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A True Tale of Human Connection and Pedagogical Humor (of a Fairly Wicked Kind)

Robin Alexander

Posted on October 12, 2018 11:30

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It's being reported that Jamal Khashoggi (Washington Post columnist, former Saudi editor and U.S. permanent resident) was allegedly interrogated, tortured and murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, by the Saudis. Doesn’t it make you wonder how we ended up with such a strange bedfellow? Of course, the whole thing reminds me of my Saudi connection in 2006, and the fact that we can click with people of any religion or ethnicity.

I can love my students, mentor them, and look out for their dietary restrictions. All of which I did. But what’s to stop a devoted teacher from having a bit of fun? Especially if said students never know that a trick has been played. So readers, mum’s the word.

I certainly didn’t know I’d be telling the story for The Latest one day. (Or as my grandmother would say, “who knew?”). Nor did I plan the practical joke played on a class of Saudi students, and on one particular young man we will call M. (he remains anonymous for his protection). It just delightfully evolved with no real effort on my part.

Imagine this scene, if you will: The blackboard is filled with the conjugation of a certain verb that none of the students had heard before. They expressed fascination when I used it to tease M. after he griped about the quiz I was assigning. (They were a whiny bunch, from upper middle-class or wealthy families related in some way to King Abdullah).

And so, a class of 15 Muslim men sat at attention enthusiastically reciting in unison: I kvetch, you kvetch, he kvetches, we kvetch, you kvetch, they kvetch.

We did it twice - we all enjoyed it so much. Funny, how the sound of a Yiddish word is universally captivating.

The story behind the story: After the collapse of the gold standard in the early 1970s, we struck a deal with Saudi Arabia to standardize oil prices in dollar terms, and the petrodollar was born. Pricing the most sought after commodity in the world with US dollars makes ours the world’s dominant currency. It enables us to perpetually finance deficits by issuing dollar denominated assets at low rates of interest. (Some say the reason we toppled Qaddafi was that he planned to abandon the petrodollar.)

Our close relationship with the Saudis means enormous profits for, most recently, Raytheon: 72 planes sold under Bush senior has blossomed into 6700 anti-tank missiles under Trump, with stops along the way at each American president. This is how the Saudis buy our protection and the ability to commit war crimes in Yemen. Sometimes they fund our interventions (the Muslim Bosnian government). It’s incredibly cozy. Our excuse is that this brutal regime is “a source of stability in the region.” Got it.

(So, this is how a government is transformed into a puppet show for the American oligarchy!)

Bush junior was being a good friend with his education plan for 10,000 college-aged Saudis; that’s how I ended up with a classroom-full.

At month’s end, when it was time for my students to move up a level, I was asked to issue certificates of achievement. Humor was encouraged. Which is why somewhere in Riyadh M. proudly displays a document proclaiming him to be the Biggest Kvetch.

If I don’t travel to the land of camel beauty pageants, I have no fear of beheading. Of a fatwa, I’m not so sure.

Robin Alexander

Posted on October 12, 2018 11:30

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Source: RT
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