October 06, 2005
Starbucks and Extra Special Overdone Whinging
Due to running a search to see where 'Aqoul had been mentioned I ran across this post by a (former?) contributor to 'Aqoul on is livejournal: On the Arabization of Starbucks.
Well, I am bemused to say the least.
First, I almost was involved in some financing issues for an effort to bring Starbucks to the Levant - fell through when the bloody Iraq war started and as I was led to understand, Starbucks got cold feet. Second, I know the locations involved, indeed I suspect I even know the entrepreneur behind the Starbucks franchise (if it is the same person).
Let me say then, ridemycamel's whinging on strikes me as ridiculous and risiblely immature posturing, although very typical elitist arab lefty youth self indulgence.
Expanding a bit on this, a few comments.
I suppose the characterisation of 'Abdoun is not that off:
The other, larger store is located just south of Abdoun circle, the centre of West Amman. Everything rich and American is located in Abdoun circle, making it very easy for the young, affluent Jordanian to get to the circle in order to soak up as much of the American dream as their Arab minds possibly can in a couple of hours.
Sure the Abdoun traffic circle area development is poshish although hardly all that more American than the rest of new West Amman (the entire West Amman urban expansion rather gives one the feeling of say a city in Arizona, car centric, suburbanised, inappropriately green).
I would name it the Dubai / Gulf expatted brats circle myself, but it's not so bad. A few good bars and frightfully near, although he does not mention it, the big ass castle that the US built as its Embassy.
But let me turn to the juvenile and factually impaired whinging on.
Blue Fig, a locally-owned café/bar that had become one of the more tolerable hang-outs of West Amman. Blue Fig’s marketing strategy is straight to the point: “to enrich the Arab mind with culture and art.” Local artists and bands are regularly showcased in the café, and every month is dedicated to exploring the culture of one specific country. Last month was Russia, and that was really interesting, to say the least. The food there is quite unique: they often mix dishes from various different locations: Lebanese with Mexican, Indian with Chinese, Palestinian with Moroccan. The results aren’t always mouth-watering, but they are always interesting. Point is: the fact that Starbucks decided to open up right next door to Blue Fig was done to specifically harm them, and sadly, its working.
Well, that is a... unique description of the Blue Fig.
Let's put this in perspective. The resto-cafe-bar, located in one of the chicest parts of the city, really quite far off to the edge of 'Abdoun and specifically aimed at the spoiled brat elite - being way the bloody fuck out of the way - as well as the young urban professional class. Hardly terribly traditional, indeed the steel and glass monstrosity always struck me as an eyesore, but each to his own. Their marketing was effectively "be hip, pseudo-counter cultural from time to time, cutting edge and most of all show you can spend the night out at an expensive, overpriced place way out on the edge of development." Snobism, in short, ill-disguised.
I prefer mine direct, like a shot of good rhum.
Now our rather stereotypical whinger would contrast "locally owned" Blue Fig with Starbucks. A news flash. They're both locally owned. Starbucks franchised the deal.
It may be the siting was "specifically to harm" or it may be they thought the Blue Fig and the other place down the road a bit had created a new hip poser center of gravity for the Dubai type crowd.
Now I found this immensely amusing, insofar as the unconcious irony of the comment almost exceeds expectations:
I was at Blue Fig the other day and was disgusted to see a row of brand-new expensive looking cars parked outside the Starbucks in Abdoun circle. Looking into it from the outside, you could see the majority of the customers were well-dressed Jordanians aged between fifteen and twenty-five, spending their daddies’ money on the over-priced piss-water that Starbucks sells. Instead of the usual choice of Turkish coffee: bitter, regular, or sweet, these spoilt brats now have the option of paying close to ten dollars for a soy Latte, and can finally complete their All-American experience by being in a non-smoking environment.
And of course the cars and Jordanians dressed up differs not in any substantive way from Blue Fig. Note, by the way, dears, that Blue Fig is an enitrely English language name and brand - oooh that's authenticity for you.
So, our man is pissed off that some percentage of his confreres have different tastes than his (ah, the horror), may decide a bit of Starbucks cafe is a nice change from the normal fair that one can get everywhere (and is indeed often the only coffee choice, although as memory serves Blue Fig suffers as it serves cappacinos and other non Turkish coffees as well......
Well, let's cut to the chase on this self indulgent foolish little prat of a self absorbed twit:
This is what really bothers me. It’s not that they’re ruining the service for Blue Fig or even Nescafe (which has always been Jordan’s choice for coffee), and not that they’ve introduced these elitist forms of coffee, but that they’ve annihilated our culture by depriving a new generation of the beauty of having a smoke with your coffee. Smoking is such a large part of our culture, and Starbucks is slowly making the new generation smoke-free. I can just see it now: in twenty years you won’t even be able to smoke in an elevator in Jordan anymore. This thought makes me nauseous and very helpless. Last night I even cried for like, five minutes.
Die you fucking American imperialists, DIE!
So it is imperialism to have a Jordanian use an American brand of his own volition, because he rightly judged there is a completely uncoerced native Jordanian demand for something other than the usual fare. (Never mind the risible posing that somehow Blue Fig is not elitist....) Of course we should leave aside the utterly incoherent idiocy with regards to imposing smoking with coffee. Fetishizing one's own preferences as "Arab" or "Jordanian" culture is rather more imperialistic than merely offering a choice (never mind the silliness of fetishizing smoking as something of Arab culture per se).
This contemptible idiocy is precisely the kind of moronic half-baked thinking that drives anti-globalisation movements. Inept, ill-informed self indulgent idiocy.
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I figured he was being ironic and/or making fun of himself (though perhaps I read it wrong).
Posted by: eerie at October 6, 2005 10:44 PM
No, actually quite a sporting night. Excellent day even.
I read it differently, and I wager spot on - see the comments. If not, well, no loss. But as a general matter I follow the least charitable reading / interpretation rule. It leaves you with an upside.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at October 6, 2005 10:52 PM
I didn't follow the comments, suppose you're right. Maybe I am too indulgent. Then again someone has to balance out your Afrit side, no?
Posted by: eerie at October 6, 2005 11:10 PM
If you insist.
I always thought I was the colour here.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at October 6, 2005 11:13 PM
I think you're the star, actually. Colourful and (but?) fierce.
Hmm. Forgot the precious Darfur event was today.
Posted by: eerie at October 6, 2005 11:20 PM
Well, if he wasn't a former contributor before, I'm sure he is now.
Posted by: David Weman at October 7, 2005 01:28 AM
Well, if one shares a blog with me, one has to have a spine and style.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at October 7, 2005 10:56 AM
One can always get back at you by posting socialist worker articles to the front page.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at October 7, 2005 06:23 PM
Lounsbury, really, if you have nothing better to do than to go through the journal of someone over twenty years younger than you, and take out random rants (that were written sarcastically) and 'critique' them, then you are seriously more pathetic than I thought. Furthermore, personal insults in such discussions only help to prove the attacker's weak argument and immature character.
Please, spare me the MacCarthy-esque drama.
Posted by: ridemycamel at October 10, 2005 09:38 AM