Seven days

Kuwait Times - - FROM THE ARABIC PRESS - By Dr Ibti­hal Al-Khatib

Ihave been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent for al­most a week now while driv­ing. It gave me a feel­ing that vi­o­lence and cru­elty have in­creased. Driv­ers seem more ag­gres­sive, less re­spect­ful, less tol­er­ant and more will­ing to cut me off while driv­ing. I did not un­der­stand the rea­son why. It seemed like Kuwait and all of its ve­hi­cles have sud­denly turned against me.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came re­cently when I was driv­ing at the Ara­bian Gulf Road. As I was ap­proach­ing a traf­fic light, I slowed down and even­tu­ally stopped when the light turned yel­low. But the car be­hind me was mov­ing too fast, which forced me to move right to avoid im­pact. The young lady be­hind the wheel started honk­ing fu­ri­ously, which left me per­plexed since I was think­ing she should thank me be­cause I helped her avoid an ac­ci­dent for which she would have def­i­nitely been held at fault. But soon af­ter the traf­fic light turned green, the young head-scarfed lady, who had a lab coat hang­ing on the pas­sen­ger’s seat, drove by me quickly and gave me an ob­scene ges­ture in front of ev­ery­one be­fore driv­ing away, leav­ing me in com­plete shock.

I gave a lot of think­ing into what could have changed within a week and turned all driv­ers against me. My driv­ing is the same, and the streets have not changed. Only one thing have changed, which is the car I am driv­ing. I am cur­rently us­ing a small ‘hum­ble’ car that my dad gra­ciously gave me while my orig­i­nal car is in re­pair. Could it be that this small and durable yet hum­ble look­ing and of modest so­cial sta­tus ve­hi­cle could be the rea­son? Can peo­ple cat­e­go­rize me in a way that makes them be­lieve that all of this rude­ness and hu­mil­i­a­tion are ac­cept­able bear­ing in mind that I was from the ‘class’ or ‘cit­i­zen­ship’ of peo­ple who drive those kind of cars?

The is­sue is not about my hurt feel­ings or frayed nerves of course. It is about a whole na­tion, pub­lic mood and com­mon ethics. It is the is­sue of our guests in Kuwait, from low-wage work­ers, to teach­ers, to ev­ery low and mid­dle class per­son who comes to work among us. Do they have to go through this suf­fer­ing ev­ery day? Do they feel the bit­ter dis­crim­i­na­tion just be­cause they are not ‘cit­i­zens’ or of higher fi­nan­cial sta­tus? One week in my hum­ble car made me ex­pe­ri­ence a daily strug­gle on the street. It made me taste the bit­ter taste of ag­gres­sion and in­fe­ri­or­ity. It helped me re­al­ize how su­per­fi­cial, stereo­typ­i­cal and racist we are. Not all of us are like that of course, but lately it has been a sit­u­a­tion so preva­lent that it be­came a phenomenon, es­pe­cially with the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ser­vices’ level and in­creased pres­sure on pub­lic ser­vices, which gen­er­ated a sense of in­tol­er­ance against non-Kuwaitis that is in­creas­ing among Kuwaitis; the same Kuwaitis who have al­ways been gen­er­ous and lived as a mi­nor­ity among their guests who served and build the coun­try with them, from clean­ing work­ers to state con­sul­tants.

But the case is dif­fer­ent to­day. Hearts have be­come like stone, morals have de­te­ri­o­rated and hate has pre­vailed to a point in which a young lady wear­ing a head scarf that shows her re­li­gious de­vout­ness and a coat that in­di­cates her role as an ‘an­gel of mercy’ (nurse) would not hes­i­tate to pub­licly de­grade her­self in or­der to take re­venge from a ‘poor for­eigner’ who stopped at the yel­low light, thus slowed her down for a few min­utes.

I only tasted a small por­tion from a large plate that our guests eat from ev­ery day, so are way a na­tion that presents poi­son to its vis­i­tors?

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