Whistling In The Dark

This story about Dubai was linked on Boing bBoing the other day but if you haven’t yet read it, go do so:

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

The author, Johann Hari, goes on to describe a living hell of capitalism run amok, describing it as a microcosm of all the recent problems that we in the US are experiencing, distilled and amplified. The frightening part, is that there are Americans who want to replicate Dubai here in the US: a tax-free haven where the rich live like royalty and everyone else is a slave and they are all trapped in a simulacrum of freedom, forced to pretend that the benefits (zero taxes, the ability to treat other humans as slaves, gaudy excess and concentrated corporate wealth) outweighs the downside (slavery, corruption, greed, ecological disregard and soul shattering depravity).

I thought we were supposed to have left the dark ages a long time ago but apparently, they never left us.