The Sheikhs and the French Water
How two bottles of water can be a symbol of Everything that is wrong with the Arab league.
For many reasons, it has become cliché to criticize the Arab League. There’s even a trending #DissolveArabLeague hashtag on Twitter. But today I want to focus on the two bottles of French water, Perrier and Evian, that proudly sat in front of each Arab leader. I have nothing against French bottled water, as I myself occasionally like to indulge, but in the context of an Arab summit, their presence symbolizes several tone-deafnesses that point to the increasing cluelessness of the Arab league.
- Self-image tone deafness: I can understand that the water in the Arab gulf in undrinkable, but why not benefit of the occasion to showcase the diversity of the Arab world? Arab countries on the Mediterranean have great climates and produce great mineral waters, why not use Lebanese, Tunisian or even Syrian water?
- Self sufficiency tone deafness: European summit leaders would never ride American or Chinese-made car. They take pride in the made-in-Europe fare, in part because of pride and in part because they want to display their economic self sufficiency as an Economic/cultural body
- Economic tone deafness: Expensive imported bottled french water scream wastefulness and profligacy. This is obviously not a body that is trying to cut costs and save its tax payers’ money. These are Oil sheikhdoms, you might respond, but this summit is supposed to represent all Arab nations, even poor ones
- History tone deafness. It’s not a problem when regular people use commercial goods made by their former colonizers, but when the products are bluntly displayed in such high-profile sovereign gatherings, it sends an unnecessary message of subservience
- Symbolism and Geopolitics tone deafness: A bottle of water in such an event is never just a bottle of water. It’s a sign, a message that is open to interpretation. Should the folks in the Quay D’orsay applaud this display as an official Arab support for French policies and sell it as such to French journalists and the French people? Should Arabs be buying more French weapons?
- Environmental tone deafness: Putting water in plastic bottles and shipping them across the world? Wasn’t the gulf region supposed to be on the way to a more environmentally sustainable path?
Worst of all, it’s the carelessness with which such details are routinely ignored that give an image of incompetence and lack of purpose to this dinosaur of a body.