Plastic, pitstop, pleasure town- the city of Dubai.
Sometimes, if you look far enough behind the tall, metal buildings, you can almost completely picture the sand and smell the abandonment of the desert that was once there. The masses of the United Arab Emirates are unique. At first glance, the UAE is a country of diversity, color and balance.
However, after spending a few weeks in her belly, the city of Dubai, I have concluded that taking the cream of crop from each country is not diversity, it is Social Darwinism. Dubai in particular is a melting pot of Gucci wearing, Bugatti driving, financially inclined hard workers. The city holds no concept of immigration. If someone is in Dubai they are either a tourist, an investor, or a worker on a sponsored VISA. If an Employee worked at an Employer and faced termination, said Employee would be left with three months to find a new job or is otherwise deported back to the motherland. A tourist cannot stay in the country for more than 60 days at a time. That essentially means that the majority of people in the UAE are lucky expatriate that are there to make money- hence cream of the crop.
Then of course, there are the natives of the UAE, also known as “the locals” of the country, however they are irrelevant to my point.
All of the criticism I’d like to present regarding the beacon of artificiality that is Dubai is significantly harder to argue with the existence of the millions of luxury rights and freedoms granted to the residents. Under the UAE, there are essentially no taxes. A newly married couple is provided with housing. Homelessness ceases to exist. Their gender wage-gap is shrinking as we speak. Maternity leave is paid to great extents. Pensions are generous. Healthcare is universal. Hunger usually lasts no longer than between meal to meal. Weight loss plans are government sponsored.
These irrefutably amazing welfare guarantees, however, lack but one element that makes the former absolutely irrelevant: the voice of the masses. Game plan for the UAE is as simple as the following: give the masses absolutely everything that they want and pray that they never challenge the government. The means by which the UAE is giving their residents everything they need at the price of their intellectual individuality is not ethical or moral to say the least. Human beings are incapable of such complacency, and eventually, opposition will arise. In fact, it already has- the government just shovels it under their overpriced carpets.
According to the Human Rights Watch, “UAE authorities have launched a sustained assault on freedom of expression and association since 2011. UAE residents who have spoken about human rights issues are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture. Many are serving long prison terms or have left the country under pressure”. A vividly clear example of this is the imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor, an outspoken UAE rights activist, for his critical Facebook and Twitter posts regarding the government.
These stories are endlessly common amidst the seven united provinces (Dubai being one of them). In addition to an internal social justice crisis, the UAE is notoriously responsible for supporting Machiavellian Saudi Arabia’s continued coalition attacks on Yemen.
The people of the UAE live in a trance. Just because they cannot feel the brutalities of their neighbors or mildly outspoken fellow citizens. Propaganda reaches its peak when the masses are convinced of freedom they could not be father from-a narrative the UAE has completely immersed itself in.
No amount of icing can make mud taste like cake. No amount of financial decoration and socialism can compensate for a lack of civic engagement. So to the government of the UAE, I say: you can keep your fancy chocolates and German cars. Freedom of expression cannot be bought.