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The Dark Side

Despite cairmen's lousy taste in cinema, he redeems himself with both activism and interesting links.

The Dark Side of Dubai is one of those links. Oh hell it is. Read it. Link it.

I'm having a hard time picking out excerpts. The article is bigger in scope (and wordcount) than most people are used to, but it's a bloody good read. Perhaps this tale from one of the slaves used to build the city:

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.


Or a liberal Emirati, on the plight of those slaves:

I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. "You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here..." Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We're talking about hundreds of thousands.

Sultan is furious. He splutters: "You don't think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!"

Or the attitudes of the expats:

With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.

It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.


This article gives just a taste of someone finally going deep into Dubai and exposing the lie for what it is in a major British newspaper. I've suspected a lot, but having had someone do the research and conduct the interviews and put it all together into an eminently readable piece exposing the rotten, stinking core of the UAE's ultimate playground for the rich that I can link to is a boon.

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( 14 informants — We want information! )
filamena
Apr. 7th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
If you have a place with that many people with THAT kind of money living together, with no laws to limit them, you can bet your fanny there's a slave class, terrible human rights violations, and the sorts of evil we can't write in fiction because it sounds too ridiculous.

If I were a righteous woman, I'd say the solution to a large number of problems in the world would start with nuking Dubai into glass. If it weren't for the sheer number of innocent lives already being tormented there, I'd say in seriously. We should eat the rich.
heron61
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
We should eat the rich.

Most definitely. I like the way you think.
digitalraven
Apr. 8th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
Yup. This article just means I have a slightly different example to point at free-market advocates (the previous one was the Libertarian Paradise of Somalia).
spudtater
Apr. 8th, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
> We should eat the rich.

Srsly? Cause they're fundamentally evil and stuff?

The attitudes of the rich are largely a product of the hypercapitalist system that created them. Until you figure out how to reform or replace that system, a whole new lot will just spring right back into existence.
digitalraven
Apr. 10th, 2009 08:00 am (UTC)
British citizens hold slaves in Dubai. Fundamentally depriving another human being of any agency is the greatest crime there is. The cure goes beyond merely reforming the system--it involves fire, and lots of it.

We should be pressuring the state to serve the people for a fucking change; to arrest these pieces of shite for slavery and crimes against humanity when they re-enter the country.

There's only so far you can go with the George Bernard Shaw water-in-the-beer, everyone's-a-victim-of-the-system attitude. Some people are too far gone and need to see that their actions--whether you call it the system acting through them or not--have real repercussions for the basic liberties of others; and because of that they should have their basic liberties removed with extreme prejudice.
spudtater
Apr. 10th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
Well, yes. Making them accountable for crimes* committed overseas would be changing the system. And this would inevitably lead to a change in attitude. You have my (cautious) support with this idea.

What I disagree with is the simplification that suggests that "X people did this because they are evil" (i.e. Other). It's the same sort of attitude that leads people into the comfortable belief that all the crimes in WWII were the responsibility of one extremely evil man (or small group of men, etc.), rather than admitting that an entire country of very normal people fell prey to a vicious set of beliefs. This attitude tends to stifle understanding of human nature, prop up self-righteousness, and lead us straight back into the same traps, and that's why I protest.

Yes, yes, I know, we've hit Godwin's Law.

* Crimes of this nature, anyway. My knowledge of exactly what is prosecutable outside the country in which it was committed, and what isn't, is fuzzy. The morality of it is complicated, too.
digitalraven
Apr. 10th, 2009 09:52 am (UTC)
I posted this with fire in my heart; comes of reading The Man Who Was Thursday and The Road to Wigan Pier again.

I don't believe we should prosecute all crimes committed overseas, only a subset. Defining that subset is difficult; I'd start with "Slavery" and work from there along the lines of "infringing the basic right to exist of other human beings" but by that point we're getting deep into theory.

The atmosphere in Dubai, and in other such "free market paradise" places, is such that the rich are encouraged to commit acts of great evil. We should not eat the rich because they are evil; we should eat those among the rich who have done evil either by their direct actions or their inaction. That just happens to be the overwhelming majority. By doing so, we present a consequence to going with a set of beliefs, and beat scepticism into people with a very big stick.
spudtater
Apr. 10th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
The question becomes: to what extent is "everyone else was doing it" an excuse? Is being less evil than is expected of you a mitigating factor?

I can't give any easy answers to those questions.
digitalraven
Apr. 10th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
The question becomes: to what extent is "everyone else was doing it" an excuse?

None. Rephrasing "I was just following orders" to place social pressure in the position of authority doesn't make it more valid as an excuse for committing atrocities.

Is being less evil than is expected of you a mitigating factor?

Context is king. Being kind to your slaves, yet still keeping them as slaves, isn't mitigating in the slightest. Having someone who acts as your maid isn't evil if you don't infringe his or her basic freedoms in order to do so.
heron61
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Wow, I've heard some fairly scary reports about Dubai, but nothing quite that bad. Once again, the result of lots of money + few laws protecting workers leads to the obvious result. The next time some libertarian talks about how much the US would be approved by further adopting their ideals, I'll point them to this article.
digitalraven
Apr. 8th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
Yeah. Someone I work with still goes over twice a year with her band to play the expat bars, but she originally left due to some of the insaner excesses.

Just the section on the slave camps is a good argument against the general US perception of trade unions being fronts for organized crime.
tcpip
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
Dubai, despite its public face, is a pretty evil place.
catnik
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
Damn.
hot_pants
Apr. 8th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)
most of the gulf states are p. rough, filipino domestics, pakistani laborers, everyone who isn't a citizen or a westerner is outright fucked.

of course, we have the same sort of thing in the old us of a (where undocumented workers are 400% more likely to die in on-the-job accidents than anyone else), but the gulf states are particularly egregious.
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