Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Saudi is Sucky.

Reasons why I would prefer living almost anywhere else in the world instead of my current  whereabouts… Putting aside all the obvious reasons and delving into the abyss, I will try and unearth a mushy center (if one exists).

Extremism

I was going to title this one religion but opted out since 'extremism' is way more accurate. Either way, extremism isn't just apparent in the fact that there is such a thing as "religious police" or the fact that, as a female, I have to cover whenever I leave the house or the fact that I cannot go to a college, get a job, or leave the country without a signed document from my male "guardian" granting me the permission to do so. It's more in the fact that although the country has different religious sects, it acknowledges none and actually tries to stamp out their presence and forces the dominant sect's followings on these minorities through school, in the workplace, and such. The country officially does not recognize the existence of other sectors even though there are large communities with their Hussainiyah's (what Shia's mosques are called) all over the Kingdom.

Religious Brainwashing and Propaganda (AKA Education)

Religion dominates everything, whether it is Science or Math or even Art. It has come to my attention recently that objective truths such as the formation of mountains or volcanoes are not perceived as scientific truths but God's will. Needless to say, evolutionary theory and similar concepts are not taught but merely mentioned as being ridiculous and condemning those that believe in them. During the 12 years of school, one would have to study an average of 2 Islamic subjects during elementary school and then around 4 in the higher levels. In college, there are four Islamic courses taught by mindless draconian drones that are considered mandatory by the Ministry of Higher Education to acquiring a college degree. In order to express the crazy that is these Islamic courses, I've drawn up two scenarios:

Exhibit A, having your parents condemned in class because they sent you to an International school and then, claiming that knowledge of the Arabic language is important in order to be "Muslim" otherwise you'll suffer eternal damnation. Blatantly ignoring the fact that Arabs only make 20% of Muslims in the world.

Exhibit B, having an instructor (with a BA and MA) who is married (relevant) say in class that it is okay for a husband to hit his wife if she oversteps religious boundaries as long as it's not on the face because, and I quote, "The face is where a person's dignity lies." I don't know about her, but my dignity kinda lies in my whole body. 

Emphasis is put on women staying at home and the men providing for them. Women aren't really encouraged to work and they only make around 20% of the work force whereas men are at 80%. This might be partly due to the fact that "mixed" work environments are considered blasphemous even though they do exist but women aren't encouraged from participating in such an environment. This most probably is attributed to the idea that women are seen as evil demonic seductresses and "it's never the man's fault if he can't control himself which is why God allows him to marry up to four wives." If you actually go back to the Quranic text on that part, it states that men can only marry four if they can treat them equally and goes on to say that they will never be able to… if anything, this can be interpreted in many ways but the way I see it is the patriarchal society I live in chooses to see it in their privilege as it does most religious things.

Culture

I have yet to comprehend why I have chosen to divide the 'religion' reason from the 'culture' section seeing as the Saudi culture is governed solely by Islam but I will attempt to dissect the culture from the religion (or propaganda - perspective, perspective) that is shoved down our throats by the mindless, preaching stormtroopers common in my community. Moving past that, as an individual in a collectivist society it is hard to get beyond the interests of the group and focus on your own. The problem is, as it is always with anti-conformity, going against a group of somewhat homogeneous people will result in you becoming a target… and hate on you, they shall, like an child-eating ogre.

If what you decide to do as a female goes against the housewife agenda that is planned out for you from birth and on that plan, at 21 years of age (a little late, some might say), your main goal is to "put yourself out there" which means socialize with families from your same social class that are, but not necessarily, extremely well-off and have single men that you could make a good wife for. Continuing education or getting a job are seen as just distractions or opportunities for you to exploit (to further your evil mastermind plan of getting married), never should you ever take them seriously even in the event that things don't actually work out. 

Traditionalism/Tribalism

Another point to make is, your value as a person is directly related to the degree of conformance you have to the expectations of society especially to family members. Unconditional love is quite unheard of. To elaborate on this point, my paternal aunt would not speak to my male cousin for the first two years of his marriage solely because he chose to marry a girl that did not belong to a tribe and that is seen as lowering your social status as well as your family's. You're perceived as selfish and inconsiderate for drawing that kind of negative association, when you're really just not being racist.

Independence

I won't tackle the issue of not being able to drive or do anything officially without a guardian's permission however, it absolutely irks me that the simplest things that are taken for granted abroad are things that I cannot do either due to law or fear of being ostracized by society at large. Things like taking a walk to the store because a woman walking in the street is considered blasphemous. Going out for a drive (with the driver) because that's just asking for trouble. On the other hand, the second you are accompanied by a chaperone, you can stay out all night and do whatever the hell you want. Because logic.
It doesn't matter how old you are if you are female in Saudi, you'll never be fully independent and it doesn't matter how old you are if you are a male in Saudi, you'll not only be independent but you have absolute control over most  of the females in your family.

Privileged Masses (Class Clash)

The class clash is an issue that exists in many societies yet never as noticeable as in the Saudi one. 
Cold facts: 
- Upper class are too privileged to notice or care about anything that actually goes on in this country and couldn't be bothered less with doing anything about it.
- Middle class are getting the short end of the stick, not quite privileged enough to get the numbing sensation but not quite living on nothing so they're just stuck in between but mostly trying to get to the social status of one in the upper class. (Probably the reason why more than half this country is in debt)
- Lower class has rampant poverty (without any exaggeration, this oil rich country suffers from about 30% of poverty-ridden homes - side note: a video was made by two young Saudi bloggers regarding this and they were actually arrested and interrogated for spreading false information). 
The former points sum up the social class rule quite sufficiently.

Government/Political Freedom/Corruption

As an absolute Islamic monarchy, citizens don't have much of a say but they do have the illusion of involvement with the existence of pointless bodies such as the Consultative Assembly which is what its name depicts, merely a suggestive body with no actual authority on making decisions. With the municipal elections, it was an attempt to bring a more democratic approach to things but at the end of the day, these elections were not only a waste of time but the elected council never actually got to do anything and the second term election was delayed. Aside from all that, women were actually denied voting rights after there was a small protest regarding this.

Most high-ranking government officials (ministers, etc.) are appointed by the government. This decision can be revoked out of the blue if necessary and a person from a completely different field can be given this position because not only is nepotism strong but so is complete disregard to existing workplace systems/environments. That said, bribery is key.

Money laundering exists in just about every governmental project ever undertaken.  Not only that but these projects never get finished because the amount of money taken is too much and since budget plans are done on a yearly basis, project is either put on hold till then or finished up cheaply by taking out big chunks of the original plan. These projects are streets, highways, airports, even a sewage system which actually has caused cities like Riyadh and Jeddah to flood with a death toll of around 100 people.

(Faux) Patriotism

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia literally means The Arab Kingdom of Saud, which basically means that they, Al Saud, own the county and its citizens. It's really no surprise seeing as that is how they act. It's really hard from a pride perspective to be proud of something that at the end of the day doesn't seem like it belongs to you or that you have any right to. Hence why all patriotism in this country is 100% fake. Sure on the National Day people leave their houses all dressed up in green, waving flags, and playing music in the street but since when does that depict patriotism? Surely when a person cares about something, they want that thing/person to be better and thus they try to improve it in any way they can but how is it possible to do so when not only is freedom of speech prohibited but so is being allowed to constructively criticize anything!

In summation, Saudi Arabia is almost a practical application of the story 1984. Except it's the year 1433 Hijra.

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