A Window Into the Arab World
Oct 04, 2007
One fun fact I learned in my brief time in the Mideast is that citizens of oil-rich nations such as Kuwait and Qatar don't have jobs. (Why bother, when you receive reverse taxation from the government?) They also, judging from the shopping I saw in the airport and in two malls, buy a tremendous quantity of Bulgari, Burberry, Hermes, and other designer goods.
This means that all of the actual work in countries like Kuwait is done by Indian and Southeast Asian people. I bought a dress from a Filipina woman in Kuwait who closed her shop every time the call for prayer came around -- and then she just hid inside the shop, arranging racks of clothes in front of the glass windows.
To Arabs, labor is so uncouth.
When visiting a foreign country, one's contact with locals often comes in large measure from interacting with servicepeople. In Kuwait, however, since none of the servicepeople are locals, and there are taboos against men talking to strange women, and it hardly seems inviting to test out the English skills of a woman who keeps her face covered and carries a $2,000 handbag ... a person can spend a long time in Kuwait without ever talking to a Kuwaiti person.
I lived in Saudi Arabia for a decade and very rarely did I have to speak Arabic to buy products since the foreign shopkeepers almost always had enough knowledge of Urdu (or Hindi because of the Bollywood movie industry). This leads to another phenomenon: One can spend a long time in the Arab world without ever learning more than a dozen words of Arabic.
Oh, and don't miss the video where the gals are buying a camel from an Indian shopkeeper. (I agree, the turquoise-y camel wasn't good.)
My employers did business briefly with a Kuwaiti firm in the late Seventies. All the Kuwaiti nationals who worked there were "managers" of some sort; I never saw any one of them do so much as touch a phone handset. All the actual workers were foreigners. According to knowledgeable persons, the Kuwaitis wouldn't have it any other way; they deemed work, as such, beneath their dignity. Q.E.D.
Posted by: Francis W. Porretto | Oct 05, 2007 at 06:32 AM
Funny, isn't it. Those who actually do the work and keep their economy humming are reviled instead of being admired.
These people will not get an ounce of sympathy when the West manages to replace oil with another source of energy. Almost the entire human race will find mirth in their misery.
Posted by: Isaac Schrödinger | Oct 05, 2007 at 06:48 AM
I have been reading about how most of the people in the UAE are foreign workers and that large numbers of people entering Saudi Arabia (both official workers and victims of human trafficking) are non-Muslim with half being Christian from the Philippines and elsewhere plus many from "pagan" Africa and Hindu India. (The term overstayer is an interesting new term to describe people who come in on a "Hajj" permit only to forget to leave.) Wouldn't it be ironic if the Islamic world was so concentrated on assimilating the West and not having to do menial labour in their own nations that their civilization assimilated itself via immigration? Imagine if Christians and Hindus on the Arabian peninsula began to demand full citizenship in areas where they outnumber Muslims. Would the world turn aside as easily as they do for Burma? The West might but if Chinese people began to be oppressed would the PRC sit still for it?
So much of Islamic literature is concerned with making a living off of slaves and military conquest that it neglects to describe how to make a living when there is no one left to conquer and the "slaves" outnumber the masters. Oil resources do provide "negative taxation" (I had never though of it in that term) but they also provide anti-government since the government is not accountable to the people by its dependency on economic taxation so it can pay off whomever it likes to keep the peace until the oil runs out. It also is not required to provide education to its citizens since their economies depend on the ability to hire foreign trained and skilled workers.
For the sake of the Arabs (and Russians and Venezuelans and all Islamic nations) peak oil can not come soon enough.
Posted by: Saul Wall | Oct 05, 2007 at 05:18 PM