CASE STUDY 1: A university student stabbed in the head by four persons who chased his car. A man arrested for stabbing a fellow motorist in the hand and ramming his vehicle. A man beaten and shots fired at his car. Another motorist beaten, sworn at and threatened by a firearm. A truck driver run over by another. Scores of reports filed at police stations over blows exchanged, insults hurled and obscene gestures made.
The common thread linking these traffic incidents in Kuwait is dispute over the right of way. Yes, that’s true – people are resorting to invectives and beating and even killing each other because of such a trivial reason. Road rage is for real, and it would’ve been understandable if motorists took offence if their rights were genuinely trampled upon, although even in such circumstances, violence is never the answer.
But on Kuwait’s roads, right of way is roughly determined not by law but by bullying. Older cars always make way for newer cars, smaller vehicles move over for bigger ones, and drivers of some nationalities clear the path for those of other nationalities. Fall afoul of these unwritten rules of the road and you may be in for some serious headlight flashing, tailgating and honking, forcing you to quickly change lanes and invite the ire of other motorists.
CASE 2: A man taken to hospital after being stabbed, having his finger broken and beaten to unconsciousness. A fight between six people, some of them drunk, in a mall. A youth stabbed six times after being chased. A man rushed to the ICU with a wound that required 20 stitches after being hit with an axe. Scores of reports filed at police stations over blows exchanged, insults hurled and obscene gestures made.
The common thread linking these crimes is again a stupid one – staring. Of course, everyone stares at each other in Kuwait. It is so common that you don’t even feel the eyes boring into you anymore, probably because you too are busy staring at someone else. Again, staring can be benign, or it can be provocative. Prolonged harmless staring is usually met with a glare, which forces oglers to avert their gaze. Provocative staring on the other hand, that is perceived to be mocking or leery, is one that can get you in trouble. In fact, official crime statistics released a couple of years back said most bloody fights start with two or more parties accusing each other of staring at them.
CONCLUSION: The root cause of these incidents is related to the ego, which for many people in Kuwait, seems to be easily bruised. Fuelled by a heady mix of hormones, money and arrogance, people take offense for the slightest of slights, flying into rages and throwing juvenile tantrums, providing ample fodder for the crime pages.
I’m sure these energies can be channeled to more fruitful pursuits, so the next time someone overtakes you on the highway or stares at you at the mall, resist the urge to retaliate, take a deep breath and relax – you don’t want to find yourself in jail, or as a news brief in the local dailies.
By Shakir Reshamwala