Archive for the ‘Nido Generation’ Category

The movie 300: Orientalism, alive and well

March 29, 2007

A break from the facebook parts for a bit (will come back to them).

So I finally saw the movie 300 the other day. You know, the movie everyone has been talking about.

The graphics, shot sequences and animation were amazing. They’re probably the best thing out there so far. Every head chop, sword clash, and facial expression is captured in a way you’d be hard pressed to find in another movie already out there.

That said, there are some serious problems with the movie. The script, acting, and dialogue weren’t exactly stellar, but that’s only the beginning.

The main problem is the unbelievable Orientalism running throughout the whole movie. I mean my god, talk about Bernard Lewis or Thomas Friedman being orientalist, but this movie takes it to a whole different level.

Spartans are white, good-looking, muscular, strong, noble, manly, and fearsome warriors. They are also British (which is bizarre, considering that Spartans back in the day would’ve never heard of of the place) and Western. Each of them has a well defined personality and is given a human dimension. The Persian hordes (another orientalist stereotype with a long history) are ugly, sissies, faggots, lesbians (which is ironic, considering how homoerotic the Spartans are depicted as, with buffed up totally waxed and tanned guys strutting around in little more than thongs flexing their muscles. They are however of the “manly” type, and if we want to use local Bahraini metaphors they would definitely not be “takers”, where they even at one point refer to Athenians (known for their “taking” and “giving”) as something along the line of “boy lovers”), disrespectful of women, and evil. Most of them (the Persians) are faceless (literally), lack independent personalities or free will, are pretty much machines that follow orders, and are dehumanized to a point where you cannot really say they are people. Their sole goal in life is to wreak havoc and destruction. They are the inferior, unattractive, immmoral and deluded “other”, the complete opposite and mirror image of spartans. Spartans love to rant on about defending freedom, justice and that sort of banter (with their king sounding in the process like a hyper coked-up George W. Bush). In fact, their whole objective in the movie is to defend their civilization, freedom, justice, etc. from the invading barbarians from the east. In contrast the Persians are ruled by a highly authoritarian king who is the antithesis of all of that. Sounds familiar ?

Basically, the Persians are all the bad stereotypes you can think of and more rolled into one. They are evil incarnate. The Spartans, although with fault, defend many of the honourable things in life. The two sides stand in stark contrast to each other and each is used to highlight and accentuate the characteristics of the other side (the evil persians serve to emphasize how good the spartans are, and the noble spartans serve to emphasize how evil the Persians are). And just to throw a spanner into the works, the movie uses the age-old tactic of conflating different vulnerable groups together as well as throwing in a few horrible traits in the mix just to play one group against the other. Thus, to take one example, Persians are often Black or of dark-skin colour. This, when combined with the undesirable traits listed above (being evil, devoid of free will,etc), creates a jumbled up picture of the different groups in which each can percieve a fault in and a reason to hate the other. Thus those who identify more with persians might feel agrieved that they have been likened to blacks or blacks might feel agrieved that they have been likened to persians, and this grievance stems mainly from being associated with the bad characteristics (evil, no free will) that are identified with the other group in the movie, and not from being associated with the other group itself. IN OTHER WORDS (and to simplify this convoluted argument), in the movie blacks might be associated with persians (or vice versa), and this might piss off some people that identify themselves as black (or persian) because in the process the bad traits of being evil hoards, etc that are identified with persians translate over to their group. Unfortunately some Iranian bloggers have fallen into this trap and have started voicing objections to Persians being depicted as “black” or of “African origin.” This is unfortunate as this makes them vulnerable to the accusation of being racist, although it is fundamentally the movie that shows strong overtones of racism.

This is of course to say nothing of historical factual (in)accuracies (which I will not go into since I have no expertise whatsoever on the subject. Pretty much the only thing I’ve ever read that focuses mainly on this is Persian Fire by Tom Holland, from which I take any information mentioned about the battle here). Technically, it is concievable that someone could make an argument that the film is broadly true in terms of historical events, with certain events that did happen (e.g. a battle in a narrow passing) being highlighted in the movie. That’s not the point, however. The point is in the way these events were depicted and how one side was demonized while the other elevated to hero-like status. I could just as well make a movie about the American civil war that is broadly accurate in terms of the events’ time line but that depicts Yankees or Southerners as effeminate, ugly, evil, bloodsucking monsters who like to eat babies for breakfast and unborn feotesus for dinner while drinking fermented vaginal blood as wine.

One person told me, “but in the beginning of the movie it is obvious that the narrator is Spartan, and so this movie is told from point of the view of the ancient Greeks (which historical records show was in the main (obviously) very anti-persian) and this excuses the depicition and the viewer knows that.” I sincerely doubt that 95% of those who watched it realized that. I’ve had more than one person tell me this is based on true events, and the movie leaves beyond doubt as to whose side your affections should lie and who you should be cheering. Some people excuse it by saying it is a ficitional story albeit loosely based on true events and hence should not be taken seriously (which is an argument the producers and the company that made the movie used). This does not wash either. As mentioned before, many people failed to realize that the movie is a pure work of fiction (beyond realizing that monsters are fictitious). For many people this is the first time that they ever hear about this battle or event in history, and if I am to make a rash statement I bet most people will come out from that movie actually believing that the Spartans were indeed in the right, that they were the good guys while the Persians were the evil and bad guys. i.e. they will come out believing that the spartans really were the goodies and the Persians really were the baddies. The movie obviously also tries to make a strong connection to the actual historical events, or why would so many historical occurences be reproduced in the movie? If the whole point was a fictional story loosely based on the original events, then it would make much more sense just to make up events as one goes along and not relate it so much to the actual historical events. The fact that there has been such a great effort to stick to the broad historical timeline of events suggests strongly that there was a concerted effort to try to present the movie as broadly “historically accurate”, if one disregards the fantasy-novels features in it (e.g. monsters), and indeed this is what many people have argued about it!

If one does believe this, and he/she does swallow the movie’s take on historical events (while disregarding the fantasy noverl parts) then one most probably will also gullibly swallow the ideas in the movie of the Persians being the baddies, ugly, devoid of free will, effeminate, etc (for these themes are not logically related in anyway to the fantasy parts of the movie). Unfortunately this I fear is what many people will come out of the movie believing.

One person has argued to me that the movie is so bombastic, so in-your-face, so crassly racist that in fact it is just one big irony. In reality, the makers were depicting the American government as the Persians and the local populations defending against invasion (e.g. Iran, Iraq) as the Spartans. After all, it is the Persians (in the movie) who similar to the American government are invading other territories and are made up of an array of armies from all around the world , and it is the Spartans like Iran or Iraq who are defending their countries. This, although a nice thought, is completely dillusional. To believe this you would have to assume that everything in the movie is supposed to stand for the opposite of what it stands for. The Spartans, who are white, talk about democracy and justice, very independent-minded, etc, should instead stand for people who are invariably depicted in the Western media as the complete opposite of these traits. That just sounds utterly ridiculous to me. Indeed, since time immemorial the battle of Thermopylae specifically and the war(s) between the ancient Greeks and Persians generally have often been held as a defining moment of the “west and “western civilization” in contrast to “the east”, “the orient”, etc. Montaigne, Byron, John Stuart Mill, and Hegel, to name but a few, all commented on this.

It is hard not to conclude that this movie is a racist propaganda piece of the most in-your-face and no-subtlety-whatsoever type. It is not the first (“Rambo 3” versus. the soviets comes to mind, although this pales in comparison and looks like a model of sensitivity/evenhandedness when compared to 300) nor is it the last. It also takes on a heightened dimension when one takes into account that the U.S./U.K vs. Iran governments are in an adversarial standoff at the moment in real life, with the former constantly using arguments about democracy, freedom, lack of self expression etc to discredit the latter (not to mention the fact that many people are talking about a “clash of civilization” now between “muslims” and the “west” with the west being the “superior civilization” that should be defended, and this movie will only serve to fuel such talk). And indeed many people have not failed to take notice of this. Just look at some of the comments being written about 300 on the internet. Many liken the Spartans’ experience to the American government and America’s war on terror. Others explicitly identify Spartans with Israel (which is not a new idea. Israel, described as a small, paranoid and highly militarized nation that seeks to dominate and exploit its neighbours by force has often been compared to Sparta).

The apologist for the movie try to defend it by using a banal “it is a fictional story” excuse. One could easily imagine a movie about the Crusades or a battle between the Byzantines and the Arabs which also depicts Arabs and muslims in an equally bombastic and horrendous manner.

To take an extreme example, Leni Riefenstahl’s (of the Nazi propaganda movie “Triumph of the Will” fame) experience show that masterpieces of art can unfortunately be used to produce questionable propaganda (it is interesting that Hitler himself explicitly compared the German 6th army to the Spartan 300. In fact, the battle of Thermopylae has been often used in Nazi propaganda). It is a shame that such amazing use of graphics and technology was used to produce a shamelessly Orientalist piece of propaganda as 300.

Orientalism, nearly 30 years after the publication of Said’s groundbreaking book with the same name, is still unfortunately alive and well.

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Facebook and Nido – Part 2: “Moderates”

March 27, 2007

Back to facebook. So you browse along the profiles of some people. You look at what is listed in political viewpoints. It’s always the same: liberal, moderate, or apathetic.

Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? I doubt it. Let’s focus on “moderate” for this post.

Indeed why should nido be anything but moderate? He enjoys the best that his society has to offer: fancy restaurants, flashy cars, big houses, we’ve been through the list before. His present life might not be perfect, but it is damn pretty good when compared with 95% of the world, let alone his country. You get the great comfy things that life has to offer: long free-time hours that could be spent playing playstation or watching tv, nice food, nice cushy beds, comfy cars, why would you want to endanger any of that by being a “radical” or an “extremist”?

I should say from the start that I absolutely loathe the term “moderate”. It has been so frequently abused and misused that it has become nothing but a smokescreen for something else. We have recently been hit with a tirade of mainstream media outlets proclaiming Saudi Arabia as “moderate”. This in a country where opposition is ruthlessly crushed, women are not allowed to drive, public hangings are common, and even crucifixions happen. Of course, the other lucky “moderates” that join this prestigious club are jordan and egypt. The first is a rolemodel for police states everywhere, where authoritarian regimes all around the world exhalt their admiration on how jordan is able to police its inhabitants. The second, well, a country that for the past 5000 years has always been at the centre of the world, and low and behold this “moderate regime” comes along and makes egypt less relevant than even its neighbours.

No one needs to be told that what makes these regimes “moderate” is their acquiescence to American and (more recently) Israeli interests, or to put it less kindly, they are American puppets. Similarly, when a nidoer is described as moderate, all this means is that he is happy with the status quo, that no drastic changes should happen to the forces in society, and that everything should by and large stay as it is in the society that concerns him.

In this crazy world, where regimes such as those in Saudi Arabia and Jordan are exhalted as “moderates”, one seriously has to question the choice of words being used. This is like calling homer simpson “rational” because in the viewpoint of dunkin’ doughnuts he is rational since he eats a lot of doughnuts. Words indeed do seem to lose all meaning.

So let us go back to square one and ask what does this “moderate” mean, particularly in a political setting? One would like to think that “moderate” would stand for even handedness, an ability to consider all viewpoints, maybe even being fair, objective, and balanced in their approach of viewing issues. Moderate might even carry an air of giving equal chance to differing viewpoint to express themselves and choosing the most reasonable sounding of them. Indeed, we are accustomed to associate “nice” and “good” traits with being “moderate”. Contrast this with the term “extremist”, which from the beginning is surrounded by a negative vibe to it. Indeed, you don’t find many nidoers describing their political viewpoints as “extremist” on facebook.

If one digs deeper into the term “moderate” it becomes obvious that, from the standpoint of nidoers at least, the term “moderate” stands for none of the above nice qualities listed. Moderate instead should be read as “not wanting much changes to the status quo” or “not having the guts to ask for changes to the status quo” or “acquiescing or meekly accepting whatever the status quo is”. This “acceptance of the status quo” could be because it is in one’s interest or because of other motives e.g. out of fear. In the case of nidoers it is definitely because it is in their interest. Remember, they get the flashy cars, jobs, partners, houses. Why wouldn’t they be “moderate”?

The bizarre implications of this immediately come up. Under this definition, people who would’ve asked for the abolition of slavery in Spartan times would be called extremists, while those who advocated some sort of compromise on slavery to continue would be “moderates”, since it was the accepted norm. And indeed most probably they were called “extremists” and “moderates” respectively. Similarly, someone who asked for women rights a couple of centuries ago would be an extremist, while those who preferred seeing women as breeding machines were moderates.

This brings us to the other feature of being “moderate”. Moderate is also usually taken to mean “not wanting to upset either side”, or “taking on all positions at the same time”. Now taking both sides into account is in no way a bad thing, but in this case it is taken to such an extreme that matters of principle or justice are simply completely swept to one side just to reach what is conveniently called a “middle ground”. Thus a moderate will always try to somehow make a watered-down synthesis of the differing positions, even if one position is obviously in the right and the other is obviously in the wrong. So, to take an extreme example, if you have a rapist and the person he raped, instead of standing with the person raped, a moderate will try to reach some sort of “middle ground” between both sides. Basically, anything will do that does not change the status quo or rock the boat too much.

It is obvious that the meaning of the term “moderate” shifts endlessly, and that it can stand for many different things depending on the usage. It is also obvious from what has been said before that “Moderate” does not seem to have any intrinsic good to it, at least in the political sphere. It could apply equally as well to reprehensible ideas as to more enlightened ones. In fact, in many cases “moderate” is most probably associated with reactionary, fossilized and quite horrible ideas that do not want much to change in society and are in direct opposition to more enlightened, heck maybe even “radical” ideas. In fact, “moderate”, as we have seen is a term very commonly applied to blur the reality surrounding an issue, to envelope it in a screen where reprehensible ideas might appear to be good and “moderate” while more progressive ideas appear as “extreme.” One only needs to list the people that have been at one point or another called “extreme” by their “moderate” adversaries: the prophet Mohammed, Jesus, George Washington, etc.

And the moderation of nidoness definitely fits this bill. It is for life continuing as it is right now. No disturbances please. As ranted on before, we have become absolutely accustomed and take for granted the luxuries of life in an oil economy. Seriously, can many nidoers imagine life as a radical, as an “opposition” figure? This entails coming into conflict with the government and also other nidoers, and they would definitley fight back. Your nido life could be seriously hurt quite easily if you don’t back down. They could for example cut away your water, your electricity, your mobile line, or hurt your dear ones. Could you imagine a life without internet, ipods, starbucks coffees, dvds, cable channels, your car, your mobile, i.e. life’s luxuries, let alone living without life’s necessities, e.g. water, electricity, and a home? What if you lost your job? What will happen to your “career”? What if they throw you in jail? Could you imagine living without the trappings of the 21st materialist lifestyle? Could you imagine living with the shame and the looks other nidoers will give you? I can’t.

Nido no doubt knows this, and so he hates anything political that might cramp his style. Any issue that is very “political” or “radical”, no matter how just and righteous the cause might be, is ignored and pushed to the margins. Let us take the palestinian tragedy as an example. You would be hard pressed to find in the last sixty years a more brutal, inhumane, and unjust situation as this. On the one hand you have a racist ideology that colonized and settled a land far away from those who dremt up the ideology, in the process ethnically cleansing the local people, wiping more than 500 villages of the face of the earth, creating the largest number of refugees in thh world (6 million plus), getting into five extra wars with its neighbours, while also militaily occupying the west bank and gaza for 40 years, building a 730m long wall that completely circles many cities and renders them prisons while also stealing about 47% of the West Bank land, stealing most of the water sources of the WestBank Jordan and Lebanon, while also setting up a system of apartheid both inside israel and in the occupied lands. The list can go and on and on. In the face of this the other side…. well… it has apparently “conducted terrorist activities”, and the zionists and their apologists would be eager to tell you that this justifies all of what has been mentioned above and more.

Now how many nidoers do you know that really do care about the Palestine crisis, and this in an Arab country that is supposed to offer brotherly solidarity? Most nidoers I know don’t give a damn about Palestine. They might pay lip service to it just to keep up the facade of solidarity. At most they might offer a vacuous and vague statement about “I want peace for everyone,” something so vacant and banal as to not to offend anybody. You see, Palestine is just too political an issue, even if justice and solidarity require one to stand with the palestinians. It is an issue that causes too much trouble, rouses too many emotions, and rocks the boat too much. Western media outlets (which are the ones a nidoer relies on, that is if he follows news at all) invariably depict Palestinians as the extremists, the Israelis as the moderats, and any kind of just solution to the palestinians is depicted as a big no-no (too impractical, it is not “moderate”, threatens the existence of Israel, you name the excuse). And you sincerely want the nidoer to take a strong stand on this?

Compare this with something like, say… environmental concern and recycling (which, don’t get me wrong, are very noble causes). Here is a nice not too controversial or political thing that nidoers can do. Who would object to recycling? Who has any problem with saving the environment? That is why if you find any activism at all within nidoers, the majority of it will be of the inoffensive “here is a safe and not- too political thing to do.” Why bother with something as contentious and political as the Palestinian problem?

The truth is that most nidoers simply don’t care and have no interest in the matter. It is far away from them, has absolutely no connection to the nido life they live, and it cannot bring anything but bad news to their way of life. Please, just stay the hell away. Do whatever you want. Bomb the place, burn it, flip it around, as long as it does not affect me I’m not bothered. Maybe I’ll grumble and murmur a bit while watching CNN, but it won’t go any further than that.

So here we have it. The “moderation” of nido is of the apathetic type. It is of the “look life is good as it is. I’m too indulged in my Starbucks latte or my Playstation game to give a damn about opposing or voicing objection to some sort of political oppression” type.

Edward Said summed it up brilliantly:

‘Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship.”

The stakes are simply too high in terms of what a nido stands to lose. It just is not worth the hassle to deal with issues that bring different societal forces into conflict. Hence it’s best to be “moderate” or “apathetic”, or stick to nice sanitized issues such as “recycling” or “protect the environment” which everyone can agree on. It does not matter that the nidoer’s lifestyle is (as argued before) not sustainable in the long run. It does not matter that a nidoer’s moderation or his position in society causes so much harm and oppression to others, draining the limited resources of a smally country with a high density of people. Sod that, it is their problem and they have to live with it. It’s best that things stay pretty much as they are. Failing that, we should all go collect recyclable rubbish together and chant about how great the world is.

Indeed this brings us to dissent, or lack of it, in the nido bubble. Philosophers since Socrates have been emphasizing the important role that dissent, criticism and objection plays in a society. John Stuart Mill highlighted it in warning against the tyranny of the majority and benefits that alternative non-mainstream viewpoints bring to the discussion, while others like the Frankfurt school lamented the disappearance of critical forces within society. I doubt anyone will object to the great advantages dissent in general and viewpoints that differ from the norm bring to a society. The problem is this has been pretty much crushed in nido circles. If there is dissent at all it is over minor and tangential issues that do not touch the core, such as (to take a random example) e.g. whether a particular minister is good or not. No one would dare question the government as a whole. That is taken for granted and criticism is a big no-no.

Indeed it is as if the imagination of nidoers for an alternative future has been fossilized, decapitated by a lifestyle that drugs you with nice starbucks coffees and mirai sushis. No one is even capable of contemplating a radically different future, let alone actively struggling for it. It is best to conform to the status quo, enjoy the leisures that life has to offer, adapt to the reality, and shut the hell up.

Does this mean that nido will never rise, never object, never fight back? Noooo… of course not. A nidoer will rise and voice opposition, but only when something threatens his interests and the status quo. He is a reactionary. Whether it is Islamists threatening his liberty to drink johnnie walker (more on this in the next post on liberalism) or it is egalitarian forces that are asking for a more equal distribution of the country’s resources. It doesn’t matter. It could be socialists, islamists, shias, sunnis, labourers, unions, etc. Whatever threatens his narrow interests nido will hit back at and will hit back with force. After all nido is the upper class in the society, which necessarily puts him in conflict with other forces in society but also gives him a lot of power, resources, and leverage to hit back with and to defend the privileges come with being part of the upper class.

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So is it all doom and gloom? Well, people always have a choice to make, no matter how hard or difficult the circumstances are. The question is can we as nidoers make a stand, or are we doomed to a life of reactionary apathy? This is a call out for people out there, nidoers particularly, to stand up and show dissent and opposition. Society needs to be analyzed, criticized, and serious alternatives put forward for reform. It is especially important to be able to criticize oneself and the societal position one is in. It is much easier to criticize and put the blame on Islamists, poor people, “radicals”, “the other”. It is much harder to look into the mirror, at your friends, at your social class and criticize what you see. It is however absolutely essential, particularly with the amazing political apathy that plagues us as nidoers.

Myself being a nidoer, all I have the guts to do is to hide behind a pseudonym and put up these posts. If you’re braver and are able to do it in the open, then all kudos and good luck to you. If you’re like me, then the least we can do is post more or discuss the issues more openly and online. Either way, dissent, opposition, and serious viable alternatives and visions are now needed more than ever before.

P.S. This post started off supposedly being about facebook. I’m not sure where facebook fits in but i’m sure it is relevant somewhere.

Facebook and Nido – Part 1

March 26, 2007

It is the hippest new thing in town. If you’re yet to participate in the phenomenon that is Facebook you better get moving with the times, especially if you’re a nidoer. Anyone who’s someone is on it: highschool students, university students, investment bankers, consulants, accountants, the list goes on and on.

So what is facebook? It’s basically an online social utility to practice voyeurism, whether you are the one being voyeured on or whether you are voyeuring on others. You add friends and join “networks”. You are then able to keep up with “updates” about what others in your networks or friendlists are doing. These networks can be your university, your school, your company, or even as general as “Bahrain”. You can see their pictures, what books and movies they like, what friends they have, their political viewpoints, whether they are single or in a relationship, and even what they are up to every day. You can join groups that you like, such as “I love Prison Break!”, “In memory of Saif El Arab – Saddam Hussein”, and “sexy, hot, arab women and proud of it. “Heck you can even play a “friends game”, where you have to guess your friends favourite books, their political viewpoint, etc.

And it is an absolute phenomenon. Stories abound about universities where half of their server capacity was dedicated to facebook surfing and subsequently had to be shut down. Pretty much every young person in the west and every nidoer around the world (but not only them exclusively) has joined the legions of facebook.

Yes it’s a great way of keeping in touch with friends, but everyone knows that it goes way beyond that. In fact I bet that facebook is one of the primary sources for the CIA and other intelligence agencies if they want to find out anything about anyone. With a couple of clicks of a mouse you can find out what a person’s political viewpoint are, who his friends are, what books interest him, his pictures, what he does for a living, and most importantly the groups he joins. If someone joins the groups “friends of Palestine”, or “friends of Israel”, or “Save Darfur!” or “I am a libertarian and proud of it”, you can get a good idea of his political leanings and viewpoints. As a source for finding information about someone, it equals and maybe even surpasses anything that google can offer.

Anyway that is only one of the interesting things one can read into facebook. The coolest thing about facebook is the insights and revelations it gives you about its users. Facebook must be a minefield for anthropologist and cultural and societal commentators, and I am sure that tons of studies/comments will abound about facebook. Since this is a blog mainly concerned with the nido society, I will limit my focus (it will be polemical and informal obviously) for the moment to this.

And my god there is so much to say if we focus mainly (but not exclusively) on the nidoers on facebook. For example, how is it in a society that is renowned for its emphasis on personal privacy and “not spreading your laundry in front of your neighbours”, how is it that a phenomenon that shows complete disregard for the aforementioned trait has grown so considerably? Here are people plastering information and pictures about themselves on pretty much a daily (if not more) basis. People update their status hourly. “nido is sleeping.” ” Nido is feeling great!” “Nido is taking the biggest smelliest dump ever.” “Nido is getting jiggy with his/her girlfriend/boyfriend.” I swear I have seen pictures of people in bikinis, holding beer bottles and french kissing plastered all over facebook (remember that they or their friends are actually the ones who post these pictures) , and this is in Bahrain! And all you have to do to view their profiles is join the network they are on (e.g. Bahrain).

Anyway, this will not be my main concern in my next few posts (and this facebook sensation definitely needs at least a few posts to even just scratch its surface), although I will keep coming back to it. I will be more interested in what this Facebook reveals about nidoers, the society(ies) they constitute and are part of , and indeed how facebook has helped shape and add to the nido generation phenomenon.

More to come on this in the next post. In the meantime, if you’ve been living on another planet you are sincerely advised to check out the phenom that is Facebook! If you’re already a seasoned facebooker, please let us know what you think of it!

To Mirai or Not To Mirai?

February 19, 2007

A more laid back and not so intense post for a change. I hope you enjoy!

The head chef at Mirai has honoured me by commenting on this blog.

Why? Well in a previous post I mentioned the restaurant. Well, mentioned is a bit of an understatement. I absolutely panned the restaurant. I admit my words were too harsh, and that they were mainly intended as a rant, so I can understand why he is fuming when I’ve described his restaurant as a “dump”. However, I stand by my overall opinion: The food in the place is very mediocre, and that when one takes into account the sky-high prices it is just not worth it in terms of food. I also maintained that most of the people I know go there for the “atmosphere” and to see and be seen. The standard nido argument… etc .. etc…

Now although this was never the main point of the article and it definitely was not intended to be a flashpoint, in true nido style quite an interesting thread has developed in the comments section regarding this topic, with those for and against Mirai. So I wanted to put the question to the wider (nido) public: What do you think of Mirai? Is the food any good? Is it too expensive? Why do you go there? Is it to see and be seen? Is it for the food? How does it compare to other restaurants in Bahrain and world-wide? I and I hope the chef would be very interested in hearing your opinions.

Nido and Oil: Keep on Dreaming, and the Kids Will Hate

January 31, 2007

What’s Nido’s favourite drink?

Nido Milk? Wrong. A nidoer would never be caught drinking Nido. It’s too low class. He’ll most probably drink Danone instead.

Johnny Walker or Jack Daniel? Mr. Nido definitely loves his whiskey, but this doesn’t even approach his addiction to the liquid in question.

The answer is oil.

Is there any poor soul out there who’s still dillusional about how we are completely dependant on oil? About the sad reality that every aspect of our life and indeed our life itself has been shaped, dictated, and defined by oil?

Look around you. That ultra cool and silent Japanese Air Conditioner is due to oil. That swanky latest edition Swedish phone has been bought by oil. The philipino maid that sweeps your house, cooks your food and cleans your clothes is here because of oil. That German car, those American fast food shops, and even your Itlalian designed and Chinese made underwear.

Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that Bahrain has diversifie from oil. That’s utter and complete rubbish. “But wait!”, you say, ” oil Oil only makes up 11% of our GDP!” Yes, but it makes up 76% of government revenue. Yup, a whopping three quarters.

Still don’t get it? Well let’s take a detour into that murky and shady world of economics. You see, pretty much every thing in the country is dependant on that precious black gold. Oil pays the wages of government sector employees, which constitute two third of bahrainis employed . These wages in turn are used to pay for the Shawarmas, the cars, the computers, the houses we build, and the maids who sweep these houses. The money that is paid to the shops and companies that provides these goods become the wages of the workers in these companies and the profits of the hamoors (fat cats) who own them. We of course all know that the other third of bahraini workers and the expat workers (who constitute 67% of the workforce in Bahrain) are paid from these wages. They in turn spend their wages on shwarmas, cars, maids, houses, and the cycle goes on. In the case of expats a big chunk of their wages are sent oversees to never be seen again the economy.

You see, although oil constitutes 11% of the GDP, it is the most important component of GDP. It is the fuel (notice the pun) that propels the rest of the economy. Take away the oil and you take away the Shawarmas, the cars, the maids and the ACs.

Yes, you might say, my daddy worked hard to provide me with CK underwear. Yes, you might say, he opened a business to buy me the latest car for me. Unfortunately the money that makes up his wages and profits started from that good old fountain of oil. Take away the oil and the government can no longer pay his wages and people can no longer afford to buy his company goods.

But wait, what about that Banking sector? That glorious sector that is the pride and joy of Bahrain? Come on, you know better than that. Did you know the Banking sector employs a whopping 7200 people, including expats? Let me repeat that, including expats, and we all know how much expats constitute of the work force. Did you know that Bahrain’s Bahraini workforce is more than 120,000 (this is a rant, not an economic study, so don’t expact exact numbers), and it is growing every year? Now let us be generous and assume all of those 7200 are Bahrainis. In fact let us be even more generous and assume the country’s bank sector has a massive boom and suddenly there are 14,000 jobs, all filled by Bahrainis. That’s still less than 15% of the local workforce that the banking sector can employ. What are you gonna do with the rest?

Let us not forget as well that the money that fuels these banks is all oil money. It’s rich Saudis and Kuwaitis depositing their money in Banks like ABC and Investcorp. What are those banks going to do when the oil money dries up?

Formula 1? Really? How many BAHRAINIS can the Formula 1 employ on a regular basis (I’m not talking here about ushers that work one week out of the whole year)? 500? 1000? 10,000? Let’s be serious here. I mean…. does the Formula one even make money? How exactly is it going to rake in the money for the government?

Amwaj? Durrat Al Bahrain? Riffa views? Besides the ecological disaster that will ensue because of turning a desert into the French Riviera (what the hell are they thinking with Riffa views? The country is a desert for a reason. You can’t just screw nature and turn it into an English Countryside!), how exactly is this going to benefit the country? Besides the drain on the limited water and electricity resources to fund this Shenanigan, how many Bahrainis are going to be employed on this project? You think most of the builders out there at the moment and the employees and waitresses they’ll subsequently bring will be Bahraini? Do you even think most of the people that can afford houses on these projects will be Bahraini?

How about we just depend on “al keyada al rasheedah” (the wise leadership) and their economic management genius? I see…. so in the nineties when we were in a severe recession (which, by pure coincidence I assure you, is when the oil prices dropped considerably) did our glorious and wise rulers lose their deft econmic touch for a decade? Do you seriously think they will be our saviours?

Our glorious rulers, I can assure you, have more than enough money to satisfy themselves, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, their great great grandchildren and then some. When it all hits the fan and the oil runs out they can all afford to have nice houses in marbella and London to flock off to. What are you going to do?

You know, it’s not a a very hard and complicated formula to become a modern independent economy. You don’t need a legion of Economists, McKinsey consultants, and wise leaders to come up with a plan. Look at every goddamn country that has managed to develop. You need three things: education, strong industries, and a governmental and legal structures to support them. Look at Japan, Korea, Ireland. Those guys had sod all in terms of natural resources. They, however, built impressive industries, well educated labour force, and an impressive governmental and legal structure to support it. It’s not an extremely complicated formula. The hard part comes in executing this plan and in having the finances for it. It’s that good old economic dillemma: How in hell can I get the finances and money to build a modern industrial economy and the institutions and educational structrues to support it?

Now we in the Gulf have been given a great gift by god. We got oil. Good old sweet black gold. While other countries have to fret about where to get the finances, we literally have got oil to pay for it. Hell, we don’t even have to work hard to get this oil. You literally dig the ground and it sprouts out. No Siberian grim winters or deep reservoirs to worry about. It’s literally at ground level, and it’s even at a slant so that once you dig a whole and put a pipe in the glorious stuff spouts out of its own accord! You literally can put your feet up, lay back and relax!

The problem is we have put up our feet and just relaxed. Do we take that money and invest it in building moderny sustainable industries and in our education system? Of course not. We go wasting it on Merdeses, sushi bars, large fountains and Riffa views.

Do you know that Cambridge University’s total endowment is 4.1 billion pounds? This is of course including its land and buildings that it can’t do much about? Do you know that the gulf has spent more than 600 billion dollars on its defense in the last 20 years? YES, 600 BILLION. CASH. 600 GODDAMN BILLION. IN CASH. That is such a high number it sounds like one of those massive numbers that people spout out to show how ridiculous something is, like when you go “600 gazillion trillion billion.” Do we have ONE world class university to show for it? Nope, we’ve got universities that set up shop in shopping malls to make money. Do we have ONE world class research institution? Hell, we don’t even have a decent army! Der3 el Jazeera ou Der3 al Jazeera. The island shield and the island shield. Well that 600 billion piece of wonder didn’t even survive seven hours against Saddam’s army.

We all heard ancient fairytales or relligious stories about a destitute and poor society that was suddenly blessed by god and suddenly had a massive treasure dropped on them from the sky (in our case from under our feet). Does this society thank the stars for its fortune? Does it try to utilize this fortune into developing itself and creating more growth? Nope, it starts spending it on luxuries and leisurely goods. It starts to get arrogant. It forgets how it used to be poor and how lucky it is in the fortune it came across. It become addicted to its materialistic lifestyle, consuming more and more and growing fatter and fatter.

It is ironic that we never learn from history or from fairy tails. Any creature with an IQ of a sunflower seed can tell that this is not sustainable. Any bozo can fathom that this oil glut is not sustainable and that we should take this limited resource and invest maturely into industries that will sustain the economy of the country. Isn’t it pretty simple? Oil is non-renewable and limited resource. Hence, we should take this great fortune and invest it into something renewable and sustainable.

We however have been drugged by the effects of oil. We have ceased to look at the world rationally. Our minds and senses have been enchanted by the swanky cars, the luxury houses, the servants who do our every bidding. We have closed our eyes on our reality in order to enjoy this dream of a materialistic lifestyle. Isn’t it amazing how our entire life has been consumed by oil? How it has shaped our houses, roads, cars jobs? That black, guey, lifeless, substance? Heck, it has even taken over our thoughts, creating in front of us a mirage of a well functioning easygoing lifestyle that can last forever. How can this commodity have come to control us nay even enslave us so thoroughly?

We have become dependant on oil for everything. We have become like a fat grotesque goblin that is absolutely addicted to the black guey substance. This obese creature lies there with tubes coming out of his every edifice pumping oil into hiim to sustain him. He is so fat that he can’t even move and be productive. He has to shower that black gold on others in order to build his house, feed him, and clean up his mess. He literally cannot even sustain himself, let alone sustain a job to pay for his grotesque lifestyle.

Has he forgotten so quickly how harsh life can be? Has he forgotten the days when he was an agile scrawny person who had to take on the sea for months on end, dodging sharks and infections, in order to fetch a small pearl? Has the coolness of the A/C made him forget the unforgiving heat of the sun, when had to slave away on the fields for hours on end? Has oil blinded his memory towards the fountain of life that the sea and the fertile land has provided him with for thousands of years? Has his betrayal reached the level of killing them in order to build a few artifical islands and palaces to satisfy his unsatiable greed? Is he oblivious that the oil will run out, and that when he will need the sea and the palms in order to survive, he’ll realize that he has killed his life-long friends for a whimsical desire?

What in hell are you going to do when the oil runs out? What will you get up to when the banks’ oil funds dry up and they leave? Will you go pearl diving? We have already killed the sea and the Japanese have developed synthetic pearls. Will you catch fish? We have already driven them away by building on them fake islands. Will you grow palm trees? You have cut them down and used their land for houses, their water for your backgarden. Will you sell Halwa or make a few 7asalat pottery?

You can’t forever expect that oil will import everything for you. You can’t forever import cars. You can’t forever import your food. You can’t forever import workers to build your roads, your houses, to serve your food, to cook for you, and to clean after you. You can’t import education, industy, and development. These require planning and hard work. You can’t simply just import a life by oil and then not expect that life to vanish when you no longer have oil.

Can’t we see how oil has become the source of life for us? From our underwear to our jobs? Can’t we see that it has become our life? Can’t we see that this drug has created an illusion, a la la land dream life that is unsustainable?

What will it take? Our kids and grandkids stoning our graves and going , “You bastards. God gave you this gift that you didn’t even have to work hard for, and you wasted it all on usless stuff like sushi, Mercedes, and a massive fountain? On top of this you killed all the land and the sea and left me with nothing? Is this what I have to show for your wealth ? A goddamn fountain?”

When will we wake up?

When will we wake up?

Keep on dreaming, and I’ll shut up.

Laziness, Babu, Goddamn Economists and Nido

January 25, 2007

The biggest fallacy in Economics that has been gulped up by many a nidoers is this:

Poor people are lazy, dumb, and less productive. Hence they deserve to be poor and can only blame themselves for the situation they’re in. We, on the other hand, are smart, hardworking, efficient, and well educated. Hence we deserve to be rich.

We have all heard many a nidoers use this ridiculous line before. I have great English, I am very well educated, I am hardworking, and hence I deserve all the money that I get. In fact I probably deserve more money. Poor people on the other hand have pitiful English, most likely haven’t even finished school, they are goddamn lazy, they demand too much, and hence deserve zilch.

Let’s take this argument point by point, Mr. Nidoer. First education. Good old nido went to a private school, probably the best there is in the country. How did he get in? Well, Daddy’s money to be sure. He got the best teachers, the best facilities, and the best (American) text books there are. Heck, he even had a nice shiny Mercedes driven by his private chauffeur that drops him right at the front door. No spending was spared on the coolest and latest fashion attire, school bags, shoes, and pencil cases.

Good old nido gets the chance to take classes no other schools in Bahrain can offer. He can learn to play an instrument; heck he can even buy that instrument. Not that he’ll play it much, he’ll get bored after a month or two. He can even take a class in a third language (third being a very generous term here, considering the state of his arabic); French or something. It is doubtful that he’ll learn anything in French except watching a few softcore French nudity movies. Still, it’ll be handy on his CV when he applies to those illustrious jobs.

Even with all these endowments, good old Nido still barely averages a C, and when he gets a B- the world turns upside down. Parties and celebrations ensue, and mommy and daddy each get him a watch or a playstation to celebrate this historical moment.

That playstation unfortunately has some side effects. A nidoer’s grades fluctuate up and down. Hell he even might fail a year or even two. Mummy and Daddy have to pay for personal tuting at a whopping 20BD an hour for the best tutors, and still good old Nido struggles.

Finally nidoman graduates. It’s a glorious C- but who really cares. Nidoman had the time of his life in high school flirting with girls and playing videogames. A big bash ensues in order to celebrate his achievement. No graduation ceremonies, parties and feasts are spared. He is showered with gifts. Daddy gets him a Porsche, mommy a rolex. Cousins and friends chip in with ties, cufflinks, videogames, and good old money. What a glorious time.

Mr. Nido needs to go to university. That C- and failed years don’t look very good on his transcript. No worries. Daddy’s money comes to the rescue. For there are many a university that’ll push and shove in order to sign up Mr. Nido. No one can turn down good old Nido cash. The world is his oyster. There is the UK, the U.S, Australia, maybe even Canada. Heck, Mr. Nido will probably sample all of them. He’ll probably start in the U.K. He’ll fail his first year and need to go somewhere else. Well, why not Canada? You go there and spend a few more years bumming around, smoke dope, drink up, sleep around, and then you fail again. Well no worries, Daddy’s kitty is very deep. Let’s hop over the border to the U.S. Finally after seven years good old Nido gets a university degree. Sure, it’s filled with Ds, but who cares, he had the time of his life romping around in the good old West.

Good old nido comes Back to Bahrain. The first 6 months are boring as hell. He itches and longs for the good old decadence and pleasures of the West. No worries. Daddy’s money helps him settle in. He can spend those six months partying, getting stoned, drinking, and hanging around sushi bars just as he got used to abroad. In the mean time he hires someone to fix his CV up and puts daddy’s was6a maching into action. Every contact in every bank and company in Bahrain is tapped. I mean, his CV sounds pretty impressive. He’s educated abroad (the Fs and repeats are omitted of course, and the D’s are reworded into “pass/fail” marks). He even has French listed down. There are some made up societies on there just to make sure he gives the impression of a worldly and well rounded person. Finally after some arm twisting and ” you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” daddy is able to find a job for nido. Investment banking, accounting, consulting, IT, whatever it is. Nido’s main criteria is money, and tons of it. Whatever job facilitates that he’ll take up.

And you dare to call poor people dumb, lazy, and uneducated and therefore worthy of the misery and squalor they are in?

The poor didn’t have a chauffeur to drive them right up to the best school in the country. They have to go to the pathetic state school system we have in place. The poor did not have didn’t have daddy’s money to fly off to America for seven years of “education”. They had to fight to get a place in one of the local universities, and 90% of those can’t really be classified as universities but are simply money machines. This is of course if they can go to university. The poor didn’t have daddy’s connections that got them the best job with minimal effort. The poor could not afford to chill out for a few years just for the heck of it or while daddy sorts out the best job for me.

Of course, not all Nidoers and neither are all poor people are like this. Just like any other group of people, there is the hardworking, the smart, the not so-hard working and the not so smart. This is the point. You’re not rich because you’re smart, and they’re not poor because they are dumb. You’re not rich primarily because you had the best education and the best job. In fact it’s the opposite. The fact that you are rich made you have the best education, the best schools, the best universities, and the best jobs, which keeps you being rich! What a glorious circle of life……

Many nidoers hold the inverted and lopsided “lazy” fallacy mentioned above. And why not, for a nidoer can point to good old neoclassical economics to support this drivel. Let us venture a bit into this cult and misty world of neoclassical economics. These economists would tell you income is determined by two things: the amount of time you spend working, and your productivity. A person can either chose to work for long hours, gaining high wages, or he could choose to have high “leisure” (an economic euphimism for being lazy) and hence receive less wages. This is not the only determinant of wages, however. There is also “productivity” or “efficiency”. Some people are more productive or efficient than others, and hence receive higher wages. “Productivity” is usually determined or “signalled” by a person’s education. The higher the education the higher the productivity. Hence highly educated and productive people who work long hours are rich, and lazy, uneducated, unproductive people are poor. It’s that simple.

This vision, to say the least, is warped. It’s all good and well that highly educated people get paid more money, but where in this analysis is it considered that rich people and nidoers get a better education to start with, and hence end up being paid more? Nope, none of that in good old classical economics. The “assumption” (and boy do economists love their assumptions) is that everyone starts from the same position, that good old concept of a “representative agent”, where all people are the same and have the same background, money, tastes, and environment. From there they choose their education and how hard to work, which determines their income. Hence rich people are rich because they chose to work hard and got a good education; poor people chose to be lazy and uneducated. Tough luck for them.

This is the demented world of neo-classical economists, which are unfortunately nowadays 90% of economists out there. They have no conceptions of historical reasons, social conditions, and political factors for why a society developed in particular why or is in its current condition. Nope, economics has to be “pure”, devoid of these silly other social sciences. If something can’t be expressed in an equation, it isn’t worth considering. I’m telling you, never trust anything any of these new “economic scientists” say, because they know zilch about what they are talking about. They can integrate an equation or calculate a regression like no one else though.

Alright enough about the Economists rubbish, my ranting about that peculiar species will be left to another post. Lets get back to our Nidoers and their love to bash poor people. Many statements are used to justify their warped vision. “It’s an Arab or Bahraini thing, They are lazy.” “Poor people aren’t civilized and they just keep multiplying like rabbits and having kids that they can’t teach, can’t feed, can’t take care off and that litter the streets like rats.” We’ve heard all of these before.

“Bahrainis are by nature lazy.” I have always marvelled at this statement. This is in a country that only seventy years ago people had to work their socks off just to feed themselves. They had to go on a rickety wooden boat for months on end, not being able to see their family, dive into the sea until their ears pop, risk drowning and being bitten by a shark only to get some small pearl that he’ll not even see one drop off but instead will go to some nukhetha (ship financier back home) who’ll sell it for a nice profit. All of this to get a few measly rupees that are not enough to feed your family and in fact you end up being in perpetual debt for the rest of your life. To add to this, because of the laws of the country your son has to keep paying your debt after you die. Either this or you go toiling in the fields for hours on end under the scorching heat on a land that isn’t even owned by yourself. No 25 day annual leave, “business lunches”, or two day weekends here.

But no, Bahrainis are by nature lazy.

Then we have the ” they keep multiplying like rabbits. All quantity no quality” argument. Of course this is a familiar argument that rich people use all over the world. Zionists use it when describing Palestinians. “Those goddamn Palestinians. They keep muliplying like rabbits.” Many immigration-phobes use it in Europe, and the same mantras are repeated in pretty much every country by a good chunk of the rich.

I wonder have nidoers ever looked around to see how untrue their arguments are? Have they ever stopped to think about the expat labour toiling away in near-slavery? Where they work as builders in the scorching summer heat for 12 hours a day 7 days a week for 60 BD a month? Do nidoers really think they work harder than these guys? “Ahhh…” they say, “but they are not as smart or productive as us.” Really? Babu in our local convenient store speaks at least four languages (English, Arabic, Hindu, Urdu, and who knows what else) and he never went to a university. And by speak I actually mean he can speak it, not that he attended a few classes so that it shows up on his CV. In fact his Arabic is ten times better than most nidoers I know. You really think you’re smarter than him?

What about Raju sitting next to you in your bank or company, who actually ends up doing most of the work assigned while you browse facebook for double his pay? Do you really think you’re more productive or smarter than him?

Maybe, my nido friend, it is you who is lazy and who has become a burden on the economy and society. Maybe it is you who requires the highest quality sushi and American beef just to not kick away your food and call it tasteless. Maybe it is you who needs to guzzle 80 litres a day of benzine to power your $100,000 hummer. Maybe it is you that needs a kilometer squared of land just to be able to call your house a place worthy of living in. Maybe it is you who needs the state of the art TV, sound system, XBox 360 adn thousands of DVDS just to be able to have a bit of fun. Maybe it is you that needs to keep monopolies and agencies that give only you the control and the right to sell a good in order to keep feeding your expensive habits. Maybe it is you who needs a legion of servants to cook, clean after you, chaperon you around, and do your ironing. Maybe it is you that has turned into a grotesque fat creature that needs to consumer more and more of the the earths limited resources and have more manpower under your service just to satisfy your insatiable appetite for goods?

I can’t help but laugh when I hear these big Hamours on TV or newspapers complaining that “the new generation of Bahrainis are lazy and expect too much, unlike the older generation. That’s why my company (more like serfdom-factory) exclusively employs 5000 indians. They are hardworking, they don’t need a lot of money, and they don’t demand too much. The moral is Bahrainis have to suck it up, work hard, and not expect too much immediately. ” Well that’s all good and dandy Mr. big shot, but not everyone is so poor that he has to accept slavery conditions in order to make a pittance of an earning to support his family 5000 miles away. Why exactly should someone start toiling under the unforgiving Arabian sun for 14 hours, under miserable work conditions and for piss poor pay? Sure, you can always find someone somewhere around the world who is so destitute that he’ll accept these conditions and travel half around the world to do your bidding, but do you seriously expect most people to do that? Does that sound fine to you while your kids get to deck it out in the finest schools, the finest universities, and the finest jobs, simply because they were born rich? Is it fair that while your kids can afford to play video games, flirt in malls, smoke spliffs, drink up, live it up in Marbella or London, and just take it easy for a good chunk of their life these other kids have to start working by the age of 14? Knowing the most that life ever has to offer them is serving your kids in one way or another?

This rant is over.

Bras, Panties, Colonialism, and Nido

January 23, 2007

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

Lord Macaulay, British Colonial Administrator in India, 1835

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Mr./Mrs. Nido are a colonized creature par excellance. If ever there was a definition of a colonized person, a picture of a nidoer surely should turn up

Colonization of the nidoer is almost total, and it continues onwards unabated. It covers his exterior looks, his job, his activities, his food, his cars, his language, his love life, and seeps deep down to his thoughts.

Imagine a nidoer in front of you right now and let us deconstruct him. First let us take a look at his exterior. His T-shirt will probalby be made by FCUK or DKNY or something along those lines. His jeans, Levis or wrangler; which he’ll make sure to flash as blatantly and loudly as possible. If he’s in formal attire, he’ll be wearing an Armani or Versace suit. Some nidoers go down the other road and deck it out FUBU style. In all cases, it is modelled on some vision of coolness that he borrowed from an American magazine, TV show, or movie. Same goes for his latest fashion hair do and sunglasses. Indeed, if you ask a nidoer to only wear regionally produced goods he would be exposed to you in all his glory. Stark naked. Not a bra or a panty to cover her up. Nada. Completely, utterly, totally naked.

We observe the nidoer in his food habits. Once again colonization seeps deeply here. His diet revolves around burgers, pizzas, and hot dogs. If he tries to be sophisticated he’ll switch to pastas, risottos, and sushis. His haunts will include chillis, papa johns, and more posh places like mirai and trader vics. For coffee he’ll go Starbucks or costa. If you force a nidoer to live on local foods and goods he’ll end up dead within a week.

“So what”, you say? “That’s the characteristics of a modern globalized society.” Hold your horses there. This is only the the cover. His colonization is no petty kalakchy version that only runs skin deep. No Sirreeeeee the colonization is more entrenched than that.

Let us turn to his past times. They are borrowed from the colonizer par excellence. He’ll exclusively watch American movies. The shows he devours will be the OC, desperate housewives, and Scrubs. You might think it’s normal to watch American shows, but no, this guy exclusively watches American shows. No 6ash ma 6ash or Khalid bin Al Waleed for him. He doesn’t even understand those. They might as well be in chinese.

The most clear sign of colonization is his language. The nido-er no longer considers arabic to be his first language. In fact, you can’t even say that he knows arabic. Hell, even his name would most probably be anglicized. Instead of Mohammed he’ll be “Mo”, “Naz” instead of Nizar, or good old “Jo” for Yousif.

Most importantly of all, his thoughts are colonized. This leads to his morals and his outlook on life being colonized as well. Heck, if your main language is English, and one needs a language to think (for how can you think without a language to express those thoughts?) how can you possibly escape thinking and looking at the world in a way dictated by those who gave you the language? If your main food for thought is Friends, The OC, and Scrubs, how can you possibly think but in terms of those shows? If all of your friends are Westernized, how can you possibly not think like a western-wannabe? It is only natural that you start framing issues in terms of a nido-colonized mentality.

I always thought why in Hell’s name did George Bush invade the Arab world in order spread American influence and thoughts? You didn’t have to do that! Globalization is doing that job better than any guns can. No American has to ever set foot in the Arab world and still the American way of life will take over the place. Just let American movies, shows, books, clothes, schools, companies and nidoers do the task! You don’t need to go and bomb the place. Nidoers lap up American culture like Homer Simpson devours doughnuts! They’ll freely convert to your ideas. Throwing in a couple of F-16s in the mix hinders this process. Keep those planes and guns in the TV shows. Nidoers like them there, they are kind of scary in real life.

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” These are the very perceptive words of Lord Macaulay, a colonial administrator back in the good old days of British colonialism when talking about creating an educational system that would serve best the interests of the British empire. I’m not too sure about the intellect part, but he got the rest bang on when we look at nidoers in Bahrain.

Indeed that turns our attention to one of the more important forces for the advent of Nidoism, the education system. I’m not going to say much of it right now because it will be the subject of another post, but suffice to say that when you learn in English, go to American schools, study American curriculums, and mingle every day with Americanized classmates… well… I’ve banged on about the outcome enough me thinks.

Indeed the nidoer is the best type of colonized person. The colonization has been complete. He is absolutely dependant on his colonizers for everything that he wouldn’t be even able to think without them. From his food to his thoughts, from his clothes to his language. Once we realize this it becomes pretty obvious and non-controversial how a nidoer becomes an agent of western interests in the region. They simply are his interests. The best part of it is that the nidoer is completely content with this colonization. Better yet, most nidoers are completely oblivious to their colonization and haven’t even contemplated the thought. He is like the grateful slave who is dependant for everything on his master. But why should he care? He is a rich and content slave who can indulge in playing videogames and eating sushi, so why complain? Indeed, he could be much worse off, such as being one of the poor toiling masses underneath him that he administers and keeps in check for his benefactors’ and his own interests.

Mark my words, we will slowly start seeing a new breed of Nidoers mushrooming like fungus on bread: that lovely breed of “native informants”. They have always existed in the world of colonialism, personified by the likes of Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan, and Fuad Ajami. The Nidoers however will take this to a different level. For if you have been so Americanized that you eat like an American, talk like an American, watch American shows, read American books, and think like an American, it is only a small step to move on to ” working for American interests,” which anyway are your own interests. If you look like an American, talk like an American and walk like an American… well you know the rest. Most definitely we’ll see a lot of Bahraini nidoers taking up the mantle of native informants over the next few years, and they’ll be celebrated in Newsweek magazine and Neocon cirlces as “forces of freedom, democracy, and civilization in the Arab and Muslim world.” I’m telling you, if you’re a nidoer, Arab, and Muslim, a sure-fire way to fame nowadays is to come out and bash Islam and Arabs, complain of oppression, and glorify the great American way. Throw into this mix such headline grabbing issues such as being an oppressed woman, homosexual etc and you’ll be the new great star celebrity in Neocon-mania and MEMRI. Nidoers, if you want to become an overnight phenomenon, this is the most sure-fire way nowadays to achieve that!

The battle for and against imperialism will necessarily put the nidoer in a tough position. “Should I be on the side of my fellow citizens or on the side of my nido life and its patrons?” I hope nidoers make the right choice.

*** P.S. My apologies for not posting for a few days. As I’m sure you all know, being a nidoer I am a very busy person. I’ve got videogames to play, sushi bars to attend to and desperate housewives to watch.

The Sheikh, The Bannay (builder), and the nido bubble

January 17, 2007

The other day I ventured into Mirai, the fusion Japanese restaurant that is the darling of many a nido-ers. My nido friends were shocked this was my first time. “Never Before? REEAAALLLYYY??? Where have you been living maaaaaann? You gotta get hip with the times!”. Well I can happily say that I will never venture again into that dump unless it involves an opposite sex with the possibility of future bonding. The risotto tasted like it was made by Tesco Ready Made Meals, the beef was dry and tasteless, the portions were really small, and at 20 BD a head I thought this was outrageous robbery. I bet you if someone is bored enough he could surf the internet and find the menu of some restaurant somewhere in the world that Mirai ripped off. I doubt the resident chef sat down and developed that Menu. I’d rather any day walk down the road and go to Krumz its next door neighbour, which is 100 times better and at a better price. Heck, Bu Shanab the tikka place in Muharraq is a better option any time and any day.

Anyway, I digress. I was sitting there eyeing the waiters topping up every nido-er’s water glass the second they took a sip. This is of course a common trick in up-scale Bahraini restaurants, where at 2.500 BD a bottle these places can easily rack up 15BD++ purely on water. It doesn’t matter that a bottle of water costs 200 fils in shops. It doesn’t matter that the restaurant makes a healthy 1150% profit (not counting the 15% service charge that the waiters ironically receive none off) on each of those bottles. Of course not. A nido-er would never be caught complaining of this. He would die of embarrassment. He’s got to keep his image and pretension of being a rich, magnanimous nido-er that a trifle few BDs make no difference to. Even though the nido-ers life and thought is centred around money, how to make more of it, and how to flaunt it, he has to keep up the image that money is absolutely inconsequential to him. And the restaurant managers know this.

Anyway we were sitting there drinking our BD 2.5 glasses of water, basking in our glorious nido-ness and checking out other nido-ers. Of course that’s the whole point, to see and to be seen. The mediocre food is inconsequential. It is the sensation of being around other nido-ers that matters.

I then realized the absolute nido bubble that we live in. Nidoers rejoice in spending 20BD+++ a head at ONE meal sitting, while for the vast majority of the country that constitutes the spending of a household for 2 weeks of meals. What nido-ers spend at a night club without batting an eye lid is what most of their countrymen spend on their household electricity bill.

Nidoers live in an extravagant lalaland consumerist world that has been imported to them from the west that has nothing to do with the vast majority of the rest of the population. They cruise around in lavish German cars. They live in luxurious houses furnished by the latest designs from Italy and the U.S. They spend their free time roaming from Trader Vic’s to Mirai to BJ’s. They deck out in the latest fashion hits by Armani and Massimo Dutti.

Contrast this to the vast majority of the population. They struggle to feed their families meat everyday. They barely have a house to live in, having to share it with parents, grown up brothers, sisters, their spouses, aunties, grandmas, grandfathers, and the rest. A vast proportion don’t even have jobs. Some don’t even have air conditioning in every bedroom of their houses.

It is literally two parallel societies with little in common except having to share an island. One side is cramped in tiny villages and alleyways. The members of the other side own houses each that are as big as any of those villages. One side’s kids go to the best private schools and western universities. The other side barely can buy the stationary needed to send their kids to school. They don’t watch the same shows, they don’t hang out in the same places, they don’t populate the same food places. They don’t even share the same language. One speaks arabic, the other English or at best a bastardized form of Arabeezi or Arabenglish.

Contrast this to the country as little as 30 years ago, where this class dichotomoy pretty much did not exist. Everyone was literally pretty much piss poor. People lived in a harsh environment which they had to share with one another in order to survive. Even the rich were poor by today’s standards. Just go and look at Shaikh Isa Bin Ali’s house, the former ruler of Bahrain in Muharraq. Although impressive, it would not even be the size of a garage in a modern day’s rich man’s house. Most astonishingly, it is right smack inthe middle of old Muharraq. People back then lived in the same areas, went to the same schools, and even used the same khabazz. Nido-ers have only to ask their fathers to get a sense of this. It is amazing how people from the older generation know and shared their youth life intimately with other individuals from all walks life, whether poor or rich, highly educated or not, regardless of wealth, class, and nidoism.

I’ll recount to you one story that I found funny, revealing, and full of despair. In our old neighbourhood in Muharraq, there used to be a family friend and neighbour who was born and bred in Muharraq since the thirties. He was a builder by profession. This guy was 3ejmy, and back in the eighties he had a horrid time trying to obtain a paspport for him and his family. He would go several times to the ministry and every time they’d make him play the run-around game and then kick him out. He would never be allowed to see the person in charge. One fortunate day 20 years ago the guard was distracted away from the manager’s office, so the builder took his chance and barged right in. The chief was sitting on his chair.

-Yes, what do you want?
-El Shaikh, I have been coming now for years trying to sort out my passport situation.
-What’s your name?
-Flan, ben Faltan.
-Flan ben Faltan???!?!?!? didn’t you go to Al Hedaya school back in 1950?
-Yes.
-It’s me! Faltan ben Flan! Your school mate! My god what happened!!!!
-Well, I became a builder trying to feed my family, and you are a sheikh!

I thought this story illustrates perfectly how not so long ago society was not so materially divided, and how the division has grown to mammoth proportions nowadays. How many nido-ers will encounter a similar incident to the above? Not so anymore. Nido-ers go to their own private schools with other nido-ers. They go to university with other nidoers. They hang out with other nido-ers in nido places. There is such a big schism between the two societies it is as if they are living on two different planets, where the only places they meet are the roads that each uses to go to his own different little planet.

As any blind person can see, this is a recipe for resentment, conflict, and revolution. A revolution probably will and should happen. When you have to bear living in a cramped room with four others of your siblings in a village cramped with thousands of others, and a few feet away a person you don’t even know or interact with owns a compound literally the size of your village, things don’t seem right to you. When that person stacks his compound with guards, nighswatchmen, high walls, barbed wire, and dogs to prevent you from even walking by his wall, things don’t seem right to you. When a person has no qualms about spending BD 2.500 bd on a bottle of water and you have to watch your spending on nekhi from your local khabaz, things don’t seem right to you. When you cannot even find an apartment to house your 8-member household while this guy own a house in Muharraq, Sehla, Budaiya, London, and Paris things don’t seem right to you. When you have to beg this guy for work while his kids can get away with clubbing, drinking and smoking the most expensive substances there are for a good prportion of their youth things don’t seem right to you. When you have nothing in common with this guy except that he seems to have set up a massive palace right next to your cramped vilalge things don’t bode well.

Indeed nido-ers have come to be perceived and indeed are a massive drain on the resources of a country. In a country with limited land wealth, they are seen as land grabbers in order to facililate their lavish compounds with their exotic gardens. In a land with limited oil wealth, the oil seems to be wasted on fuding the spoilt habits of the rich. While the rich waste the black gold money on drinking Johnny walker, buying fancy Mercedeses, and filling their big guts with fusion sushi, the rest of the country can barely make ends meet. They are percieved and indeed are, a waste of limited resources in order to fill their insatiable hedonistic apeitite for a lavish consumerist lifestyle.

And the recent oil boom has exacerbated this division. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Nido-ers have never had it so good. All of them are making a ridiculous amount of money thanks to oil, Daddy’s wekalat (monopoly agencies), was6at (connections), land ownerships, and the ability to go the best education institutions. The money kitty gets bigger, and the spending on the lavish materialistic lifestyle ballooons. They buy more posh cars, posh houses and apartments, and an increasing number of upmarket restaurants pop up. Hoards of expensive new suits, sunglasses, and louis vetton bags are purchased.

And the poor get squeezed even more. Prices of basic goods shoot up. House prices have more than doubled and are out of the reach of most of the population. Foodstuff have become so expenisve that people are having to cut down on basic household goods. But why should the nido-ers care? After all, daddy and auntie own the land of which the price has shot up. Grandpa and mummy own the food wikalat that sell these expensive basics. It makes the nidoer able to enjoy more linguinis, bmws, and buy more apartments in amwaj or riffa views.

Do the nidoers know about the forces that their lifestyles have unleashed? Nope, and nor do they care. They are busy getting drunk, watching the OC, playing videogames, or debating whether mirai or sato has better sushi. A country that was once reknowed for its sense of community has now degenerated into a classic divide of rich and poor. The forces in society are ripes for some sort of uprising, and it will only get worse. The rich, however, are as usual oblivious in their lavish spending.

And when the poor complain, and when the poor protest, they just go, “Why do they hate us so much? Why can’t they just be good obedient poor buggers? Why can’t we just get along?”.

Nidoers, you better cut down on a few sushis and use that money to buy a nice penthouse in London. Because when the turd hits the fans, you are going to need another pad from which to continue living your la-la land materialistic lifestyle.

BooBs vs. Nido Milk

January 16, 2007

It was eid. I was about ten, and we were gathered (as usual) in my grandparents’ house. There was a bunch of us kids and then there were some of the older gang (uncles, aunts, parents, etc). I don’t recall what exactly happened but us kids did something pretty messed up which caused an uncle to proclaim:

“هيييه… انتو مشكلتكم ما رضعتوا من حليب ديود… انتو كبرتوا على حليب نيدو!!!”

For us kids all this signified was the “dirty mouthed” renegade uncle daring to use a risque word. We chuckled, we laughed, and we kept repeating for a while ديود ديود ديود!

A few days ago this statement hit me as pretty revealing. Over the last decade or so an intriguing species has began to develop in bahrain that has nothing in common with its ancestors or previous generations. There seems to be a considerable swath of “the new bahrain” that it seems fitting to call the “nido milk generation”.

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So who are these members of the nido generation, or nido-ers? At first glance, the nido-er will seem highly educated. He/She will probably have a degree from a UK or a US university. At first glance, a nido-er will seem huber hip or cool. He/she might sport a snoop dog hairdo or a jennifer anniston look. He/she will be up to date on latest OC and desperate housewives shenanigans. Heck, at first glance you might even call him/her “sophisticated”. He/she most probably will possess a noticeable american twang (or in some cases british, whatever the heck that means) in his english.

A nido-er most definitely will strike you as (very) well to do. He/she will try to possess the “best” car there is, the “best” house there is, the “best” gucci sunglasses there is, and the “best” armani suit in town. In fact, a nido-er will most probably want to have “the best” in everything there is. The best hummus, the best flip flops, the best hair do, and the best shawarma. In fact, he might strike you as a tad (read that as a heapful) nouveau-riche or “keeping up with the joneses.” He will strive very hard to have the best of what the nido-ers consider to be the best, and most importantly, he’ll flaunt it.

A nido-er will always hangout with other nido-ers. In fact he would die of shame if he’s associated with anyone or anything that sullies his nido-ness. He’ll live around other nido-ers. He’ll live in nido houses, acquire nido cars, eat nido food, and hang out in nido places. He will only feel comfortable in a nido environment surrounded by other nidoers where they all can bask in the glory of their nido-ness.

Still not sure what a nido-er is? One sure way to spot a nido-er is to converse with him and ask him to respond back in Arabic (or whatever his mother tongue is). A nido-er will start shaking and stuttering, his eyes rolling up and down from side to side. He’ll start foaming at the mouth and sputtering sentences that are unintelligible in any language such as ” yeah but no but yeah but I cannot ya3ni madri but there is shisalfeh magdar dyood dyood dyood…”

toot… tooot… toooot……

In order to resuscitate him and put out of his misery you have to switch back to english. A big smile will suddenly flash on his face, his demeanor will change and he’ll resort back to his most favoured american flavoured twang: “sorry dude about that, dunno what happened there”.

If you want to further confirm he’s a nido-er ask him about arabic music. He’ll dismiss it quickly saying that it “cramps his style”. Any intelligible conversation on arabic movies, serials or books are a big no-no. That oriental rubbish just ain’t his thing maaan.

A nido-er is all of this and more. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can quickly grasp his multi-faceted dimensions. A nido-er and the general nido bubble he lives in require careful and deep analysis in order to achieve an understanding of this amazing creature and its environment.

This blog is dedicated to examinging, unfolding, ridiculing, praising, celebrating, taking the piss out of, deconstructing, de-orientalizing, de-colonizing, de-markating, and unpacking the nido-er, with all the other “-ings” and “-isms” you can think of.

I am a product of the nido-generation myself. I hate it, no doubt about it. I try to change this and break free from its shackles, but the nido bubble is a strong self-enforcing entity which always comes back to encircle you with its charms and misdeeds. I am a self-hating nido-er. This blog is a chance for me to exorcise my nido demons. God-damn you, nido.

Welcome

January 13, 2007

This is a blog for and about the Nido Generation. I am, unfortunately, a member of the prestigious and ever mushrooming nido generation – Bahrain Branch. You can call me a self-hating nido-er.

I hope you enjoy!