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Friday, June 10, 2011

Weapons of Mass Distribution

We arrived in Budapest yesterday for a ten day stay.

We were having a late afternoon drink in the lobby of our hotel, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace when a group of motorcyclists arrived to check in. The group later met in the lobby bar, about a dozen. Overhearing language and accent, they were from the Middle East.

All were decked out “head to toe” in the latest Harley Davidson gear; leathers, tee shirts, headbands, knapsacks, boots and hats; in fact any bit of clothing a logo could be plastered upon. I imagine tens of thousands of dollars worth. Their “biker girls” were donning their hijabs, these without logo, but clearly Hermes. All were drinking Coke Light with lemon and discussing the ride. These were wealthy folk; I overheard one man on his mobile ordering up the washing of the hogs (actually, maybe not this exact term). Later in the evening we saw them loading onto a small luxury coach, off to dinner somewhere.

Our concierge friend told us they were in fact wealthy Saudis, completing a European road trip – they had arrived from Vienna; Budapest was their last stop. They were returning to Jeddah in the morning by private jet; bikes and gear by cargo plane.

Why I write and what struck me was the universality of some American brands like Harley Davidson and Coke; and France’s Hermes. Seemingly out of context, but not. In spite any hatred brewing in the Near East about the West; the world still aspires to the attributes these Western products exude: freedom, refreshment, luxury, possibilities. We may not live up to this in our foreign policies; the products do. They are more potent than our military will ever be in reshaping the world; truly weapons of mass distribution.