Thursday, October 18, 2012

Money, wealth and how it matters in Amman.

Let's do something wild on this half-forgotten (I think about you often!), terribly neglected (everything happening is just so trivial) blog: Let's generalize, assume and be over the top stereotypical.

Ready? Let's go.

You see, because of my stepdaughters horrible yuppy school parents (the school is great! It's the people that are the issue. Isn't that always the case?) I have been forced to deal with people who show off as if life depended on it while pretending it wasn't a big deal and everyone knew what it is like to having to deal with things like the Egyptian embassy who is giving the lady of the house mansion trouble by not issuing a visa for the Filipino nanny maid/help. A world where your daughters 7th birthday party has its own party organizer because god knows you have too much on your hands to do it yourself.

A world where you're judged by the car you have, the clothes you wear, where your maid/help/nanny comes from (Do you employ an expensive Filipino or are you cheap and a woman from Sri Lanka is working for you?) and where image is everything no matter how shallow it is behind that.

For me here in Amman (and probably everywhere), there is a distinct difference between old wealth and new wealth. Old wealth, as far as I know and as far as what I've seen in my short middle class life in Germany, doesn't show off and is often just there, quietly sitting in the corner. New wealth needs to put their latest Herm├Ęs bag right in front of you so it can make sure you see it. New wealth says "nanny" about the person who also cleans your toilets and who you treat like a slave. New wealth needs to rub in how much better everything is that you do. There is some kind of dignity missing with new wealth. And yes, it might be completely possible that I have been spending too much of my time recently watching Downton Abbey (love, love, love it!) and am a little out of touch with reality now (But then again, reality soaps like "Beverly Hills Nannies" or "The Real Housewives of God knows where" exist because this life and these people exist and are real; as real as all the botox and silicone can be.).

As far as I can tell (and really, what do I know?) there isn't any old wealth here (not true. My yoga teacher is loaded and one of the most grounded and down to earth people I know). Nothing that even remotely reminds me of aristocracy and grace. The rich here have come to their money mostly due to the right connections at the right time and have passed it on to their children. Their children are the parents I have to deal with now. So all those rich kids just inherited their status, money and position because their fathers and sometimes grandfathers made a good deal when the kingdom was young and had nothing but needed everything.
Don't get me wrong. I don't envy their money. I am disgusted by their displaying themselves in such vulgar and - ironically- cheap ways.

In my definition of wealth, there is philanthropy and the wish to do good. New wealth doesn't have this. New wealth is surprisingly stingy and not generous at all. New wealth, especially in the Middle East I think, needs an audience and someone to watch on the sidelines.
(If you think about it, all the money the Emiratis have buys them whatever they want and it's the most shallow possible. With no soul, no character, no own culture.)

Here's an example: My stepdaughter's school has a scholarship program to support the less fortunate. In February this year, the school send out a reminder to parents that the tuition for the coming year was due and also asked to consider transferring an extra of 200 JDs ($280) for the scholarship program. The email continued saying that thanks to the "generous contributions of the last academic year, the school was able to provide one (!) full scholarship." What if I tell you the school has 1400 students with an average of 6000 JDs tuition fee a year (that's about $8,500; yes, fucking expensive! Yes, Jordan is a developing country with an average monthly wage of $250.). And they were able to support a single student.
(Let me do the math for you: if every of the 1,400 students  just transferred 100JDs the school would have had an extra of 28,000JDs and seriously what's 100JDs a year? That's probably the amount most wives spend on their hairdressers a month.)

In a very stereotypical way Arabs think of family first so the thoughts go something like this: If I have to reserve a place for my child before it is even born (yes, come and register while you're pregnant! Space is limited.) just to make sure my child can receive the best possible education, why would I want to risk that by supporting some poor village child just because s/he is clever.

I know not everyone is like this. I know there are exceptions. I know things are different throughout the city. I have met people who aren't behaving like they're entitled to behave like assholes just because they have the bank account to prove it.
I breath a sigh of relief every time I encounter them. But they are few and far between. 


  1. Thanks for your grateful informations, this blogs will be really help for students scholarships

  2. That sounds a kind of frustrated :) But very interesting.