Girls of Riyadh

I hate summer colds, but I do get them once in a while. Like an ass I kept my windows open when the temp dropped to 76 degrees one morning (and yes it shot up to the triple digits well before noon) after it rained, bringing in a cold breeze. I also had my fan blasting atop me, so when I began getting a dryness in my throat two days later (making it worse I was trying to clean the fan from the inches of dust and soot that blew in my face ’cause I forgot to unplug the fucking thing) I knew it was time to restock on the Theraflu.

I discovered Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh while searching for Nedjima’s, The Almond. In this post-9/11 Islamophobic world, I know that libs and lefties are running to embrace these “oppressed” women of a country that is guilty of countless human rights abuses. But here’s the rub: Miss Rajaa is a member of the well-heeled “velvet class” she describes in her fiction that was based off the women in her elite world whose lifestyle is kept behind high gilt marble walls surrounded by armed guards and the Saudi Religious Police. So Rajaa’s view of things aren’t necessarily skewed, just somewhat myopic.

The unnamed narrator (sitting in her easy chair wearing red lipstick) posts on a Saudi Yahoo! group the tales of four university-aged friends Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle (or Mashael since her mom is American), and Sadeem and their romantic pratfalls- as romance can happen within the boundaries of fundamentalist Islam. I suggest dear reader, that you read the introduction, because while Rajaa might live in Chi-town and wear a hijab (at least in the photos I’ve seen of her), Saudis are definitely schizo regardless of how rich they are. There is a clear double-standard of women and men. Gamrah’s husband divorced her after she confronted his long-time Japanese girlfriend leaving both her and their son to linger in the kingdom. His family could honestly care less about Gamrah because she did her duty and produced a boy (named after the paternal grandfather). Michelle whose mother is American and the most “westernized” of the four suffered through two bittersweet romances: the first with a man named Faisal whose mother wouldn’t consent to the marriage because her father’s tribe was unknown, and for the fact she was half white. And the other was dubious with her American cousin (YEESH!) Matti while living in San Francisco (apparently Saudis still marry their cousins in the 21st century). Now her father can do whatever he wants and he won’t even permit his daughter to even attend journalistic events that she was invited to during her internship in Dubai when her family forced her away from Matti. Her mother supported this because even though she’s Muslim in name only, the greedy lazy bitch just doesn’t want to hear her husband yell and scream. The silly Sadeem who was nearly made the second wife through Firas, a control freak, ended up marrying her cousin Tariq because she wanted a “safe man” after having her life blotted out by man who did every scam in the book to string her along- even after his wife gave birth to their first child! And finally Lamees, a medical student, found her match in her classmate Nizar who became a prudent Muslim wife by wearing her hijab before men that aren’t her family paying her dues to Allah for giving her a husband and daughter. They moved to Canada to get their doctorates, but I have no doubt they’ll send their daughter to SA for a “proper upbringing”.

Sex in the Saudi City it ain’t.

So if you’re looking to understand what it’s like to live in a country that lives by the strictest moral codes (men and women have separate banks, for example) combined with tribalism (if you aren’t from the right clan your life goes nowhere and you can’t marry just anybody) and discrimination (Saudi Sunnis call Saudi Shia rejectionists because they believe that the caliphate should belong to Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib and his offspring), then some of the facade will dissolve around the House of Saud. And then we wonder why people fancy blowing themselves up. It doesn’t mean (as Westerners) we will grasp their high ideals, and frankly, fucking insane protocol. But after reading this, as a woman I was especially appreciative of being allowed to walk outside alone, and uncovered. Saudi women aren’t even allowed to drive. And no, I don’t consider that drop-dead gorgeous, fair-skinned Saudi princess the first woman to drive in the kingdom reform.

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Money, Mormons, and Meyer

Who doesn’t want to be rich? Well unless you’re one of those ascetics who lives in the mountains of Nepal, I’d say everybody.

Teens love the idea of being rich and famous like the idols they worship. Magazines, posters, fanclubs, and merchandise make up 90% of their messy rooms. And that’s perfectly normal. In teen lit, rich kids are often used as “the cool group” everybody wants in on, an oft-used cliche that’s not going out of fashion any time soon. In Melissa De la Cruz’ vampire series Blue Bloods, the rich kids in a prestigious (and fictional) NYC school depict the real ultra-elite NYC society. She name drops a ton, but it’s tactfully used and funny.

In Twatlight the Cullen family have more money than the IMF it seems. They have stockpiles of cash, collect (and total) luxury cars, discard designer label clothes after one wearing, have Centurion cards, and destroy 60″-inch flat screen TVs during insane temper tantrums without a care. Typical teen fantasy, you scoff. After all Bella is Meyer’s avatar, and this is just a bunch of masturbatory fanfiction, right? Well, you’d be right. In You Are Bella shmeiliarockie goes into depth on this in her 2-part Wish Fulfillment: Money, Money, Money segment.

But that’s not all.

Mormonism is a cult that (unfortunately) is considered mainstream Christianity. If you’re Catholic (or former in my case) you might think Mormons are Protestant. That isn’t true. The founder, Joseph Smith pushed his new religion as the “one true church” based upon personal visions and revelations. If you’ve gone to a high school that uses sociology in their English and history classes you might have come across JS and his unique 19th Century American monotheistic belief system, and might be shocked to discover that he was a con artist. JS’ first job was treasure hunting, he used seer stones to locate buried treasure. After his arrests and prosecutions, he used those same seer stones to translate the infamous Golden Plates that were revealed to him by the fictitious angel Moroni. There is a plethora of books debunking the church by cult experts and ex-Mormons. The most reliable on the web is exmormon.org and Sandra Tanner’s site.

If you’ve been to SMeyer’s site or LJ, you know she has the mentality of a 13-year-old. But as I’ve been becoming acquainted with Mormonism through the sites mentioned above, it’s very clear that every Mormon is like this. Mormon culture is unique and dangerous, they view themselves as peculiar people with superiority complexes who are continually persecuted by the outside world- Satan’s playground. They believe that they exist on the fringes because they hold they keys to “spiritual truth” and exist on a higher plane than the rest of society. According to their beliefs they become gods of their own planets when they die, but men get many wives to be pleasured by and populate their planets, thus sending spirit babies back to earth. Sound fucking nuts? Well don’t say that in Utah, parts of Idaho and Arizona.

Cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses and $cientology are also prime examples) are driven by profit. Tithing, real estate, and church operated businesses generate a lot of revenue. The official profit margin by the LDS is secret- much like their temple ceremonies that have been exposed thanks to the internet (JS was a Freemason and their ceremonies influenced the LDS). But there was something that really bothered me about LDS, how little they gave to charity (JW’s are also like this. They don’t give to charity at all, their “charity” is through their church doctrines- convenient, eh?). Ex-Mormons have included mission experiences in their apostate stories, and three of them have stayed with me; the first one was from a young man sent to Argentina. His stake president who was stationed there instructed him NOT to visit the poorest slums because they couldn’t afford the tithing, and because they had no local charity organizations to help them. The second story was from another guy who was sent to Mongolia (I believe). He was amazed by the street children he’d seen. His SP instructed him not to speak to them, give them shelter or food or money. Some time after the dupe saw a child dead in a doorway having frozen and starved to death. The last one was from a woman who got her entire family out. She volunteered at a shelter (not affiliated with the LDS), now the shelter had experiences with LDS volunteers and they weren’t exactly positive. But with this lady they lucked out, her family was very nice and the only thing that her children weren’t allowed to do was serve coffee (because according to the LDS caffeine is sexually stimulating and that’s a no-no). Once again they were shocked by the homeless and they actually started to deprogram because of it. The shelter was impressed with this family because unlike the other LDS they weren’t snobbish or rude.

The LDS consider you less than worthy if you don’t have money? Hmmm…

In every society the ideal person is wealthy, attractive, educated, powerful, has a big family, professional, and charitable. It also helps to be a white male under the age of 55. The LDS takes hypocrisy to a whole new level. Don’t believe me, go here. But I will copy-n’-paste what I’m talking about to help illustrate:

Mormon Royalty

Our family has moved a fair amount as a result of job promotions involving relocations to other cities. One of the things that we have noticed is that each ward and stake has it’s own royalty as well as a middle class and of course the “less fortunate fringe”. When you move into a strange ward, you are quickly classified into one of the groups and there is little chance of ever being elevated to another group although downgrading is possible. Any outward indication or confession of a personal or family problem justifies immediate downgrading. To achieve royalty status, one needs to have at least several of the following traits in their favor:

1. Personal Wealth (tithing numbered in minimum 5 digits preferred)
2. Pedigree (Descendants of polygamous ancestors)
3. University Education (BYU grads score top points here)
4. Professional status (Doctors, dentists, lawyers, or Church Education System… CES types can be forgiven their lack of wealth)
5. Utah like grooming and accent
6. Large gregarious family
7. Evidence of embarrassing fully Mormon culture… language, tardiness, music, dress standards, FHE
8. Relatives or at least friends in high places
9. An LDS Track record: Mission, temple marriage, etc.
10.Absolutely no hint of being a real person with real problems
11.the ability to sound incredibly sincere and to bring tears to your eyes almost at will

The Mormon Middle class may have some of the traits of Mormon Royalty, but are marred with such horrible defects as:

1. Witnessed drinking cola in public
2. Rooted for the University of Utah over BYU
3. Once received Church welfare or worse still public welfare
4. Stayed home to watch the Superbowl instead of attending Church meeting
5. Wife works outside the home
6. Kids don’t attend seminary
7. Too many non member friends
8. Failure in a church calling
9. Unglamorous employment (factory worker, tradesman, sales clerk, etc.)
10.Convert of less than 10 years
11.Loud laughter

Then of course we have the fringe element, the poor bastards that everyone else can look down on thank God that they are so much better than the they are. The following are some qualifying traits:

1. Low economic status regardless of reason
2. Lack of formal education
3. Too much formal education coupled with independent thinking thus qualifying as a hated intellectual
3. Facial hair, unconventional hair cut, or the dreaded tattoo
4. A foreign accent
5. any hint of homosexuality
6. Mormon Fundamentalist views or sympathies
7. Read the SL Tribune instead of Deseret News
8. Non traditional modes of dress, men with ear rings or women with piercing in nose, eyelid, etc.
9. Buy lottery tickets
10.Question authority or ask embarrassing questions in a church class

It’s interesting that as you move around that you can be perceived and categorized differently but there is almost no chance of any elevation if you stay in one place.

Royalty usually serve as Stake Presidents, Relief Society Presidents, Bishops, etc. The Middle Class are the ward clerks and Primary teachers, while the fringe are entrusted with such Holy responsibilities as Ushering. Occasionally a sincere Church leaders experiments with calling persons to positions above their class level and usually discover that they do just fine. However, the royalty types are generally very uncomfortable with the practice so it is seldom resorted to by those in authority.

A former Bishop from Canada

See what I mean?

According to ex-Mormons who attended BYU (like SMeyer) upper-class students often made fun of their less well dressed classmates. I don’t know what SMeyer’s dad did for a living, but I do know that Connecticut (where she was born) is the most expensive state on the East coast to live in. Taxes are killers because of the number of rich people who live there. Now the bitch is one of six, and a good Molly Mormon doesn’t work and must have a lot of kids. SMeyer worked as a receptionist and has three sprogs- that’s a lot in today’s world. But it must’ve driven her crazy that she couldn’t be a kept wife like all the ones making fun of her in temple.

Well now she is a kept woman- who now is the breadwinner for her ENTIRE fucked-up family. I think that Fantasia could relate.

Michele Montas, nous avons besoin de vous!

Okay, okay it’s probably incorrect (at least I won’t embarrass myself by making an attempt at Haitian Creole). If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks, I’ll be nice (for once) and bring you up to speed. A 7.0 earthquake ripped through the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti, on January 12. Today a 5.9 aftershock further devastated the nearly decimated capital Port-Au-Prince.

I have a question: can an already broken country be broken further? The answer is yes. Haiti’s history is colorful and complicated; once it was called the Pearl of the Antilles, a lushly prosperous colony of France built on the backs of black slaves, decimating the Taíno Indians, and ruled by whites with a privileged mulatto minority instituting a caste system of skin color racism that continues today. And sad to say not only in Haiti. But in 1804 when Toussaint L’Ouverture kicked the shit out of Napoleon and made Haiti the world’s first free black state, you’d think only good things were in store for the agriculturally rich Caribbean nation. Instead both internal and external conflicts cultivating a merry-go-round of corrupt political machines sending the country rocketing into the perpetual poorhouse.

Now I’m not going to go into the whole history so I’ll put up two links, one on Haiti and the other on the disaster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti.

I first became aware of Haiti watching news reports about Baby Doc Jean-Claude Duvalier and seeing the infamous luxury car exit from the country with his family and entourage. Then there was Wes Cravens’ The Serpent and the Rainbow, which was an entertaining shitpile until I read Dr. Wade Davis’ book of the same title which helped me get a better understanding of a country that deserves both pity and scorn.

Now if you’re Italian you usually have two Godmothers: the first who baptizes you, and the second who confirms you. I happen to get along with both of them. This isn’t the case with my best friend. Kaye (who is a very Bajan chick) has a Haitian Godmother, and she can’t stand her. This provides an explanation as to why we have only two Haitian friends- and we make friends with every-fucking-body! If you go on vacation in your native land and have a motherfucker of a blast, I’m happy for you. Mom got cool trinkets from the Philippines and Saint Martin/Sint Maarten from her co-workers and got a whole slide show presentation which has made her rethink her philosophy on vacations (our “family” vacations always sucked ass).

BUT when you think that the whole highlight of your holiday isn’t getting pissed out of your mind on the beach, but getting “the perks” because your child has light skin, I think you need to check yourself into Bellevue!

Now I explained why I need to use skin whitener in a previous post, but I do understand why so many minorities use skin whitener (and not for actual dermatological problems) in order to have the skin color of preference. This isn’t prevalent just in Haiti, but throughout the Caribbean, South America, Africa, and Asia. Now I sent what I could to the Red Cross for Haiti, and Kaye looked at me like I was crazy. She understands that I’ve always wanted to work for the UN since I was a kid, and I want to take the Foreign Service exam (I have a 3 in 10 chance of passing) hopefully getting some kind of diplomatic mission in a challenging place like Haiti. But ultimately she’s right, why should she as a light-skinned black woman and me an (extremely) fair white woman get deferential treatment over dark-skinned women? And not just women, but dark-skinned people period!

If you don’t believe me (or choose to think I’m being racist) get your ass over to YouTube and go to the Journeyman Pictures or Al-Jazeera channels and do  a search on skin color racism! Your ass will be blown away!

White people really do believe that Uncle Ruckus is just a caricature of Aaron McGruder’s, but this type of self-hate is very disturbingly real. This was ingrained into my father’s mentality as well, he married a white woman to escape the ghetto and have white children that he hoped would be accepted. Neither happened. And Mom’s Filipino co-worker who’s married to a crazy white hick and now pregnant is thrilled to fucking bits that she’ll have a “white” baby (which she’ll favor over her 3 other kids- the oldest ironically was from a Greek guy while she worked as a bargirl on a sex cruise line).

The state of Haiti is a question that will never be answered, yes you want to give so you can help these desperately poor people that are being victimized by the US and their own government. But where where does your money end up? Over the slums is a paradoxical playground for the affluent behind high walls, personal guards, attack dogs and security cameras. And how color-blind we’d be to say they’re just the mulattoes, Arabs, and whites. Dark-skinned blacks have made it into the Beverly Hills-wannabe Pétionville. You think they give a shit? They just put up more ribbon wire and step on the poor who are just as black as they are.

I recommend the following films and books on Haiti: The Agronomist, The Ghosts of Cite Soleil, The Zombie Curse: A Doctor’s 25-year Journey Into the Heart of the AIDS Epidemic in Haiti, and Fort-Dimanche: Dungeon of Death (a.k.a. Fort-la-Mort). What I do not recommend is you giving so fast to Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti (and I am a fan) but I suggest you go here before you make any concrete decisions about Clef: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2010/0114102wyclef1.html.

So what a better way to kick off 2010 by having yet more bullshit happen.

Peace!