By Nejoud Al-Yagout
It is disconcerting and alarming that so many people in our society are distressed. Women are distressed for many reasons, ranging from fear of violence and harassment to the fact that there is not a single female representing our society in parliament. Expatriates are distressed because they face daily abuse and discrimination in a country that seems hellbent on getting rid of them, discarding its heritage of values.
Locals are distressed because of the increased corruption, lawmakers without a vision, and projects that never see fruition due to antiquated bureaucratic procedures. The stateless are distressed because they have fought in our military, protected us in the police force, are loyal to this country (their country), yet are still considered outsiders, and a “problem” that nobody seems able to solve.
Lawmakers are distressed because they cannot see eye to eye on anything and are constantly battling one another. Environmentalists are distressed because after hours of beach cleaning and raising awareness of the damage being done, they return the next day to another shore strewn with plastic, glass bottles, and cigarette butts, and yet another section of the sea polluted with dead fish floating to the surface.
Activists are distressed because there are foreign workers who are being exploited, some employees who are not paid on time, and many international staff members who have worked for decades in a company but whose jobs are on the line. Artists are distressed because, unlike other countries, they cannot make a living through their art. And families are distressed because drug intake and divorce rates are increasing.
People are so distressed that whenever there is a holiday, they are on the first flight out, escaping to another destination. And for those who cannot afford to travel constantly, there are back-up plans to retire elsewhere, migration possibilities to discuss with the family, and money to save rather than spend-just in case what appears to be inevitable (if we continue along this course) happens.
But even with so little to celebrate, hope lives and breathes within each of us. And we can bring that hope into fruition. But we have to engage ourselves first. And it is the locals who have to do the work. Anyone else may get imprisoned or deported or fired or berated or threatened. Yes, it is the duty of locals to do this. Together. One citizen at a time.
We can create a Kuwait that will be a haven for locals and residents alike, for lawmakers, for men, women, children, the environment, for the stateless, and for all; a Kuwait which will top lists of happiness for all its inhabitants. But we have to admit we have a serious problem. We have to admit that our happiness index is in dire need of replenishment.
We have to admit that love, harmony, kindness, unity and inclusivity are in low supply. We cannot get angry or offended when our faults are brought to the surface. What is required is self-reflection and humility to be able to transform ourselves and our country. We have to be willing to change in order to dissolve who we have become today. Because who we are today is in desperate need of transformation.
When we return to the humility and hospitality of our ancestors, when we live from the goodness of our forefathers and foremothers who cherished morality, when we stop acting as though we are superior, entitled; when we insist on the rights of everyone living here, when we stop destroying our environment, when we educate people on reckless driving, when we no longer fire or abuse people because of their nationality, we will be able to witness Kuwait rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
This becomes a possibility when we reward residents for their loyalty and commitment to Kuwait, when we treat their elderly as our own elderly, when we live with one another in harmony and respect. This also becomes a possibility when we create laws that apply to anyone living here, local or otherwise.
When we fulfill the vision of our foreparents and build a society in which our legacy is not a sense of entitlement but a universal code of superior moral conduct, we can rise. When we continue to find ways to purify our minds and hearts, we will create a Kuwait which benefits all. When we remember that oil does not last forever and we focus on other ways to ensure a stable future, Kuwait will rise.
We still have time to ensure women are protected and respected. We still have time to make amends to our non-Kuwaiti brothers and sisters. We still have time to protect the sea, the earth, the desert of our country. We still have time to build more libraries and cultural centers in our country and encourage people to read and share knowledge not just random facts and social media videos. We still have time to travel, not just for entertainment and to satiate our material longings, but also to expand our awareness and to learn about other cultures and connect with human beings across the globe.
We still have time to focus on education and work ethic. We still have time to give the stateless benefits and citizenship. We still have time to give foreigners who have lived here for generations the right to buy property in our country. We still have time to vote women into our parliament and to ensure that any member we vote in, male or female, is humanitarian and charitable. We still have time to integrate “others” into our society.
We still have time to treat all residents equally, rather than admire some and look down on others depending on their nationality or status. We also still have time to treat fellow citizens equally, ridding ourselves of various superiorities and the arrogance of bloodlines, which have no place in society. The fact that the word “change” exists signifies that change can be implemented.