Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nationalism - reversed discrimination?

Almost immediately after I published the post titled "The good, the bad and the misguided", my inbox began overflowing with emails, some of support but most of shallow critisism; one of which even went so far as to call me a liar. In reading through the bunch of "fan mail" I receieved, I began to get a clearer image of what the average Emarati's thought process is like. It is scary to hear such deluded interpretations of 'patriotism' from young Emarati people. My dear brothers and sisters, don't confuse patriotism with nationalism, the latter is rife with racism and double standards and I don't advocate this sort of jingoism in the name of the former (overt and blind patriotism). Don't allow anyone to paint you into a corner by using an emotive term like patriotism to belittle your ideas or values. Yes, my dear brethren, it is possible to show you love your country in other ways instead of blind fury against country X. That being said, let's take a brief look at the two, shall we?

From Merriam-Webster's
Patriotism: noun: love for or devotion to one's country
Nationalism: noun: loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups

Nationalism more often than not translates into racism and in turn a sense of superiority. You see, the fundamental things about the UAE that inspire patriotism are its dedication to excellence and promotion of freedom. While nationalism is a violation of these very prinicples, patriotism embodies and upholds them. Ignorance of the essential difference between these two attributes has apparently allowed many to slip across the divide unaware of their own narrow-mindedness. While I don't advocate blatant racism in the name of nationalism, I certainly don't oppose patriotism. People need to distinguish between pride, the love of one's country, and patriotism, the blind and stupid obedience thereof. I think it is possible to love a country without having to resort to historical fictions or cross-border hatred. I love my country but I don't have to love it blindly or in defence against another country to be able to appreciate it. I'm going to sound redundant and repetitive by saying this, but that's okay. There's nothing wrong with loving your country, people, culture, or food of course - within limits. But I've always been suspicious of rampant nationalism or patriotism - they too often lead people to do nasty things to each other. It's not that I have to ignore negative political or cultural aspects in order to love it. Those are part of her realities; those are the scars and sores that I acknowledge and yet still I embrace her.

Lately though, my Emarati identity seems to have been subsumed by my American identity. Underneath the weight of these behemoths, emaratiness seems to have been whittled down to the color of my skin, an occasional break-out in Arabic lyrics, and a love for biryani. Still, to those who addressed my American heritage as being more dominant, I'll say this. Politics aside, nothing makes the land of my mother superior to that of my father. I love bits of both in equal measure but I don't look down on those who don't belong to either. I also don't think it appropriate to use a certain people to better whichever country I hail from overlooking their rights in the process. In practical terms, it meant not taking up the post I was asked to because I knew it, the administration knew it, as did my boss - I am neither fit nor ready for that kind of a responsibility. Not to mention, of the two of us who was better suited for it. This is in response to those who said I didn't have the "betterment of the country" at heart and was being "unnationalistic". Sure, I was.

I point out the wrongs and applaud the rights. That is patriotism, in my book. Let's also not forget the greatest racial extermination in history... that of the Native Americans in the United States. So it all boils down to the good, the bad and the misguided - the three categories may be found everywhere, not just the UAE. And it's the patriot in me talking when I say I wish to abolish the hatred caused in the wake of these groups.

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” - Charles de Gaulle

My two cents - no need to be afraid of my opinion.

Signed,
E - N&D

PS
My next post will be touching on the situation of prejudice between those of different ancestry which may not be as intense or as drastic as it is in other nations, but that certainly does not mean that it isn’t a problem.

28 comments:

Nivi said...

Indeed, an excellent post. Nationalism often demands unquestioned and uncompromising loyalty.It asserts that other nations are implacable enemies to one's own nation. Millions have died in Wars on behalf of their countries. Love of one's country doesn't require hatred of others. WE ARE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD!

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

I love this post.
It's interesting you got that kind of reaction with regards to your previous post!!
I still however am for nationlism, it doesn't necessarily translate into racism. I guess the problem is how far people take it.

rosh said...

Wow - am breathless!!

Fantastic write up, agree with you, word 4 word, syllable 4 syllable :) This deserves the best Biryani in town and more :)

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

HL&H, I think what you're trying to say in essence is that you're for "patriotism". I am too, it's no surprise :)

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

yeah put words in my mouth.
No nationalism is good too :)

moviemania said...

Finally, someone who thinks straight!

Excellent post, I totally agree with you. Far, far too many Emaratis are consumed in nationalism which I am just opposed to. While I am suspicious of nationalism and patriotism (I'm not comfortable with blindly supporting anything) as you said, love of your country is good as long as it's within limits.

Nationalism is a dangerous thing.

rosh said...

I guess people often miss the fact that we are all people first - born into different homes, cultures, borders & boundaries, which have been created by man over the centuries.

It is unfortunate for mankind, when we loose sight of the fact we are all perhaps created/made by the same good guy sitting up there, instead border, nationalism & patriotism have taken preference.

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

yeah put words in my mouth.

Sorry, it wasn't my intention to.

No nationalism is good too :)

Can't say I agree with you there or even remotely see the angle you're coming from, because I don't. Guess I'll continue to row this boat alone, of course with a li'l help from moviemania, rosh and nivi :)

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

remember me when you become a red indian in dubai :)

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

Okay, well, then let me ask you this. Do you regard our nation and it nationals superior to the rest?

rosh said...

oooooo this is getting exciting :)

i*maginate said...

try one of the restaurants off hamdan street in abu dhabi for your best bet on biryani, i think hamdan street's entrance is closed, but try getting on to it by taking the shortcut from the entrance to the *old* etisalat high street. one u're there, take the first U-turn when you see etisalat on the opposite side of the road, after u make the u-turn, turn right, then get on to the next right (onto hamdan street), then take the first right...you'll see *sahrat* restaurant on the left as you drive by...make a U-turn at the end of the road...ask for Mr. Salim....order a meal to last you a week...yum yum yum...keep posting!

i might find the brain and soul to comment on the intellectual side of your post if the hunger arises in the next few days ;)

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

All "nations" have certain advantages that other "nations" don't have. That doesn't make any nation superior, but it speaks to the "nation" and the "natunals" that constitue that country.It makes that nation and nationality better in that particular aspect. Theres is nothing wrong with that.

The problem with nationalism is when its based on nothing, when there is nothing to be proud of, nothing good to promote, when its based on what you are led to think.


Nationalism doesnt make you hate other countries or look down on them. Nationalism should be able to enhance the assets of that country that makes it better.

Promoting and emphasising ones culture and way of life doesn't mean you are promoting racism or discriminating between people.

When you are ripped of your nationalism in your own country you become a red indian. Nationalism wasn't the cause of the red indians fate, it was the invasion of their land by people who needed to have a land to call thier own and make a nation out of it. Two separate issues.

With regards to the work situation and nationalism. I agree when you are not fit for a position national or not, you are not fit and you don't deserve it. But, what has been happening the past 10 year is locals not getting certain postions despite having the experience and the degree, just because a green eyed blonde haired guy/girl from a certain country has the same qualification. That I had problems seeing.
There is nothing wrong in aknowledging the locals, giving them priority (without compromising standards). If they don't get the special treament in thier own country, were do you expect it to happen. Believe me, five years in Canada, and I know, I am not going to be given my worth if there is a Canadian who has the same qualification. It is fair.

It is interesting that you use "her" in the following sentence "It's not that I have to ignore negative political or cultural aspects in order to love it. Those are part of her realities; those are the scars and sores that I acknowledge and yet still I embrace her." almost feels that you are talking about a person ;)

Finally,
I am better than you in psychiatry, does that make me superior to you? does it mean I hate you?if it does, then you win the arguement.

If none of this makes any sense, then I will blame it on my lack of sleep status.

Anonymous said...

you're one of the very few, emarati. don't pay heed to the haters! rock on, bro!

i*maginate said...

I don't see how patriotism and nationalism connect to your refusal of the job offer in this post. (Please clarify in words that I can understand, if I didn't get the message! I'm not being sarcastic, I'm serious).

The way I see it is that this country wants to see Emiratis get ahead. You were given a chance. OK, you know you were not as good as "the other." This is Emirati-world and you were playing in the job-world. You were offered a job. You didn't take it. You happen to be Emirati, and you were priveleged in knowing who else was in the run for the job - someone who you rightfully respected, but because of your morals, you declined the job. Perhaps this says something about your political skills. This is the real world Mr. - you gotta fight, but when the offer is on your plate, you take it! Unless you wanna work for the UNHRC or WTO!

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

Emarati...can't find your email on your blog anywhere????

rosh said...

"This is the real world Mr. - you gotta fight, but when the offer is on your plate, you take it! Unless you wanna work for the UNHRC or WTO!"

Respectfully, I beg to differ. Perhaps this is not about getting ahead or charity - but living with what your heart/mind feels is correct?

Last Christmas I was offered to head a practice for the ME region, with the group of companies, I work with, here in New York. The opportunity was based in - but of course - Dubai. Monies, perks and power were awesome - however I have unresolved issues on certain aspects of the UAE. I wasn't comfortable having those monies and freedom, when I knew in the long haul, I would be frustrated with certain ways of working in the country, which perhaps was beyond my control.

Point being - there is so much you can accept and take on. You can pretend & justify to the whole world, but yourself. End of the day all glitter and glory without honesty or substance to yourself or the soul - leaves you quite empty at square one.

Life is not all about monies and power, it’s also about being true to yourself.

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

Hot Lemon & Honey
You raise some interesting points but that doesn't necessarily mean I agree with you one way or another. Now, when you said "It makes that nation and nationality better in that particular aspect." Understandably, the part that came before it I totally agreed with it, if only materialistically which in any case means zilch to me but still... Coming to what you said, nothing makes a particular nation or its peoples "better" than another, and especially not when talking in terms of social status and the like. My only beef with that kind of thinking (which I regard as rotten at best, for lack of a better term) is that pain is universal. It's isn't Keralite, Ugandan or Canadian, you see. When a man dies of hunger in the cold of Moscow, it's universal and if I can't help him, then how can I claim to be better than the German who worried for him and fed him. The ONLY thing that would make me proud of my heritage or nationality (so to speak) would be the fact that in his time of need MY land stepped up and offered him food. We're talking small scale here but times a million and you'll get a faint idea of what I'm getting at. I most certainly am not going to stand tall over the fact that we won a football game or because my country houses 3 of the world's 12 sets of wonders. Clearly and sadly, that is not what the state of the stadium reflected following the game when OUR people booed them off the podium just as soon as they began coming up to collect their medals. That seriously crosses the line of friendly banter. You see, we're comfortable in our age old ways of discrimination and our baseless superiority complex.

Your next point, however, goes with what I've just said. "The problem with nationalism is when its based on nothing, when there is nothing to be proud of, nothing good to promote, when its based on what you are led to think." So then what are we so proud of? Sorry, but I find this terribly shallow and upsetting.

"Nationalism doesnt make you hate other countries or look down on them. Nationalism should be able to enhance the assets of that country that makes it better."

Patriotism makes me wanna do that. Better my country because after all it is my identitiy in some small way. Still, I don't regard people by their country of origin but by their person.

"[...]I am not going to be given my worth if there is a Canadian who has the same qualification. It is fair."

Whooa! You use the term "fair" rather loosely here. I just call that kind of practise for what it is, wrong! Promoting locals because where else do they expect to get preferential treatment? Nowhere, unless they actually qualify regardless of who they're up against. I stand for a more just world. The caucasianism (just coined that :p) that has hit this country I am not in favor of, not one percent. It's a bias based solely on unchangable characteristics which don't prove a man's worth by any stretch of the imagination. And we need to start putting our foot down and saying enough is enough. How many of us can they make disappear, afterall. See, we're the mass. We'd overcome if we all decided to just parade through the city. We wonder why is it we're all unable to bring about world peace when I haven't met a single person who doesn't wish it? We point fingers at others when there are enough similarites between us and those we badmouth, namely the suited booted diplomatic office holders in a "position to bring about change". When the truth is you need none of that to cause change.

I've been trying to get to a point to which I believe simple arithematic would do that trick. To the caucasian, we (the locals) are just as low/good as the "Pakistani" is to us, the locals. So everytime we see a Pakistani (it's what my boss is) fit for the job they're just offering to us on a platter, we don't think twice and nab it the first chance we get. Why would you expect the caucasian to do any different? Why would he back off and say, no in this case the local deserves my job because so on and so on. It's a vicious circle and if we don't collectively make our voices heard, NOTHING will ever change. We might as well just stop beating our heads about and give up now. Unless we're ready to make that commitment and sacrifice. If we really do crave world peace, that is. But then perhaps we don't because things here are picture perfect for the most of us so why bother what goes on in the Fiji islands, eh.

"I am better than you in psychiatry, does that make me superior to you? does it mean I hate you?if it does, then you win the arguement."

I'm sorry but it isn't as simple as that, HL&H. The problem runs deeper. Much deeper.

Oh, I removed my mail address a while ago but for anyone who wishes to contact me - emarati.nickel.dime [AT] gmail (dot) com


i*maginate
"I don't see how patriotism and nationalism connect to your refusal of the job offer in this post."

Read the first line of my post. After having made my decision public, I received tons of emails calling me unnationalistic and not wanting the betterment of the country. Oops, they caught me. But before I let them bask in the glory of their little victories, let me just make the concept of some simple terms clearer - as in patriotism and nationalism and how all of it ties to my denying the post I was offered. Make sense now? :)

"This is the real world Mr. - you gotta fight, but when the offer is on your plate, you take it! Unless you wanna work for the UNHRC or WTO!"

I resent that tone because you must believe me when I tell you I've lived my share of life, which is enough years to have made me the man I am today so as long as we're all adults with class having a civilized discussion, let's keep it at that :) Still, I've addressed your points in my reply to Hot, Lemon & Honey.

"OK. So you are Emirati. You want the workforce of your country, the decision-makers, to be from Kerala? That is my comment to the ideology in your post. I don't think there's any other argument that I could make as strong as this."

And I don't think you could've gotten any more racist than you just did. Indians preferring Indians is just as natural as locals preferring locals. If their organization is private and they wish to be biased against other applicants by hiring only Indians, I don't have much say in that, do I? On the other hand, if it's a centrally operated company then I'd prefer to have a neutral board that takes up people based solely on their qualification.

Alright, now let's just assume a majority of Keralaites do qualify for certain posts and I, as a member of the neutral board, realize I'm in danger of turning this into an Indian organization, well, then, I am in no danger. He earned it. It's that simple. Enough with the bigotries on our part. Secondly, where were we when their countrymen were busy putting the building blocks round the clock to what I am so proud of now. If I thought their kind deserved that, then they deserve this post too. And they shall have it. It's that simple, see. If only one has the gall to stand up for what they believe in.

rosh
You and I are on the same page here, pal :)

Lose the tunnel vision, brothers and sisters and you might just see the bigger picture I'm getting it.

i*maginate said...

"Read the first line of my post" - ok.. thx for taking the time to clarify. Well, I didn't even need to understand what the link was and now I do, I realise I'm obviously one of those people, however, I have slightly better things to do that to have a little *victory* with someone I don't know!

I said "You want the workforce of your country, the decision-makers, to be from Kerala?", based on a quote from the Labour Minister. So please don't quote me out of context, I'm just making a point by repeating what he said, in different words, phrased as a question, as in ... how do you feel re: what he said! I couldn't care less if the word Kerala was replaced with any other thing, let's say X! The point is, locals are outnumbered here, and that is a problem. Isn't it?

You say, "Indians preferring Indians is just as natural as locals preferring locals". Damn right! That's precisely how it should be, this is local-land, shouldn't locals be no.1? It is *you*, Monsieur, who is perhaps not looking at the big picture. OK, individually you want to do good for humanity and refuse a job (isn't the moral of the decision you made based on positive discrimination?) - but what about your country as a whole? What happens if the little local kiddies and kiddos reading this all agree with you, and anyone in your position does the same? What an interesting future this country would then have. I could never imagine a local would think like this, and your blog perhaps reflects thoughts I never knew possible in a place such as here. What is shocking is that you might not be the only one. You may think I'm ignorant, but I think you're ignorant. What is this tunnel of vision you're talking about? It's simple: if you don't choose (and you haven't) the right to exercise power in your own country, then who will?

Hot Lemon& Honey said...

You know Emarati, I am not going to address your detailed response. To disagree is good but to call people shallow makes me looser interest in engaging in any further discussion.

Rosh I'm happy you find a friend in the La la land.

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

HL&H, you misunderstood me. I didn't name-call, it isn't my habit to resort to personal attacks. In saying "[...]I find this terribly shallow[...]" I meant the act of being proud of our nation because it has the best malls or more relevant to the times, because it won a cup or the socioeconomic status of our "locals" is better than any. I don't get along with that sort of pride and I've already explained what will give me reason to be proud of my country. Therefore, I was agreeing with the point you raised, which is baseless pride :)

Hence my question (rephrasing), "what is it that we're so proud of?... I find it terribly shallow and upsetting to be proud of the things that we as a nation are actually proud of".

Sorry if you misunderstood me.

rosh said...

"Alright, now let's just assume a majority of Keralaites do qualify for certain posts and I, as a member of the neutral board, realize I'm in danger of turning this into an Indian organization, well, then, I am in no danger. He earned it."

E N&D - sadly, this often is not the case, especially in a young nation like the UAE. Most often, such hirings happen, not because of qualifications/experience but, nepotism.

I am a UAE born/bred/educated exapt - and I have seen far too many times, nepotism play the hiring factor compared to education or experience.

I am NOT saying all Keratitis or Indians/Pakistanis are this way - there certainly are those who follow fair practices.

I sincerely feel, the fundamental flaw lies with the current legislation and regulations in hiring a foreign worker. As far as I know (and I could be wrong) - there is little (or no) transparent process in place, to justify hiring of most foreign workforce in the UAE.

For instance, in the United States, a firm is required to advertise and disclose to the labour department (and the public) an open position in order to evaluate, first & foremost if a US citizen or a Green Card holder is eligible for the position - with minimum matching requirements as per the job description.

Only if there is unavailability from such resources is foreign resource(s) looked into. I think this key aspect should be implemented in the UAE- else you shall have far too many people taking advantage of the fragile system in place.

The opportunity which was offered in Dubai, will probably go to another deserving individual. Infact, am heading to Dubai and ME region next month (amongst other business issues) to interview and hire for this position - and (without going into much detail) I openly share with you, a key process which I have been pushing for, with the largely Arab expat ME management:

(i) Actively seek and exhaust Emarati candidates, who meet minimum qualifications & experience as required for the open position - if none available, option (ii) Actively seek and exhaust qualified UAE born/bred candidates (race, parents nationality no bar) who meet the minimum qualification & experience as required for the position - if none available option (iii) Actively seek and hire a foreign (race, citizenship no bar) individual whose qualifications & experience best match to the position open.

To add I agree with you - just because there are malls and fancy buildings and fantastic highways - does not automatically attach absolute substance within a nation and it's citizens.

I am just proud/happy there are at least a few Emarati souls debating & dissenting this topic :)

rosh said...

If I may add - the reason I mentioned "Arab expat" is primarily 'cause I've received resumes the past month - all related (in one way or the other) with a certain senior individual in Dubai from a certain Arab (expat) community. All currently living in Canada.

The frustration is, we've hired head-hunters in Dubai and the Indian head-hunters sent mostly Indian candidates, the EU ones (for the most part) put forth EU candidates - and some of them seem no where near qualified?

Anyhow - just expressing my sentiment, on how uneasy the process is in the UAE - I just wish there was more of a streamlined regulation to follow a fair due process. Someday I suppose....

rosh said...

what no update? Please PLEASE update : )

3lo G said...

"realize I'm in danger of turning this into an Indian organization" --- That point was well said, but realize that it depends on the orginization.

Given, that a true patriot will give justice where it is due.

But,If the said orginization, where say the... The ministry of interior affairs, I would plan ahead to make sure that takeover doesnt happen.

rosh said...

Sah sah! 3log - I agree with you on ministry of affairs comment.

Emarati Nickel & Dime said...

what no update? Please PLEASE update : )

Coming right up :)

localexpat said...

WOW RESPECT! :-)

I really couldn't have but it better myself.

"UAE that inspire patriotism .....and promotion of freedom." Hmmmm i beg to differ on the promotion of freedom part.

My favourite :-


“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” - Charles de Gaulle