Breakfast in bed


My youngest will be having an early birthday party today. Her actual birthday falls on a school day this year. She is turning 8.  She is having a friend sleepover, she’s all excited about the cake and the friends coming, last night she and her friend Christine didn’t sleep till 11 pm.  I promised her that like every year, she will have breakfast in bed this morning. That news made her more excited, if that is even possible.

I was preparing for the party till late last night and finally went to bed at 1.45 am.  I was in an exhausted REM place when I got woken up by a very excitable Monya, dragging her dazed-eyed friend and the dog to my room and announcing: “I’M READY FOR BREAKFAST IN BED!!!”. I attempted to get out of bed when I noticed that it was still dark outside. I checked my phone, it was 2.15 am.  I was tongue-tied for a second, then gained my voice and asked the jumping bean of a kid to take her friend back to her room and go to sleep, as it was not morning yet.  Disappointment on her face, she shuffled out with her sorry entourage in tow.

“MOM! I’M READY FOR BREAKFAST IN BED.”

“MONYAAA!!! IT’S 3.35!! GO BACK TO BED!”

4.40. “…BREAKFAST IN BED…”

“AHHHH! BACK TO BED!!”

5 something. “….MOM!! WAKE UP!!!”

“NO, NOT YET. BACK TO BED.” I felt bad for her friend, rubbing her eyes and looking all dazed. The dog was so happy with the hoopla in the middle of the night, expecting some food to be dropped by the sleepy agitated people around him.”

6ish. “MOM!! ….FAST … BED” drowned by the early morning Azan call to prayer from the nearby mosque.  I thought I was having an embolism. What the heck was the emergency number for Dubai? I need to dial it before I pass out! I fumble for my phone. Twix, the demented dog is looking at me, then barking to add to the cacophony of sounds all around.  I start harbouring homicidal thoughts featuring a canine.

Monya: “Okay, I will be back at 7″.

The delegation leaves. I have what felt like five minutes of peace when the shouts of Bed and breakfast echoed again at 7.

I now know what it must feel to be sucked into a Dennis the Menace comic and being the hapless mom on these black and white pages.

Now both my eyes are twitching uncontrollably. Excuse me while I go stock up on headache tablets.

Yeah, and Happy friggin’ Valentine’s Day.

photo-2 photo-4

Posted in Comedy, Dubai, Family, Human Relationships, Kids, love | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Why #Dubai?


The voting result deciding the host city of the World Expo 2020 will be announced soon.

I am rooting for Dubai.

Why Dubai, you ask.

Short answer: ‘Why not?’

Longer answer: keep reading…

New York is the city that gives me a similar vibe as Dubai. How? It is fearless, cosmopolitan, daring, welcoming, a beacon for its surroundings, a dream factory, a refuge, a ‘Can Do’ type of place, where anything can happen.  And much does happen in both cities. Dubai now is what New York must have been like after the Great Depression. Waking up after the economic blow, it rose up, dusted itself up, and grew stronger than ever.  A lot of parallels are drawn in my mind between that magnificent noisy jewel of the West and this dusty stubborn Phoenix-like one of the East.  They are courageous, ‘saddle up anyway’ kind of survivors.

Now let me tell you why Dubai is a perfect city to host a world expo. Here one might argue that in the 21st Century the internet melted the geographical and communication divides that necessitated holding a world expo in the first place way back when, still, for us in the region, and for the world at large, this 2020 world expo bears a lot of moral, ideological and psychological significance.

Let’s get the geography, logistics and infrastructure argument out of the way. It has been explained ad nauseam by the organizers and by so many others supporting the bid because it just makes sense on so many levels.  The vast region of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia where Dubai is centered has never hosted an expo. Like ever. Infrastructure here is perfect for such an event. Five airports, hotels galore, state of the art facilities, connectivity, world class everything. That was argued and is well understood I hope by the countries voting.

What I would like to stress is the other, more nuanced, quite subtle undercurrent of the non-physical reasons that make this city the most natural place at this juncture to welcome a world afraid and weary of a region it does not understand. A misunderstood region and religion I may add.

Islamophobia post 9/11 is rampant in the World. Read the news. In Dubai, however, the world finds a real-life demonstration of what makes Islam, the true moderate Islam, a peaceful religion. It exemplifies what tolerance and acceptance of the other are in practice. This is an Arab Muslim country of the 21st Century. Come visit the UAE during Christmas time. You will see what we mean by coexistence in peace and harmony when Christmas carols are paused in the decorated shopping malls out of respect for the call for Muslim prayer, then festive tunes are resumed while shoppers of every background and ethnicity are free to worship any deity they revere.  This place is home to almost every religion, faith, creed and ethnicity, it is designed as a safe haven for residents and visitors who come to this land to make a living and end up making a life. A good peaceful life.  The World needs to see that.

Nothing is impossible.  This place has leaders and citizens who have embraced modernity, technology, advancements in every field and looked towards the future with a clear hope-filled vision  and a positive attitude while at the same time being anchored in traditions cherished as a source of pride and attachment to their desert roots.  Sky scrapers, malls, technological feats, superbly executed infrastructure, palm islands, super airports, are just examples of what a sleepy fishing village only a few decades ago could accomplish because of an outlook that is both courageous and forward looking. This is an Arab city that most Arab cities are emulating, or striving to emulate. The World needs to see that.

The refuge that this country and this city have provided to millions that have come here in search of a better life.  They have found it.  Stories of Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, Philippino, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian and many others, professionals, entrepreneurs, business leaders that came here with nothing but a bagful of dreams and determination and ended up on top of their game, having Dubai to thank for giving them a chance to succeed and build business empires. The World needs to see that.

Migrant workers who come here in the millions, whose own countries are not developed enough or not safe enough for them to make a good-enough living, come and work and live in a city that is housing so many nationalities that it has become the microcosm of our world. Little India, little Pakistan, little Philippines have sprouted in and around the city, that by going to these streets it is as if you traveled to these countries and experienced their sounds, smells and tastes. They are all here in Dubai. Coexisting, working, making a future.  The World needs to see that.

In Lebanese circles in Dubai, they joke that if Lebanon had Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for a year, their problems would be solved. Some argue that a month would do. The Ruler of Dubai like the other Maktoums before him, are visionaries. They look into the future and plan from there.  They were doubted by people around them when they worked on development plans for the creek, the port of Jebel Ali, setting up Emirates Airlines, building the airport, the skyscrapers, the metro, the Palm Islands.  They ignore the doubters and naysayers and seem to push on irrespective of envious haters.  They succeed, and get over slumps, and succeed again. They did not make Dubai into a Las Vegas, a shiny playground in the desert, they instead made it into a New York of the East, providing employment, livelihoods, and yes, fulfilling dreams of many who come to it.

The World definitely needs to see that.

World, better bring your Expo to this land. You have a lot to see, learn and most importantly, understand.

Signed, a Dubai lover.

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Dubai, Reflections | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A letter goes unheeded


History lesson for today:
Have you ever read this article on Palestine by Jordan’s King Abdullah 1882-1951 (the grandfather of King Hussein) published in the US in 1947 raising the alarm before the Nakba? Amazing reading. If only they listened to him.

This came to my attention after it was posted by Tim Hodges as an answer to a query on Quora: ‘Starting from the very beginning, what happened in the Israel/Palestine area?’ I must admit that I had never read this important article by one of our Arab Kings, and am surprised we don’t learn enough in Arab schools about this issue that is still plaguing our world today with its complexity and ramifications.

Summary

This fascinating essay, written by King Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah, appeared in the United States six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In the article, King Abdullah disputes the mistaken view that Arab opposition to Zionism (and later the state of Israel) is because of longstanding religious or ethnic hatred. He notes that Jews and Muslims enjoyed a long history of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, and that Jews have historically suffered far more at the hands of Christian Europe. Pointing to the tragedy of the holocaust that Jews suffered during World War II, the monarch asks why America and Europe are refusing to accept more than a token handful of Jewish immigrants and refugees. It is unfair, he argues, to make Palestine, which is innocent of anti-Semitism, pay for the crimes of Europe. King Abdullah also asks how Jews can claim a historic right to Palestine, when Arabs have been the overwhelming majority there for nearly 1300 uninterrupted years? The essay ends on an ominous note, warning of dire consequences if a peaceful solution cannot be found to protect the rights of the indigenous Arabs of Palestine.

“As the Arabs see the Jews”
His Majesty King Abdullah,
The American Magazine
November, 1947
I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine—perhaps more than on any other subject in history—that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered—a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less “anti-Semitic” than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment—far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow “always been a Jewish land.” Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their “historic claim.” I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most—but not all—of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: “Palestine” is merely the Greek form of “Philistia.”

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly—but not all—the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, “homeland” of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

Many Mexicans might claim Spain, “homeland” of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the “homeland” of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid—or just as fantastic—as the Jewish “historic connection” with Palestine. Most are more valid.

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country “Arab”, what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.

The Jewish “religious claim” to Palestine is as absurd as the “historic claim.” The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now—almost three years after war’s end—still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.

And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. “We have hurt these people terribly,” cries the West to the East. “Won’t you please take care of them for us?”

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore “cruel and heartless nationalists”?

We are a generous people: we are proud that “Arab hospitality” is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us—even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.

I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America—the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known—refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!

I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.

Perhaps you have been informed that “the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine.”

This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.

The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.

Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: “My Jewish advisors tell me so.” He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.

Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.

The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.

One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.

If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives—or Palestine—we would both choose Palestine, too.

But open up any other alternative to them—give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors—just a little—to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.

Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.

The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years—unless stopped now—it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.

Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?

The sorry story of the so-called “Balfour Declaration,” which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying.

We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a “national home” for an entirely foreign people.

Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.

In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.

I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.

Quite aside from official American support for the “National Home” of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.

The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine—to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the “refugee ships” that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers—your allies—and Arab citizens—your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.

I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.

What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/kabd_eng.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14636713

The author of the letter, the first King of Jordan

The author of the letter, the first King of Jordan

King Abdullah I with the King of Saudi Arabia, Saud bin Abdul Aziz

King Abdullah I with the King of Saudi Arabia, Saud bin Abdul Aziz

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Politics, Reflections, Refugees | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

We’re not ready yet!


Mandela quote

I wrote this post in June when we were all worried we might lose Nelson Mandela. Now we did. Now we mourn him. When we are less sad, we will celebrate the life of a hero who taught this angry world what it was like not to hate.

As my young child sits next to me reading her book, I scan twitter for news of Nelson Mandela. I am anxious that his health might suddenly deteriorate and then I don’t know what wave of grief will befall so many of us around the world- those of us who are lucky to have lived at the same time as the great man lying in a hospital bed in South Africa fighting for his life. For me and so many of the people I know, it is a privilege to share the same earth, to breathe the same air, to co-exist with a man that came to resemble so much of what is good about us humans.

As I look at my daughter’s young face, I somehow feel sorry for her growing up in a world that is devoid of real heroes. The young people of our present days are aimless, frustrated, full of pent-up energy that is directed randomly at causes they are aching to support but don’t know how or why, a generation of disillusionment, disenchantment, a generation raised on conspiracy theories, banking scandals, wikileaks, PRISM, and so much deceit by those in power.

But we had Mandela. No matter what eventual revisionists may unearth to point out mistakes he made, it would only make him human, fallible, and that much more revered and respected for what he could accomplish. When a story like Madiba’s comes to be once upon a human history, the effect is so deep, it changes the world in which that person lived. He has shown without a doubt that a great leader is the one that embraces the higher values of our humanity, the noble traits that make us the race we hope to be. He showed us the way to make peace after much hate, with forgiveness, with grace, with dialogue, with humility and with that smile that lights up our dreams of a better tomorrow.

No, we are not ready to let go of him. He is much larger than an ailing 94-year-old ex President and Nobel Prize laureate. He is larger than his country, much larger than his continent. No one can contain the legend of the man in one book, or one movie, or one series to teach generations to come about who Mandela the man and the leader was. Grandmothers will tell their grandchildren for generations to come about that wise South African man who inspired a planet. He is sick, the world prays for him, we wonder what the world will be like without its last hero.

We are not letting go. We need the reassurance that someone like him still exists in our world, our troubled hate-filled world where so-called leaders butcher their people, where killings and more killings are daily occurences and where peace is but a far-fetched notion. We need the security of knowing that our old sage is still here, like a prayer book we know is there when we need inspiration and strength. It makes us believe that the world will not go to bits if he’s in it.

Don’t leave yet. It’ll be such a sad place without you.

Motivational-success-quote-by-Neslson-Mandela-about-greatness

nelson-mandela-quotes-4

Nelson-Mandela-Quotes

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Human Relationships, Politics, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pizza in Space


http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-funds-3d-pizza-printer-220300897.html

pizza space station

Today I read the piece of news in the link above on twitter and it filled me with pride. I was proud of being human and of sharing the same planet with great people in the first world who are not only inspiring, but so full of good will and empathy.  I knew our planet will be okay, full of bounties that can be accessed by all, with brotherly and sisterly caring for the value of human life and its sanctity and that the future of our generations was our main preoccupation.

Yes, I am being cynical.

We live in a world where money spent on pets and their supplies and care including psychologists visits (!) is more than what we spend on humanitarian aid.  we live in a world where we deem for it to be okay to spend oodles of money on research to make guns printable at home so more people could be killed, than spend money on saving lives of children taken relentlessly by malaria, malnutrition or diarrhea. All preventable, all cheaply avoided. But the ‘poor’ world’s children cannot possibly be as precious as pets.

How on earth is having pepperoni pizza in space more important than the bottom billion’s children? You may have heard of the bottom billion. It is a chunk of humanity that lives in developing poor countries-they do not compete for jobs on the global market, they are the folks that have a low age expectancy, these are the people whose sudden death for any reason, man or nature-made don’t really feature in the global news as say manager Ferguson’s retirement did. Those are the people who die while making our clothes in shanty ill-equipped factories in Bangladesh, or perish in rickety boats trying to get to a place that can offer them a livelihood, those other people. Others we don’t see everyday, others who would give everything for a chance at what we take for granted, others who live on less than a dollar a day while the West suffers from obesity. Others who seemingly don’t count in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, while our brave explorers of the universe and beyond need a pepperoni pizza, we are safe in the knowledge that our scientists on earth have ingeniously figured out a way to print it.

Hoorah.

 

Bangladesh disaster, a hug in the rubble.

Bangladesh disaster, a hug in the rubble.

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Politics, Reflections, technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Karma, explained.


IMG_3040

Sitting in my room, my seven-year-old comes and sits next to me on my bed.  “Mom, do you realize that I have been behaving nicely?”

“Yes, you have been great. Hardly misbehaving. I’m proud of you.”

“Great, so that means you are getting me another petshop.”

“Um, no. There is no occasion to get you toys now. It’s not your birthday. We don’t get gifts in the middle of the year, just like that.”

“Oh really? What about when you got me petshops when you came back from New York?”

“That was different, I was travelling.”

“Still, it was in the middle of the year, and it wasn’t my birthday. Just like now. So that means you can get me petshops now.”

“Actually, no. I don’t think I have to.”

Under her breath, she said: “Karma is real, you know.”

“What was that?”

“Karma. Be careful what you do to your daughter. It comes back to you.”

“Where on earth did you hear about Karma?”

“I can google things you know.”

“Oh. And what did you learn about Karma then? What is it? Is it a thing you can see?”

“Actchully, it is for real. People who do bad things get Karma.You don’t buy your kids toys, you won’t get what you want either. You will be sad and angry and you can never tell why this is happening to you. Like in school, Malek told me to shut up, and then he fell in the playground. Karma.”

“We are still not getting any toys. And I would like you to know that I don’t believe in Karma.”

“You don’t need to believe in it. It is real anyway.” Shaking her head pitifully, “I think you should really think about this. It is only one petshop.”

Note to self: Ban her from the internet. Yesterday.

Posted in Family, Human Relationships, Kids, Reflections | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

You can’t afford to miss this movie


The prophet

Death most resembles a prophet who is without honor in his own land or a poet who is a stranger among his people.

Gibran Khalil Gibran

Friends who were visiting in November suggested I watch a movie called ‘Searching for Sugar Man’. I forgot about that until I had the chance to scan the movie choices on an Emirates flight to China yesterday. It was a particularly bumpy flight, so rather than worrying about wings and sturdy fuselage -as we do- I decided to see what the movie was about and pass a couple of hours of distraction to help me dose off. Or so I thought.

I was not prepared for what I witnessed.  There were scenes were I was at the edge of my seat, gasping with incredulity. Others had me bawling, making the Chinese man sitting next to me pass me a tissue from his meal tray. It was a roller coaster ride echoing the plane’s ups and downs and sideways lurches.  It was the movie that you don’t see every day, every year, every decade.  And it was a documentary.  Its truth and its subject matter, the story, the filming, the skillful portrayal of so bizarre a turn of events makes you wondered at first if any of it was true. Yet it is, and truth as we often hear, can be stranger than fiction.

What I loved about the movie that you as a reader simply have to go see and tell people you care about to go see, is the raw honesty with which the story was told.  The contrasts that were so beautifully highlighted. The likability of the characters of the real life protagonists. Most of all, the uniqueness of the film is the tide of emotions that it evokes in the audience.  A barrage of feelings was washing over me, like the varying intensity of spray hitting me in the face from being close to a rocky beach beaten by a rough sea.  A wave of happiness, followed closely by sadness, disappointment, hope, wonder, anger, joy again, then surprise, sadness one more time, peace, inspiration, faith, and the final state of being of philosophically resigning to this being ‘life’.

“Nobody is a prophet in his own land”. One hears this a lot. But one lives it while watching this amazing gem of a movie.

You really do have to watch it.

Posted in art, Human Relationships, love, movies, Philosophy, Poetry, Reflections, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My voice counts


Drafters including a Lebanese Arab, the Committee Rapporteur, Dr. Charles Malik

Drafters including a Lebanese Arab, the Committee Rapporteur, Dr. Charles Malik

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Today is Human Rights Day.

64 years ago, a drafting committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt finalized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that took two years to write and rewrite.

The drafting committee was chosen from eight countries representing the World body  including Committee Rapporteur, a Lebanese Arab scholar from my birth region of Al Koura in North Lebanon-Dr. Charles Malik.  Since the turbulent time following the destructive Second World War and the resolve of nations to protect human beings and their human dignity, an Arab was at the table taking part in crafting what was to become the most important universal declaration of our times.

The declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly who were meeting in Paris on December 10th 1948.

One of the drafting committee members, the Chilean Hernán Santa Cruz wrote:

“I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality.  In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.”

(Source: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/history.shtml)

If you don’t have time to read anything at all, at least read the text of the declaration. Once. It concerns you, it was written by these great thinkers more than six decades ago precisely for you, and I, and every human chancing to live on our planet. Each of us should read it, discuss it, reflect upon it, and aspire to live by it.  It is our charter, our very own road map to a dignified, free, full life where no one could rob us of our right to live, to think, to feel, to be safe, to reproduce and to be who we were meant to be to the best of our ability.

What you and I and people around the world need more than the oxygen we breathe is a recognition of our value as humans, and to be given a chance to hope, to dream, to be inspired, to create, to be productive, and to do all of that freely.

The link to the declaration is below. If you do nothing else today, just give it a glance. I bet you’re a bit curious about what all the fuss is about. All the fuss is about you and I.

Humans.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Human Relationships, Politics, United Nations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Theology 101


Christmas and the girl

Christmas and the girl

As we were decorating the Christmas tree, my six-year-old and I, listening to Boney M’s ‘Little Drummer Boy’ on repeat with the call to prayer from a nearby Dubai mosque in the background, my kid thought it was a good time to ask about the Almighty.

“Is God a real person?”

“I think he is more of a force.”

“What does that mean?”

“I mean he is not a person you can see, just a power of good.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Tell me about it.”

“What’s God’s middle name?”

“I don’t really know. What do you think it should be?”

“I think God’s name should be God Christmas Snow.”

“Good name. I think he’ll like it.”

“What is God’s wife like?”

“I don’t think he has a wife.”

“What about his kids?”

“He doesn’t have kids.”

“Who will be God when he dies?”

“I don’t think God ever dies. He lives forever.”

“Is God a ghost?”

(I’m starting to pretend I have a headache) “I don’t believe he’s a ghost, he is just invisible.”

“He makes magic? Like Harry Potter?”

“Not magic like a magician, but he just chooses not to show himself to us.”

“But why do we all die and God doesn’t? Why do kids die?”

“I don’t know. We will google that one day. Can we finish decorating the tree now?”

As I waffled about with the ornaments, I realized that having an inquisitive child who was also smarter than average was going to be a rough ride. Should I just quote Napoleon to her when he said: “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich” and leave it at that? Should I watch ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ again to see from Woody Allen’s point of view which world religion makes most sense and explains God best?

On the bright side, the World might end this month according to a bunch of short Mayans, long dead, so I don’t have to deal with these big questions.

If not, you will still have to suffer a few more soul-searching and theology-exploring blog posts. But then again, I never forced you to subscribe to my blog. So suck it up.

Posted in Family, Human Relationships, Kids, love, music, Reflections, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The scorched mailbox


Pointless violence in Beirut

War does not determine who is right – only who is left. ~Bertrand Russell

When you live in a war zone, and by chance you survive, you are destined to hold a piece of that war in your soul for the rest of your life.  Ask anyone who has lived through a war, a devastating conflict where nothing is sacred, where shells fall like confetti over breathing shivering humans huddled together and praying for safety, where you learn to live with snipers using your body and that of your loved ones for target practice, where death becomes a daily occurrence you learn to live with and push worrying about it back to the dark damp corners of your mind where fear is scared to venture, where you master the art of maneuvering around angry yet trigger-happy young people with guns, where you become a daredevil if you engage in any outdoor activity deemed not absolutely necessary or life-saving.  And most tragically as people in urban warfare quickly find out,  you never ever learn to forget the car bombs.

You can hear the shelling and do your best to get to a safe place, sort of like in an earthquake or on hearing a rumbling volcano. You can do your best to avoid sniper areas after the first few victims fall.  You can pretend to be mute when faced with an angry fighter manning a checkpoint (it was tried and tested many times in Lebanon and it does work to make them feel pity and let you go). But when it comes to car bombs? Paranoia is the inevitable by product.  You never know where it might be, in which car, what time will it go off, who is targeted, why, you never know anything except after it goes off, tearing everything in its vicinity to shreds.  What many spectators watching the news safely from behind their screens don’t realize are the long-term effects that car bombs have on the population.  Any car that looks suspicious starts resembling a potential bomb.  I have seen people running like mad when a car would be parked, windows open, in Hamra street in Beirut during the war years.  Any car with the engine running and no one inside, or parked in the middle of the street, or parked in a skewed way, or in any way real or imagined looking suspicious could cause so much terror in the hearts that people would just act irrationally when faced with that trigger.

I lived in New York after the war ended, in New Zealand, in Geneva, and every time I saw a car parked with its windows open, or with the engine running, I felt my heart pounding, my pulse racing and my steps picking up speed.  It’s not something one can control, it comes naturally, I guess what kicks in is the strong survival instinct we humans have.

Now imagine if you will the people in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ireland, or any of the wretched countries where civilians had to endure the indescribable terror of car bombs for extended periods of time.  Just put yourself in their shoes and try to picture how your life would be affected.

I was thinking of that when I watched the devastation on the news as yet another terrorist car bomb ripped through Beirut.

A new political message aimed at us Lebanese and blasting through our civilian population.  We haplessly became a mailbox over the years for many a political message in our region.  Messages using our country people’s blood as plentiful ink.  We are done. We have had too many car bombs to count, we would like to hope that our mailbox function is ready to be put to rest by our folks back home.

May our killed innocent civilians rest in peace, with wishes for a fast recovery for the wounded survivors.

Posted in Current affairs commentary, Lebanon, Politics, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment