Grayscale blindness

There have been numerous debates about a large number of subjects in Kuwait recently, which is probably as it always was; however, despite the fact that the issues being debated have changed, one common factor remains the same for all of them. We have those who demand the cancellation of citizens' loans, and those who say they shouldn't be written off. Some people are demanding that censorship be completely done away with, while others want it retained, arguing that we need to keep it as it is.

The hottest debate seems to be taking place over the Constitutional Court's decision last week over the hijab, which raised the one million dollar question of last week: "Are we a secular or a religious country?

People are divided over grilling to the extent that it's became some sort of a defining subject. Just as the US has pro-choice and pro-life lobbies, we have pro-grilling and pro-parliamentary dissolution advocates. We are talking about the government and parliament as if they were day and night, cats and mice, angels and demons, when in fact it shouldn't be like this.

At a seminar held last week by the Salafists about the "government's plan and parliament's priorities", I listened to the explanation of the plan, proposed by the government. Later on an MP took the dais and began talking about parliament priorities. At this point, a na�ve, yet important, question crossed my mind: "Where does the problem lay then?!

Both sides want the same things. Both sides are aiming to solve the same problems. Both sides want to see the same changes taking place in so many areas of life. The consensus between the two parties is so much bigger than their disagreement, even though they can't see it or refuse to admit it.

In the noise caused by the 'extremists' on all sides, the voices in the middle tend to get lost. That's natural, because people who speak louder, tend to exaggerate things to the extent of making people believe that if the country will go the other way, we will then be lost. This, by nature, is more alarming and gets more public attention.

Life would have been much simpler if things were simply black and white. Unfortunately, though, it's not always like this; in fact, I'd go so far to argue that it's almost never like this. There's a whole world of grayscale degrees lying in between black and white that we seem to constantly ignore.
Indeed! People who took gargantuan loans made a mistake and don't deserve to be "bailed out".

At the same time, banks took advantage of poor supervision from the Central Bank to give out more money than permitted, much more than borrowers could afford to pay back. Yes, excessive censorship is completely unacceptable, but scrapping censorship completely could cause a lot of unwanted influence from countries and cultures with stronger media outlets. Then, I'd guess, there would be annual demonstrations in front of the book exhibitions if censorship were removed.

Who says we have to decide now about whether we want to be a completely secular or a completely religious country? Why can't we decide along the road, and come up with our own ecosystem? Isn't that what democracy is all about? Why do we insist on demanding completely the opposite of what the other party wants, and then insist on muzzling differing opinions? Why do we never assume that we might be mistaken and demand that the other party admit that he's the one at fault?

In my view, there's always a place in the middle, in the gray area, for both parties to agree. If we really, truly want to find a solution, we will find that place and agree on it. Frankly, what's happening now seems more like a kid playing with his new toy, and the parties in these disputes seem to be simply 'toying' with the freedom of speech.

Have a nice weekend.

© Kuwait Times 2009

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