Evil Paradises

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(318)

Eds: Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, The New Press, £16.99

We are always being told that the world is getting smaller. Globalisation and progress mean that the entire world is now your oyster, there for you to explore. But this only applies if you are born into the right sphere.

This new collection of essays, edited by Mike Davis and Daniel Bertrand Monk, looks at how the world has fractured, from the gated communities, floating cities and dreamworlds of the rich, to the free trade zones, lax labour laws and poverty that are the reality for the majority.

As the introduction explains, the essays here focus on the areas where "the winner takes all ethos is unfettered by any remnant of social contract".

The 19 essays in this collection explore the geography of exclusion. Mike Davis's essay, "Sand, Fear and Money in Dubai" starts like a travel brochure. The opening paragraphs extol the excitement of a city inhabited by underwater hotels and record breaking shopping malls.

Dubai is the ultimate playground for the West's rich, with the United Arab Emirates permitting Dubai to set up "an entirely separate, Western-based commercial system for its financial district that would do business in dollars, and in English". This system has attracted hundreds of thousands of British ex-pats to buy up property, along with the city's police taking a relaxed attitude when it comes to the transgressions of its well to do visitors.

But the majority of ex-pats living in Dubai are the 250,000 labourers, who live in conditions described by Human Rights Watch as being "less than human".

Dubai's police are "diligent in deporting Pakistani workers who complain about being cheated out of their wages by unscrupulous contractors, or jailing Filipina maids for 'adultery' when they report being raped by their employers".

In China Miéville's essay, "Floating Utopias", he writes about "Freedom Ship", the seafaring metropolis and tax haven that was due to be sailing by 2003. This pipe dream of the rich will probably never get off the ground. But using the freedom of the sea is an idea that has - US software engineers are being employed three miles off the coast, so that their employers can escape the labour laws.

This collection has some interesting and well written pieces in it-but read in its entirety the focus on the haves, rather than the have-nots, leaves little hope for a fightback.