Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kuwaiti Dream

I often find myself becoming cynical in Kuwait. I already tend toward a sarcastic sense of humor, so as I navigate the complex and often heartbreaking culture of this country, I find myself saying and thinking things that I rarely think in a foreign culture. I grew up hearing "different is different, not better or worse." But when does different just become worse? Is it just different when an impatient driver on the freeway decides to drive on the shoulder...right over a Bangladeshi worker who was holding up traffic with a construction cone? The driver didn't even stop. Is it just different when an Indian maid's body is wrapped in a carpet and burned in the rubbish pile? What about when a man was chasing a woman in her car last Tuesday and she ran straight into a pole (they don't use the special road poles designed to collapse when a car hits the car just wraps around the steel) and is now in critical condition in the hospital? What about when two young boys drag a filipino maid down the picturesque boardwalk by her hair? In my opinion, sometimes different is just wrong. I know incredible people here...good people. But I also hear story after story of atrocities committed simply because some think that because of their nationality, they are entitled to be a higher breed of human. Somehow, others are simply less. I don't pretend to understand the vast majority of this culture, after only five months here. And I know that every culture has its own brand of injustice. But there is something in the following answers that speaks to a loss of responsibility and integrity. Kuwait is at a turning point. They have recently elected their first female members of parliament. There is a tension between the conservative and the modern. Only time will tell how this culture continues to shift and move within a rapidly changing world. What follows are the answers that Kuwaiti 11th graders gave to the question "What is the Kuwaiti Dream?" A teacher friend of mine administered this question during a history test. The question is based on the idea of the American Dream...

1. There is no such thing as a Kuwaiti Dream, but if there were it would be just having the typical Kuwaiti life which consists of a wealthy family, getting married to a family of the same wealth range, being successful and carrying on the family business.

2. Kuwaiti dream is to live good comfortable life with good incomes and no taxes also an increase in profits for people who deserve.”

3. The Kuwaiti Dream is to go to college, get a good paying job, get married and have children (at least five), and buy some fancy cars, (at least 4), and a huge house.”

4. The Kuwaiti Dream is to own lots of money and have other people do their jobs like wasta (connections) by owning what you want without effort.” (this answer by an 18 year old who drives a 2004 Jag)


uncle yale said...

It's amazing how people think. Sometimes different is just wrong, and you see it every day on the streets and in the university of Kuwait. Thanks for posting, dad

Anonymous said...

Dad read these to me the other day and I just now had time to read the whole post. Wow, this is so heartbreaking and makes me feel hopeless for the country of Kuwait, what twisted values this expresses. And yet we can hope and pray that maybe there is ONE student in that classroom who may get it right, or who may learn different values from this teacher, and change their country for better. --mom