Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why we do nothing

Around this time of year I like nothing better than to laze around the house and watch TV with a cold drink in my hand. Summer encourages inaction in me and I'm sure it does the same for many other people. But inaction isn't just a problem we have in the summer.

Inaction. People who do nothing. It's what I see when I go to get any official paperwork done. It's what I see when I have anything government-related I need doing. And worse, it's what I see when honestly good people tell me that they really care about the maids abuse issue in Kuwait.

But why do all of us have a culture of inaction here? Sure we know that citizens are well provided for by the government and sometimes extreme wealth encourages laziness of a sort. Even some middle class expats live a far more luxurious lifestyle here than they would back home and this makes us lazy.

But there is still a subset of the population that are naturally hard-working, motivated and skilled. And no amount of wealth should be able to deter them from action. There are Kuwaiti citizens who care deeply about the maids abuse situation in Kuwait, but the sad truth is very few have done anything to change it.

Passionate Individuals + A cause they care about = Action

Logically, that's how it should be. But what is standing in their way?

Lack of time? Sometimes daily responsibilities, work, family life take up a lot of time. But think about it - there will never be a time in your life when you don't have responsibilities. Conditions will never be just as you want them to be.

And thinking you'd like to do something but haven't the time will doom the task straight away. One hour on a weekend visiting the injured maids at Al-Razi hospital is not eating up your life.
"Don't wait, the time will never be just right" - Napolean Hill, American Author

Perhaps you are waiting for the political situation to take care of the problem? Perhaps this is a job only for the lawmakers and parliament and really what can one person do? Maybe there is a sort of fear in getting involved?

One person can save a handful of people - but that's a handful of families and whole communities when you look at it. You are being an example to your own people and to your children as well.

When it comes to getting things done we need fewer architects and more bricklayers - Colleen C. Barrett

Over the last year I have heard dear friends talk about raising awareness, starting an NGO, visiting hospitals - and a year later not one of those plans has even seen a beginning to action. Mostly due to the reasons above.

There is one more reason I think people become inactive. Disillusionment.
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Allow me to illustrate a case:

My friend Hamad (not his real name) was a big fan of English Literature in school - particularly Shakespeare. He did fairly well in school but after graduation, for want of opportunity within the country, his life began centering around all-male coffee shops, shisha and hanging out. In time, he was only hanging out with Kuwaitis, because few other nationalities frequent these coffeeshops.

Now he barely speaks English. His mates include a boy who has had to travel several times to the States to get his stomach stapled, and (no joke) someone who used to 'molest' younger boys as a teenager. Bizarre? Surreal? Completely true. Hamad and I don't talk anymore because he has become extremely conservative. When he got married he didn't want me to meet his wife. That pretty much put an end to our friendship and - at least one avenue of Kuwaiti-Expat friendship. Hamad has been in KU for 7 years, trying to become a doctor over and over again. He used to be my best friend. Now he is a victim of inaction.
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So here's my thought - people have so much to offer in Kuwait. But if it isn't the wealth that leads to inaction, then its lack of awareness. If not that, then thoughts that others will handle it, that it isn't the right time yet. And if it isn't that, it's that their own talents were shut down again and again until they really don't WANT to offer anything to society anymore. What's the point. Why try?

When you get the chance, read over the cases in this blog again. People are dying and they are dying in your neighbourhood. People are being tortured on your street. Murderers and rapists inhabit your space. It's not TV - it's real.

What is stopping you?

Please do write in and tell me your thoughts. This blog post has not just been a reflection, it's a question and I would really like to know the answers.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. - Albert Einstein

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. - Edmund Burke

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Extremely distressing, but very true nevertheless

Anonymous said...

You say, "What is stopping you?", which is a great question since this is grave situation yet no major advances are made to attempt to rectify the situation.

Here's what I think is part of your answer.

In one of your previous posts, you mentioned that many Kuwaitis are still aiding the people of Gaza while thousands of expatriates are abused over here and go unnoticed and unmentioned.

Although there simply can be no comparison between the two groups since we both know how dehumanized Gazans are on all levels, under the approval and blessing of the state.

Yet, the two groups share one thing; their mistreatment arises from the mentality that presumes the superiority of one people over another. Jewish Israelis are better than Arabs. Privileged Kuwaiti citizens are better that poor & ignorant maids and workers.

Different outcomes, yes, but it's the same damn obscene principle of superiority of one over the other.

This horrid principle is indoctrinated in both places; here and there. The principle is integrated into people's attitudes, behavior, and lives. This principle is indoctrinated on such large scale that maltreatment of both people has become normalized. And once you've achieved normalcy of a grotesquely inhumane behavior, then you've reached the rotten core, which is where we're at.

We have grown up to perceive these workers as - as I may have described before - lucky to be here since they - and this is the mentality of many - they would probably die of hunger in their homeland.

Maybe that's true, but it does not mean they should not be treated with the same respect we show our own community members. Every human being deserves respect, especially those who are estranged from their families and children.

Fight the principle. That rotten dehumanizing principle.

We are a society that needs to realize that these people are just like us (better since they do not harm us as much as we do them). We need to learn about them as ordinary human beings instead of some woman in a uniform or a guy with a broom and a badge on his chest.

Do not despair, I'm sure many have been reading your posts, which are a great contribution to this cause. These readers are doing something, by changing their attitudes, reflecting on the existing situation, speaking up against injustices, and/or doing something about it in terms of publications and so forth.

Whenever I run into any expatriate, I immediately think of your words and of my own personal growth that came along after reading your posts.

Keep up the good work Nabeel.

7aneen said...

When I used to speak to people about this issue, they used to agree that it was awful treatment, but some would say things like..

In their own country they are not treated any better.

They don't even have proper homes there and their living conditions are horrific, so it is a privilege for them to be maids or drivers in Kuwait.

If they were really smart, they would be doctors, lawyers, etc, but they are not, so they are maids.

In India there is this thing called "castes" where people who are at the lowest caste are treated inhumanely and no one would dare to marry them or even talk to them.

I would like to know.. what do you think of these replies? Because I don't have a great knowledge in all the above so I never know what to answer back to them ??

nabeel said...

hi 7aneen

thanks so much for writing in.

in response to your questions:

i) "In their own country they are not treated any better.

ii) They don't even have proper homes there and their living conditions are horrific, so it is a privilege for them to be maids or drivers in Kuwait."

This is for the most part absolutely FALSE. maids are sometimes recruited from villages and farm areas. My family originally comes from a village and although houses are small, they are pleasant. they are in fact nice, clean, well kept surrounded by land. Its not hard cash but its a pleasant living circumstance. sadly in todays world hard cash is important - to take care of your kids, the grandparents, other family members.

Its a complete lie to say that people come from horrible situations. And why would they be treated horribly there? They have their families and friends close to them. So please accept these as statements made by ignorant people who are just repeating what they have heard other ignorant people saying.

"If they were really smart, they would be doctors, lawyers, etc, but they are not, so they are maids."

this one kind of makes me angry. firstly it has nothing to do with why they are being beaten in the first place. But most importantly
7aneen - its completely made up. I know a Filipino BOTANIST who in Kuwait, is now one of those people you see trimming the greenery in public. I also know more than a few teachers and a massage therapist who are maids here. All with college degrees by the way. that being said of course there are many uneducated maids but that doesnt make them smart or not smart. they are good at farming and labour. You get both uneducated and educated as maids but that shouldnt reflect how they are treated. I know one maid who was beaten within an inch of her life because she didnt speak Kuwaiti Arabic but she spoke another kind.

As to your question about untouchables - sadly, that is completely true and a shameful thing. Its one of the worst aspects of India and indian culture - where an entire class of people are considered worthless.

nabeel said...

Anons thank you so much for your comments and encouragement.

certainly there is little we can do about this superiority thing taht will make a change in our lifetimes. All we can do is rescue as many already abused ppl we can, and hope that the law starts taking these offenders more seriously.

As ive said, there is a vigorous recruitment process that goes on in these countries. It is not so much that ppl who come to Kuwait are starving in their own countries - in fact we find that in many cases they are able to make do but they choose to come to Kuwait because of the ENORMOUS benefits they are promised by these barefaced lier recruitment agencies.

for instance - they will go into a luxurious home with a wonderful and kind Kuwaiti family. You will be given your own room. you will recieve paid days off and paid vacation time, with a salary of 80-100 KD or more. There are already many ppl from your country there.

Thats a sales pitch and everytime someone arrives in Kuwait theyve been given one. And then they make it to the airport and you should see the look on their faces. they are herded, literally herded by the airport police - yelled at. and this is the GOOD part of their stay in Kuwait.

Then they are taken to the local recruitment agencies. I happened to stumble in on one. Can you imagine seeing a whole room of maids - BEFORE the abuse begins? and you already know that over 50 percent of these maids will be abused but they dont know it yet?

THAT is horrific. Try the alamiah complex in hawally bottom floor. the place is teeming with recruitment agencies even one that specifically gives 'maids' to policemen and ppl in authority. except they are not maids they are being sold as sex slaves. I was told this by a Kuwaiti lawyer so its not stuff im making up.

If a cop is getting a sex slave from a recruitment agency - who do you call to complain? uhhh - not the cops right? so it goes on and on...

then finally they make it to the home. except they are not getting paid, they are not being fed, they are beaten and abused, sometimes raped -and CERTAINLY not given days off. In fact they are lent out to family and friends to work even more. often a maid will work from 6 am to 2 am and get 3 to 4 hours of sleep a day.

and then - they cannot leave. this is repeated over and over and over and news is not getting back home that its all a lie, all a scam.

Anonymous said...

Nabeel,

Some may jump out in regards to your last comment and claim that not all maids go through that sort of horrific circumstances, that you don't have the numbers, or don't know the whole facts.

But in my opinion, anything that emotionally - let alone physically since that's a given - hurts housemaids is downright offensive and a crime. Their helplessness, vulnerable, and estranged status immediately calls for compassion, patience, and a lot of understanding.

Yes, it's a great problem; a great great problem which must be dealt with. People will change, however, and many must speak up.