Sunday, February 10, 2013
What do Land cruisers represent in Qatar ?
Like in every other country in the world, here in Qatar the social stratification is very evident. The difference between Qatar and other countries however, is that Qatar has one of the highest rates of cultural diversity. So the social stratification here is mostly based on ethnicity. Although the following not 100% accurate, this is basically what each social class contains: First we have the upper classmen, the elite Qatari’s, then we have the westerners that take place at about upper/middle class, then a variety of Arabs/middle easterners that are mostly middle classmen, and finally we have the Asians and southeast Asians that are working/lower class.
From all the Hollywood movies we watch, we notice that the elite in every country have a few traits, things that make them all relate to one another. For example, in the west the elite are known to visit the opera regularly, and play golf. This concept is known as conspicuous leisure. Conspicuous leisure is basically activities done to show one’s social status. Things like the opera and golf are relatively expensive, so the wealthy/elite take place in such things for the sake of showing their social status to the world, and establishing their high standards. Similarly, something like that exists here in Doha, Qatar. The term conspicuous consumption applies more in this situation however. Conspicuous consumption is basically buying really expensive things and showing them off to establish your high standing in society. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about an example of conspicuous consumption in Qatar is a Land Cruiser.
The Land Cruiser is the number one item that can tell you that this person is an elite Qatari. The Land cruiser to the Qatari’s is a thing that highlights their social class. Social class is usually based on occupation and education. But here it's mostly wealth inherited from family members, which leads to social class inherited from family members. Once a Qatari is born into a wealthy family, their social class has already been established. Owning a Land Cruiser is a symbol of wealth and high social standards. While driving around the streets of Doha, I can literally see the power one has driving a Land Cruiser. People know that these Land Cruisers represent wealth and power, and they know not to mess with them. It’s like owning one puts you in an “elite club”, and the members of this “club” distinguish you from the rest of the population once they know you’re a Cruiser owner.
The interesting thing I’ve recently noticed is that others are buying Land Cruisers, and that it’s not just the Qatari’s anymore. Since the Qatari’s aren’t the only wealthy people in this country, the “Land Cruiser club” grew. I think that makes the original Land Cruiser owners unhappy, because there’s no longer a “Qatari Only” policy for entering this club. Originally when you see a Land Cruiser you immediately know its owners are Qatari; they liked it that way, it defined them. But now, it’s become more common among the mixed ethnicities of upperclassmen. So what the Qatari's started doing to make sure they still stand out, is spend more money on their Cruisers in an obvious way that highlights the difference between them and the new “foreign” Cruiser owners. They tint their windows, or buy a really expensive and short license plate, or “pimp” their cars with paint and colors in a way that really stands out. Their cruisers mean a lot more than just a car; to them, it represents where they stand in this Qatari society, and what kind of treatment they get because of this high social standing.