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What happens when technological advancements outpace social growth March 28, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Sociology, Technology.
1 comment so far

My wife and I rent a cozy 2 bedroom flat for about 500 US dollars a month, we have wireless internet, Satellite TV, 3 mobile phones, an SUV… It sounds like we’re living every young couple’s dream. Well technologically maybe, but socially, no way! 

I have been working in Oman in a small coastal city called Sohar for a couple of years now. When I first arrived, the area was economically dead except for a few fish export businesses here and there; rent was cheap (my house was worth 150 US Dollars max!), there were no shopping malls, and only a couple of decent restaurants. When the government decided to develop an industrial port area, unstable economic growth took off like I’ve never seen before; billions of international dollars suddenly came in the form of investments. Rent quadrupled and living expenses shot up overnight!     

Support providers (insurance, internet, communication etc…) and construction companies set up offices quickly to make the best out of the situation. Leisure/gastronomic businesses have started investing as well but to many people’s dismay it turned out that they do not develop proportionally with the other services! It takes time to study intangible market requirements in an unstable economy; it also takes time to do the analysis since the influx of people to the area still hasn’t stabilized! Then you have to obtain (very hard to get) municipality permits! All this before a respectable restaurant can open. Now we have 1 mall in the area, 3 decent restaurants, and no movie theaters (permits still on hold). Even McDonald’s and Starbucks haven’t opened branches yet!     

You will better grasp the peculiarity of the situation if we take a look at my landlord: A 60 something illiterate grumpy old man, who until last year grew dates in a farm of his next to the port. After the boom, he sold half of his land (initially worth about 40,000 US dollars) for a stunning 2 million US dollars. He now owns a few residential buildings, drives a Lexus, carries a mobile phone, but still grows dates for leisure. Here we can deduce that another factor contributing to the slow social buildup is the local community’s slow acceptance of what we call social entertainment. It’s useless analyzing this sociological trend any further because it’s a headache and there’s nothing we can do about it; all we can do is wait. My advice: try not to get stuck in the middle of this strange phenomenon!

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Any Color You Like: How political affiliation dictates what colors we wear! March 25, 2007

Posted by erouhban in Politics.
2 comments

As a young boy, I remember my mother buying me bright clothes from a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ store we used to frequent, it was cute back in the day and I really didn’t mind as long as the pants and tops were comfy! I did start protesting though as a teenager, and I switched to darker angrier colors that were more appropriate for a Pearl Jam/Led Zeppelin fan! (Well that was the trend on MTV!). Nowadays my wife chooses my clothes for me, she just simply picks the colors she thinks suit me!

While vacationing in Lebanon last Christmas, I was stunned by a phenomenon of color patenting by politicians. Each political party (we have plenty in Lebanon!) just picked up a color they thought suitable to adopt, and urged their followers to use exclusively! You can now tell a person’s political affiliation from his tie color, or her skirt color! I once even saw a lady dress her child in similar color pants, shirt, and shoes; the kid looked like a piece of fruit! It might sound funny but plenty of boutiques have had to change backorders, and car vendors have not been selling certain colored cars!

As I understand, a politician makes/adjusts/amends policy, that’s his job. If he brags about a few social or cultural issues then why not, maybe his point of view might be worthwhile, but for a politician to interfere in every aspect of our everyday lives (especially in a country with one of the highest corruption rates in the world), then Hell no! The point is that politics has become part of our daily dose of entertainment back home! You watch the news and get upbeat just like watching a soccer match; you then watch a talk show and have a laugh just like watching you favorite sitcom. It’s the people that needlessly give the politicians the grand stature that they enjoy, forgetting that with our tax money in their pockets (they are our employees!) it’s they who have the last laugh. To the great and ancient people of Lebanon: grow up, and wear “Any Color You Like!”

Note: “Any Colour You Like”: wonderful instrumental by Pink Floyd from the best concept album ever, “Dark Side of the Moon”