by Ash Brighton
At a recent international investment summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced bold plans for a megacity spanning over ten thousand square miles and including portions of Jordan and Egypt. Currently titled “NEOM” (neo as in “new,” and M being the first letter of the Arabic word for “future”), this project would be a Saharan Eden of sorts: luxury hotels and condos, streets filled with exotic automobiles, top-tier shopping, and epic displays of kitsch. The first thing that comes to mind is Dubai, which is clearly the template for the Crown Prince’s vision. Dubai is a libertine, Vegas-style refuge and playground for the global elite. Located in the heart of the Muslim world, it’s a place of bizarre contrasts. It was built by—and continues to be sustained by—primarily South Asian migrant laborers who never fail to fall victim to various scams and endless abuse.
The promotional video for NEOM, a string of discordant stock footage featuring more cartwheels than solid premises, is a self-parody. Prince Salman talked about having it run exclusively on alternative energy and populated with more robots than humans. What’s the motive behind this grandiose proposal? Desperation at the unsustainability of the Kingdom’s financial situation? The need to placate the swelling number of young men who are starting to get a little too restless in their miserable shantytowns? Basic envy at the success and prestige of Dubai? The absurdity of the event wasn’t limited to vague promises of fantastical megacities: Saudi Arabia also granted citizenship to a robot for the first time in its history. The corresponding awkward, scripted “interview” is painful to watch. Are these the robots that would be found throughout the city? It’s easy to imagine asking one for directions to the nearest indoor wildlife preserve: I didn’t quite understand that, here are some search results for in door wild life.
In the end, though, it’s appropriate that the House of Saud would want to take the Dubai concept and square it. Here’s your Red Pill on Saudi Arabia if you’re not yet familiar with it: Saudi Arabia is, in nearly every aspect, what your average soy aficionado would deem “problematic.” Whether it’s imprisoning and lashing homosexuals, forbidding women to go out in public without beekeeper suits and a male guardian, or repressing any kind of speech or investigative reporting, the country’s rulers are years behind on their sensitivity training. Then there’s the income inequality. You won’t find accurate Gini coefficient numbers out there. Official figures on income inequality are difficult to come by since the government actively tries to hide this information, punishing those who get too curious. But there exists in Saudi Arabia a huge number of poor and indigent, a large portion of which is imported migrant laborers who usually end up trapped in the country and/or scammed out of their earnings. This ethnic hodgepodge lives in constant misery in various slums surrounding the palatial cities such as Riyadh. Africans have it especially bad. It’s hardly different in Dubai. The luckier ones get the chance to kiss up to a local member of the royalty for a handout, but otherwise there’s essentially no hope for any kind of upward mobility.
Saudi Arabia is ruled by a royal family whose members number in the thousands and live unimaginably hedonistic lives. The king has massive motorcades which accompany him on foreign visits. Other members tool around global hubs in gold-plated auto fleets (sometimes accompanied by cheetahs), grossly mistreat their hired help, smuggle drugs, and engage in endless debauchery. There are entirely believable rumors of some of the thousands of “princes” hiring Instagram THOTS for all sorts of impossibly-nasty sexual exploits. The many Saudi princes are like the Rothschilds if the Rothschilds had no sense of restraint or modesty. At the same time they impose Wahhabism, a hardline variant of Islam, on the non-privileged section of the population, routinely turn the skin of those they criminally convict into confetti or worse, and attempt to export their particular flavor of the Religion of Peace globally. There’s also abundant evidence that they support and fund ISIS. It’s almost as if Islam to them is merely an effective means of controlling their populace, wielding global influence, and securing their lifestyles. Around the royal family is a network of middle-class officials and a sprinkling of professionals. Then there’s the aforementioned massive underclass which performs the actual labor.
What’s less understandable is the close relationship between the Saudi royalty and Western leaders. Is it because of the arms sales? The Saudis certainly enjoy playing with their toys (and throwing an entire nation into starvation in the process), but is that really worth it? Are our leaders really no better than Instagram whores?
Back to NEOM. For the most part, the media bought the premise. Abundant skepticism is warranted, but little was to be found from our noble arbiters of truth, apart from the typical snarky aside about women’s rights. Is there really that much slack in the supply of rootless financial and industrial elites and migratory global corporations to support a built from scratch megalopolis in an arid desert wasteland? Yes, there’s much to scoff at regarding NEOM. But there’s something else about NEOM that’s important to our movement. NEOM ultimately embodies the globalist ideal in all its existential emptiness: a compact, glowing hub of gaudy extravagance and a teeming ring of slums housing captive migrant-labor refuse just beyond the range of visibility. NEOM is just a me-too, me-best version of Mumbai, Sydney, London, Sao Paulo, Caracas, New York City, Shanghai, Paris or Moscow.
Cities like Dubai and the imagined NEOM are thousands of wealthy elites with nothing in common except their superficial and expensive cosmopolitan tastes huddling together and hiding from increasingly-hostile populaces whom they’ve taxed, swindled, dispossessed, deceived, and subsequently scorned, leaving them without a country or a shared identity and history. The idea of NEOM and the hype around it embodies the “false song of globalism,” the idea that you can forever use creative financial machinery to build something from nothing, that talent will always flow in from all around the world and staff international corporations, that cheap, disposable migrant labor will always be in endless supply to bus in from unseen sprawling favelas during the dead of night (until you can finally replace them with robots that tell flattering jokes), and that everyone’s notion of time will be forever in the present, chasing slippery capital in a flat world with open borders and open markets, in crab-bucket open societies where everything is permitted except a vision of something greater, grounded in history, tradition, destiny, and meaning, and the will to act on that vision.