Welcome to the Desert of the Lulz, or Clusterfuck of the Apocalypse, or I Don’t Even Know Anymore

Egyptian bells are ringing
When it’s your birthday
Sweet nothing I’m talking about you
There’s a hurricane headed your way

– Beck, Midnite Vultures, “Beautiful Way”

Matt Yglesias has a cute article about Saudi wanting to be insured against, um, having run out of things to sell.

This has got to be some kind of postmodern performance art right?

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

It’s interesting to look at the range of policy responses different countries have had to oil wealth. Norway has been incredibly far-sighted, while Abu Dhabi and Qatar also score quite well. All the way on the other end of the spectrum are Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. And then there’s Saudi Arabia, king of the oil exporters and apparently world champions in chutzpah.

I’d add Dubai to the “chutzpah” list, if only because of their similar attitude toward even the most basic sustainable development. Actually, I think they go into the realm of actual “postmodern performance art” in this instance, or at least architecture:

It should be noted that the thingee atop this 2150-foot skyscraper looks like a wind turbine but actually does nothing. It is as wholly powered by oil as everything else in Dubai, from the water it drinks solely from an expensively desalinated Gulf to the food it flies in on jets to the shelter for its 2+ million slave laborers. I’m sure Nakheel LOL’d at this, but with billions worth of properties in default and hundreds of non-citizens in debtor’s prison, nobody else is.

These kinds of gestures can be amusing as part of a larger, more meaningfully self-aware aesthetic statement, but when it’s in the context of a society that doesn’t meaningfully acknowledge (or even allow much discussion of) its many, many costs to the world around it, it’s just borderline-insulting cutesy big-80s pomo. And that is srsly oldmeme in a city-state where the architecture is already entering some kind of Lulz Age, beyond self-parody. The unintentional irony goes even deeper when you realize that its neighboring emirate, Abu Dhabi, is actually starting to develop in a sustainable fashion, rushing headlong to capitalize on its immense solar potential.

And I’m not even going into the feminist implications of either this phallic li’l thing or the policies of either of those states as a whole, except to say that making a giant ironic oil-powered reference to renewable energy (made out of condos, natch) is probably the environmental equivalent* of a similar situation in Dubai where an Emirati can rape a foreigner with impunity, then press charges against the victim (who incidentally has no particular rights) and then deport him. Chutzpah!

*…Okay, okay, to my knowledge, this building doesn’t actually rape anybody. That would be pretty trivializing to say, and I’m not Leon Krier, after all.

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~ by J.D. Hammond on October 14, 2009.

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