Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not so shiny after all

Considering all the previous press about the glitz and glam of the oh-so-posh-a-rific-fan-brand-tabulous-Dubai lifestyle, a bit of the other perspective is healthy. The place isn't perfect and it's refreshing to hear someone say so, even if it's exaggerated.

Give this a read. The article is long. Read it anyway. And please, keep a few things in mind. This ran in the opinions section of the Independent in the UK. It is biased. It's written by a journalist who probably popped into town for a couple days to write something that would things up, expose some realities, visit the the most polarizing locations, and talk to the most polarized perspectives, judge, be asked not to judge, continue to judge, and write about it. It's well written. It's spot some respects. It's terribly off and narrow in others.

The dark side of Dubai
This link is now blocked in the UAE. Funny, eh? Good ol' unfreedom of speech. If the link simply doesn't work, paste the address or google "dark side of dubai" and you should be able to find it without any trouble.

Some perspective on the article
and keep in mind I'm not defending Dubai, just wanna put stuff in context.

Is the human rights situation here messed up?
Yes. Is it messed up in a bunch of other countries? Yes. Are the labor camps real? Yes. Do the construction guys I walk past every day look at me with a sort of sad, broken desperation? Yes. Do I feel helpless about it? Yes. Should I speak out against it or try to run an awareness campaign? I'd rather not go to jail and get kicked out of the country. And it would probably happen in that order.

Are all western expats oblivious,
drunk, and too damn shallow to care about the corruption and human rights trouble? No. Many are clueless. Many are not. Maybe he should have done his interviewing in places other than a notoriously trashy pub. Don't get me wrong, I like Double Deckers for what it is– a great place to grab some pints, sit outside, watch some football and watch the Aussie Chippendales prance around in their bow ties and knee-length shorts. But sometimes it also smells like stale beer and feet. For obvious reasons, it's not the best place to go for informed opinions on the state of affairs in Dubai.

Dubai is a ghost town?
Um, no it's not. Parts are, like many villas on The Palm that have been bought up by investors, or Russians, who just want to say they have a villa on The Palm. The economy has slowed down here just like everywhere else, but when half the place is in transition between construction zone and city, there's gonna be some weird emptiness in between, regardless of downturn or upturn. Some apartment towers in Jumeirah Beach Residence are still empty. Some are filling up. Some stores are closing, others are still waiting to open. But when you see 18 jewelry stores right next to each other, and no drug store in the open air plaza at the base of 5, 45 story apartment towers, it just makes sense that a few will shut down.

Are the Emiratis are either pro-exploitation or con-exploitation?
Do they all tell the same "my grandmother walked to a well" story and now we're rich, so who cares what has to be sacrificed in the process? Um, no. But is the exploitation happening, and are the Emiratis the sacred class, benefiting from it? Yes. Is it racist and irritating, and just weird? Yes. Is this their country and are the rest of the white-colar expats still capitolizing on a fancy tax-free resort town? Yes. Do most of the local and white-collar folks have Philipino or Indian or Pakistani maids and nannies? Yes. Does that happen in many other non-western countries? Yes. Is the exploitation far more complicated than how he explained it in the article? Yes. Is it right? No. Are some of them treated well? Yes.

And as the west criticizes, we're all a little bit hypocritical.
As in any rapidly developing nation, be it in the wake of imperialism, or instant economic boom, or a migrant orchard industry in the US, or in the wake of a monarchy with the means and ambition to push a country to get ahead and prosper ASAP, there are consequences. They are complicated. Read. Comment. Ask questions. And lets see if this blog stays up or if the invisible hand of dubizie shuts it down.

want more?
Slumdogs and Millionaires

Shortly following the blitz of media criticism, the Sheikh responded.
Mohammed: Global crisis behind us

The worst of the crisis is over

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