Karim Graffiti

For a few years now, one question has circulated throughout the country. It is a simple message painted in the form of graffiti in many unexpected places in the country: ¿Por Qué Somos Pobres? (Why are we poor?) followed by the Internet address VieneAlgo.com. Although it has unintended (or intended?) traces of the graffiti style ‘Street Art’, the accompanying hashtag #VieneAlgo points to an obvious planned campaign of sorts.

The unintentionally ironic question was put forth by a young Dominican millionaire with the very un-Dominican name of Karim Abu Naba’a. Inspired by a Colombian video called Why Are We Colombians Poor?, Karim used many of the basic ideas of said video and adopted its philosophy to the Dominican Republic. He created the VieneAlgo.com page to draw attention to his answer of the question, presenting a video similar to the Colombia one to explain why.

Although lacking any form of royal lineage, Karim Abu Naba’a is known as (or made himself known as) El Príncipe — “The Prince”. From a psychological standpoint, Karim is what Americans call a ‘Bad Boy’ — which does not necessarily carry a negative connotation. Many ‘Bad Boys’ have proven their skills in the business world, despite less honorable behaviors in their youth — point in case being the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg. Some psychologists even believe that a stained past is a prerequisite for a clean future. Karim stems from a successful and well-educated family, innovative in ideas but at the same time aggressive in their willingness to take risks.

And it is this aggressiveness that has cast some doubts on his character…

The Touchable Untouchable

Karim-Abu-Nabaa1While Karim has been called ”Tiguere”, ”Untouchable (due to a fling with the daughter of ex-president Leonel Fernández)  ”Daddy’s Boy”, ” Playboy” y ”Rebel (supposedly by his own grandmother), let’s not rush to judge these legal and political implications in the context of #VieneAlgo.

The Dominican family of Jordanian origins — Abu Naba’a — has been navigating international news for years for their connections and friends in the political pantheon. For example, in 2008 the John McCain campaign team returned a campaign donation of US $ 50,000, which supposedly originated from Mustafa Abu Naba’a, Karim’s father. No fraud or general naughtiness was implied, but the team still seemed uncomfortable about the donation. Go figure.

In other cases, Karim himself was charged with multiple legal violations, and rumors of cases of death threats and corruption are circulating throughout media outlets. Whether justified or not, it is good to know that Karim attempts to separate his noble mission from his personal problems.

It is easy to judge someone who has more money and power than oneself. It is easier still to speak ill of them since society tends to see only the negative in others. Thus, born with a mild yoke, Karim has been targeted more than others. Maybe it was living in this social pantheon that led him to VieneAlgo.com, and was this social stigma that caused him to spit out the silver spoon and do something for the Dominican people.

Why Are We Poor?

vienealgo_mainThe answer given in the video is simple only in its wording: lack of discipline. Being a resource-rich country, the average Dominican has currently no desire to progress or to use his intelligence and resources available for the social good, and in many cases not even for his own good. He shrugs off the blame for his poverty, complaining instead of politics, crime and neighbors: the fault lies with the others. This opinion in turn originates from his idiosyncrasy, or as the video put it, being programed for poverty. In other words the Dominican is poor because he believes himself to be poor.

All it takes to progress is to change this mentality. To quote the Sheen-attitude: do the #winning.

The Idea

8298078410_b4deda92b4_oWhile accurate, the idea itself is nothing new or revolutionary. Ex-president Juan Bosch in his book ‘Trujillo: reasons for a tyranny without equal” already demonstrated that the matrix of frustrations generated by the lack of material possessions is caused by a low social self esteem, triggered by the societal poverty gap, born in the times during the Spanish slavery days. After his exile, Bosch attempted to carry out a social change to educate people in the fact that man is measured by his contribution to society.  To this end his 1963 government drafted a constitution aimed at institutionalizing, educating and bringing about an end to poverty. He was deposed before being able to implement anything.

What Is Your Goal, Karim?

942070_10151571656382311_34320790_nDuring a visit of his to Jarabacoa to promote his mission we attempted to interview him but were rejected by his entourage, so we were not able to hear in his own words what his intentions are. From what could be gleaned from his site, it can be determined that he wants to re-educate the Dominican mind, but on most of the events he organized in various cities of the country, all he was seen doing was fly his airplanes, blimps and rickets, in addition to giving some 10,000 books and shoeshine equipment to young shoe-shiners (which were shrewdly resold by the wiley shoe-shiners to passing Gringos).

What we do not know is: What is his re-education plan? What are the next steps of this honorable idea? The spectators are divided between those to whom the reason for these airshows completely escapes, those who only see a ‘Daddy’s boy in his helicopter’, and those who don’t see a connection to the re-education mission, since showing off rich toys is the least effective practice of social education.

In short, the goal of Karim seems clear: re-educating the Dominican people. What is not explained (thus far) is what his plan/design/map is with which he wants to reach this goal.

While the question Why Are We Poor? has been adequately answered by Karim — an intelligent young man with great potential — the other less obvious question remains evasively unanswered: Algo Viene — Something Is Coming.

But What?

Because all in all, his intentions do smell a lot like an election campaign. Particularly after he announced his intention to run for Santo Domingo mayor…