≡ Menu

Day 561: Options

A South American friend, let’s call him B, recently moved to the States and informs us that what he finds the most astounding about this country is its plethora of options.  Having recently mastered English (in his own mind), B visited an American grocery store for the first time.  At the checkout counter, the cashier asked the customary, “Paper or plastic?”  “Cash,” B replied proudly.  Embarassed on learning that he was being asked what kind of bag he wanted, B skulked away to dinner.

At dinner, B was asked how he wanted his steak done.  “Why, cooked, of course,” B said with astonishment.  “No, no, do you want it rare, medium rare, medium, medium well or well done?”  Exasperated and amazed, B took the medium option.

So many picks.  Options.  Choices.  The land of the free offers so much variety … take a little, leave a little.  However, many forget that there is a vast difference between excess and freedom.  What use is a gilded cage, especially one we build up around ourselves? 

Of late, the United Arab Emirates is exploding with so much money they don’t know what to do with it.  Forget the amazing Burj Al-Arab, get a load of

The game is certainly afoot in the United Arab Emirates, it is “the place to be,” but at what cost?  A 2003 Human Rights Watch report cites that 90% of the Emirates’ workers are migrant labor and are paid poorly to work in hazardous settings.  Additionally, a State Department memo reports human rights abuses related to these workers, specifically those working as domestic help.

The first fifteen years of my life were spent in Kuwait, where I witnessed first-hand the treatment of highly-educated and dedicated foreign nationals at the nouveau-riche egos of their bosses.  My ultra-competent mother, who singlehandedly ran her division and represented Kuwait at UN meetings, would never make top banana because she was a) a woman and b) an Indian woman.  Yes, we lived and did extremely well in Kuwait, but would I want my parents to swallow that crap again, just to ensure good lives, educations and options for their children and respective families back in the Old Country?  No.  Will I ever live in a misogynist religious oligarchy again?  No.  Not for all the money in the world.  There is lifestyle and then there is life.

And that’s the difference between freedom and excess.  Freedom is equal rights for men, women and foreigners, the fair treatment and compensation of all labor, and political and religious freedom – it is choice, in the purest sense of the term.  Excess is the product of that labor held up above all else.   The hope of true freedom is what keeps me an American.

“Excess ain’t rebellion.”

8 comments… add one
  • Dambala March 12, 2007, 10:27 AM

    Hah! I spent two weeks in Dubai last April….speaking of guilded cages.

    Also…I’m highly suspect of Halliburton’s move to Dubai….35 miles across the Persian Gulf from Iran. Could they be setting up shop for the next big account?

  • Maitri March 12, 2007, 10:34 AM

    Most American oil companies are going more global and looking beyond North America for exploration targets. Traditional drilling companies such as Halliburton would actually do better with nationally-owned oil companies that need a behemoth to come in and do the work for them. And then there are the tax incentives.

  • TM March 12, 2007, 11:43 AM

    A simply beautiful post.

  • tamasha March 12, 2007, 4:05 PM

    I liked this post as well.

    The idea of a Louvre in Abu Dhabi does seem a little strange, but no one made a fuss when the Guggenheim opened branches in Berlin, Bilbao, Venice and… Vegas (well, ok some people made a fuss about Vegas). Is that because we don’t see Abu Dhabi as a center for art? And why is that? You’ve got me thinking…

  • Maitri March 12, 2007, 6:58 PM

    Modern Muslim nations aren’t open-minded about art, so I wonder what will be displayed there that qualifies as such in the Arab world. Censored art? Blessed art? Those are oxymorons, no?

  • tamasha March 12, 2007, 7:09 PM

    True – even “religious art” is limited, in a sense. Perhaps pieces that qualify more as “artifact” are best suited for L.A.D.

  • Maitri March 12, 2007, 7:13 PM

    Kuwait had a great historical and religious art collection, most of which was stolen or destroyed when the Iraqis invaded in 1990. Similarly, museums containing millenia of historical artifacts were lost forever during the American invasion of Iraq. I wonder if a plus point of the Louvre putting its stamp on an Arabian museum is better archival and security of the data should something untoward happen. Who knows what limit of liability they wish to assume?

    BTW, I love your blog and have entered it in my feedreader since Chai asked me to check it out. That Chai girl has good taste.

  • liprap March 13, 2007, 8:08 AM

    “Modern Muslim nations aren’t open-minded about art, so I wonder what will be displayed there that qualifies as such in the Arab world. Censored art? Blessed art?”

    Yes, I’ve wondered about that aspect of establishing a Western art museum in the Arab world.

    The Nazis had an exhibit of “degenerate art” ages ago, when they reached the zenith of their power – the exhibit, which featured the works of Cubists, Impressionists, and other pieces associated with modern art movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, also featured some religious works, but the art plundered from places like the Louvre and the museums and galleries of conquered countries – if it wasn’t carefully hidden or removed by curators and other souls – was brought right back to Berlin, because Hitler knew its worth, even if his propaganda condemned it.

    Western art in the Muslim world is a thornier prospect. The intertwining of religion and politics in Islam in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries makes this question even more important. The infamous destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan shows an utter disregard for historical worth and a preference for a suicide murder of the past.

    Money is talking in Abu Dhabi, for certain, if the Louvre is willing to open a branch in those environs. Unless they are sending the Victoire de Samothrace (Winged Victory) or La Gioconda over there, I personally don’t think I’ll be headed over there anytime soon – or ever.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: