Belmont Club

Dreaming of the Past

Marks Steyn commenting on the “Occupy protesters”, noted that the worst thing about them was that their dreams could only be fulfilled by government.  They were stardust, and they were golden and they were powerless to get back to the Garden. So they needed government’s help. And the Garden they wanted a return to was the orchard of their grandparents; this time without the necessity of working as much as their grandparents did.

Indeed, for all their youthful mien, the protesters are as mired in America’s post-war moment as their grandparents: One of their demands is for a trillion dollars in “environmental restoration.” Hey, why not? It’s only a trillion. Beneath the allegedly young idealism are very cobwebbed assumptions about societal permanence. The agitators for “American Autumn” think that such demands are reasonable for no other reason than that they happen to have been born in America, and expectations that no other society in human history has ever expected are just part of their birthright.

The same thing may be happening, only worse, in Saudi Arabia. Ellen Knickmayer, in a Foreign Policy article titled “The Idle Kingdom” observed that Saudi Arabia was a society with a glorious recent past and a non-existent imminent future. Its old were clinging to jobs that had been handed to them back in the Garden while its young faced nothing but an endless desert of unemployment outside the wire.

In the wide stretch of the Middle East bypassed by revolution, Arab spring turned to Arab summer peacefully but not altogether promisingly for the Arab world’s largest-ever surge of young people. In Saudi Arabia, more than half-a-million proud high school and college seniors crossed the stage at graduation ceremonies. The new graduates step into a job market featuring the highest regional youth unemployment rate in the world.

Just when a rising wave of young Saudis is hitting the job market, in a generational surge of tens of millions of new workers expected to subside in the kingdom only around 2050, and just when Arab governments most want youth jobs for the sake of stability, economists are concluding that decades of effort by Gulf governments to get their young into the labor market have fallen short — way short.

One of the problems, according to the FP article, is that the locals were unemployable. Despite government efforts to require firms to hire locals, it was the Indians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos who continued to do “jobs that Saudis won’t do”. “After 40 years of Saudi-ization, Oman-ization, Emirati-zation, they’ve not managed to increase the national share of jobs,” one expert she quoted said.

Jobs are being created in Saudi Arabia; but they’re going to Indians, Pakistanis, and other expat workers, not Saudis. Of the 1.2 million jobs added by the Saudi private sector between 2004 and 2009, only 280,000 went to Saudis, government statistics show.

Part of the problem is that few young Saudis can work at unbelievably intense pace of Third World laborers who, desperate to remain employed, are willing to endure such thirst, fatigue and hardship as would daunt animals. For example, one newspaper noted that some Filipino workers resorted to selling their blood to tide them over between jobs.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. This seemed to be what many jobless and undocumented overseas Filipino workers are experiencing in the Kingdom as they allegedly resort to selling their blood to hospitals just to make ends meet. …

One of them was 30-year old ‘Roy’ (not his real name), from Tondo, Manila. Roy arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2009 to work as a glass cutter. However, after months of working, Roy had not received his salary from his employer, prompting him to run away. Since then, he then became one of the undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

Roy told Monterona that he had to sell his blood on a monthly basis just to have money to remit to his family back home. He said having to live as [an illegal] and without a permanent job is difficult.

Faced with the awesome work ethic of men fighting for their existences, Ellen Knickermayer at Foreign Policy asked, ‘how can you compete in the job market with people as desperate as that?’ “Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia on average receive wages that are 3.6 times less than what Saudi workers receive, and have a reputation for accepting long hours and poor conditions.”

“You must work like a machine,” Nada, the would-be teacher in Riyadh, quotes one private school as telling her, offering her a teaching job with 10-hour days and overcrowded classrooms for a very few hundred dollars a month.

The willingness to work like a machine — and the determination to withdraw money from the “blood bank” to fund unemployment is hard to compete against against, especially when locals are no better skilled and perhaps less skilled than the imported workers. But few Saudis would submit to the indignity of going the Dracula route, when like the “Occupy” protesters, there is the belief that government can smooth their way forward. Receiving unemployment benefits is one right they’ve come to expect. The Saudis expected 500,000 responses when they distributed applications for unemployment payments in late 2010. When officials received 3.5 million applications they were shocked.

Ministry of Labor officials told Saudi reporters they expected to find that many of the applications were duplicates, or submitted by people who didn’t understand the rules. …

However, even if almost half the applications are thrown out, says Saudi businessman Essam al-Zamel, it still suggests that Saudi Arabia’s actual overall unemployment rate may be a multiple of the official 10 percent figure. That would mean millions more among Saudi Arabia’s 26 million people would look for work if they thought they had hope of finding any.

“Unemployment will be a real problem year after year, and in three or four years it will be very, very obvious,” Zamel told me.

Unemployment was rising like water in the bilge of the Titanic. But what happens when the Saudi Arabian stash is gone and even the men from Tondo have no blood left to sell? No one wants to think about what that means, especially in societies that have been relying on “a stash”, on a design margin, on a golden-egg laying goose to meet current expenses. Societies which spend more than they produce eventually acquire a huge debt, which is further fueled by demands to borrow more so that the accustomed standard of living in the Garden can be sustained.

When borrowing doesn’t work any more then the search starts for people who can be shaken down, in the name of fairness, until that doesn’t work either.  Pittsburgh Live describes the depression among the Democratic faithful.

Minutes stretched on awkwardly after U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis spoke to local Democrats. Yet that was less uncomfortable than one man’s attempt to break the silence.

“Let’s go Obama!” he shouted, clapping loudly. No response….

Signs of discontent are seen even among blacks.

State Sen. Tim Solobay found the lack of enthusiasm at last week’s event “weird.” He wondered if Democrats here see Obama as far less moderate than themselves, “plus there is this perception that no one can get along in Washington.” …

A battle is raging for Democrats’ souls, Rozell believes: “The moderate wing seems without direction, other than its argument that the party needs to do what is necessary to win election.”

That “the moderate wing seems without direction, other than … to do what is necessary to win election” is a sign that large sections of the Party have lost faith in the “stash” model.  In Mark Steyn’s phraseology some Democrats may be coming to the conclusion that Grandpa’s world is gone. Steyn might have added Dad’s protest world is gone too.

“Occupy” protesters with their face paint, Guy Fawkes masks, chants and signs look curiously dated, even primitive. In some sense they resemble devotees dancing before a temple hoping to arouse the gods within. As Mike Stopa, a Harvard nanophysicist Harvard wrote on the MetroWest Daily News even the “Occupy” protests aren’t about production; they are about consumption: the consumption of therapy to be exact. “Deep in the human heart there is a persistent need to emote.”

How else to explain the throngs of protesters who are even now pouring out in cities across America, erecting tent cities and sleeping day after day on the hard ground (OK, maybe on uncomfortably firm air mattresses), demanding social justice, free college education and higher credit scores? And how else to explain the popularity of the viral video starring the newest Siren of the Left, Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the Senate against Scott Brown, wherein she makes an impassioned plea for, well, more roads. Oh, and more teachers. And more police to protect us. …

Anyway, we will be seeing more of Warren and more of the protesters. And many will be stirred by their fiery emoting; even if the target is none too clear. Many of us, on the other hand, (in particular the parents among us) will recognize the compulsive, unfocused emoting by another name: a temper tantrum.

But as the Nigerian novelist Ben Okri put it, things never turn out quite the way we plan and even the Occupy temper tantrums begin to say something the child never intended. “We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It’s just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn’t have expected.”

What fulfillment did the dream achieve and what is the route forward now? Well this way to the blood bank folks, step right up. Step right up.

Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $3.99, print $9.99
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