What do you think?

I was tied up with work all week and so I (thankfully) missed the recent controversy at the Community Blog. I didn't get to read either the 7days article or the comments about it there. So please understand from the beginning that this post is not an attempt to stir up that hornet's nest again.

But with that in mind, I would be interested in hearing about everyone's thoughts and personal philosophy about cultural/national respect. Let me go first:

As I have said before at my blog, I'm a guest here in the UAE, and I believe that it is rude of a guest to be critical of his host, and so I try not to be, though I know that I have failed from time to time. But I will go home someday, and in the end it is up to Emiratis to decide what sort of country they will have.

In the same way, it bothers me when foreigners, while they are in America, criticize America, her people or her leaders. I still think that they should be legally allowed to do it, but it makes me think that they are behaving rudely. It bothers me a lot less when foreigners criticize America elsewhere, but unfair or ignorant remarks can still upset me.

But then, to not be hypocritical, doesn't that also mean that I shouldn't criticize other countries or leaders? I don't think so, I think that the location makes the difference, in the same way that everyone does things at home they would never do in public or at someone else's house.

But if so, then I am a hypocrite, for I have made no end of comments and jokes about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and the like when I'm in the US. But it would be hypocritical to have an "if you don't like it, go home" attitude toward foreigners at home and then complain about how you are treated elsewhere though.

I could be wrong about some or all of this. For example, maybe "guest" isn't the right analogy. Or maybe it is OK for guests to gently criticize. So, what do you think?


Seabee said...

In my opinion "guest" is the wrong word. It doesn't accurately describe people who make their lives here - or anywhere else for that matter. That puts us in a different category from a "guest".

We are here to benefit ourselves of course, but we also contribute to the success and future of the country. If we weren't wanted or needed we wouldn't be allowed to have a residence visa.

Very many of us are here for years and are therefore affected by the laws, the development, the government, management of the country and everything else. Very many people also become emotionally attached to the place.

Very little improves or advances unless people are free to criticise, to point out areas that are not up to standard. Far from seeing anything wrong with criticism or seeing it as rude or disrespectful I see it as a positive necessity. It's wrong to see something that could and should be improved and not say anything about it.

secretdubai said...

The 7Days controversy is a very very mysterious and complicated situation. At no point in this current debacle have there been any articles critical of the UAE.

The controversy is over a feature they did on a Russian school for businesswomen, which they titled "School for bitches" or something, because it was about teaching them to be hard or something. I never read it.

Then there was a huge furore over an article they reprinted - from WAM and AFP, word for word with no additions of their own - on an interview with Sheikh Khalifa. The Arab press (basically the AMG-owned Arab press) suddenly went WILD over this story accusing 7Days of all kinds of misquotings and distortions, that from what I and others who have studied the situation can work out, are totally unfounded. The article was not negative. Nor was there any complaint about it or action over it from Sheikh Khalifa's office.

So everything pointed to deliberate muckraking? witch-hunting? with someone determined to bring 7Days down, commercially if not legally. Why? Our only speculation is that someone has suddenly realised how much more "dangerous" 7Days may be now, or "difficult to control", now that it is owned by a powerful international media organisation (Associated Newspapers) next to whose might and influence AMG pales in comparison.

The problem for UAE comm is that we had a specific tip off that the comments on it relating to the row were being monitored and stored by order of the government, along with IP addresses or whatever else. No clue how they'd get these, which makes it all the more sinister and alarming. At the time I wasn't supposed to reveal this so specifically, to protect the source, but I have had such a deluge of ill will, insults, spite and general accusations over the UAE policy change (most of which we have deleted, it got so upsetting) that the source agreed we could be a bit more open.

So there we go. Hope that brings you up to speed at least in terms of what I know.

Duffy said...

Setting aside the 7Days thing, the question of criticism is a fair one. I think it has much to do with intention. Does the critic merely want to lambast a particular group of people or nation? Or is it a question of why things are done a certain way? Is the critic informed before slinging accusations? What about tone? Is it respectful or derisive?

If you say: "The UAE is stupid/backwards because they don't do things like this", you're not going to have much of an audience.

If you say: "I don't understand why things are done this way" or "I think this way would be better" you're much better off. YMMV

albux said...

Guests have the opportunity to observe a lot of things, but they choose to keep their mouths shut out of politeness. Moreover, they know they'll be gone after a short while. So whatever they've observed can be forgotten or shut out of their minds.

A person who is hired to do a job is not a guest. He is in a particular place and a particular situation because his presence was considered a requirement and he was therefore offered a specific compensation in order to turn up and be available. Such a person is likely to be in that place or situation for as long as necessary, which may be for months, years or decades.

During the course of this period of time, the hired person lives there, he plays out his life, his children may be born and brought up there, etc.,

Not to say a word about the injustices that he observes or to refrain from being critical, does not in any way help or serve the host society. In my opinion it is incumbent upon him to be vocal and do whatever he can, within the ambit of his limitations (which may be of various kinds) to bring about a change that will have a positive effect and result in improvement of that society and its moral standards.

Keefieboy said...

There is no sense in which foreign workers in the UAE can be described as 'guests'. The word guest implies that your every whim will be catered for, free of charge. This is clearly not the case. If it was, I would never dream of criticising anything about the place. Since it is not, I do express my opinions, hopefully constructively, and hopefully to make it a better place for everybody.