September 18, 2006

Nationality based professions

And I used to foolishly think that the term "مصاروه" as a shortened acronym of " Egyptian foremen/workers" back home was racist & repulsive; welcome to Saudi, where one's nationality decide on one's profession.

Take for instance this signboard just off our office at a petrol station, it reads "Eyad Carwash, trained African labours", Needles to point out that the only benefit from stressing the nationality of the carwash labours is enforcing racist stereotypes, as if Saudi with its explosive mix of expats needs further segregation.

Or in another one, a mechanic workshop make it proudly-clear on its main signboard that their technicians are "trained Filipino mechanics", not only so; hospitals & clinics festively announce "the arrival of the Syrian/Jordanian Dr. Ibsar Meen".

So what exactly does one nationality (yet alone ones race) have to do with the profession he/she do? In my humble perspective, this trickles down to a more serious issue, it’s the flawed yet comfortable practice of generalising and profiling others, "Oh Africans are good in car cleaning, while Filipinos are good in F&B and craftsmanship", "Jordanian doctors are very professional, Lebanese are good in sales & marketing while Egyptians are only good for teaching in elementary" or "Pakistanis make good accountants but don't trust them in warehouse keeping, hire Hindu Indians for that".

These are fictional statements, yet they have strong resonance even at the upper professional circles, so it comes as no surprise that you'll find professoins & nationalities being demographically distributed as outlined above, financial departments are mostly from the Indian subcontinent, Egyptian teachers are dominant, Jordanian & Syrian doctors are more common and carwashes mostly hire Africans (frankly, dark skinned; it seems like a sick statement of elegance unfortunately).

In our organization, there are two colleagues of mine who are managers and they have serious issues with insubordination chiefly due to the fact that they are from nationalities that typically work in "lesser" capacities, McDonald cashier, foremen or tea-boys, not managers!!! And mind you, the insubordination is not coming necessarily from notoriously typical elitist Saudis; No its from Saudis and non-Saudis alike, despicable in all counts…

It sounds like an impossible endeavour to differentiate between common circumstantial situation that has its effect on a certain group and hence their attributes and thier nationality) which is irrelevant to what they are!

For instance, in the telecommunication sector, you'll find Jordanian expertises littering every other Middle Eastern market and in all capacities, from CEO to financial managers, from IT based expertise to the utmost technical gurus, why? Is it because we have some telecom tendencies in our genes that bring the best out of us when we work in this sector? obviously...

No, my take is that Jordan pioneered the introduction of mobile telephony (the major driving force in this industry), implemented a telecommunication regulatory that catalyzed the industry and matured it and privatised the incumbent operator (the backbone of this industry), add to that the more generic credentials of the Jordanian work force related to the huge investment we tend to make in education among other things, not to mention the ad-hoc chain effect of hiring from the same pool of people whom usually share the same nationality.

So the madness must stop as its highly contagious, I have a Jordanian colleage who typically have no issues with others but found himself gradually agitated by the fact that he's dominantly surrounded by Asians in the financial department, I even fill for looking for a "good Filipino carpenter" to put together the complex iKEA piece of furniture I bought the other day.

Especially with our cultural luggage and heritage that's notorious for its shameless self-pride and notions of elitism by means of ancestry achievements! How can we undo the engraved profiling of Egyptians for not merely being "مصاروه" entailing the flawed description above or the Sri-linkian and Filipino women not to be of lesser cast dedicated to serving others.

If south East Asian cultures graciously have humbleness as a dominant attribute to it, this shouldn't be abused or exploited by assuming that the people belonging to this culture are petty! In contrast with our culture that is engulfed with egoistic tendencies stemming from absolute deceitful illusion of superiority for what we used to be in the distant past, mind the self-bashing here, I became addicted on that one (as the few avid readers of my blog may notice).

To sum up, one must be able to differentiate between people's circumstances, cultural attributes and its inherent nationality or race. if many Filipinos work as maids, it may affect their culture and may add new common attributes to them and create a "Filipino maid sub-culture", but this doesn't mean that one can drive conclusions such as : all Filipinos are ready to work as maids, all Filipinos are hard workers or all of them will steal before they leave or all of them like/dislike our food or eat fish!

Related topics:
The Man-made maid delimma

4 comments:

kinzi said...

What a bird's eye view you've got there. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

Roba said...

Something I noticed this trip.. every single security guy is black. what's up with that?

MohammadL said...

Well , it's true and wrong at the same time , first of all , it is proven that some races are better in doing certain things , for example , Chinese ppl are better in manual labor while European ppl are better in architecture and art related matters , however , what's wrong is not giving everyone a fair chance , for example an Indian doctor might be so much better than a Jordanian , so we can't stereotype jobs to races , and that's exactly what's happening in the gulf region in countries like ksa and Kuwait for example , you can't find a Philippine manager working in a hospital or any other company . and lately it's starting to go both ways , so if you find a Indian in a place of power , he will try his best not to employ Arabs

lammoush said...

interesting post!! there are many many aspects to that though!!