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Aiding and Abetting Dubai?

February 5th, 2010 · Posted by Hugo · 7 Comments

Today we consider a more realistic moral quandary, one that we actually run into quite often in various forms. We’ll discuss but one instance of it right now: Dubai. While this blog post may be short, the article I’m suggesting you read is rather long:

The dark side of Dubai — Johann Hari, published in The Independent on 7 April 2009.

The scenario might as well be sketched hypothetically:

  • Consider a society and an economy that is built on the backs of what effectively seems to be slave labour. If an economy is built on something morally reprehensible, to what degree are we culpable, should we choose to have a vacation there? Or just go shopping for a day? Or even just fly the airline? Is contributing money to a morally reprehensible economy an act of aiding and abetting?
  • To what extent does knowledge or lack of knowledge of the underlying reprehensible acts influence the ethics of our actions? (To what extent is ignorance a valid defence?)

In the case of Dubai and its airline: I have never even flown Emirates. It seems they are often the cheapest option for Europe-Africa flights and I know many people that fly Emirates. The reason I chose against that airline in the past was probably because the flight time is longer, though I got to feel good about my choice by only making it after checking CheapTickets.ch which claims BA, KLM and SAA are all more ecologically friendly (probably also because those flights are shorter).

BTW, Dubai is also in serious economic trouble. If you would like to visit and are thus looking for some noble reason to rationalise going, that might be of use. :-P

Categories: Worldviews
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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hugo // Feb 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    No comments on this? …Would you vacation in Dubai? Maybe you’re just purely not interested. If you were slightly interested, would ethical considerations have any effect?

  • 2 Bertus // Feb 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I lived there. Horrible place. Avoid.
    Besides, it’s no fun anyway. And it’s overpriced.

  • 3 Michael // Feb 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Read the article. Holy Schnikees! Thanks for the heads-up. In answer to question 1, I say yes! Any economic support of this economy is ethically wrong. It’s like buying pirated dvds on the street. Whatever you believe about copyright law, the same people who are involved in the supplying of these products are often involved in other organised crime. Surely though, simply not supporting the economy is not enough. Isn’t just ‘avoid’ing the situation ethically wrong too? What can one do though?

    On an aside, given some previous discussions on the matter, I thought you might be interested to know that I have been asked to teach a session on evolution at the private christian school I work at. I guess that’s cause for celebration – people are beginning to approach questions with less fear and more ‘faith’ (if you will).

  • 4 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 17, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Michael, I know you probably directed the last bit at Hugo, but that. is. AWESOME. Good luck!

    Re Dubai, my sister worked there for a year or so…I must ask her if she ever experienced any of this directly.

  • 5 Hugo // Feb 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Just avoiding? I don’t think there are many codes of ethics that insist you go out of your way to solve every evil in this world… as an individual anyway. I can see how as an institution or larger organisation it might be something that should appear on the agenda. You know of the political strife between Switzerland and Libya? (With Europe also getting dragged into it…) And Christianity also certainly has a call to action against injustice, I think that’s also where you’re coming from?

    Dubai is really struggling financially at present. I don’t know what implications that bears on future human rights violations.

  • 6 Hugo // Feb 19, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Ah, I did want to add: my contribution at this point is writing the blog post above. Further contributions I can make is to raise visibility of these issues/concerns with other people that fly through Dubai, for example.

    So what if someone enjoys such flights, spends some time on Dubai’s airport, makes use of some of the services, encourages others to do the same…? I certainly don’t have clear black-and-white answers, I find myself unable to tell them they shouldn’t. Shoulds, shouldn’ts, … however I feel I should be able to get them more informed. Informed decisions…

    In many cases I can raise the concern relatively easily. (South Africans? They fly it because it is the cheapest. Do I thus encourage them to spend more of their money? Or do I just make them feel worse about what they will continue to do?) In one particular case though, a colleague that often flies through Dubai (because it really is convenient, the right direction, etc), I’m finding it harder to bring up. Probably the easiest way is to, next time “go try out the spa at the Dubai airport, it’s great!” comes up, mention that I refuse to fly via Dubai for such-and-such reasons … and leave it at that?

  • 7 Wim Conradie // Mar 16, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Dubai is really struggling financially at present. I don’t know what implications that bears on future human rights violations.

    As an experienced business person I would say probably worse. If businesses are struggling, the employees are the ones who suffers most for it – not the owners at all (especially if they don’t care for them).

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