A few days ago, I was browsing old articles on The Independent when I came upon Johann Hari’s “The Dark Side of Dubai.” Hari examines the virtual slavery that undergirds the Emirate kingdom; he reports on the working conditions of Dubai’s foreign labor force and the wicked means of their enslavement. Hari also notes the complicity in and enthusiastic acceptance of this system of slavery by the Emerati populace and by Westerners. The article moreover details the corruption and lack of transparency that pervade government and business in Dubai. It appears that the most colorful counterexample of third world dysfunction has been nothing but a mirage.
Hari has suffered lately from lapses in professional ethics, and perhaps we ought not to take his reporting as credible. I, myself, always approach leftist crusaders with a healthy amount of skepticism. Nonetheless, there is a place for leftwing muckrakers who expose human exploitation. If there is truth to Hari’s report of Dubai, we should not be surprised that the shining example of Arab progress has turned out to be a flashy, tacky fabrication. Cultural transformation demands centuries if not millennia, and we really expected nomadic Mohammedan barbarians to transform into social democrats in a generation? Furthermore, men universally have always been quick to enslave and to exploit. Human beings are largely predatorial, and concerns for justice and human dignity will always remain an interest only for the few.