Monday, October 31, 2011
While I was at home, I was wondering what it’s like to be far away from my family and my home county. I pictured the image of living in someone else’s house for years, and how it would be like. I went up and asked a housemaid named Arlene, what it is like to have a job like this. She answered me with sadness in her voice that she had no other choice than this job.
She did not complete her education and she needed to work in order to support her family. She was from Philippines, and she was going through relative poverty. They had the money to eat and drink but not enough money for other needs. I asked her what she did with the salary as soon as she received it; she said that she would send it to her family immediately. She wouldn’t even save one riyal for herself; she is sacrificing her life in order to support her family.
She said that in her home country that they have a lot of social inequality. People are treated differently according to their wealth and where they stand in the society. She implied that they do not have any wealth in Philippines and there are not many job opportunities. This is why she came to Doha, to get a job. The salary she receives in Doha is much more than what she would receive in the Philippines. She says that Philippines is a cheap country, and the money they get from their salary which is around 800QR is a good amount for support.
I asked Arlene if the work sometimes affects her physical health. She said that it definitely does, by the end of the day she gets extremely exhausted and just wants to sleep. Working as a maid also affects her mental health
she says. She has a lot of emotional breakdowns because she misses her children too much.
During last week's Sociology classes, that discussed social stratification, I remembered my holiday to the U.K that summer. It didn't just cross my mind nonchalantly, it came to mind as I thought of Cleethorpes beach in Grimsby, and how I can actually apply social stratification to my family excursion.
I've been to that beach ever since I was little, always the same kind of people doing the same mundane things that people do on the beach. However, after learning about social classes I realized that the people who go to this particular beach are of a certain social class. The majority of the people to this particular beach have certain life chances. They don't live in a big city, they aren't as exposed to the outer world as those who live in the capital. To them Cleethorpes is a great place to relax or take their children, plus it's free.
The fact that these people are only capable of going to this beach as opposed to, say, the French Riviera shows social inequality. Some people are born into ascribed statuses that allow them to go elsewhere for fun in the sun. The status value of the people who I have observed on the beach is not that of the upper class. In general the people who were at this particular beach were clearly of lower middle class, or even the working class. It is clear from the way that they dress (minus the fact they are in beachwear), the way that the talk, and what they actually do on the beach.
There isn’t a lot of social prestige associated with Cleethorpes, but at the end of the day it is just a beach like any other beach, but it’s the stratification that goes on in society that associates certain places, or activities with certain people. Cleethorpes is a child friendly beach, with the tradition English beach pastime of riding the donkeys still in practice. You wouldn’t necessarily find this on a much more prestigious beach. The only people who actually sunbathe are usually the parents of the children, and opposed to the usual teenage crowd that is associated with beaches this particular beach is family oriented.
Social stratification of the different classes can be found everywhere. Certain people eat at certain restaurants that others don’t, some people drive secondhand cars as opposed to new ones, and some people go to Cleethorpes for their little weekend holiday while others might go to France. It’s a funny world that we live in, where not everyone is born with the same chances of living the lifestyle they dream because of social restrictions, or limitation. It is important to note that just because these people spend their time on this beach, doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of being socially mobile and striving for a better lifestyle. All it means is one question: do they want to move up the social ladder so desperately that they’d give up the simple things they enjoy in life?
To relate to this idea, I recently had a wedding to attend. Therefore, I had to call a beauty technician to come over. Her name is Shevani. Shevani comes from a relatively low social class in Pakistan. When she came over, she got her whole kit with her in a small bag. Her English is perfect. I’m not sure why, but I found this to be very surprising to me, as most of the ones that work in salons here in Doha have broken English. I was very curious to know what her previous job was.
Whenever I decide to ask her about her English language, I hesitate doing so since it might offend her. Last time she came over she brought up the subject without me having to ask her. Shevani was talking about education and asked me when my Northwestern graduation is. Then she went on talking about her younger sisters that studied with her at the same school, but each of them had completely different personalities. Shevani was the one that got the excellent grades, and won several awards including the top in her country. Her sister’s classmates would keep asking her sister why couldn’t she be similar to Shevani.
Due to her high grades, she applied to one of the top prestigious universities in the UK and got accepted. Nevertheless, due to her social class, she was refused to go by the government. Curiosity was killing me, so I asked her why? She replied by saying that if they check that her bank account has less than 50,000 riyals, they would automatically refuse to let her go. Their belief is that if she goes to the UK she will reside there and get a well-paid job instead of pursuing her education and back.
I then asked her why she chose this job. She replied by saying that she loves the Qatari culture, and that all the customers she has are very nice. Shevani is very well educated but is socially stratified into this job. If she did go to the UK, she would experience a social mobility, going higher up the hierarchy. Nonetheless, since she does not have a university degree, her choices are limited.
The technological revolution in Qatar has led to the emergence of generations displaced from their values. That the Web has been able to transfer the cases of the Uncommunicative youth to the welcomed heard space. It turned “ the silent majority” to “the spoken majority“ and succeeded in putting itself on the top agenda of the world.
Without any doubt, the generations impressed with the new life's tools, and interacted with them, producing the adult form, which was “in terms of age” were recognized and dealt with more seriously than everyone thinks.
Two elements were not available for the younger generation earlier; the first social networking with the various social classes, cultural and geographical classes, which led to expand the youth minds and their vision of life and the universe. Secondly, the massive flow of information, which were not available except for limited people from security departements and Politicians.
The technological revolution has succeeded in transforming “the silent majority” to “the spoken majority” and it is no longer silent, as it shares in the production of public opinion among young people, which is almost a uniform over the social problems and the ways to deal and solve them.
It has contributed in pushing the social and political movements in all countries of the world and forwarded at a rapid pace and revolutionary. It was in contrast to the old generations to variables, and to obey and enforce to deal with them according to the mechanisms and conditions. But infront all these variables, what did the old generations do when they see what is happening to their young people? The fact refers to that; they were spending and offering the young people the money to use the new technology, and monitors, while others refuse to even carry a cell phone.
The capacity of the Qatari old generation varys to deal with the various tools and technology industries, while some managed to adapt it quickly than the others. But many eldest has suffered from the phobia and it’s became a warm cover that they tell everyone they love the old one.
For instance, there are few Qatari people almost prevents their kids from using the Internet at home, though if they could, they would prevent them from using it outside their houses.
So, the conflict and the social interactions between the generations, although it takes in every age a new term which is differ from what was preceded earlier. However; who thinks that the parents will end the conflict, didn’t had the chance to see well the variability of roles between the ages. The absolute thing is that; who ever argued his/her father on the technology revolution, he/she will argue his/her son and grandson, in what they want them to do rather than what they want it against the parents rejection.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
As we all know Halloween is happening tomorrow, I found it fun to speak about it and to catch an interesting relation between this event and sociology. Instead of explaining the history of this event, I would love to share with you this video that explains it very nicely:
Halloween is mostly celebrated in the United States, but it landed somehow in this country: Doha, Qatar. Mostly thank to the globalization and with the large percentage of expatriates that lives in Qatar, Halloween is an event that took part of this culture. We can go in the malls and there are a lot of shops that sells costumes, decorations and all what goes with it. But not everyone celebrates Halloween, so we will call it mostly a subculture, because there are some groups those shares in some parts of the dominant culture but have their distinctive values, beliefs, languages or material culture.
I think that what made possible to celebrate Halloween in Qatar is Garangaa’o.
Garangaa’o is an event that happens mostly in the golf, the 15th day of Ramadan where the little boys and girl dress up with the traditional clothes and goes in the neighborhood to collect some sweets, but they are able to get some only if they sing a beautiful song dedicated only to this event. It have a really close connection between them, but the culture and the religion made some slight changes, that in my opinion makes the beauty of the society and the world.
Every culture has its own style in every thing, dresses, food, tradition, and songs. Today I am going to talk about the songs in the Gulf country. We could notice easily the different between the Gulf music and the Arabic music, by the rhythm of course, because they use different instrument like: Aoud it looks like a Guitar but there is different in sound and the number of string. Also there is a Drum that makes the rhythm fast and loud it makes you want to dance.
Lately the new generation starts to listen to different kind of music’s, which is not related to their culture like: hip hop, Jazz, pop; so there is new sub-culture, they still listen to their own culture music but they kind of mix it, so the basic is still there but the new generation adds to it creating a new style. Its amazing how cultures get mixed with each other, so at the end we find that many countries have a similarity and how different society get close to each other and have a related tradition.
To conclude for fun I prefer to listen to the new style of music, however I still like to listen to traditional music in the at specific time, like: Eid, National day…etc.
Many of us Muslims grew up in a culture that is based on our religion’s pillars and rules. So, in Islam we follow a lot of the things that our Prophet, PBUH, did, such as saying “Bism Allah” (In God’s name) before starting a meal. I remember sitting at the dining table with my parents when I was younger; after they plated my food, they reminded me to say “Bism Allah.” Being my-not-thinking-before-I-act self, I chose to act out and break the norm and said, “mish Bism Allah” (not in God’s name). I obviously had no idea what I was saying. After that, I automatically got a negative sanction from both my parents, which is a negative reaction in sociology. Looking back at that memory now I understand exactly why my parents did that. Now, I actually understand what I said and why my parents asked me to say “Bism Allah.” It’s not something we just said for social reasons; it had religious meaning as well.
Here’s the thing, there is “haram” and there is “a’ib.” “Haram” basically means forbidden upon in Islam. “A’ib” means shameful in our culture. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. An example of something that could be considered “a’ib” and not “haram” is being deviant by getting a crazy hair cut and dying your hair bright pink. If you go out to visit family friends or even just family it could be “a’ib” to walk in with a crazy hair-do and you will probably get a lot of negative sanctions. But in Islam, it is not “haram” to look like that. However, many culturally restrictive things are also forbidden in Islam, like one’s choice of wear. A woman is supposed to be dressed appropriately in public in Islam and in this culture.
The same goes to girls and guys mingling; it could be considered “a’ib” and “haram” at times. Girls and guys hanging out isn’t something that we see in public all the time, aside from in universities in Education City and at parties. It wouldn’t be so hard to find someone, at least one person, staring at you from the corner of his or her eye when you’re alone with the opposite gender, especially if you’re younger in age.
Arranged Vs. love, arranged marriage usually ends up in divorce specially know a days where the women actually can live without a man, some people survive an arrange marriage and live with it and love after getting married, marriages based on love survive more, however; our culture looks at people who love before marriage or knows a guy is forbidden and shameful. Usually arranged marriages are done by parents to keep their family name or usually the parents are involve in some business so it’s like a favor to each other is to marry the kids.
Age Vs. attitude, usually the man is older when any two are married, and that gives him the power in some way and makes him the responsible one, however; in some cases a man actually marries an older women, usually this happens by choice and society has an issue with such a thing. Most of people I know are happy especially that’s its their own choice.
Before Vs. now, women before are locked in their homes until married and taught by their mothers how to do different things for example cooking, sowing etc. After marriage they live to serve their husbands and every thing is wrapped around this man. Now its different with most people, you live your life and when married you continue living your own social life however with a man next to you, you get to make your own time with him and not necessary dedicate all your time to him. Everything around us has changed. And women now a days work and are achieving high work position.
Different social class (men Vs. women), men in such a society usually marries a girl less fortunate or equal fortunate, however; they are a bit threaten by marring a women more fortunate and richer then him, usually they fell less of a man.
We can see every society in the world stratify itself people, any criterion could be used to distinguish them, the most common being social status - which is determined by your profession - the kind of job you do and the money you earn as a result of it.
This chapter on social stratification reminded me of the all time epic Hollywood love story, The Notebook, where the main focus of the movie is the separation of this poor and young man who falls in love with a rich young woman and gives her a sense of freedom. They get separated because of nothing else but their social differences. Her family rejects the guy because of his un-wealthy family, and instead gets her engaged to a soldier, to maintain the same social status. More or less, that’s the laws of the universe.
The cost for the workshop was QR 1325 and it lasted for the entire weekend; starting from Thursday night, Friday’s and Saturday’s morning and afternoon. So we practiced in total 10 hours of yoga. The 80 participants who attended the workshop project an indicator that they have the money and the time to engage in such elite activities. It is impossible to see people from the working class in the studio because they can’t satisfy their basic needs and don’t have enough leisure time as they are usually exploited by their bosses. Apart from the money and time required to do yoga, the participants were elegantly dressed up in the most costly active wear brands such as Lululemon and Hugger-mugger. That even adds more to the constraints in pursuing your practice to its full potential.
But in this particular workshop, the status value of yoga has risen to an extremely prestigious level. As I mentioned earlier the workshop was led by John Scott. The owner of this studio Valerie Jeremijenko who is also the dean of student affairs in Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar had exerted considerable effort to invite such influential guru over for a workshop. There are many reasons why this man had the power to unite 80 practitioners from different backgrounds over the weekend. A) Speaking of his age, gender and race; he is a 54-year old white man from New Zealand. B) About his education, he has a bachelor degree of Applied Science in Industrial Design. And he has been a dedicated yoga student since 1987 and a direct student of Shri K Pattabhi Jois since 1989, who certified John to teach Ashtanga yoga since 1993. C) Regarding his spectacular achievements, John taught many national and international workshops. He has written the book “Ashtanga Yoga”- the essential step-by-step guide to dynamic yoga and also he produced a DVD of the “Ashtanga yoga primary series”. And to further bling his profile, John had taught Madonna and Sting.
All of these privileged ascribed and impressive achieved statuses have given him great self-esteem. Since when he first entered the studio cramped up with new faces in a country he has never been to, he did not show any sign of nervousness. He just walked pass by smiling to all of the participants and then settled in the middle of the studio and started chanting to greet us. His superior reputation clearly illustrates his confident and relaxed attitude. Prior the start of every session of the workshop, Valerie drizzled generous drops of the pricey high therapeutic grade Young Living essential oils in the diffuser to enhance our motivation to go beyond the practice. Notice so far, the people, the funds, the gear and the props the yoga community needs to conduct the wholesome process of yoga. It is definitely a practice for the people at the top of the social class hierarchy.
One may think that yoga is an extremely extravagant discipline. However behind all of these lavish investments, is a practice that can immensely improve your overall physical, mindful and spiritual well-being. For instance during the workshop, John had challenged us physically in the versatile sequences and postures of Ashtanga yoga which developed our flexibility, strength and balance. And for the mindful side of the practice, we worked on various meditation techniques to connect us to the present and overthrow the conditioned mind that cause us to continue repeating our old patterns, habits and addictions. Finally, for the spiritual aspect of the practice, John had dived into the limitless philosophy of yoga. In brief, John preached about the importance of having “Subject specific notes”, which means in situations like having a conversation with a friend or listening to a lecture at school, we should control our mind in allowing it to have thoughts, questions related to the current setting rather than thinking of irrelevant things like the game you want to watch tonight or the outfit you want to wear tomorrow. This subject-specific note mindset can tremendously improve the quality of our lives. He also emphasized on the power of group unity in a way that this workshop have brought together people from various cultural, religious, educational origins to a common purpose which was counting, moving, breathing and sweating together to construct a pathway for a profound sense of well-being. If people can apply this philosophy on a global scale, there is no doubt that the world can become a better place.
John, Valerie and I posing after the end of the workshop
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The third Doha Tribeca Film Festival finally began this October after a long highly anticipated wait by people living in Doha. The festival usually goes on for about five days and showcases films and holds various events for each day. The whole purpose of bringing the Tribeca fIlm Festival to Qatar is to introduce people to the film culture by cultural diffusion. The festival brings together directors and actors from both the western and middle-eastern parts of the world, allowing the people of Qatar to learn from both sides and potentially inspires them to make their own films. The introduction of Doha Tribeca Film Festival was to encourage its citizens to start their own projects while receiving support from Doha Film Institute. The films are screened in Katara and at the city center.
This year there were many films that were based in the Middle East but a lot of them had western actors as part of the cast. There has been a lot of criticism around these films, such as Black Gold, as people believe the Middle East is not being portrayed in the correct way and that the only reason some of the films had western actors was to secure its distribution in the western and European parts of the world.
A very recent incident that occurred a few days ago at the red carpet has stirred quite some controversy. The Egyptian actor Omar Sharif was caught on camera slapping a woman while he was posing for pictures on the red carpet.
He broke social norms when he did that and now he is receiving negative sanctions for his behavior, as they are many articles being written about the incident criticizing his actions. In the actual video taken, it is unclear whether the actor actually slapped the woman or not, but he did appear quite rude when he was talking to her as he basically called her stupid when he said, “put something in your brain” in Arabic. After he finished posing for his solo pictures he calls over the woman and takes a picture with her. The woman did not look the least bit annoyed or angry as she smiles and takes the picture with him with without causing a scene. Despite the fact there have been some negative occurrences at the festival, it still remains a vital medium to transfer film culture into the Arab world.
Friday, October 28, 2011
According to the author, poet, and playwright, Rabindranath Tagore, “Beauty is truth's smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.” How do we define beauty? In my country perfect skin, wide eyes, tan color skin, and curvy body are defining the main ideal of Arabic beauty. Beauty obsession becomes a large issue that societies suffer from. There are strong pressures on people to be perfect because they want to present who they are in a fake way and accept being treated by the way they look. But yet there is a bright side of this beauty.
People’s choices of custom and clothing are depending on society to present their cultural tradition and values. Qatar is a nation with high culture, in which there is luxury and splendor because of high income that came from the gas and modernity. With the rising economy Qatar’s modernization included the clothing for both men and women. The cultural values are still in the society. Furthermore, people kept on developing without forgetting their religion and tradition. For example, Qatari women still cover their bodies and they translate the old customs into a new design of body and hair covering. Wearing the abaya is not for religious matters because there are Muslim women who are covering their bodies without the abaya in other countries. However, Qatar society expects Qatari women to wear the abaya in order to be loyal to the country’s tradition.
What happens when thinking of beauty goes too far?
“An estimated report presented by Abdul Aziz al-Ansari, the director of the Marriage Bureau located in Doha, stated that nearly 50% of the Qatari women are unmarried…. The biggest hurdle in arranging a partner is due to the high dowry demands by the bride's family” (Himadree, par.2, 4). Women obsess over beauty, exaggerate, and have a strong feeling to be perfect that has led them to never experience the beautiful touchable moments that they will get to when they marry. In role conflict women can take a role by their actions, being mature and balancing their beauty needs. Is it worth it to spend this amount of money? This depends on the goal that they want to achieve.
Religious point of view
In Islam wasting money is forbidden, yet some people do that, and guilt may cause an ongoing series of problems. The ideal society is built on the human relations and their organized interests. Also, it is characterized by its ideas, values and morals, law and systems, which establish boundaries and stop these problems from happening.
Himadree, C. “ Spinsterhood Among Qatar Women On The Rise. “The Muslim Woman. 19 July 2006. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Arabic coffee is a traditional drink that Arabs in the gulf serve to their guests as a welcoming drink, it is considered to be part of the Arab culture. Serving and preparing coffee embeds a number of cultural elements such as values and symbols that link directly to sociology, as well as remaining a focal point during social gatherings of all kinds. It is mainly derived from the Bedouin hospitality, but with new generations it is starting to change. The society values draw guidelines for how and when coffee should be served. When serving coffee strict rules are followed within the serving order. Age is a way to start serving the older than the younger, but when theirs a doubt a one can start serving with the person who is on the right. The coffee cups are only half filled and guests may have several refills, it is considered as an insult to fill up the coffee cup to the top. For the guest to indicate that he has finished and doesn’t want a refill he should jiggle the cup sideways. Refusing to drink the coffee either is considered impolite or the guest is trying to send a message to the host that he is here for something he wants. The guest may accept the cup of coffee but not drink from it, saying things like “your coffee isn’t to drink” meaning I will not drink your coffee unless you grant me what I came for. It is considered ashamed for the host to not grant them what they want. There are much more actions and body language during the ceremony of making serving coffee that sit on a rough surface of traditional and cultural meanings.
Nowadays with the new generation not a lot of them drink Arabic coffee since they are becoming more addicted to other types of coffee such as American, French, and much more types of coffee. It might be due to the availability of this product or due to global trends that are inherited from the west.
A link to a video I designed last year about Arabic coffee.
As I drove into a Woqood petrol station, I didn’t really think my sociological imagination was in gear. I wanted to fill up my car tank, grab some treats and candy after a very long day, re-fill on some comfort McDonalds meal just in front of the Sidra convenient store of Woqod – and go home. However, waiting for my gas meter to fill up, I look around and notice the countless sociological concepts that can be applied in every corner and feature of this location. Apart from the McDonaldized process of the car wash service, the gas meters, oil change, and convenient store including a small fast food corner, an Internet area and other services and adjacent fast-food chains located next to the Woqood Petrol station, I move on to observe the social stratification of people within this cluster of car and food services in the context of this petroleum-rich country.
According to this source, in 1973, petroleum production and profits radically increased, moving Qatar from the position of one of the world’s poorest countries and leading it to have one of the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world. Today, Qatar is probably viewed as a very “wealthy” nation. And in sociology, wealth can refer to income, property, buildings, businesses, assets, stocks, bonds etc. However, this wealth is not distributed equally. Although absolute poverty, where people live without the basic needs of living such as food, water, and shelter, may not really exist in Qatar, relative poverty can be observed when the wealth of different people in this society is compared to other standards within the same country.
For example, if the situation of the employee who filled my gas tank and wiped my front and back windows, or the person who served me my fries were compared to the living standard and wealth of the owner of Woqod for example, their situation would be ranked way at the bottom, or at a significantly lower level. Even though these workers might be way better off than the people in their home country, compared to the standards of the average situation or elite and high status members of the Qatari society, they would fall at the bottom of the hierarchy.
If you are born into a Qatari family, your life chances are not likely to lead you to any of the jobs I observed in the services offered at Woqod. Instead, you will more likely to earn a relatively high income, and belong to a social class that shares characteristics of high economic and social status, high level of education (with lowest being a college degree), and an occupation that holds a certain prestige. If I come across a “Land cruiser”, or an expensive car on the road, I would assume, that the driver is most probably Qatari, or a driver for a Qatari family or businessman, based on my cumulative experiences and observations.
Furthermore, the arrangement of people into divisions of power and wealth can be determined by ascribed statuses (characteristics you cannot control/inherited) or achieved statuses (characteristics you achieve or attain). Due to Qatarization most top ranks in management roles are given to Qataris instead of expatriates and non-Qataris. This program or system favors or prioritizes Qataris for the positions of higher authority and management. According to the book by Joan Ferrante, a caste system of stratification is a form of assigning people into social classes on the basis of their ascribed status, which they have no control over, and usually cannot change. A car wash worker is not likely to move up the social ladder to become the CEO of Qatar Gas. And neither would the McDonald’s cleaner, or the server, or the laborer moving stock around the store. Therefore, social mobility is unlikely for those in the caste system that is more prominent in this society.