2011 September 08 Thursday
Life In Saudi Arabia

So what is life like in Saudi Arabia, what do Saudis think,what are their fears (Shias, the government), and what is life like in a tyranny? A guy apparently from Chico California working as an academic in Saudi Arabia and writing with the pseudonym Joseph Marais lays out lots of interesting details. Read the whole thing. Then tell me what this portends for Saudia Arabia's future.

Now that the regional lid has come off and everyone is wondering whether Saudi Arabia is next, trying to figure out what’s going on here makes the long-ago work of Kremlinologists look easy. To ask students about it is extremely risky. Of the innumerable, unwritten, ironclad rules, No. 1 is: Never talk about anything that actually matters. No. 2 is: If you wish to violate No. 1, make sure the corridor is empty, the door is locked, and voices are kept low. Religion—out. Politics—out. Sex—out. Social system—out. The government—way out. The monarchy and the Saud family? Mention them, and people turn into ice statues.

So then what to talk about? Even the streets are mostly empty according to Marais. The students are aware of all the things they are missing.

Since the University of the Empty Quarter nowhere provides clear rules, it’s all guesswork about where the minefields have been laid. Whispers in departmental corridors of “one wrong note and they’ll toss you out” encourage teachers to play it safe. Yet students often complain bitterly about the extreme suffocation of Saudi life.

They bemoan the absence of music, art, cinema and theater, and gripe that “there’s nothing to do.” They complain about the impossibility of pursuing activities that elsewhere are commonplace, such as a dance class, a music lesson or a yoga session. Many are irritated with the domination of the mosques and the inescapability of religion, and chafe at the forced insularity of life in Saudi Arabia. It’s the rare student who does not express an intense desire to get away from the country.

How many at least have fast internet and how sophisticated are the internet firewalls around Saudi Arabia? Do you have to use a VPN connection to a server that lets you reach, say, Facebook or the NY Times or Hulu or Youtube? The article says it is pretty easy to get around Saudi government blocks on web sites. So are the Saudis all at home watching forbidden stuff on their PCs?

The real test for the Saudis will come when domestic oil demand grows so large and domestic production shrinks far enough that the Saudis make little off off oil exports. Then will the regime be able to maintain the loyalties of all those Saudis who do little work in their jobs in Aramco and the government? What happens when work becomes necessary for the elite? Will extreme Islamic culture become so inefficient and unaffordable that the government (before or after overthrow) be forced to loosen up? Will males still support the government just to keep the women down?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 September 08 06:47 PM  MidEast Saudi Arabia


Comments
CamelCaseRob said at September 9, 2011 4:21 AM:

If the monarchy falls, wouldn't the popular government be MORE religious in nature, not less?

Big Bill said at September 9, 2011 5:15 AM:

As long as the bleeding heart lefties don't try to import them into the USA as poor little refugees to make our country more vibrant. If there is anything I have learned in my life it is that refugees bring the very same mental and physical diseases to their new homelands. It isn't that they are seeking a new culture and society, they seek to remake their new country into the horrible, repressive, ignorant cesspit they escaped…only with them on top!

jerry said at September 9, 2011 9:54 AM:

"Then will the regime be able to maintain the loyalties"

Are you kidding? The whole royal family will be living in Long Beach the year after this happens.

Avanti said at September 9, 2011 11:20 AM:

Are you kidding? The whole royal family will be living in Long Beach the year after this happens."


They'd better keep those planes fueled. If hard core muzzie revvers grab them, they'll be pulling a Mussolini a la Ceaușescu.

bbartlog said at September 10, 2011 1:41 AM:

'...work becomes necessary for the elite?'
I think you must have a different definition of this word in mind than I do. If you *need* to work, you're not part of the elite. Anyway, I don't expect their current elite to have much in the way of useful skills, so it should lead to quite an interesting failed state.

Wolf-Dog said at September 10, 2011 3:08 AM:

But if and when the fundamentalists come to power in Saudi Arabia, the observance of religious laws will become even more strict, and probably the new government will be similar to the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Same story when Syria, Libya, Egypt, etc, get new governments. But more importantly, when the main oil producing Islamic countries are governed by fundamentalist extremist regimes, we shall see that all that money will be channeled towards militarization like Iran. Once sufficiently militarized with modern weapons, the new fundamentalist block will be far more inclined towards aggression and the establishment of a Caliphate.

gcochran said at September 10, 2011 11:24 PM:

"all that money will be channeled towards militarization like Iran"

Which would be great, since Iran isn't spending much on their armed forces. 1.8% of GDP. You could look it up.

Since their Army and Air force are pretty crappy, with essentially all equipment obsolete, this was obvious. Only not to you.



Just Sayin' said at September 11, 2011 9:26 AM:

"Since their Army and Air force are pretty crappy, with essentially all equipment obsolete, this was obvious. Only not to you."

Crappy gear, crappy people? No mention of their navy?

PS "Obsolete" equipment can kill.

Wolf-Dog said at September 12, 2011 12:44 AM:

GCochran: Officially Iran is spending only 2.6 % of the GDP in the military, as the CIA website says:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html

But most likely these figures do not include the clandestine but very substantial efforts of Iran to develop nuclear industries and warheads, and secret missiles. If Iran's help to Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas are included together with its own secret nuclear projects, as well as its contributions to Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, the total military spending would probably be significantly higher than the official 2.6 %, maybe much more than 5 %.

By the way, nukes are FAR cheaper to build and maintain than conventional forces, both in terms of hardware and personnel. In fact, I am in favor of a pure high tech army in the US with only robots and scientists, but mostly nuclear. This would cut down the US military spending to well below 1 % of the GDP.

So it is not the quantity but the quality that matters, and nukes are very economical in terms of explosive power to price ratio.


The only problem is that the nukes in the hands of the Caliphate might be more easily used.

gig said at September 12, 2011 5:39 AM:

"Obsolete" equipment can kill.

Specially those using it!!

Mirco Romanato said at September 12, 2011 6:38 AM:

If you read the Muttawa blog (sadly it was discontinued a few years ago) you will understand that Saudis understood that all this well fare will not last forever. The joke is: "My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a Mercedes, I ride a airplane, my child will ride a camel".
The critical point will not be when the oil export end or when the oil export will not be able to pay for food and basic items.
The critical points will be when the oil exports will not be able to pay for the foreign workers. There all will fall apart.
When the Egyptian doctors will not be paid for their work, they will return Egypt or will go somewhere else. And the same is true for any worker.
What happen when 25% of the people in Saudi Arabia (the guest workers) decide there are better options somewhere (maybe China or their home country?

It is like the Plague, but it will hit only the productive people and not the more weak and unproductive.

The Muslim world (Iran is in a similar mess) will, in the next decades, very weak, very demographically challenged (more than the West) and it will easy pick for the stronger, if the stronger want pick it all or some parts.

bbartlog said at September 12, 2011 6:58 AM:

Iran has enough human capital that I doubt it will end up as a massive slum a la Egypt or (I expect) the future Saudi Arabia. Persians aren't Arabs. But certainly it does have its work cut out for it.

EmasDKMJ said at September 24, 2011 4:27 PM:

This is very bad because teens do not let students do their daily activities like school and evening not leave them there a lot of crime and the government does nothing and barely leave their homes in fear. Also on the women who treat them like rags as a thing which you want to have to evaluate them no respect as they do that and then the men going to continue to support that does not.

Sam said at September 25, 2011 5:41 PM:

Life in Saudi Arabia is worse than it has in other countries and yet there are people who complain about the country they live but they have not seen the situation where there are other countries such as Saudi Arabia.
So we should try to build a better country and not be so selfish with other people because those attitudes are copied and deteriorates the life you have and it becomes a poorer country

alexey said at September 25, 2011 7:26 PM:

should make up for the government to listen and put the least bit to reason about the situation that is happening is this place


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