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As you’ll be aware, two major disasters have afflicted Saudi Arabia in the past fortnight, each causing multiple fatalities. First, a crane ‘inexplicably’ crashed onto the most sacred Mosque in Islam, killing dozens. Then, a stampede during the traditional ‘stone the devil’ ceremony (not far from the site of the first incident) killed hundreds more.
On the off chance anyone finds this incompetence surprising, let’s build a context for it. In the first case, the Saudi construction industry is globally regarded as an institution of thinly disguised slavery. The workers, usually imported from impoverished areas of the Indian sub-continent, are provided with little training, guidance, insurance or protection. In this sense, the only wonder is why cranes aren’t falling on the hour.
In the second case, this is far from the first time that Saudi security forces, in total numbering barely 100,000 men (and only men, of course), have found large-scale co-ordination projects impossible to manage. A wave of animal chaos condemns countless families to an early, pious demise every year.
And this dysfunction, of course, is not isolated but general. Saudi Arabia is plainly not a developed country. Not by any measure. Though the Human Development Index continues to mistake wealth for sophistication, the nation is merely a third world state splashed with unlimited resources.
Like any crackpot regime, the Saudi government – knowing no better – wastes every dollar of (unearned) revenue on a bloated military and on spreading propaganda abroad (the result of which has been the rebirth of Sunni Islamic militancy and the deaths of thousands of Western citizens). Security and policing are brutal, often savage and yet also notoriously inefficient. The education system is appalling. Illiteracy is rife. Women are granted no rights whatsoever. Obesity is a national characteristic. Despite all the investment available, the national life expectancy is the same as in penniless Libya. The hospital system, while slightly better than the school system, is little more than a crude institutional plagiarism from the civilised world, and one that would collapse without that world’s continued instruction. Agriculture is non-existent (though, as other barren countries have shown, not impossible). If oil is subtracted from the equation completely, the economy is less productive than Jordan (a country with population of 6 million to Saudi’s 31 million).
Saudi Arabia is a brat country. A spoilt, lazy, bloated brat. Unaccustomed to ever working for a living, a brat never develops intelligence or a worthwhile skill. Money comes in whatever the case. So why do anything other than grow fat and play computer games? Why move with the cultural times at all? Why not freeze the clock at the very moment black gold first ejaculated from the ground?
I am an Islamophobe, admittedly. But I do nevertheless feel bad when innocent people die. Saudi incompetence has cut short the lives of a great number of people this week; people with futures, dreams and histories. They firmly deserve the blame of their co-religionists, as well as our unending contempt for their staggering lack of competence, compassion and innovation.