Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Monday, August 31, 2015

What constitutes an identity? A comprehensive synthesis

People are more than just government documents with statistical information; they are humans who have had their own turbulent childhoods, heritages, culture shocks, life milestones, and relationships. All of these factors lead to the creation of a person's unique identity; one that is dictated not by what the seal of his passport is but by how has lived. One's identity affects how he behaves with other people and reciprocally how others behave with him. Human history of full examples of conflicts and fights because of identity clashes. These clashes could be as minor as a politically incorrect joke on a YouTube video to large-scale genocides perpetrated by colonizers against "savages". These clashes come from a person not fully understanding people who ascribe to different identities; a situation that history proves can be a deadly incentive to persecution and intolerance. Abstracting from this, if a person consciously knows who he is, he will predict and be socially aware of how others will evaluate him based on their preconceptions of what his identity is. With an identity forged from his languages, cultures, and experiences and manifested in his sense of belonging, he understands not only how other people stereotypically judge him, but also likewise how he judges himself, judges others, and connects to others.

Various social commentators, journalists, and thinkers have touched upon the idea of how one's identity is formed and reflected in his and other people’s awareness of his social image. In his 2007 article "My First Passport", Orhan Pamuk gives the reader a glimpse of his early childhood and young adulthood spent in Switzerland and Turkey where he experienced firsthand how identities are formed, clashed, and judged. He claims that a person's identity is formed only from his experiences, wherever these experiences come from. Regardless of how you identity yourself, Orhan argues that other people will try to pinpoint what they think your identity is and judge you based on that. Ultimately, your true identity stays and grows with you. Amin Maalouf follows the same train of thought in "Deadly Identities" (1998) but takes it to a more drastic level. He explores the persecution and marginalization that follows from these identity clashes and identity pinpointing. He claims that one's identity could be formed from multiple cultural resources and experiences, and that people often try to oversimplify other people's identity by reducing it to one's national or ethnic background. But, such actions could lead to intolerance, judgment, prejudices, and xenophobia. This alarming claim is realized in both Mona Kareem's "Why do you hate Khalijis" (2012) and Ghinwa Yateem's "Lebanese women are suffering from sexual stereotypes" (2004). In the former, Kareem's discusses how many non-Gulf Arabs have developed stereotypes of Gulf Arabs (Khalijis) based on neo-colonial attitudes. She claims that non-Gulf Arabs have reduced Khaliji Arabs to these preconceptions and blackened their image, ignoring their centuries-old Bedouin culture and the role they have played in helping the Arab World. Similarly, Yateem argues that this judgmental mentality has likewise been directly from the Gulf (and other Arab countries) to Lebanese Arab women. She claims that Lebanese women have been judged as sexually promiscuous, shallow, and vain by other Arab cultures, all the while ignoring the diversity in the lives and accomplishments of Lebanese women. In response to these stereotypes, many people have taken up a call-to-action and actively fought against stereotyping and prejudice, such as the blogger Faisal Abbas who actively posts on online media in order to counter widespread Arab stereotypes (LAU, 2009). All these writers illustrate the ways that individual identities can be formed and how other people oversimplify them to a great extent.

Language is man’s original mode of communication, our innate method of sharing information with others. It thus forms one of the crucial ingredients in the creation of one’s identity. As explored in depth by Maalouf (1998), language can either be an open channel into the further development of a richer and more complicated identity, or it can be a preserver of a person’s original identity by preventing the “intrusion” of other identity-creating ingredients. Maalouf explores the former function of language in “Deadly Identities” where he provides biographical information on how he came to develop a Franco-Lebanese identity. Both the Lebanese and French facets of his one singular identity were nurtured not just by the Mediterranean and European cuisines that he grew up on, but on his exposure to great works in literature through both Arabic and French. It is through his fluency in his own native language that Amin Maalouf was able to access his ancestral folktales and strengthen his Lebanese roots. Likewise, it was through his fluency in French that he was able to penetrate into European literary culture and become a productive writer and sharer of ideas. Both Lebanon and France are a part of his identity because of how language was a channel for him to access and integrate both societies. In contrast to this identity-expansion aspect of language, language can also deter further modifications to one’s identity by fossilizing one’s affiliations and his ease of penetrating into foreign social groups. This is illustrated in the biographical account of Orhan Pamuk (2007), who as a child was not able to integrate into the Francophone Swiss school, culture, and society because of his inability to speak the language. Instead, his Turkish identity was preserved and he had to return to Istanbul to continue his education. Ironically, it was only through reading non-Turkish works in Turkish that Pamuk was able to understand these foreign societies. Furthermore, it was only in Turkish that Pamuk was able to express and refine his identity through his multiple publications.  Both these identity-expansion and identity-preservation functions of language are vividly experienced by any Lebanese citizen who on average is taught two or three languages, each of which bringing with its own cultural baggage and expression. Some find it easy to attain high fluency in these languages, and thus they find themselves cradling Middle Eastern, French, and American ties in their own identity. But others find it difficult to do so. Instead, they (subconsciously) choose to dedicate their time to only one of these language-society pairs and they mold their personalities on only this pair to the exclusion of the others. But regardless of which mode taken, language is a clear constructor of a person’s identity through it being a channel of information transfer and sense of belonging.

Expressed through language, culture likewise plays a role in identity formation. Culture is an umbrella term for the various beliefs and practices that a person grows up around. It is this under this umbrella though those identities are created and influenced. In the case of beliefs for example, by being exposed to a culture that advocates restricted interaction between the two sexes, a person may grow to subconsciously believe that gender segregation is proper and he will act based on that belief. As discussed by Kareem (2012), this is the case of some Gulf Arabs who are implicitly and explicitly told how to a proper man or woman behaves in public and private. Of course, not all Gulf Arabs, raised around the same culture, ascribe to the same attitudes and any such overgeneralization is stereotypical. But a significant number of them do. And for these specific individuals, it is because of Gulf culture. In contrast, exposure to a culture with more lax attitudes on gender interaction could create a person who believes in that same attitude and act accordingly. Gender integration is common in Lebanon as shown by the diversity of how Lebanese women live their lives (Yateem, 2004). Some feel comfortable with their sexuality, while others are more reserved. Some achieve great feats in their professional careers alongside men – May Chidiac comes to mind – while others prefer to live simpler lives outside of the work force. It is through these women’s exposure to a Lebanese culture of gender integration and feminist ideals that they choose for themselves how to live and how to see themselves. Furthermore, in terms of cultural practices and identity, when a person is continuously exposed to the culture of some social group in the form of its arts, literature, and cuisine, his psychological ties to that social group will be strengthened. When a Beiruti who was raised at a prestigious Lycee goes on a vacation to Paris, he will feel a strong bond to the faces, sounds, and sights of the French society that he first experienced in his French-Lebanese school and that he now sees live. Likewise, whether this same person is walking down an alleyway in Cairo or on the corner of the Empire State building in NYC, the aroma of falafels coming from street vendors will remind him of his Lebanese culture and identity. All in all, it is through the exposure of cultural beliefs and practices that a person’s sense of self is created and grown.

Through language and within a cultural environment, a person experiences different aspects of life: education, relationships, struggles, losses, achievements, and victories. It is ultimately his experiences that are the bulk of his identity and selfhood. For Orhan Pamuk (2007), it was his inadequacies in French and the sense of isolation he felt in Switzerland that nurtured his introverted tendencies. It was his later return to Turkey and personal readings that were the seeds for his lifelong literary career. The idea that it is your life that defines your identity is expanded in Maalouf (1998). For him, it was his simple childhood in a Lebanese village and his academic and literary career in France that created his identity. Who a person becomes is the sum product of what he has done in life and what has been done to him. Every Lebanese individual will have a unique identity that grew with a trajectory based on what life experiences he has had. Whether he went finished the Lebanese baccalaureate, got married at a young age, lost his family in the war, or emigrated to the West after graduation, all of these different potential events will create who he his and will be.

Created through language, culture, and experiences, a person’s identity is manifested in his sense of belonging or where he senses home truly is. If a person identifies with some culture and society, then he will feel at home when with other people of similar – but not identical – identities. This home could be the place where a person grew up and felt cultural ties to, as was the case for Pamuk (2007). Despite his attempts at integrating into the Swiss culture and school, Pamuk was not able to feel at home in Switzerland and had no choice but to return to his true place of belonging, Turkey. But for other people, home could include multiple places where a person spent many years of his life and much of his efforts into, as was the case for Maalouf (1998). Maalouf experienced multiple cultures and homes in his life and was able to integrate multiple affinities and ties into his identity. He was at ease in both Middle Eastern and French societies and equally felt at home at both places. The fact that he could so was a reflection of the complicated nature of his identity, one that had incorporated both his Arab and French experiences and cultures. Similarly for the average Lebanese citizen, the languages and people he is raised around and integrates into his identity will be manifested in his sense of belonging. Whether he is located in a Lebanese suburb in Michigan, a pan-Arab ghetto in Paris, or a Francophone city in West Africa, he will feel that he belongs to that area and its people as long as he has a shared identity with them.

It is clear that people’s identities are formed based on the input of language, culture, and experience and the output of their sense of belonging. However, many people falsely believe that all of these factors pale in comparison to the person’s nationalistic or ethnic origin. That is, regardless of how the he has lived in his life, every person has a fundamental identity and sense of belonging that is based completely on where he comes from – his nation, sect, or ethnicity. Other factors like language, education, culture, human relationships, and experiences play only a small role. It is ultimately a person’s passport that is the determiner of his real identity. But, such an idea is false and dangerous. It is false because governmental documents are only that, documents! As exemplified by Pamuk (2007), his passport was only a document that erroneously detailed parts of his body and demographics, not a true representation of who he was and who he would become as a person. Although he had a European passport and was evaluated as a “member of the council of Europe”, his inner identity had no connection with Switzerland. In the Lebanese diaspora, there are many people who have a Lebanese passport and Lebanese DNA running through their blood, but they have little traces of Lebanese culture running through their blood. For example, the actress Salma Hayek has verified Lebanese ancestors and carries the Lebanese citizenship. Yet, she neither speaks the language, cooks the food, celebrates the holidays, nor has experienced a single milestone in her life in Lebanon. She was born and raised in Mexico and is a Mexican by identity in all its aspects.  On paper she is Lebanese, but she is not Lebanese on the inside regardless of the fanfare that the Lebanese showed her when she arrived in Lebanon this April (Westall, 2015).

Secondly, this argument is dangerous according to Maalouf (1998). The danger lies in how this oversimplification of a person’s identity can lead to marginalizing that individual, making him feel devalued, and spreading xenophobia. There are many people who have identities that are more complicated than where they happen to have been born and raised; they further face marginalization because of this. A case in point is the social position of migrant communities such as Algerians in France. These migrants have in reality one identity influenced from both the Arab and French worlds, but both worlds marginalize these people whenever they recognize the other part of their identity, i.e. they French reject the migrant when he acknowledges his Arab identity and the Arabs reject him when he acknowledges his French identity. For the French, he is treated hostilely as terrorist; and for the Arabs, he is a traitor to his homeland Even in the Lebanese context, there are many Lebanese, including Maalouf, who are raised around French culture, have complicated identities, and feel a sense of belonging to both the Arab World and the Francophonie. Their identities are bigger than their passports, but reducing their identities to their passport seal is a denial of who they really. This denial becomes an obstacle against healthy dialogue between French and Arab cultures and could lead to intolerance and xenophobia. Even in the small country of Lebanon, no two Lebanese individuals will have identical identities just because they share a Lebanese passport. Their different family backgrounds, neighborhoods, educations, relationships, and adventures will create two unique identities. A person’s identity cannot be encapsulated in some government document, but will be nurtured by multiple variables: language, culture, experiences, and belonging.

A person’s identity is unique because of the multiple ingredients in its constructions. However, people are naturally inclined to find patterns in the world, and that includes the human tendency to ignorantly overgeneralize people, to put them into narrow categories, to have stereotypical preconceptions of them, and thus reduce people’s unique identities into smaller boxes. These stereotypical overgeneralizations and ignorant prejudices are dangerously pervasive in Lebanese culture and towards the Lebanese people. As explained by Kareem (2012), there has been a surge of stereotypical preconceptions of Gulf Arabs or Khalijis by non-Gulf Arabs, including the Lebanese. Because of their countries’ economic boom, human rights record, and conservative sexual attitudes, Khalijis are judged as being greedy, exploitative, backwards, and sexually repressed people. The actions of the few – the menial labor employers and the sex tourists – have been the measure by which all Gulf Arabs are judged and lumped together. The intricacies of Bedouin culture and society are completely ignored and reduced into this single false image of the greedy oil baron who goes on sex trips to Beirut. These stereotypical tendencies also work in the opposite direction whereby Arabs, including Khalijis, misperceive Lebanese women as promiscuous, vain, and shallow (Yateem, 2004). Their evidence is just the actions of a minority of superficial Lebanese women and prostitutes. No attention is given to the full spectrum of Lebanese women – the lawyers, judges, housewives, journalists, and mothers who play a crucial role in Lebanese society and enjoy more freedoms than their Gulf counterparts. But regardless of the direction of stereotypes, both the judger and judged are mistreated and misevaluated. Their identities are reduced to simplistic and false descriptions, based on paltry evidence and ignorance.

Based on ignorance, stereotypes are a dangerous slippery slope that can lead to intolerance, loss of humanity, and homogeneity. First, by negatively overgeneralizing a population and the identities of its individuals, the value of that population’s history, culture, and world contributions are lost. Through the reduction of Khalijis to repressed oil barons, the centuries-old Bedouin culture is marked down as just a land of oil and not a land of hospitality, poetry, and tradition. Through the stereotyping of Khalijis as exploitative and spoiled, the contributions of the Gulf in the Arab revolutions and its place as a meeting point between multiple cultures is forgotten (Kareem, 2012). Time will tell if this erasure of Gulf contributions to the world will ever be brought back into public consciousness and if the Khaliji will regain the respect he once had. But secondly, on a much more serious scale, stereotyping will not just lead to a loss of humanity, i.e. the dehumanizing and forgetting of a culture and history of some people, but also to intolerance and the loss of lives. History is full of civilizations and peoples who were killed and eradicated because of extreme stereotyping and dehumanization. To cite just a few examples, the last 100 years has seen the mass deaths of Rwandans, Slavs, Palestinians, Jews, and Armenians because of how too many people believed in horrible stereotypes about them. How stereotyping can potentially lead to crimes against humanity is difficult to explain. But Maalouf provides a model in his hallmark “Deadly Identities” (1998). By oversimplifying a person’s identity and by ignoring the complexities that go into creating his multifaceted identity, stereotyping limits healthy human interaction. If a person who, like Maalouf, has a complicated identity influenced by multiple cultures and societies, then he can act as a bridge of dialogue between those societies. But by disrespecting such complicated identities, dialogue cannot happen even between societies that are geographically close to each other. The diversity in population identities will be reduced into one homogeneous pile whereby people with complicated identities or those who have identities associated with the ‘enemy’ will be marginalized and repressed. Conversely, by respecting people who have complicated identities, dialogue and peace is insured between the societies associated with these identities.

Although the problems posed by stereotypical thinking are clear, an effective antidote is not. However, one potential solution is to utilize the media in both actively and passively fighting stereotypical generalizations. To actively fight stereotypes is to explicitly address stereotypical thinking and judgments on different media platforms. For example, to counter rising stereotypes about Lebanese women, journalists could publish multiple articles, blog posts, and videos where they talk about these stereotypes and debunk them. This is illustrated in Yateem (2004) where she directs most of her efforts into detailing what stereotypes exist about Lebanese woman, showing the hypocrisy in the people who believe such stereotypes, and providing counter-arguments in the form of real-life diversity in Lebanese women. Her article is an active struggle against stereotypes because it directly challenges them with the intent of correcting or erasing them. The same can be said for the blogger Faisal Abbas (LAU, 2009) who has made an online journalism career for himself out of his blogging activism against Arab stereotypes. On the other hand, another effective subsolution to the stereotyping problem would be to passively fight it. Instead of having the media publish works where the writer or creator explicitly and deliberately condemns stereotyping, passive media would involve releasing documentaries or articles where the stereotypes are implicitly resisted and disproven. For example, a fear raised by Kareem (2012) in her discussion on Khaliji stereotypes is the fact such prejudicial thinking has erased the existence and value of Bedouin culture from the public consciousness of the Arab World. That is, the idea of the Khaliji has now become associated with the inhumane oil baron and not the noble Bedouin nomad. To relieve this situation, journalists could publish works where this image and culture is renewed. They could broadcast documentaries exploring Bedouin history, the multiculturalism of the Gulf, and military history on the role of the Gulf in the Arab revolutions. The same could be done to resolve the issue of stereotyping Lebanese women by getting the Lebanese media to no longer use the vain nymphomaniac Lebanese girl as a stock character. Instead, Arab media would create multidimensional Lebanese female characters modeled after real-life Lebanese women. These two steps are passive in the sense that they do not involve explicitly arguing with the prejudicial audience but they indirectly make the audience see how the stereotypes are inaccurate or misguided. By watching and understanding the history of the Gulf and the value of the contributions of its people, non-Gulf Arabs will be less inclined to believe their narrow-minded judgments of Khalijis as exploitative sex tourists. Likewise, by having the diversity of Lebanese women be displayed on television as it is in real life, other Arab people will no longer think that all Lebanese women are identical fickle fashionistas. By utilizing both the active and passive forms of media as described, the Arab World has a viable strategy to counter the spread of prejudicial and stereotypical thinking. The media is one of the most powerful social forces that exist in human society. Just as it has been able to spread stereotypes before, so can it resist and cure them.

Just as no two people share identical genetic code, no two people share the same identity. Every person is unique because they were to different dialects, different cultures (cuisines, ideologies, beliefs, practices, customs, arts, ), and had different ups and downs in their life. They know who they are in relation to other people by sensing if they belong to a certain land, area, or people. They could feel this belonging to multiple areas and peoples though because of the multifaceted nature of humanity and the human psyche. Their identity is just bigger than the where they happen to have come from – their government documents. This is illustrated in the lives of many Lebanese people who have ties to multiple cultures (Middle Eastern, French, or American) and who maintain these identities wherever they live, whether it’s somewhere in the Arab World, the Franchophonie, or the Anglosphere. However, out of ignorance, many people oversimplify different people’s identities into small stereotypical boxes. This action is dangerous because it can lead to a loss of human value and, much more seriously, to the loss of human lives as illustrated with past genocides and contemporary inter-Arab discrimination. Respect must be given to the diversity of human identities, or else the consequences may be undoable.

Lebanese American University. (2009, July 13). Award-winning LAU grad uses blogs to break Western stereotypes of Arabs. Retrieved from

Kareem, M. (2012, August 29). Why do you hate Khalijis? Al-Akhbar. Retrieved from

Maalouf, A. (1998). Les identités meurtrières [Deadly Identities]. Grasset.

Pamuk, O. (2007, April 16). My first passport: What does it mean to belong to a country?. The New Yorker. Retrieved from

Westall, S. (2015, April 27). Salma Hayek pays tribute to Lebanese roots with film of ‘The Prophet’. In Reuters. Retrived from

Yateem, G. (2004, April 21). Lebanese women suffering from sexual stereotypes. The Daily Star. Retrieved from

This synthesis can be found on and can be reproduced elsewhere without permission as long as this message is kept. © 2015 George Chalhoub.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Critique of Maya Mikdashi's Sexual Violence Is A Crime, Sometimes

Even though the year is only 2015, the Arab World has had a very energetic decade thus far with many legal, political, and social changes. Whereas in most of the Arab World, these changes revolved around the Arab Spring, the Lebanese changes were much more scattered. One of these significant events was the 2012 controversy over whether or not marital rape should be criminalized. Maya Mikdashi’s online article “Sexual Violence is a Crime, Sometimes” was released around that time. Its intentions were twofold. One was to discuss the legal history of marital rape in Lebanon and why marital rape was legally protected. The other was to encourage people to actively fight for criminalizing marital rape by taking part in the contemporary protests. However, Mikdashi presents an unclear, fallacious, and weakly structured explanation of the former, and her persuasion for the latter seems incomplete because it did not rely on enough facts and arguments.

Published on January 11th 2012, Maya Mikdashi’s online article is in a call-to-action and an incitement to readers to take a stance and attend an anti-marital rape protest that was going to be held later on January 14th. In her article, Mikdashi starts out by going through the then-recent history of marital rape legislation in major world countries. Sadly in many first world countries, marital rape has often been seen as legal or as a less serious form of rape until the last few decades. The bulk of the article goes into dissecting and explaining why marital rape was at the time legally protected in Lebanon and why it should be fought. Although many people quickly put the blame on the Lebanese religious authorities, Mikdashi argues that the religious institutions are only an organ of a much larger patriarchal society, not the main obstacle. It is this patriarchal society that creates legalized discrimination against women in multiple legal areas: housing, employment, marriage, divorce, nationality/citizenship, and so on. Mikdashi attacks this patriarchal institution as the source of these discriminatory practices. She later argues that public discussion of these taboo issues, specifically sexual assault, helps in fighting against it. She ends her article by calling on her readers to attend a protest on the 14th of January to fight for the criminalization of marital rape in Lebanon. 

Mikdashi’s treatment of marital rape laws is not very complicated because her main goal is to liven up readers to protest for criminalization, not to understand the history and complexities behind it. But it is this simplicity that makes her article feel unsubstantiated and unorganized. The information she provides was accurate at the time of publication and representative of the then-current state of the laws in Lebanon. But because the legal data she provides was from 2012, her main argument can be said to be outdated because of the legal changes that have occurred since then, especially the recent criminalization of marital rape (Shadi Shidrawi, personal communication, August 2015). The first thing that Mikdashi does is establish and define the topic at hand, that rape is when one person physically forces another into having sex. And, she encapsulates the entire issue of why she is specifically writing about marital rape: “In many countries, sexual consent is an implied provision of a marriage contract. The idea is that when two people get married, they are granted rights to each other's bodies”.

In terms of research, her article she mostly provides then-recent legal history on marital rape laws in the developed world and Lebanon, but through an excessive and slow logical flow. In some developed countries, such as the US, France, and Germany, marital rape has only recently been criminalized. But even in the first world, some countries like Japan and certain US states still don’t recognize marital rape as real or serious. In Lebanon, however, marital rape was (at the time of the article) legal and there was public action to criminalize it. However, there was a strong opposition against criminalization, with the most vocal opposition coming from religious authorities.

When it comes to explaining why there is such a controversy on marital laws in Lebanon and implicitly throughout the world, Mikdashi puts the blame mostly on sexist societies themselves and partly on specific institutions like Islam or religions in general. However, her argument that religions are partly to blame for the spread of marital rape is weak and prejudicial. It is inherently wrong because the major religions of the world, including Islam, are strictly against all forms of human torture and sexual violence (Shadi Shidrawi, personal communication, August 2015).

Following her weak argument against religion, Mikdashi spends a lot of her time talking about off-topic legal issues. Instead of talking more about the history or the legal and social subtleties of marital rape, she instead chooses to talk about other legalized forms of gender inequality that women face. These include unfair laws in areas such as banking, inheritance, marriage-divorce, marital rape, and the nationality law. This last law is about how Lebanese women do not have the right to pass on their citizenship to their foreign-born families, whereas Lebanese men are.  During this digression, she even uses profanity and emotionally loaded terms. Although there is overlap between Mikdashi’s goal to criminalize marital rape and between the general legalized discriminations that women face, Mikdashi doesn’t present a strong link between these issues to merit the time she spends on discussing them. If anything, this lengthy digression is a red herring whereby it seems that Mikdashi is trying to divert her audience to tangential issues so that we don’t see the holes in her logic. Ultimately, Mikdashi provides a very compact description of the social forces that go with marital rape laws in Lebanon, but her compactness comes at the price of a complete and understandable explanation. She goes into off-topic issues and uses profanity and emotions in her presentation of what is supposed to be up-to-date, objective, and professionally delivered data.

Besides explaining the legal history of the reasons for marital rape criminalization, Mikdashi spends a great deal of time discussing why her Lebanese readers should actively fight for the criminalization and why the mere act of discussing is part of the fight. The goal of this is to encourage readers to take part in civil activism and the upcoming protests on this issue. This is the more persuasive part of the article and this is where the writer gets more personal by describing her own emotional reactions to sexism and rape in Lebanon. When it comes to public discussions on rape, Mikdashi argues that by doing so we are helping to end it. She acknowledges that most people (and especially women) do not publicly discuss this taboo subject because of how they are taught that such issues will anger men, will be washed over as “her fault”, will be explained away as a man’s minor error in judgment, or will simply be denied as ever happening. However, although she rightfully gets angered at why such things are happening, she doesn’t actually argue why they should not be happening. In order to persuade her readers to be against marital rape, she doesn’t provide objective facts or reasons but relies on using emotional and powerful ideas of female suffering in Lebanon. We can say that her persuasion thus relies more on pathos than on logos because most of what the writer does is make her audience feel that marital fight should be fought instead of making them think and objectively conclude that it should be fought.

Processing this article as a whole, it is clear that Mikdashi did not put enough time and effort into accurately collect and representing the necessary legal information on marital rape. She has a fast and simplistic explanation for the legal environment of marital laws in Lebanon, one littered with emotional bias, oversimplification, profanity, outdated laws, antireligious-ness, and logical fallacies. She does not take the time to provide carefully collected statistical data on the extent of marital rape, the Lebanese legal history on criminalization, or other relevant social factors about how violence against women is handled by the family, state, and police (Bramley, 2014). Neither does she try to portray a realistic image of Lebanese marital victims or how they are affected by these issues (Hawali, 2013). When it comes to her persuasive strategy, there is not a strong reliance on using logical argumentative strategies. In order to persuade her readers to call for the criminalization of marital rape, Mikdashi relies on showing how marital rape is often ignored in public discourse, how such silence is unethical, and how this silence and legal protection infuriate her. Instead of explaining more subtle issues like the long-term effects of marital rape or countering the arguments of the anti-criminalization camp, Mikdashi only gives her audience an emotional motivation to criminalize marital rape. By relying on pathos instead of logos, it is arguable that her persuasive article could strengthen a person’s pre-existing position against marital rape but it probably will not persuade someone from the opposition.

Rape is a serious human rights issue and is recognized as a crime against humanity alongside other such horrors like genocide, slavery, child soldiers, and human trafficking. In Lebanon, although women’s rights are relatively better compared to some other Arab countries, this does not mean that it is a feminist paradise. There are many legal obstacles against gender equality in this country, one of the most obvious being the legal status of marital rape at the time of Mikdashi’s article. However, marital rape was recently criminalized so this casts doubt on whether Mikdashi’s article is up-to-date and still relevant. But even so, she writes in a very weak way and does not provide enough data on why and how marital rape was legal and protected in Lebanon. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, she spends her time going off-topic to issues related to Lebanese women’s legal rights in general, especially the controversy over the nationality law. In order to persuade her readers to protest for criminalization, Mikdashi does not offer strong enough arguments or explanations. Instead, she relies on making the reader “feel” that rape is bad, that we should talk about it, and shows her own disgust and anger towards it: “Even writing this, the hair on my the back of my neck is standing up, thinking of an archive of sexual violence that will never become "Lebanese history"” (Mikdashi, 2012, para. 3). As a persuasive strategy, her emphasis on emotions and not logical argumentation makes her article weak in that aspect. However, knowing that her article’s main goal is to encourage people to attend an upcoming protest for the criminalization, it is understandable as to why she doesn’t go in depth and provide stronger and more complicated arguments.

Bramley, E. V. (2014, April 9). Why does Lebanese bill on domestic violence fail to tackle marital rape? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Halawi, D. (2013, March 23). Activists urge Lebanon to make marital rape illegal. Reuters. Retrieved from

This critique was written originally in Mr. Shadi Shidrawi's Sophomore Rhetoric course at the Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why college education is a scam

Sorry of this offends you. This posts targets American colleges and the american educational system only.

It’s ironic parents, teachers or even famous folks, are telling the children, “higher paying jobs are the way to go”. Point being, are we taught from a young age, “money = success" ?

The suicide rate of my generation (teenage) is the highest in the world and suicidal kids are rich for the most part.  The college mental health crisis is rising, it is severe. Why do you think is that?

If I had an honest conversation with college it would be like this:

University: Learn this stuff by heart.

Me: Why?

University: Because I told you.

Me: Will it be useful in the career I'm aspiring to get?

University: Not at all. You'll forget all of it 0.14232 seconds after you're done vomiting up on the exam.

Me: Why learn it this way then?

University: Because I'm an archaic system that used to have a monopoly on the production of knowledge but that has been unable to evolve with contemporary society. By the way your bill's ready. Pay up, sucker; you want that magical piece of paper at the end of your program, don't you?

Me: A magical piece of paper that will get me into a 9-5 job jive where it make someone else rich and lead to a path of mediocrity. Not to mention that you're taking the  most fresh years of my life, just getting sucked-up by lazy instructors and lifeless material that I will forget after one week of taking the exam!

University: Right! You need to have a certain kind of brain to understand the dead language that we write and teach you in textbooks, but we brainwash you form the little kid up, so that you buy into the system; and you get good grades, and you study hard and you become a member of the total system.

University: You don't know how to think because we told you how to think our way! It was a lie and we have let it dictate your life ever since.


During the first eighteen (highschool) years of our lives, we were given a set of beliefs that were rooted in prejudices, fears and illusions. It was never based in actual experience by any the above. They too were all lies. We fell for the spell. We were rewarded based on a punished based on meeting the approval of other's people standards not our own.

The educational system taught us, as we were growing up,  to be rewarded and punished based on meeting the approval of other people’s standards, not our own. Make good grades. Take advanced courses. Play on the sports teams. Score high on standardized tests. These metrics make for a productive workforce but not a happy workforce.

Let me explain, a kid who is excited about cars is going to have a hell much better time learning about math and physics if they can be put in the context that he cares about.

But if he isn't responsible for the why of what he is leaning, then he's not learning physics and math, he's learning how to fake it and make someone else happy.

According to surveys in U.S. News and World Report,  
80% of “high-achieving” high school students admit to cheating.
51% of high school students did not believe cheating was wrong.
95% of cheating high school students said that they had not been detected.
75% of college students admitted cheating, and 90% of college students didn't believe cheaters would be caught.
Almost 85% of college students said cheating was necessary to get ahead.

Do you know why?

Your system is performance-based and not purpose-based. It teaches mimicry and not passion.

It’s to satisfy somebody else’s standard. Probably, a future employer? It didn't evolve.

Cellphone evolution:


College evolution:

How many times growing up did you ever hear students complain: 

This is pointless. Why do I have to learn this?

And, they would still learn it. And probably never use it in college. They get trained to become performance-based employees. Workers who don't think.

This will never lead to any one's self-satisfaction.  This is called spiritual suicide.

That's why academia completely and utterly is worthless for any person who desires to reach his or her full potential.

The emphasis on success as external performance is a vestige in this industrial age — it molded us, kids, teenagers, and adults into pliant worker bees, not happy individuals. It doesn't make sense anymore.

College nowadays forces their authority on students. 

Making the student dependent on authority, focusing on performance over purpose, is a main core foundation of academia. It kills thinking. It promotes mindless parroting and inane certainty. It keeps crap TV on the air.

Do you know how the American educational system work

According to my experience, I can safely say that:

  • College's traditional basic skills are out of date. Communication has shifted and now revolves around different technology such as the mobile phone, the internet, games playing. Student adept at understanding, interaction, communication, but in different forms; but college didn't! 

  • College forces a student at 18 years old to pick a future career from that young age. College expects that all teens know what they want to study in.

  • College makes students memorize page after page technical words and theories without having to understand them. Or worse, you make us have to use them in sentences and deduct points when we don't copy the textbook's phrases word for word.

  • College makes students  study and study and study so in-depth and so narrowly that they have we no context of how it relates to anything else.

Higher education today has become a money making machine for lazy professors and administrators.

Counter-argument: But, I don't want my doctor to be self-taught. Without a college degree, how can anyone be a doctor?

This also applies to teachers, engineers, accountants, architects, librarians, lawyers, pharmacists, medical technicians, IT professionals, etc... -  those are all jobs that typically require a college degree from the employers and the government.

But, you don't seem to be getting the point, that I'm not against education, I'm against the educational system. It has to be changed, because it is destroying education, and the evidence is showing.

While enrolling in a college education will give you a background about the profession, and give you a piece of paper showing you've been an academic slave, it will make it efficient for you to work, it will model you into being a worker bee, and besides most people get any degree for moneystatus, or making dad or mom's dream come true ; and you know that. Rarely, college students enroll or study a field because they're interested in it.

Besides, you really learn when you start practicing your profession.

The way that most of teachers teach, and the educational system makes students hate learning. Classes have turned into an extravagant, pointless, ugly desire to get the "A". Less social disapproval coupled with increased competition for admission into universities and graduate schools has made us more willing to do whatever it takes to get the A. The "A", that pointless letter.

Students are trained only to think inside the box, this is proven by the rigid architecture in our entire education system that forces students to take certain courses that most will never apply in their life or in their careers, ie. Physics, Calculus Algebra, Geometry etc.

Instead of focusing on a child's aptitude at an early age and pushing them toward a career path with courses that are tailor-made for their future careers, students are pushed into a 1,000 year-old anecdotal non-sense belief system that encourages students to waste time taking courses to be "become more well-rounded".

At worse, grad school forces a student to choose one topic to study in insane depth and to choose a topic that basically conformed to the topics people had been choosing to research for decades and decades already. And instead of coming up with grand new ideas,  they spend my time parsing out some tiny little angle on the same goddamned idea people had been writing about for decades.

They force them to specialize, specialize, specialize. It will drive the poor academic student batshit crazy. Rather than getting smarter and more educated, the student will be learning more than they will ever wanted to know (and more than anyone else would ever want to know) about one tiny aspect of something. They're not getting smarter. They're becoming an uber-specialist on something that’s so detailed that no one but you is going to care about.

That’s not important work. That’s pointless mental masturbation.

Doesn't this to relate why Millennials are unemployed, underemployed and headed for disaster?

Success, by today’s standard, has been defined as having lots of worthless degrees, money, power and fame. It's to appear happily employed when you're really not, it’s to drive a luxury car or a big SUV, it’s to live in a McMansion at a prominent address and to send your children to private schools, it’s to be members of the country club or the next best thing in your small mind, it’s to run with all the “right” people with worthless degree and big college debts who also haven't found their talents nor have they risen to their full potential and found their destiny. It’s all one big lie.

Our teachers are brainwashed and we need to do something about it.

We need real education instead of schooling, indoctrination where they you give a degree only for being an obedient idiot.

Quite everyone is interested in something, everyone is genius in something, but the "educational" system we have kills our creativity in early age and makes homogeneous drones, internally struggling all our life because of a fake education forcing lifeless education material. It's a control system that has been holding us back for ages. 

The question that we should be asking ourselves, students, is the more profound one: "Given that we do exist, what are we going to accomplish with our existence?" Right now, we are largely squandering our existence because we never ask ourselves this question as a species.

A common logical question one can ask is, "Why am I going to college?" Given these information, we can now answer the question definitively: There is no "reason" to go to college and pursue a degree. You can learn anything online. It's time we stop aiming for degrees and pieces of paper.

The question that we should be asking ourselves is simple: What is our goal as a species? We are, potentially, the only intelligent species in the entire universe. What are we going to do with our existence? Are we going to waste our time in college pursuing a degree and A's? Have you ever considered it?