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David Hines [userpic]

APED: "the bright and shining towers of dubai"

June 8th, 2009 (08:36 pm)

If you haven't read Johann Hari's article "The Dark Side of Dubai," you really should. It's harrowing.

The pearl of all the Arab world, the very best they've got,
with silhouettes of cranes against the sky,
it's a land of milk and honey, and they're happy with their lot:
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

Sheikh Maktoum saw the future Sheikh Mohammed brought to be,
a wonderment planned to delight the eye,
the money from the oil fields used to build for all to see
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

It's wealthy. Education's free, and so's your doctor's care,
and the stores are full of wonders you can buy,
and above it all, to show the world how rich it is, how fair,
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

And the people in those towers glow, and smile with perfect teeth,
adorned in jewelry, gowns, and in black tie,
across town from a man who sleeps uneasily beneath
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

He'd come here from Bangladesh, to work, and he'd been thrilled:
he'd even paid out money to apply;
he'd sold his land, and gone in debt, and left his home to build
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

And then they took his passport, and then they cut his pay,
and all his dreams began to go awry,
and he works for fourteen hours in the sun to build each day
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

His water's salt. The room is hot. The food they serve is slop,
and he's beaten down if he should dare defy,
and at work each day he eyes the edge, and thinks about that drop
from the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

The truth about those towers would make your blood run chilled,
a charge the Sheikh would angrily deny --
but tell that to the man who wakes and numbly goes to build
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

The pearl of all the Arab world, the very best they've got,
with silhouettes of cranes against the sky,
a town that's built on hope and dreams, and slavery and blood,
the bright and shining towers of Dubai.

Comments

Posted by: soundingsea (soundingsea)
Posted at: June 9th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)

Oh, man. I knew about what's going on, but this poem really makes it hit home. The transition from the towers being a thing of beauty to a thing of tragedy is so deft.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: June 10th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
unfair to batgirl

Thanks. I think the idea is better than the execution, but yeah, Dubai is freaky.

The odd thing is, the towers are still things of beauty. It's the people who're tragic.

Posted by: Cheyan (cheyinka)
Posted at: June 9th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)

I read the poem and I went "yeah, I've read about that" and then I read the actual linked article. Either everything I've read before understated the case (possible) or that's how I remembered it (also possible) because it really was quite horrifying to read.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: June 10th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
commies

I saw Hari's article a while back and went, "Holy CRAP."

He's banned from returning, incidentally. No surprise.

Posted by: trinfaneb (trinfaneb)
Posted at: June 9th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)

Holy fark that is a harrowing article!

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: June 10th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
plane

Yeah. And the hell of it is, Dubai is orders of magnitude better than a lot of other places.

I knew a guy from the Phillippines who worked all over the Middle East. He spoke something like six languages. Brilliant, brilliant guy; worked mainly in HVAC, but he was a hell of a manager, too. If something was physically possible, he would figure out a way to do it. He said the worst place he ever worked was Saudi Arabia. This was a guy for whom a *good* work experience began with being lined up with several hundred of his closest friends on a tarmac before being horse-traded to some company and going off on a job where he wouldn't get to see his family for maybe two years. I couldn't work like that in a million years, but he did it. He said Saudi was so bad that he quit.

I don't even want to *think* what it would take to get that guy to quit.

Posted by: Abigail Lynn (abigailynn)
Posted at: June 9th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)

Thanks for posting this. I love the poem, and the article is outstanding. I'm constantly talking about modern slavery as part of my job, and that article is a tremendous resource. Would you mind if I showed some of my coworkers your poem? I'd credit you, of course.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: June 10th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
cameron undone

Sure, feel free.

That article is staggering, isn't it?

Posted by: doctor_alice (doctor_alice)
Posted at: June 9th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)

Wow. I read the article, and it's just appalling. A few years ago there were splashy articles about Dubai and the Atlantis development in every travel magazine you picked up; when the country collapses, it's going to be an unbelievable disaster.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: June 10th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
303 british

The biggest problem for Dubai is, if you can believe it, not the slave labor. That's a staggering, gruesome moral problem, but I think the Emirati reformer who who reacts angrily when Hari brings up slave labor actually nails their problem: it's not just the slave labor, but the fact that they're relying on imported labor, slave or not, to do *everything.* It's like Saudi Arabia, which outsources its Air Forces aircraft maintenance because no Saudi wants to be anything other than a pilot. Slavery is morally corrosive in its own right, but the very breadth of it and the requirement on noncitizen labor to do *everything* means that they're basically raising entire countries of spoiled brats who can't do jack. They absolutely depend on imported laborers, and if they don't have them, the country will completely fall apart.

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