“The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:”
“What was your favorite thing about vacation?” I asked my little boy, to his thoughtful answer “Green Planet…! I touched a snake!” Green Planet, a six story recreation of a rain-forest, complete with bats and hissing cockroaches and gentle curious sloths – free in their environments and interacting with we the intruders as they would if we were trudging through the darkest Amazon. The construct starts you in the basement, a simulation of the overflow of a great river (the Orinoco or perhaps the Amazon) where you watch a school of piranhas devour a chicken – then you are ushered to the canopy where you walk down gracefully through the branches feeding birds and monkeys and watching out not to step on the mighty iguana – as if he would let you.
All laid out upon the harsh desert sands of the Arabian peninsula. For I was vacationing in Dubai.
I vacation in Dubai because my work takes me often to Africa (where I have lived off-and-on for a decade, ten years of my last twenty). Because it is a direct flight (from everywhere) and it is the antithesis of everything I have come to know about the dark continent. Where in Africa there is violence, Dubai is safe. Where in Africa there is no electricity, Dubai sparkles at night like a shining multi-colored desert jewel. Where in Africa there is no food, Dubai hosts great cuisine from around the world. While Africa has wattle huts, Dubai has built the Burj Khalifa; a needle pointed upwards to pierce the center the galaxy (and which sometimes on a cloudless desert night even appears to). Where Africa has ancient prejudices Dubai has a pragmatic, self-interested conversation with a world just itching to invest. “Self-interest at its healthiest implicitly recognizes the self-interest of others, and therein lies the possibility of compromise. A rigid moral position admits few compromises,” as Robert D. Kaplan writes.
I go to Dubai because there I can make sure my little boy considers the reality that there are those who still build – the tallest building in the world, for example. That there are those who can still plan (Dubai is planning for the colonization of Mars in 2117 – in America we cannot even pass an annual budget, to say nothing of Africa…) Where generally accepted rules (no public inebriation of fornication please) are set in place by leaders – monarchs whose legitimacy does not come from the ballot box but in the older way, for the prosperity and well-being they have been able to provide for the people under their care.
Somewhat ironically, the utopians do not like Dubai. They find its rigid self-interest somehow offensive. “Dubai is not a moral place,” a friend of mine once told me. When I responded that “States are not moral. People are moral, or should be. States (good states) watch out for the well-being of the people under their care – we call them citizens,” my friend sneered and said “Well, it should be moral. They should give more rights to the migrant workers.” As if Dubai does not have the sovereign right to watch after their own citizens; challenged at every turn as they are by the ideologists who will not be happy until every place in the world resembles Tijuana or Karachi or Lagos. “I will never leave here!” a Pakistani taximan answered my question as to how long he planned to work, what he planned to do after saving money. And as if the simple presence of Dubai, a land that does not wait fetid and tired, charging admission to marvel at ancient edifices silent witnesses to a time when it was once great and how it fell away, was an insult to the utopians – for this utopia had nothing to do with them nor their ideas; a land that marches unapologetically into the future upon a road paved by competence and competition (I think Ayn Rand would have loved Dubai – just as I think Howard Roark would have loved the Burj Khalifa). As if we don’t need a place like Dubai to remind us of what the human spirit can achieve when not restrained by ideology and redistributive baggage; of envy and greed and wickedness product of ideas of “state morality” and redistributive “social justice”.
Which brings me to Venezuela (of course, as the sort of “anti-Dubai”). One and a half trillion dollars. Let me lay out the “0s” here so you may contemplate them – $1,500,000,000,000. That is what the Venezuelan socialists have wasted. “But we wanted to make a better world for our people,” say the naïve – with hunger approaching famine, a reduction of life expectancy of 3 years, of perhaps 5 million refugees – a number rivaling Syria. Of economic collapse reaching 50% of GDP (when the USSR collapsed Russia’s GDP only fell by 30%), and inflation reaching %10,000,000 – now going down because there is nothing left to buy. Of hate and stupidity and a generation of Che Guevara quoting idiots when elsewhere people are planning for the colonization of Mars. “Dubai does not respect minorities” the utopians sneer, except the minorities are flocking to Dubai as fast as they can get their visas stamped (as they once did in Venezuela, before the days of socialism). Not one rock atop another, that is what Venezuela has given us. Even the cavemen gave us some rock art and a few flint knives to account for their presence. Socialist Venezuela will extinguish itself in a massive supernova followed by a black hole which will suck in aid money and World Bank loans for a generation, or two; joining the likes of Somalia, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Congo and other failed states. “But Dubai is not a democracy” say the defenders of Venezuela’s socialist suicide, forgetting legitimacy of leadership is arrived at in different ways than simply the ballot box; that monarchies are the oldest system of government (and historically the most stable); that benevolence of leadership is shown not through ideology but always through results. Especially when the results are so great a creation as the Jewel of Arabia.
So go to Dubai, ye socialists who cannot see a shining beautiful orb without imagining its destruction upon the rocky shores of your ancient prejudices. Think of things besides yourselves, your tired worn-out notions of equality and revel in a land of the future where anything, anything, is possible. Then come talk to me of Venezuela.