Who are Kuwait's 'difference makers'? |
Kuwait Times - 20 July, 2012
Author: John P Hayes
One of my neighbors is the kind of guy that any civilized society would claim for its own. He's young, intelligent, hard working, a kind husband, a firm father, a good son, a caring citizen, and so he won't have a problem finding another country when he leaves his native Kuwait. In fact, I'd vouch for him to get into the USA. He’s a man who can make a difference wherever he lives.
What’s that? You ask why he’s moving out of Kuwait? The first time I met him, two years ago, he told me, “Kuwait will never change. It is sad, but too many Kuwaitis care for themselves only and not for Kuwait…” Consequently, he and his brood of brothers have decided to seek a new homeland as soon as it’s economically feasible. At first I thought he was just being dramatic. Even in America, arguably the world’s greatest country, we have citizens who claim they will move away because the country is doomed. But it’s just talk. In Kuwait, however, it appears to be more serious.
“Why are you here?” another Kuwaiti asked when I moved into my office at Gulf University. We had never met, so why was he unhappy with me? Was he going to accuse me of taking a job from a Kuwaiti? Not at all. “You can live in America,” said the man, a licensed engineer. “I’m a Kuwaiti who can only dream about living in America. If I could, I’d go back tomorrow.” He had spent 7 years studying in the USA. Similarly, upon hearing that I moved to Kuwait from Dallas, many students tell me that’s where they plan to move.
Since I’m older (not wiser) than nearly everyone I know in Kuwait, I tend to freely share my advice (right or wrong), and usually my response to these questions and statements goes like this. “Years from now, Kuwait will look back on this generation as one of the most critical in its history. This is a make or break generation. You have an opportunity to change Kuwait. You can lead, inspire and reform one of the most important countries of the world. You can make history here! Don’t you feel an obligation to be a difference maker in Kuwait?”
The responses are varied and stunning: Students will say, “No, sir, because my family has no wasta and without it you can’t survive in Kuwait.” Or “No, sir, my country lost its way and even my grandfather swears we can’t get it back.” My older friends echo similar sentiments, but add that Kuwait doesn’t want leaders or change.
What’s stunning about these responses is a lack of hope. It’s impossible to imagine America without George Washington, who defeated the British, or without the dream of Martin Luther King Jr, or without John F Kennedy, who challenged people to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Where are the Kuwaitis who are willing to hope, to dream, to challenge, and triumph? Where are the Kuwaitis who will become difference makers? I want to meet them! But hurry. Catch some of them before they depart.
NOTE: Dr John P Hayes is a marketing professor at Gulf University for Science & Technology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @drjohnhayes.