feel about.

Leader-Strong Man-Head of   قائد-زعيم-رئيس

A leader is a father figure that has supporters, a strong man is more like a gang leader who rules by force, and a head of is kind of neutral.


Militia-Gang-Guerrillas   ميليشيا-عصابة

All of these terms carry negative raps, Guerillas however sometimes has more of the freedom fighter connotation than a gang or a militia.  And militia implies a more organized gang with a purpose.


Stormed-Attacked-Stomped   شن هجوما-اقتحم

To storm something is almost neutral in its outcome, although it means a swift and strong action.  To attack is a bit more aggressive in nature, and to stomp implies greater angry aggression.


Invaded-Occupied-Marched into   غزو-احتلال

The nuances of language here are at their best, to invade has a sort of temporary feel to it, while to occupy implies long term.  March into is the most neutral.


Supporters-proponents-followers   مؤيدين-أنصار-أتباع

Supporters and proponents seem to be well aware of what and who they are supporting, while followers implies a type of blind and ignorant faith.


Never underestimate the power of a single word, every word carries within its folds many emotional and intellectual triggers that (unfortunately) can move the “masses”.


P.S.  My hairdresser and I were discussing this issue yesterday (just to dispel one more stereotype about hair salon conversations!)


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