Sunday, November 13, 2016

In light of the American Election...Racism in Oman

In light of the American election results, I ponder the future of democracy in a country that is not democratic at all. Would the future of a democracy in Oman be a bright one? True democracy is indeed scary---it is the will of the masses---and through-out history uneducated, bigoted, prejudiced group mentalities have been the cause of some the greatest atrocities ever committed against mankind.

Oman is a Sultanate, and effectively, an autocratic monarchy. We have a supreme council, appointed by a Sultan (HM) that effectively can deny or approve anything put forward by any other body in the country, of which, only the Shura council members, the lowest body, are elected. (...Some of them, have been jailed, for---this is assumed by many Omanis who twitter it---slandering other higher-level council members).
So these are my rather random and badly organized thoughts regarding any preamble at democracy in Oman. First, my background being thus:

------My father (French) is Liberal, and so has my family been, since the 19th century Reformers/Grits became the Liberals, which you can think of,  kind of like the Whigs of British politics I guess? So far as genetics are concerned, we were Vikings, and had a slightly democratic past compared to other societies in the lower Middle ages? Anyways, my direct ancestors were French, and in Canada, before the British won it from Napoleon. In fact, many of them were part of the French aristocracy, thus, Royalists, up until the French revolution, when they escaped to the U.K., although my most direct ancestor, during the Napoleonic wars, ended up on the French (losing) side in Canada, after which he was pardoned by the British, and sent West...And was, so family lore would suggest, a Liberal. But who really knows though, right? The man switched sides and uniforms more times than is worth the effort to count. I'd declare him more surely, an opportunist, but perhaps the man was merely a survivor.

...Needless to say, my father voted against French independence in Canada, and English is our first language, and my grandmother-on-his side made me memorize the modern peerage of England. And nobody from even the most prejudiced parts of the family is allowed even to be against gays anymore, because Elton John was knighted.

That's the politics and religion of the French---now English---side of my family.
My mother is a Republican supporter (makes sense maybe, her direct ancestry is Irish, and she possesses a lack of even a high school education), in the process of applying for citizenship in the U.S. Ironically, as a Canadian, she always voted NDP. Her family in Ireland have always been IRA supporters, before the IRA was formed, back to Elizabeth I and Cromwell. Believe me when I tell you, I have been raised to sing "Óró sé do bheatha 'bhaile " in Gaelic with more venom and passion than Sinead O' Connor. We could have cried for Scotland when they did not seperate from England because of many wanting to keep their economic place in the Euro-zone, and then, some did laugh at Scotland, because of, well, Brexit.

My step-father (who probably voted Republican but might have voted Democrat from time to time), an American, once accused me, a Canadian, of being a Royalist, as if, the Queen of the United Kingdom, holding a seldom-if-ever-at-all-used power to deny a law from the parliament of Canada and Canada's senate, could ever worry me. He seemed highly superior over it, as if, well, turning traitorous for taxes on tea way back when in one's history, were a great source of pride for him, although his family immigrated there, long after independence. Due him, I made my debut as a debutante at a cotillion hosted in Huston.

My more liberal, feminist friends and relatives back in Canada of course, laughed at me.
Religiously, I was raised on a peculiar mix of both Catholic and Protestant Christian lore, agnosticism, and atheism, and was presented with the keen examples of true Christian patience, charity and forgiveness, and was confronted with the rather hypocritical superiority of atheism, along with the blatantly impossible idealism of agnosticism presented in the appreciation of Buddhism, and older Pagan religions.

My teachers and professors never made their religious affiliations known to me, but they were majorly Liberal, and, only if exceedingly rich, then Conservative, for purely financial reasons like tax breaks.
That is the confusing mix I raised with. And now, I am a Sunni {by the way of Sahabi Ibn Abbas}Muslim woman who left Western Canada due to the intense racism and prejudice I experienced there, married to an "un-mixed" {their words----NOT MINE!!!} Omani Ibhadhi man from the Interior region, whose politics seem to run towards a whispered wish for free speech. His region was a religious-based government that was, however badly run, not dissolved and united with the rest of Oman through any sincere wish of the native populace, but was forced to join, by military force back in his father and grandfather's generation. My husband is educated, and sits comfortably in the mid middle class of Omanis. He knows well though, many in the lower income classes. People who have poor housing, and don't eat well.

In Oman, most of my Omani friends are from Muscat, and majorly from Sharqiyah or Zanzibar, ancestrally. They are highly educated, most of them are upper Middle class, while a few are upper class. All my in-laws are from the Interior.
I myself, am educated, but not highly so, but well-traveled, and, I have surely lived as a person in every income and social class bracket you can imagine, from the lowest on the street and starving, to being the debutante with elbow-length kid-skin gloves in the ballroom enjoying all the luxuries and sureties that people like that enjoy without thinking twice about.

----So, from that, what are my views then, upon democracy, nationalism, and patriotism itself, but utter confusion?

America (and France) are structured differently than the governments in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, although all are labelled "democracies".  All have bright points, and dark spots. This is what I love:
America has a great legal constitution protecting itself from the will of ignorant masses, and indeed, that is why, in a very racist South during the end of Apartheid, in Little Rock, Arkansas, the National Guard protected African-American students during integration in the local high school, even though this was against the wishes of the white majority.

That constitution is why Donald Trump will probably not be able to do every racist and prejudiced act that he has promised his----majority--- supporters.
However, France has a similar constitution, for freedom, brotherhood, and equality, but despite, religious freedom to practice is not protected, or enforced, and laws exist, against the freedom to worship.

So can even the great ideals of a solid legal constitution protect nationals of a given country from the evils of the majority in a true democracy?

....I fear not, I suppose. And so I find Republic-style democracies to be lacking.
For partial democracies, I find the democratic process itself to be a very, very slow means to progress of any kind. I guess, I lean towards this form of government the more, however, because if the majority are wrong, and decide to undo the constitution itself (i.e., that one time when Canada voted to enforce the war draft, which we have never needed and will never need, and the Governor General refused to sign such a law into passing?) then, there is some sort of built-in fail-safe due the remains of the limited monarchy itself. And the system itself is still majorly power-backed by the majority, who could rise up, and are taught to rise up, if the fail-safes  step beyond their function, and try to take over the government itself.
However, Oman has no constitution truly, backed by law. If we did reduce the royal family to figure-head status here, and had a limited constitutional monarchy type of government, I worry about racism in Oman.

My husband told me just the other day two co-workers mentioned that "mixed Omanis were even worse than black Omanis" (i.e. Yemeni Arab+black African mixed Omanis) and I saw an Arabic comment on a popular Omani chat thread where the writer called a black man a "slave". This was YESTERDAY!!! ....Among educated people.

And I hear comments  all the time about Omani girls, such as "she's belushi" or "she's zanzibari" and that's why she can do this or that but others can't....and I worry.

Does the new generation see colours here? Or is that only in the population over thirty and its dying?
This exists without getting into Tribalism, which I have experienced as well here (people assume I got my job because my husband's tribe name is the same as someone else from my work even though they are not at all related.) But I guess some people really do get jobs like that.

My husband also can't lodge a complaint when a section at work screws up, because its head is a dude with a rival tribe name. People will assume my husband is picking a fight because of tribe, instead of asking them to fix a broken system.

----Or religion.

Oman is majorly Ibadhi, with some Sunni, and some Shia, and each have their own manners of jurisprudence, and preconceptions about each other, and their own ideas of what a shariah-minded government should enforce on society. I know, Sunni examples are bad (Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia). Shia examples, not better (Iran). Ibadhi examples, well Oman isn't ruled by religious law terribly much, but if you look to its past, it was a pretty closed country. Wilfred Thesiger wasn't allowed to go to Jebel Akdhar, when Oman was governed by what was supposed to be Ibadhi Islam. And having a lot of Ibadhi inlaws, I feel Oman would be much as bad as Saudi Arabia, because people would still want to enforce aspects of life that are not actually governed (or should not be governed) by Islamic law.
So sometimes, I must admit, that newspapers being shut down, and people going to jail for talking about corruption, doesn't sound as bad to me as it should, when I think about how to enact, and the issues we would approach attacking, forms of government and democracy alternative to the autocratic monarchy Oman has got itself now. If that does make sense?

My husband, his sister, my co-wife, have all called me racist.

Ironic, I who was raised to see people by nations, not colours or religions or financial demographics, and seeing nations, not limit people in their places to being but those nations, should be called a racist.

For surely, I only refer to other ex-patriot groups as "white", "arab", "indian"  because others here use no other relatable way of identifying them. That a worker can be reduced by mere language (as used here in the GCC) from that they are--- a  human being---to being merely their employed position, country of passport, or skin-tone, is not racism or prejudice on my part, I find. I speak with the language I am forced to communicate with, but it is not my native tongue.
I do not believe people can be "mixed" beyond belief systems and moral codes. Human is human. Mix man with woman, and one can only produce a human being, not a colour, not a country, not even a religious or political idea. That is what I know. That is what I believe.

So can I be prejudiced? Can I be racist? Is that belief itself racist, because I hold it superior to other forms of understanding?

I don't believe I am racist, but is it possible to be an expat, and not be prejudiced? To not form opinions of a different (because expat eyes often take in wider landscapes) nature than the native inhabitant of a given land or country? Can these opinions ever be held as superior, and not be reduced to racist or prejudiced forms thinking?
I'd like to think, if the thoughts were true, or the ideas better, than they have every right to be held by a person as superior. And I'd also like to think that true prejudice is only formed, when superiority of thought becomes something immovable or fixed within a person's mind.

...Government may be the same, but my experience being as confused as it is, I do not feel that the ideas that I dance with interchangeably in my mind---monarchy or democracy---can be expressed in superior terms.

...At least not by me. I either know too well, or know too little of them, to be able to hold either long above the other.


Anonymous said...

Hillary won the popular vote. Trump supporters are NOT the majority. We Americans can thank the Electoral College for this disaster.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to add that I, along with basically every other person I know, am absolutely DISGUSTED with the outcome of this election. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, all of us here were in a state of shock and mourning after seeing the results of the election. It was like a tragedy that had hit us all, all at once. So not all Americans are angry hateful bigots, despite ghastly evidence to the contrary. Rural America supports Trump, educated America is horrified by him. Just wanted to put that out there, sorry for venting. It's been a very rough week for us all.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: I know so many educated Americans who are not bigots, believe me I know lovely people. Even from the deepest South;) and people in San Francisco never ever once even called me a name for my hijab which I cannot say for my native Canada;).

But in a democracy, often the uneducated majority comes to choose the leadership of the country. Anyone who can play to those people, has a good chance of winning. Sad, but true.

I remember entering politics back home, at the tender age sixteen, before I could vote even, and being heart broken to discover how many of those people still exist, or that anyone would choose to remain ignorant and prejudiced, if they were given better. C'est la vie, unfortunately.

Sad said...

'We could have cried for Scotland when they did not seperate from England because of many wanting to keep the Euro' Err, Scotland has never used the Euro....

Interesting post which ignores the part that the neoliberal media played in recent elections and referendums and the need for groups like 'Stop Funding Hate'

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Sad: All said with tongue in cheek;)---I am just meaning family history and prejudices/leanings not necessarily my shared own. I am certainly not pro-violence or hate, or division of people in Belfast, Scotland, or anywhere else!!!! I can't speak for grandparents, and Aunts and Uncles however...;).

(and I meant, stay in the Euro-zone, be able to trade with Europe as before, of course the U.K. uses GBP). I personally found both referendums to have been funny in the end, though, as they clearly contradict each other, and that is all that is meant.

I don't live in Scotland or the U.K. so I didn't follow too closely. I have relatives who did though, and I state their opinions, which are definitely biased on the grounds of a deeply held and ancient dislike of the 'English'--- rather than modern politics.

Neo-liberal media in the U.K you mean, or in the U.S.A? Because it is right-wing media in the U.S that is fear-based... So I am hoping you mean the U.K.