Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 3

5 08 2014

How wonderful that French and American cultural institutions are expanding into the United Arab Emirates. How wonderful for the Emiratis to visit the Louvre and the Guggenheim or enroll at NYU without needing a passport.

Ibrahim has the sort of intelligence that crackles around him in sly, sarcastic sparks. He is smart in a way so obvious that he tries to hide it from his bosses by speaking in broken English. He knows five languages, loves poetry, and dreams of getting a master’s degree.

Isn’t it marvelous that a man so obviously intelligent and cultured is laboring to bring such cultural riches to the boss who calls him a donkey?

I mean, how fantastic is it that Ibrahim had someplace to go after being chased out of his own country after the NGO for whom he translated couldn’t be bothered to protect him because he wasn’t a real employee? That he was able to pay someone over $700 in order to work in a place that does, in fact, treat him exactly as a laborer?

And shouldn’t we celebrate when

In 2007, up to 30,000 Arabtec workers went on strike in Dubai. Men building Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, put down their tools. The strike had been coordinated with mobile phones to protest low wages and poor living conditions. Police arrested 4,000 strikers. At the end of ten days, Arabtec promised a pay raise. Managing Director Riad Kamal told Reuters that the impact on the company’s profits would be less than 1 percent.

Arabtec could pay more without any pain to themselves! Win win!

Of course, not everyone was so happy: After 3000 men went on strike for  pay raise from $176 to $217 a month,

The police arrested 70 men they claimed were ringleaders. “Their presence in the country is dangerous,” Colonel Mohammed al Murr, director of the Dubai Police’s General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control, told the National, a state-owned newspaper.

After this, Bangladeshi workers, who were alleged to have helped organize the strikes, were banned for an indefinite period from seeking UAE visas.

I could go on and on and on and on, but you get the point. Conditions are so terrible in these men’s home countries that they pay to work under terrible conditions.

And the neoliberal sings Ain’t capitalism grand! Isn’t it wonderful that these surplus can be put to good use for 200 bucks a month! Isn’t it wonderful that the Louvre and the Gugg and NYU get to extend their brands and the Emiratis—the citizens, not the vast majority of migrant laborers—get to enjoy these brands!

Isn’t it wonderful that a man who speaks five languages and  loves poetry arrived to find only that he wanted to leave?

~~~

Okay, there is one truly wonderful thing: the workers are fighting back. They are, damn-near-literally, at the point where they have nothing to lose but their chains.

“Capital is global and derives its velocity from replicating the same model everywhere. Gulf Labor is arguing for a global, humane, and fair standard of labor and migration regulations to accompany, and slow down, global capital,” said Naeem Mohaiemen, a New York–based Bangladeshi artist who is a member of Gulf Labor. “The implications can be staggering. If Saadiyat implemented world-standard labor and migration rights, that could become a precedent for implementing the same standards in the entire region. Then people would ask, what about migrant labor in Malaysia? In Texas? And so on…”

Which is precisely why capital fights so hard against labor.

~~~

Extensive quotes from Molly Crapapple’s Slaves of Happiness Island, in Vice
h/t Jen Graves, The Stranger

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6 08 2014

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