Well, the Dubai residency was certainly a surprise. And in more ways than one! The pace was certainly not as hectic as London, and for the most part the group was able to go out and actually see the city, find time to know more about each other, and ourselves, appreciate some not so obvious things, and welcome if not tolerate some of the more confusing aspects of living an international life. I’ve mulled over a whole lot of new things from the course of that week, and as the whole experience has left me with a rather dense collection of inner musings, I am left with little choice than to split up my next few blog posts.
This is the last of a series of 5
Though it’s part of the UAE, I find difficulty in approaching Dubai as anything other than a city-state. It’s not officially a city, mind you; it’s classified as a municipality. But whatever the nominal definition is, practically speaking, Dubai – the de facto city – is a country unto itself.
While the tone of the last few blog posts has ranged from perplexed to downright scathing, I do have to make it clear that despite all the smoke, and all the mirrors, I like Dubai. I really, really like Dubai.
I think what sold me on it was a slide that showed the whole of Europe, Asia and Africa – with Dubai right smack in the middle. It’s only a short 8 hour flight to over 60% of the world’s population, and all the spending power that comes with it. It’s setting itself up as the door to Africa, the commodities broker of choice for anyone who wants to source from the Dark Continent. Our friends from the Indus Valley are everywhere, working side by side with souk shopkeepers from the Middle Kingdom.
180 different races and nationalities, a thousand different languages and dialects, and foods and flavors from just about every corner of the globe. Everyone’s here to get a piece of the action, a real shot at prosperity, no matter how elusive.
During one of the hookah nights, sprawled out on the steps of yet another architecturally magnificent nouveau bazaar, I got into a very good conversation with some of my classmates. We’d snuck in some tinnies and, half-cut, began talking about how Dubai was built on the sweat of what was basically indentured Bangladeshi slave labour.
The discussion had progressed on to human rights and all the other rather fanciful ideas that only people from the first world can afford to have. Here, I had to interject.
Nobody forced them here, the construction workers. Nobody spirited them away from their villages in Kerala and jammed them into boats for a midnight cruise to the other side of the ocean. They were all here of their own volition, inspired to take on hard labour with Arab employers that would pay them more than what they would otherwise get back home.
But human rights! Detained passports! Unpaid wages! Horrible living conditions!
Yes, they’re all problems, but what you seem to be forgetting is the fact that Washington DC – the White House, the Capitol Building, almost everything – was built by African slaves who were getting whipped and sh!t.
It’s all a bit hard to swallow, the fact that you’ve got a minority owning everything, and having everyone else do the heavy lifting. Egypt, Rome, England, the US; empires and the exploitation of human and natural resources. But that’s just the way the world works, and I dare say, in its purest form, that’s how capitalism works. Besides, Dubai… or rather the UAE is a sovereign nation with its own values and systems, who’s to say that “y/ours” is superior to “theirs”?
This is only the 2nd Semester and I’m sure we’ve still got a number of deeper, more meaningful lessons up in store, but I honestly never expected all these thoughts to come out of that visit to Dubai. Issues just seemed more real and I wish people with more qualifications and acronyms behind their names could help me answer these questions.
- Why do people drink Diet Coke?
- Can a cultural/racial Diaspora be as productive at home as they are outside? How?
- Religion and mammon – man cannot serve two masters, but can the government?
- Can you really run the real world with just an econometric model and a big stick?
- What’s the fair price for a Russian prostitute?
- And lastly, why do white people complain a lot?