Ah, summer. Scorching heat, unbearable showers, natural escape, and the tourism industry’s backbone since no one is submissive enough to endure these temperatures; not even for poetic reasons. While the larger portion of us prefers the intimate fondling of passport control abroad, some of us relish in the excitement of domestic exploration. That is the general, tangible theme of tourism, the one that drives you into loans and/or carrying out murder-suicides on the members of your immediate family and an indiscernible number of very deserving cousins.
There is, however, a third, subtle form of tourism that doesn’t traverse land or distance, but instead, travels through class, money, and status. Tourism that is at heart not very different from orientalism in its approach to the culture it imposes itself on; a sort of hipsterism that preys on the circumstances people’s lives are run by. It is the tourism of socioeconomic class, and the sole manner of transportation in that trip: a one-way ticket to the lower decks.
Now emerges a trend amongst the new, educated generation of Arabs. Young men and women of the upper-middle class who hail from the best families with seemingly self-replenishing means and with access to the best education who cannot, for the lives of them, find sufficient validation in the rich lives they lead. Their exposure to Dickensian literature (for want of expensing the benefit of the doubt) or simple lack of experience in life pushes them towards finding self-assurance and relatability in the manners in which those less fortunate lead their lives.
It is no secret that nobility seems to be exclusive to the poor, but it’s not the direct link these validation vultures seem to believe in that builds character and strengthens will. You will not be one of the common people by breakfasting on the off-chance at the Fawwal. You will not be seen as a struggling individual if you can’t afford that spring break trip to Florida. You will not share the collective frustration with the inflation by shopping at the 2 Riyal shops as a hobby and not out of necessity.
It gets worse for you, dear predator, because we, middle class and lower, see that you’re not just the loser kid that’s trying to blend in by any means necessary, but you go further to the point of ostentatious audacity of complaining about your status, of claiming that you’re broke (darling, 1200 in your account is a more-than-decent amount), of calling yourself blue-collar, of “dreaming” of being rich, of whining because you can’t afford the new Celine handbag and the new Yeezy’s, and cursing your luck that your father’s credit card isn’t as open-end as you wanted it to be.
Growing up middle class meant that we always wanted to look better off, more important, richer. We stole our siblings’ better clothes, our mothers’ favourite make-up, borrowed that designer purse after weeks and weeks of begging, saved up our allowance to buy that one thing everyone was talking about at school because we were too proud to admit that things just don’t happen when we wish them to. So, as a large part of society, it is incredibly laughable for us to see someone flaunting what we grew up to see as embarrassing. But then the vultures start crooning fondly to each other in “sympathy,” and it becomes infinitely insulting.
Having breakfast at the Fawwal isn’t a choice of amusement, it is a necessity shaped by circumstance. A person’s remaining balance at the end of every month doesn’t indicate what he can spend, it indicates how he should live his life, it dictates what he perceives as success, happiness, and well being. His lifestyle shouldn’t be used as a gateway for your self-indulgence. I realise that self-search is a vital aspect in a young person’s life, but when it becomes a blatant disregard for the harsh reality of others, it becomes a childish desire to become a literary character, not a person.
When someone’s day-to-day concern is how to survive by the end of the month, it hardly comes as a pat on the back when the sons and daughters of the high-middle class attempt to identify with that struggle. When you eat out more than you cook, when you travel more than you stay, when you indulge more than you save, when you read more than you experience, your occasional strolls through Taibah speak nothing but a severe lack of touch with reality.
I plead to this young generation, the readers, the revolutionists, the Guevara wannabes, the socialists because it’s cool, to step out of their convenient bubbles of Goodreads lists and be thankful for the struggles they don’t have to fight through, to not fall for the romance of poverty, to not be trapped into theorising real life experiences in order to understand them. Not everything has to be understood, just respected.
You might be hated for the graces you’ve been given, but ultimately it’s a lighter burden than that of being hated for being an ungrateful little prick. I leave you with the masterpiece that is Common People by Pulp. I tried to be polite and explain it, but maybe Jarvis Cocker’s torrent of insults can make this unsightly charade cease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuTMWgOduFM