Monday, April 21, 2008

Flowers In The Hair

It's certainly a refreshing change, being out of the desert.

As anonymous might have supposed (?), California, for me, is not the most imaginative choice of holiday destination, given that Americana and the neon glossiness of the West defines one half of modern Kuwaiti culture. If it's contrast one's supposed to be hankering after, surely I could have done better than to head to the source of the cultural schizophrenia that Kuwait embodies?

And yet here I am. I'm not in the US on exploration, in quest for the exotic or the intriguing. I am here to take a break from the theocratic ambience of the lands of the hard-core crescent be somewhere, anywhere, where I might have a drink, speak openly about politics and religion, see veiless women, feel free, indeed, to talk to any woman I want to; and to take a break, moreover, from the maddeningly labyrinthine intricacies of the office politics and general climate of back-stabbing skullduggery that have beleaguered the context of my life for the past five months, bringing me down, corrupting my soul, to a level of the banal and sordid I do not remember asking to be defiled by.

In my first 48 hours of cultural reversion, of disenganement from the 'space station' (which is how I think of Kuwait), I have become sensitive to a certain lightening of pressure in the texture of my stance. As if a mist or film had been removed, some impediment to receptivity peeled away from my brain. Emerged from a shell, crept out from a shadow, a feeling of homecoming, the return of the known and accustomed, is reassuringly evident. Kuwait, though bursting with the pyrotechnics of yankee razzledazzle, is different enough in its fibres from America to make it clear that this is not Kuwait.

Indeed, no doubt, this levity to a great extent will be the mere blessedness of relief that all holidaymaking brings. It will no doubt also be due to the priveleged status I now enjoy, if only for awhile, of being entirely liberated, courtesy of the money in my pocket, from the doleful systems of work and obligation, and from the various humiliations that attend the power relations of the office.

But it's also nice to have returned to my own cultural domain, which America, despite no longer being British (haha!), is clearly a participant of.

And I say this not by way of criticism of Kuwait or of Islamic culture - each to their own, after all (even though it will probably be interpreted as a criticism); but because, believe it or not, I am not a Muslim, and the culture of Islam is not mine.

Why do I feel that someone or something is trying to make me feel guilty, and that I should apologise for what I have said, and felt?

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