ibidbroascele: (Princess)
[personal profile] ibidbroascele
I keep comparing the KSA, mostly unfavourably, to Russia. This is I think natural, I lived there for 3 years and I liked it, I do not like KSA. My job is absurd at best and I am counting down the 6 months till I can get the hell out of here.

But it has to be said they are not unalike in many ways.

1)Extreme weather. Extremes of heat and cold respectively.

2)A complete and utter inability to plan. In the Saudi instance, their history as desert people, nomads who did not know what one day would bring to the next. Their reliance was on the mercy of God. Even when I ask their students to bring their homework in it is always 'Inshallah'. Never definitely. Most of my colleagues interpret it as laziness. I feel it is a legacy of that time where who knew what the next day would bring. Unfortunately in a modern country which has developing infrastructure the ad hoc jigsaw approach isn't conducive to getting anything done. The whole country is being made up as it goes along as no one has ever before seen the need to think ahead.
For the Russians, living on hard land, they were at the mercy of God, the land owners, the Tsar or the state. poverty, and the despair of finding anything good in this life is etched deep in the Russian mentality. There is a veneer of prosperity but I think the events of this year will wipe it out. Why therefore plan and save? While this causes something I love about the Russians - a devil may care contempt for thinking about tomorrow, again this is not what we expect of a modern country. And I think it in part accounts for the mess they find themselves in atm.

3) A certain passivity, combined with a total lack of responsibility. This is related to the above point, taking charge of your own destiny? Playing an active role in the running of the country? Naaaah. let the wife/foreigner/Philippina maid/King/president deal with the crap.

4)A general contempt for the greater part of the population. Saudi society is deeply, deeply, deeply tribal. The saying is 'I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against the world'. If someone does something wrong their their tribe is impugned or even out and out insulted. Most people will marry their cousins, in the past it was a means of preserving resources. Now it's about honour. And woe betide anyone who offends honour! For the Russians, again the weight of history. No one has ever been quite sure who they would be able to trust, either in the village or round the table in a tiny Moscow kitchen. Liberals are justifiably rather terrified of their co nationals. And the government has always been very good at promoting divide and rule.

5)A difficulty dealing with obscene wealth. the Saudis have something of an edge over the Russians, of 40 years or so. The country has externally modernised but people really have more money than they know what to do with. Saudis get paid 2500 rial a month for just being Saudi. Women can fly their hairdresser over from Paris for an hour and think nothing of it. The wealth of course does breed insensitivity. In Russia (or rather Moscow) there is wealth a plenty. If you can afford a flat in the centre of Moscow you are either a gangster or an ex one. But because of point 4 above, there is not much charity or kindness exhibited by the rich of either country. But then rich people are generally dicks anyway.

6)'I hate my country, even so it is the best in the world and you can't say anything against it. Foreigners are less important, are ignorant and not worth anything if they have brown skin'.
Saudis will criticise their country, because of the lack of freedom, because of the lack of things to do. But they are Muslims and are proud of the fiercely Muslim laws of the country. Their land contains Mecca and Medina and God rewarded them with oil and wealth. They are arrogant, they ostensibly hold to values of charity and mercy yet the mass ranks of foreign workers are treated like something that came from the back end of a dog.
Russians love Russia. they will attack it and wonder why you live there and are all trying to emigrate, but they will defend rodina to the death. Their religion bares more resemblance to romantic nationalism than to Christianity. Dare to offer a critique of Russia and you are automatically anti Russian (and God I got into some rows with people over my last year there!). It seems you cannot be anti Putin but pro Russian. And that is one reason I felt I had to leave.
I was also really put out by the rudeness of a young Russian woman on the platform of Colombo fort station. We were waiting for a train and a Sri Lankan chap began chatting. the Russian girl kept complaining about the train and at one point interrupted the (extremely nice) man with an idiotic remark about how under Stalin the person in charge of a late train would have been shot. I don't know if she thought about it but I did not dignify her with a reply and for the first time saw why people hate Russians - and I am always the person to defend them.

These are the main things. Others of course, both very patriarchal (though Russian women are allowed to exist independently, yet they are complicit in being kept down which makes it worse). The women of both nations live to be approved of by men. Both obsessed with sex (openly or covertly). Both chaotic nations (though in the light of Saudi Russia is like Switzerland).
There are more differences than similarities (the main one I miss is the Russian students actually have some respect for teachers and a genuine reverence for learning. and there is an anarchic streak to Russian culture which I miss) but it's funny how some of the fundamentals are the same between such different cultures.


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February 2017


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