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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Sunday, December 26, 2004  

    7:45 am

    - Indonesian government reconsiders its rejection of Aceh secession
    - Venice flooded
    - Renato Obeid condemns earthquakes and tsunamis

    7:30 am

    Years ago at around this time of year, we received a Christmas well-wisher.
    My mother served him some panettone and explained that it was Italian Christmas cake, then she served him some stollen and explained that it was German Christmas cake and, finally, she served him some fruitcake and explained that it was English Christmas cake.
    Not the most worldly man, he was quite stunned by all of this and said (translating) “Praise be to the God of all creation, every country has its ‘cuto’” (gateaux – Lebanese is practically half French*).
    I have since dubbed that “The Cake Prayer” and I recite it often.

    *Even the fundamentalists in Lebanon speak French – Hezbollah’s Al Manar television station has French and English news bulletins.

    6:00 am

    Ukrainians are going back to the polls today in a rerun of last month’s controversial presidential election, after which hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets to protest alleged electoral fraud.

    3:30 am

    Saturday, December 25, 2004  
    My mum's a Muslim, thus she's very depressed at this time of the year - she much prefers Easter.

    Seriously though, Islam recognizes Christ as a prophet and many Muslims here in multi-confessional Lebanon commemorate Christmas.

    4:43 am

    It is ironic and paradoxical that while the Establishment create the conventions, values, prejudices etc that bind the masses, they have no greater disseminators and enforcers of these than those very subjugated masses who adopt them hook, line and sinker as part of their false consciousness.
    Example, the term “unemployed” is essentially a term created by the Establishment* to identify and mark and shame and coerce people who aren’t slaving for them but it has since been adopted, with gusto, by the masses who use it to label and shame their peers, thus achieving a sort of “self-rule” and “autonomy” of oppression and relieving the Establishment of this burden.
    And make no mistake about it; the masses are the greatest snobs on the face of the Earth – although not usually associated with snobbery, the masses ape their masters and look down at each other and this snobbery is the worst of all as it is the most petty, delusional and illusory.
    For example, a factory will look down on his “unemployed” neighbour because he doesn’t work in a factory!
    There’s nothing wrong with working in a factory but what kind of world is it where a factory job is all that stands between you and opprobrium!?!
    A sad symptom of modern egalitarianism is that a factory worker can look down on a gentleman because he has a ‘’job’’.
    This role reversal is reverse discrimination.
    Democracy gone feral.
    One of the advantages of living in an allegedly unegalitarian society like Lebanon is that people still know their place (although this is changing) and, if they don’t know their place, they’re too polite to get too carried away.
    Just because the capitalist has transubstantiated your pushing buttons and pulling levers at a plant for him into a modern religion so as to give his exploitation legitimacy and to sanctify it (the Protestant work ethic is a perfect example of this), it doesn’t mean that you should believe him and get carried away and ape the oppressor.
    I believe that to criticise someone you need to be at least equal to them – you have to have at least one thing going for you, be it education, status, pedigree, success, even wealth, etc.
    And that’s just to qualify – even then you can’t just criticize someone willy-nilly.
    I would even extend that to voting because voting, after all, is a form of judging.
    Judging is a privilege that has to be earned.Once again, I must stress that there is nothing wrong with working in a factory but there is something wrong with simpletons judging people because they don’t do the same work that they do or even don’t ‘’work’’ according to their narrow perception
    Of course, the upper classes also exhibit snobbery but that is towards other, lower classes but amongst themselves they share a sort of class camaraderie, a sort of fascist Internationale, whereas amongst the lower classes, there is intra-class snobbery.
    Example, here in Lebanon it is quite common amongst the lower classes to initially reject outright a daughter’s suitor, indeed it seems to be a sort of “mating ritual” whereby, say for example, the butcher will reject the baker’s son who courts his daughter and decry it as a mésaliance, the daughter will often elope with the young man and then a couple of months, years, whatever later her family will come around and “accept” him and the marriage (in truth, they’d accepted it all along but were just putting on a show).
    It’s quite a shame because what they’re in fact doing is oppressing themselves – snobbery has been outsourced by the upper classes to the lower classes.
    There’s also a strong element of unrealistic expectations in all of this – in a society where almost everybody is on the make and traditional values have been tipped on their head, people’s expectations and self perceptions have gone haywire.
    Example, traditionally a girl working at a supermarket would marry a boy working at a supermarket but now she expects to marry the owner of the supermarket chain.
    But of course the supermarket owner (who probably was a peasant a generation ago albeit a kulak) isn’t going to marry one of his checkout chicks because he’s also set his sights above his station.

    *"With words we govern men" quoth Benjamin Disreali.

    As a teenager on his first trip to Beirut, to sit the government-conducted Year 8 school exams, my father and his schoolmates witnessed a fight in the street between two prostitutes.
    Amidst all the hullabaloo, one prostitute called the other prostitute a “prostitute!”(Another perfect example of intra-class snobbery).
    The “prostitute!” rejoined with “yes, but I’ve always been primo*!” (Even more intra-class snobbery).

    *Initially an Italian word, it was used around here to indicate grade A, premium etc.

    Even in Western countries people subconsciously collaborate with their oppressors.For example, poor and working class people in Australia are often the most fervent supporters of conservative parties like the Liberal party which they’ve helped keep in power for nearly a decade now
    The greatest enemies of revolution are those who need it the most.

    Nobody hates the lower classes more than they hate themselves and each other.
    The upper classes don’t hate the lower classes they are just indifferent to and disdainful of them
    The lower classes hate their peers for a myriad of reasons, among those being that they see their meanness and the meanness of their lives reflected back at them in each other.
    Poor people hate each other just for being poor: “don’t remind me!”
    They’re like an unwanted mirror to each other.
    Except for parvenus who hate the lower classes because they’ve just come from there and it’s still fresh in their minds and also because this is a good way for these class traitors to separate distinguish and demarcate themselves from what they were and, if it weren’t for the grace of God, still would be and fear returning to.
    Never quite confident, comfortable or secure where they are and insecure about their place in the upper echelons and fearful of exposure, these class squatters see “you don’t belong here” (real or imagined) in the faces of their newfound peers and see “you belong here, who are you fooling?” (real or imagined) in the eyes of their erstwhile peers.

    Disclaimer: A man whose main contact with the masses is with service drivers is bound to have a pessimistic view of the world.

    Merry Christmas by the way and excuse the dogma on Christmas but the revolution will not pause for public holidays!
    In fact, the revolution will probably be on a public holiday or else nobody will attend!
    In fact, I’d like to schedule the revolution for the 26th December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where tens of thousands of people usually attend the traditional Boxing Day (cricket) Test match that starts on that day.
    I think that doing a quick switcheroo at this late stage and swapping an Australia versus whoever cricket match for worldwide revolution, without people knowing about this late change, will ensure good attendance for the revolution.
    I know that it all sounds a bit underhanded but you have to initially trick the masses until they will eventually reach the stage where they will themselves want to swap cricket for revolution and Kerry packer will heed public demand and even stage one-day limited-overs revolutions.
    Capitalism and consumerism keep you too busy to think.
    They contrive all sorts of tasks for you to do to keep you from thinking because thought is the enemy of ideology and dogma.

    1:00 am

    Wednesday, December 22, 2004  
    - all eyes on January 32nd poll

    4:32 am

    Sunday, December 19, 2004  
    - unprecedented second year in a row

    "I'm shocked and stunned!
    This is just so unexpected - a total surprise!
    When did this happen?"

    - www.renatobeidsworld.blogspot.com's Man of the Year, Renato Obeid on learning of the honour.

    8:29 am

    Saturday, December 18, 2004  
    As the 10th United Nations climate change conference winds down in Buenos Aires, I issue an urgent plea to all those delusional Flat-Earthers who deny the phenomena of global warming – look around you and face reality!
    Global warming is real and immediate – e.g. three months ago it was really cold in Australia and now it’s really hot!
    Something must be done! *
    A balance must be struck* between, on the one hand, development and, on the other hand, the environmental preservation of our planet!
    Governments and companies must put people before profit! *

    *I’ve finally used them – the top three editorial clichés.

    3:32 am

    Friday, December 17, 2004  
    Tired but attempting a "correction" - staying up all night and all day to hopefully cure my insomnia.
    So I’ve go the whole country to myself.
    I know - why don't I attempt to go to sleep?
    That’ll wake me up!
    In fact, that’s probably the very definition of an insomniac-someone who's always tired except when trying to get to sleep
    People always tell me "don't say 'I'm going to sleep’ and you’ll sleep".
    I get part of that right - I say "I'm not going to sleep" and...I don't.
    Still, no "organized sleep" for me today - if it happens it happens.
    It's a good way of circumventing my insomnia - if I don't attempt to go to sleep, then my insomnia won't bother me (it's only insomnia if you're trying to sleep).
    Just as your lap disappears when you’re standing up, so does your insomnia.

    I've been told that I should be more positive.
    Here goes - I'm not an insomniac, I'm just very good at staying awake!

    When people ask me what I’m taking for my insomnia, I reply ‘’I’m taking hours’’ (to get to sleep).

    3:15 am

    Thursday, December 16, 2004  
    One of the drawbacks of an import-based economy is that consumers are subject to sudden and inexplicable shortages.
    I can’t remember the last time I saw M&M’s in the shops here.
    Do you remember what is was like before everything got turned into a chocolate bar overnight a la Charlie and the Chocolate factory (about ten years ago), when we only had the Big Three (Mars, Snickers and Bounty)?
    Well that’s the time warp I’ve been thrown into now – it’s the mid-1990’s all over again!
    Also, I’m suffering through another Listerine drought.
    I’m using an inferior backup mouthwash - it doesn’t gargle well, I end up gargling bubbles and spilling it (good mouthwash stays in your mouth is my maxim!).
    Original Listerine is still available but the Cool Mint Listerine that I use is nowhere to be found and hasn’t been for a couple of weeks.
    Don’t get me started on Tartar Control Listerine! (New, now with more effective label!).
    I saw it at the supermarket just once, bought it and never saw it again!
    Fear not, help is on its way - I’m “importing” Cool Mint Listerine from Tripoli as we speak (as I do when this happens).

    I’ve just taken receipt of some Listerine, “imported” from Tripoli, but my joy was short lived – the expiry date reads “02/02”.
    Tripoli will never run out of Listerine - even after it’s expired.

    10.45 PM, Saturday 18th December 2004
    I’ve just finally taken receipt of two bottles of Cool Mint Listerine, imported from Tripoli – luxury standard (they haven’t expired yet).
    Unsuccessfully tried to import Brut Deodorant/Anti-Perspirant Spray, also from Tripoli (which is also out of stock here) but it wasn’t available – although there was a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Brut Deodorant roll-on (I suppose they have to try everything to move stock like that in Tripoli – they can’t even give it away!).

    10:45 pm

    Sunday, December 12, 2004  
    My twelve-year-old cousin Omar* was trying to talk me into letting him have junk food, despite my having promised his mother that I wouldn’t.
    He seemed to believe that “just once!” (as he kept imploring) was okay and would not be breaking a promise (maybe he’s right - statistically, if something happens just once, thus there’s no pattern yet, then it could just be an anomaly or an aberration and within the margin of error).
    Finally, I said to him that it would be tantamount to me lying to his mother and would he like it if people went around lying to his mother?
    That seemed to register with him – he looked all serious for a moment and then said “no, just relatives”.

    *In their recently released report card on corrupt twelve-year-olds, the anti-corruption group Transparency International (aka Killjoy International) cites him as the world’s most corrupt twelve-year-old (followed by some kid in Nigeria).

    When Omar was younger he once came over brandishing a straw from one of those tetra pack fruit juice drinks and told mum that he had the straw and now he just needed the drink.
    After he finished the drink he asked mum to wash the straw – undoubtedly so he could pull the same trick somewhere else in the neighbourhood.

    1:30 am

    Thursday, December 09, 2004  
    Sometime last summer, a billboard depicting President Lahoud, against the background of a Lebanese flag, with an inscription in Arabic reading “the man of (the) resolution” (literally) appeared atop the Dog River tunnel.
    Some months later, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1559 – principally in opposition to the extension of President Lahoud’s mandate.
    The portentous billboards’ still there (unchanged), it just reads somewhat differently now.
    Regarding flags and their protocol, I recently read some interesting information on commercial use of the Australian flag (on an Australian government website).
    It’s allowed! (Which must be a great relief to the commercially jingoistic Australian business community); provided it’s used in a dignified manner, reproduced completely and accurately, not defaced by overprinting, not covered by other objects and provided that all symbolic parts of the flag are identifiable.
    Which reminded me of posters I saw here years ago of an image of a martyred leader’s head “in” (so to speak) the cedar in the middle of the Lebanese flag.
    From heads on billboards to billboards that stick in my head, in 1992 there were billboards on Lebanese highways advertising a brand of four-wheel-drive as “the most expensive four-wheel-drive on the market”.
    Advertising something as expensive (let alone the most expensive) might not make immediate business sense but I suppose when you look at their demographic and the mentality of that type of person it makes perfect sense.
    I’m surprised that One Thousand Dollar Shops haven’t sprung up to cater for the boulevardiers.
    How about an “Everything’s a Thousand Dollars!” shop in upmarket Kaslik?

    4:45 pm

    Tuesday, December 07, 2004  
    - I “urge restraint”* as the Ukraine enters its third week of Presidential election controversy
    I could have told them that any election where both candidates were called Victor was going to be problematic (not just any old ordinary same name but Victor too!)
    I hate to say this, but I think that things are going to get even worse – when the revote is held and a victor/Victor emerges victorious, I anticipate that a very confusing “who’s on first” type situation will ensue that could throw the country into further chaos and confusion.
    Ukraine’s Central Election Commission: “The victor is Victor”.
    “Ok, we know that the victor is the victor but who is the victor?”
    “Victor is the victor!”…

    *This stock US State Department phrase was my stock phrase last summer.

    I also strongly condemn the media’s false and inaccurate reporting during the crisis in the Ukraine – they’re always referring to “outgoing President Leonid Kuchma “.
    He doesn’t look outgoing at all to me, in fact he looks like a miserable git!
    Have you ever noticed Mr. Kuchma on television?
    Now there’s a Soviet demeanour!
    “Outgoing” – no.
    “President” – yes.
    “Leonid” – yes.
    “Kutchma” – yes.
    But “outgoing”, no.

    5:00 am

    Saturday, December 04, 2004  
    A British hotel chain is offering couples called Mary and Joseph a free night’s stay over Christmas to “make up for the hotel industry not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve 2004 years ago” (you can hardly blame innkeepers – how were they to know that it was Christmas Eve?)
    Sounds great but I shudder to think how they’re going to commemorate Easter.

    Looking forward to my cousin’s wedding next week – the tradition around these parts is for the groom’s family to take/steal something from the bride’s house prior to the wedding (not just the bride – as if that wasn’t enough!).
    I bags the DVD player!
    I’ve got five days to find a truck.
    Nobody seems to know how this tradition started but I suspect that some in-laws got caught stealing something from their future in-laws house and managed to convince them that it was a tradition and it just caught on from there.
    It’s also tradition that the groom’s entire family go and get the bride on the day of the wedding.
    My question is, how sure are things when it takes your entire family to persuade her?

    Research shows that married people tend to live longer but what married person would want to live longer?

    8:15 pm

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