I was thinking about passion yesterday. Passion is defined as a powerful emotion (such as love, joy, hatred, or anger). It is also of course associated with love and the physical relationship. I've grown up around a lot of passionate people- firebrands if you will. Passionate people have causes...they are the kind of people who go from 0 to 60 when a certain subject is brought up. Passionate people feel deeply; they have a visceral response to the things that they see, hear and experience. As Kuwait prepares to celebrate their National and Liberation days (Liberation from the Iraqis after the Gulf War), I've been thinking a lot about life here- my experiences, the people, the culture. There are so many things here that make me sad. This past weekend I was car stalked again (followed for a long distance in my car). The stalker really freaked me out this time. Usually they are young punks. I can deal with young punks. This time it was a middle-aged bearded man with aviator sunglasses driving an old S-class Mercedes. He was like something out of a cheesy spy movie where the bad guys are Arabs...a caricature. He followed me until I finally pulled into a residential parking area (where one of my American contractor friends lives). I called me friend to come downstairs...and the man parked beside me and just sat in his car staring. When I saw my friend come around the corner, I got out of the car to approach the man (I wanted my friend in the area, but not directly involved since that can cause him problems if the man turned out to be Kuwaiti). I walked around my car and glared at the man through his open window. I then proceeded to yell at him (no need to go into details). I'm assuming that A) the man hadn't realized I'm American and B) the man had not anticipated a former Marine American contractor being on the scene. He peeled out of that parking lot in lightening speed.
So what does all this have to do with passion? What I have noticed in this place is that people live with the goal of instantaneous gratification. I want a woman? I will chase her down the street in my car, thinking on some delusional level that she will just pull over and let me do whatever I want to her. I want a new purse? I will go out and bribe my way to the top of the wait list for whatever the hottest purse is on the market. I'm stuck in traffic due to road construction? I will pull onto the shoulder and drive by all the people sitting on the road...and run straight over a Bangladeshi worker in the process. I will live my life for myself, disregarding the human dignity of all others. What I want, I will get. I will proudly wear my blinders, willingly ignoring the human suffering that surrounds me. On the celebration of my Liberation Day, I will send my children out to the street with dozens of bottles of foam. They will spend their day foaming all of the cars that drive by. If it happens to be a taxi (driven by one of the "lesser" ethnicities...someone who has no power to stop my child), my child will stand in front of the taxi to block them from moving. My child will then peel off the windshield wipers and spray foam over the entire car. If the cabbie forgot to lock his door, my child might even open the door and spray him in the face. After the can of foam is finished, my child will throw it into the street, confident that the Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi trash man will promptly pick it up to throw it in the trash. I stand and say that I deserve whatever I want. But if you peel back the layers, I am desperate inside. I live in a country that has one of the highest vehicular death and diabetes rates in the world. I am wealthy, but I have lost my passion. At my core, I am a frothing mix of anger and tears. I am lost.
So we come back to passion. I sat with a student yesterday and told her that she has no passion. She moves from interest to interest, from designer brand to designer brand, from hobby to hobby. And she discards each as easily as most people discard the latest fad. When your world is focused only on yourself and your own gratification, you will eventually become desperate. You will become depressed and anxious and sad. You will have tear-filled eyes that you hide behind a fragile mask of self-gratification. As an outsider, I navigate this culture carefully. It is like walking on eggshells...only it's more like walking on broken glass. As I think about passion, my desire is to see the people of this country become passionate...I want them to take off their blinders and see the people that stand subserviently in the corner. I want them to shake off lives of quiet wealthy desperation. I don't know if they will change...I don't know if even a single one of my students will change. But passionate people cannot help but hope. So I hope in change. And I wait. And I try to keep my anger at this place from consuming me.