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Birth of a nation

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    As Syria and Libya burned, ISIS consolidated control of northern Iraq, and the Egyptian military crushed the country’s brief spell of elected Muslim Brotherhood rule, Saudi women saw the rapid disappearance of such mainstays of national policy as the driving ban, compulsory hijab, male guardianship laws, and employment prohibitions. A nationwide ban on cinemas was lifted in 2018. The once-ubiquitous religious police still technically exist, but they are almost never seen in public anymore and have lost all of their formal powers. Saudi Arabia no longer exports fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam, long its state ideology, and has largely ceased the promotion of Wahhabism even within its own borders. The country began offering tourist visas for the first time in 2019, reversing a long-standing official fear of the contaminations of the outside world.


    With many of the old subsidies and handouts eliminated, the relationship between the state, the subject, and the market is no longer mediated through oil-financed social bribery: “It is a big mind-shift we’re trying to induce, of becoming productive citizens,” explained a young Saudi woman who worked on the reform package during her career as a private consultant, and is now studying for a graduate degree in the United States. “A productivity mindset, which is the essence of the vision, has been achieved,” she claimed.

    The population has thus far accepted MBS’s changes with astounding equanimity—a possible result of having been trained for decades in obedience. There have been no tax riots or bread riots. There was no visible rearguard action by the old order, or at least none that inflamed or incited any divisions within society at large. Saudis went to work as shopkeepers and Uber drivers with little apparent complaint—not that public complaining is socially tolerated or even all that legal in Saudi Arabia—with some treating participation in the new economy as a kind of patriotic duty.


    In my discussions with Saudi officials, they always emphasized the speed of the reforms: The idea is to fund a massive economic and social transition while oil is still in high demand, and then build an entirely new economy in time for the 40% of the population that’s now under 25-years-old to actually have something meaningful and productive to do with their lives. Part of the reason Saudi Arabia signed on to the recent Chinese-brokered diplomatic normalization with Iran was to pause the onslaught of Tehran-supported drone, missile, and cyber attacks against the kingdom, securing the peaceful conditions under which the crown’s development package could be implemented. Several officials pointed out to me that speed was important because it meant the changes could rapidly become tangible to ordinary Saudis. This marked another curious instance of the monarchy showing a kind of backhanded concern for what its subjects think: The government recognizes that its citizens will not automatically trust that the country is changing unless they can see the changes themselves.


    The robe people, the well-connected types in their mid-30s, dominated the sedate and uncrowded club section, which loomed over a festival-sized pit. I set out for the lower shadows, curious as to which Saudis belonged in the less rarified strata of concertgoers. What I saw were thousands of young people practicing at being mirror images of American teens: The boys wore Death Row Records hoodies and fake Balenciaga, and I spotted dew rags, tight leather jackets, cornrows, and a shirt coated in black sequins. Travis Scott, popular in Saudi Arabia, was headlining the post-race show the next night.

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