Life is a series of choices. Every step is a choice, an option, a decision. We try our best to make these choices based on what we know. What we pick may not be based on what is right and what is wrong, but what we believe in our minds and hearts. Whatever we do decide, we have to compromise. It is always one or the other.

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Racism: Erasing the social identities

Standing out Every time I look at someone, I pass judgement – quickly and swiftly, and most likely unconsciously as well. I can’t help but analyze what the person is wearing, doing, and even who he/she is with. I examine their surroundings and establish a basic stereotypical judgement. However because I have been taught better, I do not act alone based on these preconceptions. Instead, I slowly eliminate these identifiers that allowed me to think that way. Slowly, but surly I see in front of me, a man, or a woman just like any other person.

Still, whatever I decide to do with my preconceptions, does not change the truth and reality about a person, or situation. A person may be proud of themselves for being a certain color, or of a certain race – with or without arrogance. Would I truly be doing him/her justice by making them equal to everyone else? To better understand this, it would make sense to define equality.

Ms. Dorman, a 9th Grade American History teacher defines equality on her web site as:

The condition of possessing substantially the same rights, privileges and immunities, and being substantially responsible for the same duties as other members of society.

I can’t help but come to the conclusion, that we cannot all be equal, except with regards to the law, even then some laws might apply to some, and not to others.

We are still all very different. We take pride in who we are and where we come from. I don’t see racism as calling someone black, or white, or red, or yellow. I see racism as oppression of these attributes. If I belittle someone, regardless of color, gender, social status, then that is racism.

Now, I do not see people as the same anymore, or equal in every way. I see them as being different and unique, and recognize the pride they have in who they are, where they are from, and what they’re all about. Solving the issues of racism shouldn’t erase our social identities, but rather enforce our pride, without arrogance in who and what we are.

Law: A Matter of Inconvenience

Traffic Light In Kuwait we are used to this concept: we break the law whenever we feel like it. If we get caught we mostly try to talk our way out of it, or get in contact with certain individuals who help us get out of the trouble we got into. Breaking the law has easily become a matter of convenience.

Most of us have broken the law, at least and most commonly the traffic law. In some roads the speed limit is a joke, and driving at that speed is too ridiculous. At other times we have parked in a no parking zone. Are the parking spots designed that bad that it easily becomes impossible to find a parking spot? Wait, I meant a close parking spot.

The other most common traffic violation (based on my assumption) is breaking the red light. You can see it turning yellow, and you know that if you don’t step on the gas pedal you will be waiting at that traffic light for another 5-10 minutes! You speed ahead, and pass the light just a split second after it has turned red.

Driving this morning I saw cars pass a red light simply because they saw that no one was coming from the other side. It was inconvenient to them to wait for a few minutes (2..3…5.. or even 10 on some of those traffic lights) and seeing that there clearly wasn’t a camera in place or a police car they simply drove off, casually, crossing the red light. If you’d ask them why, they would probably say, “Why not? I’m busy, and there was no one on the road.” Sure, they could say that now, and probably get away with it.

Why has the law become so much a matter of convenience, and breaking it has become such a casual activity, that everyone does it and feels inferior if they see someone else do it, and they themselves don’t!

Do the people in charge believe the installation of more speed/light cameras and higher ticket fines would make it more convenient for people to respect the law? Of course not. People will actually start feeling bitter. Since they are inconvenienced by the current situation, adding more strict laws would only make it all the more less convenient for some. To others, it would make them feel trapped, with stress of laws they have to follow and fear of being caught and/or breaking the laws they are not so quite aware of.

Love Light What would be the solution? Why do we need a solution? The law is there to protect people from themselves. The law is a government decree and should be respected. They are the higher authority and they have a right to place the laws they see fit. This does not mean that we cannot challenge these laws in an administrative manner. Isn’t this why there is a National Assembly? In the U.S. and probably other areas there is a City Council where regular citizens can take the podium and voice their concerns. I don’t believe there is such an entity in Kuwait. If there is however, I have not heard of such a thing.

How is it possible then for citizens to speak their minds, and contribute to this country? We do love Kuwait. There are also people who are not Kuwaiti but have lived here for many years and also love this country. All we can really do is try to talk to the people in charge, however inefficient that may be, or simply complain. Complain. And complain some more.

There is a lot of hate, anger, and resentment that we see in the news, in the streets, and even at work sometimes. I believe it is truly about time these issues get addressed and something serious be done about them.

P.S. To the people with a lot of hate I say: Don’t insult this country. Don’t insult the government. Certainly don’t insult the people. You will not gain respect by doing so, neither will you gain any results.

Foreign labor is destroying our country; Part 2

In part 1 of this series I only opened up with a question for all to answer. The question was: Has foreign labor affected our country negatively? I do admit, I got some very positive feedback from everyone. I thank you all very much!

Many of you mentioned that the topic of foreign labor is very large. We cannot talk about every aspect of this topic in detail and hope to reach some positive outcome in the end. I picked the issue of responsibility for today, as I believe it is one of the most important effects of foreign labor in our community.

I thought about why most people do not like to work here. Why do they prefer to take the easy way and have someone else do it for them, or do a very poor job and be OK with that. I came to the conclusion that these people do not understand the importance of their work, and the repercussions it has on society as a whole.

Where does this lack of responsibility and accountability come from? There are a couple of ways a person can end up that way, and I have developed a theory. I could be wrong, I could be right; this is only my personal opinion.

When we start to import foreign labor and depend on foreign workers to do our jobs, we become at ease. We start to enjoy living a casual life, and become dependent on these foreign laborers. How do you think a small child would act and think when he sees that his parents depend so much on a maid or a driver to do their work?

You might say, “…but there are rich people who have servants do everything for them!” These rich people are known to be strict to force their children to learn about responsibility, and accountability while still enjoying a regular life full of servants and drivers who do a lot of their work for them.

This is evident when you go to a government bureau. Who knows what everything is, and how things need to be done? It is usually the tea guy, the farrash (janitor), or the courier. These employees are paid low wages, and they know how everything is done because they are the ones who are doing most of the work*.

The problem revolves around the dependency on foreign labor. We can see this when we compare ourselves to the west. — pause. I said we can compare ourselves to the west, but that would probably turn off a lot of people who think, “Why do you want to be like USA… All the Kuwaitis want to be modern and westernized.” Fine then, let us compare ourselves to how we used to be in the older days.

People lived simple lived, in simple homes. Everyone in the house had a job to do and men were men, women were women. Regardless of the question of equality, everyone had their own responsibilities and they developed that since they were young. They only depended on themselves, and the idea of being responsible and accountable for their actions grew in them.

These people grew up to be responsible people. They grew to be people who had done some hard work earning a living. For those who were at home, they cleaned and cooked on their own. They knew when something had to be done; it had to be done right.

You may wonder if this is going to be it. Am I just going to stop here and finish complaining? That is not all, I have thought of a solution. Again, this is my personal opinion.

How can we learn to be more responsible, and how can we raise a more responsible generation? Is the answer to exile all the foreign workers? No. There are two main influential parts of society that have to take a role in this solution. The families and the government.

The families need to teach their children about responsibility. They themselves might find it hard, but they must learn and must teach their children. You can teach by giving chores, by recognizing hard work and encouraging working together, for a better good (in this case, the betterment of the situation at home for example.)

The families need to limit the roles and responsibilities of the laborers. You can’t have the worker do every single thing for you. You have to be the role model; you have to get up and go get your own things. You’d have to do your own work, especially if you want it done right and done your way.

The government has to enforce accountability and responsibility from the top down through its own hierarchy. They have to teach their employees that every single paper in a file is important. Losing that document is not an option.

They have to preserve the rights of people. When there is a sense of responsibility and accountability there is a natural inclination to deciding what is best for the country as a whole, and not make decisions based on personal affiliations, or personal grudges against others in the community.

Again, I wish to clarify that this is a personal opinion. This is not based on any research, or scientific data, but the science of my mind and what I see and hear. I would hope, and pray that the situation does get better in this country. I am doing what I can, by speaking my mind and putting this out there in hopes that those of you can learn something or see something from a different perspective. Thank you for taking the time to read this very long post! God bless you all!

* I understand this is not true to all agencies, but this is an opinion of a lot of public offices and ministries.

Unjust Arrest and Detainment of a Kuwaiti Blogger

In short I want to extend my deepest sadness and full support to the Kuwaiti community for this unjust behavior. I’d like to say that I do not condone such actions. The unjust behavior we have heard about yesterday must be looked into and we must stand together for our brothers and sisters.

For more information, here are some links:

Newspaper Article
Alqabas Newspaper Article [Arabic]

Blog Posts in Arabic:
19-08-07 [Image]
Article update and Resource [Source: kuwaitjunior] [Arabic]
News and Video of a discussion on the issue [Source: belkuwaitialfasih] [Arabic]

Blog Posts in English:
BASHAR AL SAYEGH AND JASSIM AL QAMES HARASSED AND ATTACKED BY SECRET POLICE IN KUWAIT [Q8SWS]
Two Kuwaiti Bloggers Attacked and Arrested by Secret Police [248am]
Free Bashar [K.TheKuwaiti]

Follow the links for more reading.

Paperwork, When will it end!

Paperwork

Everyone who’s everyone has been through, or will go through a bad experience at a government department. Whether it is lost files, missing documents, wrong documents, wrong files, missing signatures, wrong departments… you get the picture.

I haven’t received my government allowance (da3m el 3amala) in two months. The reason was because when I changed my job I signed a document to cancel my social security tax payment. It automatically canceled the government allowance. However, I also signed another document to start the social security procedure with my current employer. That — however — did not mean they’ll start paying the government allowance again!

To start getting your government allowance again after switching jobs, you do the following:

Here are the documents you need;

  • Salary Certificate from your current employer. (????? ????)
  • Copy of the notarized signature authorization, also from your current employer. (???? ?????? ?????)
  • Copy of your current work contract. (???? ??? ?????)

Here’s what you have to do;
First call the MGRP (I think that stands for Manpower Government Restructuring Program) (?????? ????? ????? ????? ???????) and make sure that you can come in directly without scheduling an appointment. If you have to take an appointment, ask them how you can do that and Inshalla they will guide you!

When you’re all set and ready prepare the documents, and head out to the MGRP. These documents are only needed if you are changing your work place. If you are a new applicant, you need a whole ton of other documents.

When I went, and after getting all these documents. I was told to come in the next day because that was when my “appointment” was scheduled. *Sigh*

Updated 6th August 2007:
I’ll make this short. It turned out I didn’t need the copy of notarized signature certification to complete the paperwork. Also, make sure at the reception you tell them you need a number for the “other” counter, where you want to re-apply for the government allowance after changing jobs.

Conserve

We live in a world where we must learn to conserve energy. We learn to limit our energy usage and actually give a crap about the state of the world. Even though I understand that we must promote alternative and environmental changes for the better, why does this have to happen at the expense of no electricity in the summer!

Logically, our country is doing well economically with the soaring oil prices over the past 5 years. What is the problem guys? I’m not going to get pissed (that ship has sailed). It just doesn’t make sense to have these blackouts! Why isn’t there a new power plant? Or better yet, let Kuwait join the action! Lets refine and weaponize transform plutonium into energy i.e. Nuclear power plants!

So we committed a tiny mistake of ruining the ozone, no biggie, we’ll get right back to fixing it (pdf link).

Untill When?

A new movement has started called “?? ???..?”, also translates to “Until When..?”

Link: Student Forces
Facebook Group: ?? ???..?

I like that people are speaking up and trying to do something, but sadly I am a little pessemistic as to what these people can actually do. It takes a lot to make a change in this country, and if indeed these people can make a difference then that is great, if not, then they will slowly disolve into the many movements and organizations that tried to rise and make a difference.

These people, and all people, have to keep in mind that action speak louder than words. To simply talk about the issues will not help, everyone KNOWS the issues. The idea is to come together and do something that will enshalla make a difference, for the better.

Reserved, going to add something here later.