Thursday, May 31, 2007



In recent decades many readers around the world have gotten to know of the concepts of intra-gender communication through Dr. John Grey's MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS series of books and tapes. Further, some people have learned to relate to all other humans on the planet better by reading and listening to CDs on EMOTIONAL INTELLIGIENCE by Daniel Goleman. However, far too few people have read the series of books by Gary Chapman on the 5 Love Languages. Five Love Languages is the metaphor that Chapman uses to counsel married couples, singles and children all around the United States in a manner quite similar to what Grey and Goleman have done.

In this writing, I look primarily at one of the books in this wonderful series of writings and seminars by Gary Chapman on his metaphor of the Five Love Languages. This is namely the book: THE LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD (2002: Northfield Publishing). Chapmen's list of other books in this array of writings on this metaphor include: THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF CHILDREN, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR SINGLES, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF TEENAGERS, and FIVE SIGNS OF A LOVING FAMILY.

Chapman's contribution to the world of interpersonal, interfamily and sacred/religious communication is very significant--and as of yet I have heard few critiques of his five languages metaphor. Importantly, Chapman is a Christian counselor who is certainly not as tainted by the political and religious scandals or intrigues and moral boondoggles of many of his contemporaries--and seems to be a much better listener to his clients and fans than the political TV & radio pundits, Dr. John Dobson and Pat Robertson, are.


Reading any of Gary Chapman's books or even by simply viewing his own website, one can get a brief and important introduction into what his five love languages metaphor is all about. We learn that the five love languages are (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gift Giving, (4) Acts of Service, and (5) Physical Touch.

Words of Affirmation means : Using words to affirm the other person is a key way express love.There are thousands of ways to express affirmation by words ….The words may be spoken, written or a song. To people whose primary love language is words of affirmation, such affirming words fall like spring rain on barren soil [p.26].

Quality Tim means: Giving the other undivided attention“The important thing is not the activity but that the two of you are together. When you give someone quality time, you are giving him or her part of your life. It is a deep communication of love.” [p. 26]

Gifts communicate: He or she was thinking about me. For these people nothing makes them feel more loved than a gift. “Gifts need not be expensive. You pick up a colored, twisted stone while hiking, …take it home …give it to a ten-year old boy, tell him where you found it, and tell him you were thinking of him…when he is twenty-three, he will still have that stone in his drawer.” [p.26]

Acts of Service claims: Actions speak louder than words, so doing something for someone else is an expression of love. “To the person whose primary love language is acts of service, words may indeed be empty if they are not accompanied by acts of service. The husband says, ‘ I love you,’ and she’s thinking, ‘If he loved me, he would do something around here.” [p.27]

Physical Touch: Long before a child understands what the meaning of love is, he may identify love with a touch. “If the child’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important.” [p. 28] Even if as a teenager, the same child pulls back at a hug or kiss, he or she would still like a pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder (or some other physical contact)—or he/she will feel unloved.

A quick summary of how the first chapters enfold in Chapman's book on THE LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD follows.


In both the old and new testaments, we read a lot about affirmation of the Lord and of the Lord's affirmation of various men and women. That is, God encourages through his words:

“Do not fear, for I am with You; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.” Isaiah 41:10

“For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

WARNING: Chapmen notes that some people whom we might think of as servers of others in the world may, in fact, primarily communicate their relationship to their Lord by enjoying quality time with him. (Throughout all of Chapmen’s love language writings, one finds him giving examples of how misunderstanding another’s love language can cause stress in relationships.).

Chapman provides the anecdote of 19th century George Mueller. By 1875 George Mueller through his efforts and leadership had opened many orphanages and helped many street children. He had already fed, lodged, & educated over 2000 English children. Nonetheless, from his writings we discover that Mueller’s primary love language was not service.

Mueller's primary love language was quality time with God. His diary often reads as follows, “I spent from half past nine till one in the vestry. Had real communion with the Lord. The Lord be praised…!" Mueller is saying that he felt ill if he didn't have his quality time in communion with God.


Some people respond well to physical symbols.

For example, the Lord provided manna (food) from heaven to the Israelites in the desert.

In the new testament we find that Jesus turned a few loaves of bread and fish into thousands .

People are healed of illnesses by the disciples and other actors in the Bible through the Lord, saying that they didn’t have much to give but would give what they had.


Without asking for money or offerings, God completely took care of the Israelites as they roamed the deserts for 40 years.

Isaiah wrote that he, himself, was sent to serve-- “preach good news to the poor. He [God] sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners … and release the oppressed.” [Is.61:1-2]

In turn, Jesus healed the sick and the blind as well as chasing out demons for those in need.


God put a mark on Cain who killed his brother Abel. This protected Cain.

God touched and hurt Jacob’s hip after wrestling with him all night..

Moses was so close to God his face was aglow and had to be covered from the sight of others.

God sent an angel to grab and hold Abraham's arm just before he cut his son with a nice.

Jesus healed often through touch.


Chapman's weakest point seems to be that he fails to readily admit that some people might have several love languages—not necessarily one or primarily one. On the other hand, the metaphor of 5 love languages seems to apply well to relations among men, women and children of whatever nation or family.

Moreover, Chapman makes an even better case for these claims:

(1) God speaks all 5 love languages, and
(2) Man can learn to speak more than one love language and can learn to appreciate it when the others, including God, communicate to him in another love language as well.
(3) Moreover, Chapman concedes, there are also many dialects of the 5 love languages by which man can relate to others or his Lord.


According to Chapmen, to determine one’s own personal love language with other humans, one should carry-out a relatively straight forward task. One needs simply needs to ask oneself these questions:

(1) How do I most express love to other people?
(2) What do I complain about most often?
(3) What do I request from others most often?

Amazingly, here is where most people quickly determine what their primary love language is.

Sadly, when I tried this I came up with 5 different answers depending on what facets of each of the three questions I focused on. As well, those friends, whom I have met with and discussed the questions with, were unable to provide perspective on which of the five love languages is my primary love language.

This trouble determining my own love language is, in a way, to some degree most troubling for Gary Chapman’s metaphor of love languages.

On the other hand, I personally have attention deficit, which might make it hard for me to focus on all aspects of these questions in determining what my primary love language is. Nonetheless, I realize from my own life experience and from what others have told me that some people, like myself, quite likely use various dialects of the five love languages. These languages overlap one or more other love language. This may lead to either constantly using various dialects of the five languages or that one may actually love multilingually.

On the other hand, every single one of my other acquaintances have been able to determine what their love language was simply by answering the 3 questions above.


According to Chapman, how one man talks to or communicates with God is basically answered by the same questions:

(1) How do I most express love to God?
(2) What do I complain to God about most often?
(3) What do I request of God most often?

Again, personally, I realized that answering these 3 questions were not of much help to me in determining my primary love language with the Almighty. Besides my ADHD, this multilingual preference is possibly due to the fact that I have lived and worked in ten different countries and traveled extensively—in another 80 to 90 countries. Through my time spent meeting different peoples and worshipping in different environments, I may have acquired a multiplicity of dialects in more than one love language.

That does not mean that I need to hone my skills in a plurality of love languages. As a matter of fact, I might be weak in any particular one of the five at various times.

Further, I also need to emphasize that once again all my friends who have quizzed themselves using these same questions above were, in fact, able to determined their primary love language with God immediately.


One of the many questions I have is whether the 5 love languages as a model and metaphor can be applied across various faiths around the globe—including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Animism, etc.?

Chapman, it seems, has only planned to use the model in counseling Christians and families in the United States . Would the 5 love languages metaphor be applicable across all societies around the globe? Would the insights provided be as obvious in such other societies and families?

In a few days, I am going to hold a discussion, known as a “diwaniya” on this matter in Kuwait at a place known as the AWARE Center. We will look at this topic from the Islamic and Arab perspectives-- not just the intended Christian perspective, raised by Chapmen.

For example, one important Muslim perspective on worship [and man’s relationship to God or Allah] often revolves around what is known as the 5 Pillars of Islam. These 5 main deeds or pillars in Islam are: (1) Declaration of Faith, (2) Five Daily Prayers, (3) Zakat, (4) Fasting, especially in Ramadan, and (5) Hajj.

Most of these five deeds are easy to understand. Several religions around the world, including Christianity use fasting and prayer in making communications to their Lord. A declaration of faith in Islam might be correlated to a baptism or public announcement/confirmation of one’s faith before church congregation. Five daily prayers means that at five specified times a day, a Muslim will carry out prayers.

“Zakat” refers to acts of charity and tithing. Meanwhile, “The Hajj” is the most famous and most highly practiced form of pilgrimage in the world. It involves a journey from any corner of the world to Mecca via Medina carried out once in believer’s lifetime.

Various perspectives on or interpretations of these deeds appear to fall into categories or love languages of (1) Words of Affirmation, (2) Quality Time, (3) Gifts or (4) Acts of Service, and (4) Physical Touch.

This hypothesis comes from my own observation of Islam as a Christian observer who has lived in and traveled in a dozen Islamic lands. However, I am looking forward a bit more to see what insights Muslim discussants will have next week when we discuss LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD—and man.


One interesting point of looking at man’s relationship to the Almighty through love languages is that it frees man from his religious trappings to some degree when analyzing what his relation to God.

In other words, traditional religious baggage--which may prescribe or proscribe what a man must do in his faith or religion, can be eliminated from a good part of the discussion. One focuses primarily instead on the relationship of God to individuals and how they communicate with one another.

Through his counseling and presentations on the topic of love languages, Gary Chapman is encouraging people to:

(a) learn to get along together better by acquiring the abilities to express
ourselves in more than one love language,

(b) learn to understand when someone else is communicating love to us in a different love language than we prefer, and

(c) learn to appreciate the fact that our God may communicate to us in
different love languages—even ones we have failed to pay attention to until now.

Therefore, Chapman demonstrates that humans need to acquire more abilities in other love languages, in order to appreciate those communications from our Lord better & in order to grow in our maturity and faith as believers. In short, some formal religion prohibitions and rules may be bypassed in applying and discussion Chapman’s metaphor of the LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD. The focus, then, will be to a great degree on how God and man interact—not how formal religion or religious leaders or traditions have told us to act and communicate


As noted above, the framework of love languages is very useful and it has enabled me to appreciate why some people might dance and raise their hands as they worship while others might silently meditate or wander about in prayer on a pilgrimage.

Moreover, since as a Christian, I have been disturbed when certain Christians have put down by others due to critiques of their form, I now know much more about why one person or one group might worship.

Further, with Gary Chapman’s Love Languages framework, I have a bulwark to argue against wholesale condemnation of one Christian group by another. (Maybe we can even cool down the catholic and protestant or orthodox divide—or even the Shiite or Sunni divide.)

For example, if an intellectual Christians with a bent towards the spoken or written word says, “We want some juicy sermon to chew on and ponder!” while they are disdaining the joyful half-hour singing--which I enjoy in my fellowship before the service even really kicks off--, I can feel comfortable knowing that the love languages framework is large enough to explain these differing preferences among faithful.

Such widespread recognition of the variety of LOVE LANGUAGES (and dialects) may help critiques of ecumenicism (and other interfaith integration efforts) to rethink their distain for a process that has a better chance of leading to world peace than the current evangelical models in various faiths which have left the world an insecure place to date.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I am getting ready to do a presentation on the LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD by Gary Chapmen at the AWARE Center in Kuwait next week. It is therefore poignant that I was sent via e-mail today this wonderful sentiment about us all having choices in how we behave and relate--regardless as to how mad we are at someone or about some thing (including a president and vice president who lies to and leads a nation to go to war half way around the world with another nation for five years without taking the responsibility of impeachment).

I talk a lot about the need to be more loving. This need refers to me as I try to educate others on Peace and Justice Issues. We must constantly remember that we have a choice--and showing violent or harsh righteous indignation is not the way in the long run to get to another individual's hearts.

I was raised in a household where my father showed me that I have a right to righteous indignation at times and the right to show it. But, the fact is, we often don't show this indignation in the right time, right place, or with the right people. We need to make our choices more wisely--even more spiritually wisely.

This writing below comes from the works of Max Lucado, one of my favorite and thoughtful story tellers and authors. Please share and comment on it.


I Choose Love . . .
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I Choose Joy . . .
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I Choose Peace . . .
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I Choose Patience . . .
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at a new assignment, I will face them with joy and courage.

I Choose Kindness . . .
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God as treated me.

I Choose Goodness . . .
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I Choose Faithfulness . . .
Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My family will not question my love.

I Choose Gentleness . . .
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it only be in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself.

I Choose Self Control . . .
I am a spiritual being . . .
After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks to He who made it possible. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest knowing today I repaid the debt of love I owe.

Max Lucado – When God Whispers Your Name


Sunday, May 27, 2007



By Kevin Stoda

For those of us who recall the many promises made by the Kuwaiti government in exile in the 1991-1992 period to improve all the rights of its citizens and resident Bedouins, it comes as ironic that a Kuwaiti women’s political presentation at the AWARE Centre in Surra, Kuwait on May 23, 2007 was interrupted by the howls of a controversial Kuwaiti human rights activist, named Dr. Omran Al-Qarashi, berating the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Kuwait, Steward Laing, who had come to attend the women’s lectures at 7pm that evening.

The activist, Dr. Al-Qarashi, shouted slogans, like “Down with the United Kingdom. Down with the United States!” as he was escorted from the room by men who appeared to be body guards to the ambassador.

In the meantime, Dr. Al-Qarashi had already made numerous claims about the unwillingness of the British Ambassador to meet him privately and publicly over his personal concerns and on behalf of others in Kuwait who suffer from lack of political rights. Al-Qarashi charged that the United Kingdom had promoted the poor political development of the regime of Kuwait during Britain’s decades of imperialism in the Persian Gulf and within the Arab world.

Initially, to both the audience and to the Ambassador, Dr. Al-Qarashi made a few human rights claims at the personal level, i.e. Al-Qarashi needs and desires to have his Kuwaiti passport returned to him by his own government--a government which has decided not to let him travel abroad for several years.

Dr. Al-Qarashi, an engineer and a professor at the University of Kuwait, had noted in a recent article in the KUWAIT TIMES that against-his-will he had four times been sent to a mental institution by the Kuwait government. Each time he has been certified mentally competent and released

Al-Qarashi’s main tirade of complaints that May 23 evening was directed at the UK Ambassador Laing was conducted on the behalf of thousands of Bedouins within Kuwait who have long not held full-citizenship rights—even after living in the country for generations. Moreover, the May 19, 2007 edition of KUWAIT TIMES showed several photos of Dr. Al-Qarashi, including two of him holding a sign board stating on one side: “Bedoons are Legal Residents, Human Rights to everyone.” The backside of the signboard states, “Islamic Constitution: Provide Human rights to all Bedoon’s & Residents.”

With Kuwait consisting of a population of over 2 million non-Kuwaiti residents out of a 3.4 million total residents, it should be noted that neither Bedouin nor foreign born residents have many political rights. Therefore, the Kuwaiti doctor of engineering is purporting to speak on behalf of all people in Kuwait when he makes his political demonstrations around Kuwait—i.e. whether he demonstrates at the parliament or in private meeting rooms around Kuwait.

Obviously, Kuwait is no Burma and it actually allows its residents and citizens to enjoy quite possibly the greatest level of freedom of speech and press in the Middle East. For example, as long as the ruling family is not called by name one can generally criticize the government as one pleases.

So, in a way, Dr. Al-Qarashi is certainly a bit-over-the top with his protestations—often manifesting his outrage at injustices by shouting uncontrollably until escorted to the door. On the other hand, there is a huge vacuum of such Kuwaiti voices in the country in terms of public outcry, especially in terms of human rights advocacy and labor rights activism in a land that has currently the highest per capita income rate in the world. (Moreover, it is a member of the WTO and should be asked by the U.S. and the U.K. to do better.)

In short, there is much room for improvement in terms of legal-, medical-, worker- and other forms of human rights in this petroleum nation of wealth and plenty—a land which the world knows as the state of Kuwait.

Like the United States, Kuwait has depended on NGOs and religious affiliated groups to take care of the great percentage of its poorer and un-empowered peoples. The AWARE Centre itself is an NGO that promotes intercultural relations, i.e. interaction between the Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaitis in this Gulf Arab country.

The wealthy government and ruling family should learn from these non-governmental organizations and compliment their efforts more to give a platform for the neglected and provide public space for more interaction by providing the non-Kuwaitis to organize more readily in order to promote human rights and dignity for all. Moreover the government and society ought to try to become a country with a government that more thoroughly listens to and carries through on promises to provide justice, politico-economic access, and relief to those in need.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007



The local edition of THE DAILY STAR newspaper here in Kuwait shouted the following front page story on the 14th of May 2007:

“Kuwait Says ‘Enough Wars.’”

This title piece was based on comments from the Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah. He stated emphatically that over the past quarter of a century his region in the gulf had seen too many “destructive wars” and indicated the region did not need “to see another one” soon.

Al-Sabah was, naturally referring to the tensions between the United States and Iran.

Many leftist pundits in the USA had predicted that the USA would attack Iran sometime in 2007. Luckily, this has not come to pass.

However, the language in the local Kuwaiti papers are not always so pacifistic as in the aforementioned DAILY STAR headline.

Two weeks earlier in late April, another local paper, the ARAB TIMES, had headlined on the first page a different article predicting that “10 days of Bombing” Iran will “Quiet down the President”of Iran’s rhetoric.

These sort of contradictory statements in the Gulf press have been going on for more than a few months in all of the Gulf regions’ media sources.

One day a confrontation with Iran is imminent and the non-Shia states in the region need to back opposition Iran, especially the incursions by the Iranian government, or the region must strongly counter the supposed Iranian nuclear threat.

In the following week, we hear a statement from one government or other in the region that the Gulf region is seeking long-term integration and peace with their Persian neighbor.

All this flip-flopping should come as no surprise when one notes that on the one hand, there is a millennia-old antagonism between Shias and Sunnis in the region. On the other hand, many Gulf Region states have a high percentage or citizenry with fairly direct familial connections in Iran and in the Shia regions of neighboring Iraq.

This means that almost all Gulf countries have to be sensitive to their own population’s preference for non-confrontation with Iran.

On the whole, from my perspective in Kuwait, I don’t see any great support here by the public for a U.S. attack on Iran.

On the other hand, there is an obvious great dependence on U.S. assistance—especially military assistance—in the Gulf kingdoms and states. In 2007, this has led the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to explore publicly the idea of creating its own nuclear energy program.

To clarify, the Gulf Cooperation Council is primarily an economic block of states. It consists of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. These countries have more oil combined than about any other group of states on the planet.

Why would they want to invest in nuclear energy at this time?

The obvious and most logical sources for energy in a post-petroleum world in the Gulf region—with its high temperatures and week-after-week of sunshine most of the year—are:

(1) Solar power and
(2) Wind power.

In short, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the real reason for the GCC to commitment to invest in nuclear research are:

(1) to pose a counter threat to Iran and
(2) to gain nuclear technologies from the USA, Britain, France, Russia, etc.*

I ask people in the USA and the Gulf to push their leaders not to waste money on a nuclear build up in the Gulf that will leave the World in a worse and worse mess until something goes booooomm!


A cartoon in the local DAILY STAR newspaper showed a man with his son. The son was waiving flags of Lebanon, Hezbollah, and a photo of a famous leader. The young man looked like he was ready to march in the streets.

The boy says to his dad, “Long live Hezbollah! Down with the US!”

The father asks with some frustration, “Are you serious?”

The boy continues to spout short trite phrases, like: “Iran is the boss!”

The father is angry and horrified at his son’s politics and shouts, “I’m going to beat you!”

“Long live the Persian Gulf!,” the boy shouts back.

The father collars the boy and demands, “Tell me! Who taught you all this?”

The fearful and sweating boy wines, “OK, don’t hit me. I’ll tell you. WE LEARNED THIS IN SCHOOL.”

Dropping the boy to the ground, the father says thoughtfully to the reader, “Well, I guess that’s good war preparation. God help us.”

Whereas, this political satire indicates how deep-rooted certain political, religious, and nationalist elements are in the biases of youth in certain Arab states, the real question I have for my fellow Americans back in the USA is: What kind of analysis have we been doing about our education systems?

Are parents—let alone their offspring—able to see how a government or some political cabal (like the one that currently runs the White House) can control their thoughts and march them off to another war?

I wrote recently of how media in the Middle East are slowly making its audience used to the idea that a confrontation will loom between the USA and Iran.

Is the same thing happening in the USA? Is complacency settling in?

I also wrote of the increasing arms race in the Gulf state region and the fact that the American weapons corporations & power companies--plus other nuclear power economies on the planet--would love to make some money selling nuclear technology to the Gulf states in the coming years.

Now, in May 2007 Dick Cheney comes and stops in several Arab countries on his journey.

Is he just trying to escape impeachment in the USA?

Sadly, I think not.

What does such a trip mean for the future of the region and the world? One Kuwaiti writer, Ayed Al-Mana, spells out our dread.

“Cheney’s recent visit to the region, which included Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq reminds us of his shuttle visits as Secretary of Defense in the ‘90s just prior to the launching of rockets and cannons against Iraq, which put an end to Iraqi dreams of occupying Kuwait…. This current visit is more than just discussing the Iraqi affairs. In my opinion, it could be a cover to discuss a more serious issue, which is the Iranian nuclear program. Since Cheney is a hawk in the US administration with so much influence on American policies, then his recent maneuvers must have been aimed at containing the Iranian role in the regions.”

As summer 2007 comes upon us there will likely be no military confrontation between the USA and Iran. It is just too hot here temperature-wise!!!

In order to take advantage of thi summer heat, I encourage the Peace Movement in the USA to begin a push to demand a cool-down on this nuclear issue in Washington in the weeks leading up to earlier autumn 2007 and in winter 2007-2008.

Otherwise a pull-out in Iraq might lead to a heat-up in tension between the U.S. and Iran.


Al-Mana, Ayed. "Cheney Knows Best", THE DAILY STAR, May 14, 2007, p. 8.


Monday, May 14, 2007


Being human means that we make mistakes. Being human means we learn to apologize and really try to see that we don’t hurt others again. Being human is not to accept being stuck in a rut or complacent with the way things function in our world 100% of the time. Being human also involves being able to dream about a better world and trying to do better in raising our children.

As I was once again almost killed this afternoon while swimming off a beach in the Salmiya township on the east side of Kuwait City, I have pondered those things related to what a humanist might call being human or a religious person might consider living a life of love.

Unlike in neighboring Iraq, this sort of near-death experience for me was not due to a reckless suicide bomber but would have been the result of reckless driving. In my personal experience this afternoon, this near-killing would have been the result of the thoughtlessness and egocentricism of a Kuwaiti boater. Such a boater wanted to show off in the very shallow waters where I--and several dozen children--were swimming in the late afternoon--in the water some meters east of a Burger King restaurant whereby many Arab families of all ages were also gathered along the beach enjoying the sea.

This recklessness by boaters and jet skiers is far too common in Kuwait and in neighboring Gulf states. However, the death-rate in the water does not begin to compare with that on these nations’ otherwise excellent road systems.

On the highways here alone, reckless driving has given Kuwait—a country of about 2 ½ million inhabitants—a worldwide disrepute. In recent years, Kuwait year after year has become one of the top three deadliest country in the world for motorists and pedestrians—although most of the other nations with nearly as high accident rates are located in mountainous regions around the globe rather than in flatlands as is the case for Kuwait. Most of these other nations have also horrible road conditions due to poor paving and lack of budgets for paving.

Now, as I relearned today all this about drivers in Kuwait, the boaters of Kuwait have demonstrated that they, too, certainly desiring such worldwide infamy—i.e. Far too high a percentage are almost never thinking about the safety of others in place of their own intrepid sense of fun and sport.

As a comparativist of various cultures, I find that this life-threatening performance by roadsters in Kuwait and the boater I experienced this afternoon is more than arrogance, egocentric, and insane. (The boater who whipped his boat in circles near me and other swimmers on several occasions was acting like a man playing Russian roulette with others lives.) Such acts conjure up what humanists would call an animal-like behavior.

It is similar to a situation whereby an immature young elk might challenge his fate and the leadership of his herd on a whim—i.e. simply to have fun--, only to fortuitously escape with his life and be quickly forgiven by the rest of the herd for his reckless undertaking.

In short, through acts of grace, the young elk survives his test of fate and receives further grace of forgiveness from the community which would have been adversely affected by the coup attempt or other foolhardy act of the young elk.

In other words, parents and society in Kuwait and wealthy neighboring Gulf states appear to be incessantly forgiving the recklessness of its own drivers on both land and see—creating a sense of impunity in young people who need to know better: This is because even Kuwaitis—even admired and loved ones—are also killed on the roadways along with ex-pats in high numbers here each year. (Like most Gulf states, the ex-patriot community in Kuwait makes up majority--nearly 65% --of the country’s residents).

Only two days earlier, I had enquired of an Egyptian friend of mine whether the apparent recklessness and lack of concern for the lives and feelings of others on the highways of Kuwait were caused by some cultural tradition that we have not yet put our finger on.

During that conversation, I had shared with my Egyptian friend that one of my communication textbooks (along with several other articles I had read over the years on cross-cultural communication and education) claimed that Arabs had a different perception of distance and space than do many other cultures around the globe.

By the way, I should note here that differences in “personal space” among culture and the study of such cultural phenomena are known as “proxemics”.

In other words, “proxemics researchers” have been warning Americans and Europeans that when they are dealing with people of Arab cultures that the “Arab sense” of acceptable distance between peoples when communicating (or interacting) in a public space is quite different than the distances that they are used to in their own culture.

Intercultural textbooks warn us that this closeness preferred by Arab cultures when communicating in society is often a cause for cultural misunderstandings.

My Egyptian friend concurred. He himself had observed such a misunderstanding while studying in the USA some years ago. In Texas, my friend had personally observed a male Qatari national as he step-by-step backed his female teacher into a wall without knowing it—only to observe this instructor run out of the room screaming to her boss: “sexual harassment’. (The Qatari national had simply moved to the distance he was comfortable with when talking to an instructor. However, the teacher had backed away each time.)

Soon, an administrator arrived in the classroom. After a short discussion with the entire class, which consisted mostly of Arabs from the Middle East, the administrator discovered that the event was actually innocuous—not more than an un-intended cultural clash—not sexual harassment!

The administrator then provided a lecture to this class of Arab students on North American proxemics. He explained that a normal conversation between teacher and student in the USA took place with the participants standing about a meter (or more) apart—not 8 inches to a foot as was the custom of this Arab from Qatar.


My reason for discussing proxemics with my Egyptian friend that particular day had concerned my unsuccessful attempts to understand how citizens in Kuwait and other Gulf states could, as a society, be encouraging or cultivating so careless and dangerous highway driving habits. Such driving behavior sends a message to any ex-pat experience the shock of driving or riding in such and environment that LIFE IS CHEAP and lives of others outside one’s family environment are relatively inconsequential.

Let me explain!

Both the U.S. and British Embassies, for example, are constantly putting out notices to ex-pats that the roads of Kuwait are not safe places to be—certain roads are even more dangerous than others, for example, the Fahaheel Expressway near my flat. More than a few military personal returning from a long term deployment in Iraq have been injured or have had their lives snuffed out here in recent years. In contrast, I do not observe Kuwaiti Embassies warning its citizens of dangerous driving in the UK or the USA.

I asked my Egyptian friend whether there was something the West was missing or simply not comprehending in terms of the Arab world—especially the Gulf Arab world.

I began my question by noting that in most of Europe and North America, it was hammered into the heads of the driver by (1) family, (2) police and (3) drivers education instructors that any legal driver is to avoid at all cost doing anything to cause danger to the other drivers. My dad shouted at me often on the rare occasion when we happened to see a bad driver: “An automobile is a gun. If you point it at someone, you can kill them.”

Moreover, in drivers education we are never permitted to drive our vehicles in a way that slightly has the chance of causing another driver to swerve or slow down. Laws in most U.S. states back up this carefulness through specific codes for driving. In comparison, drivers in Kuwait and in other lands in this part of the world appear to start from-the-get-go expecting other drivers to cause them to do something dangerous every single minute they are in their vehicles.

This difference in basic assumptions in driving represents a strong source for cultural clashes. At times, I have even wondered whether Islam, itself, might encourage recklessness and devalue human life on the roadways to some degree. For example, Islam promotes a sense of predestination where a driver might say to himself or herself: “I am not control of what happens when I drive.”

Muslims tell me that this is not what Islam teaches. So, what could be the reason for the driving behavior of so many on the Arab peninsula—a behavior which endangers others and shows a disregard for life and quality of life?

An Indian ex-pat, who had lived in Kuwait for 4 decades, once theorized that part of the reason for bad and dangerous driving in the Gulf and neighboring Arab states was, in fact, the result of 1000s of years of tradition—the usage of animals to traverse the wide open spaces of the desert. This ex-pat had explained, “Kuwaitis don’t merge because the camels and other beasts of burden on a flat plain or even in a hilly desert had never had to merge. This is because the bigger camel or bigger beast of burden simply pushed the other animals out of its way and went straight ahead. No merging was ever practiced.”

When I tell Kuwaitis of this “no merging due to camels theory”, they just shake their heads and chuckle. They find no truth in such an observation in explaining negligence on the roadways in the 21st Century.

Moreover, as far as Arabs being less concerned about the safety of others in public spaces, my Egyptian friend also shook his head also saying, “No way! That is not true”

My Egyptian friend stated, “There is no difference between the Western and Arab cultures in terms of concern for the other persons.” He went on to elucidate that the Koran and other guides of tradition in the Arab world traditionally encourage thoughtfulness, hospitality, and politeness to all other peoples—whether at home or in public spaces.

My friend continued, “The difference among the various drivers in Kuwait and in his homeland of Egypt has more to do with how a person is raised in his or her homes by their own families.”

He explained that, unlike many Egyptian drivers he has too often observed, he is a very safe and polite driver. His family had raised him to be very soft-spoken and polite in the home and in public. That is exactly how he raises his own children, too. I would have to agree that this particular Egyptian friend of mine is extremely polite and well-mannered in both life and in work.


Over these past four years in Kuwait, whenever I have observed the insane survival-of-the-fittest approach to driving of far too many Gulf Arabs (very dangerous as they drive expensive vehicles, like Hummers, SUVs, and sports cars), I have asked myself what the parents and grandparents of these particular off-spring have been teaching and demanding of their grandchildren over the last half century. Certainly, when one looks at the roadways, public discipline and politeness is lacking all over the place.


The apparent lack of serious parental concern for the life-endangering driving habits of Kuwaitis of this generation in general once led a former Palestinian colleague of mine to jokingly tell me, “Those parents don’t worry about their kids because their cradle-to-grave-welfare government will just pay for another kid if their children are killed in an auto accident.”

Naturally, that Palestinian’s excuse for societal negligence was just a joke, but I had to ask myself about my own culture. Is there a cultural parallel in the good-old USA or even in neighboring Iraq that compares with the negligence on the roadways here?

I have to admit that, on the one hand, the careless (untargeted) suicide bombings in neighboring Iraq and in other countries in the region do strike me as not totally dissimilar on a busy traffic day in Kuwait where a young Kuwaiti is holding a cell-phone to his ear & driving in-and-out highway’s traffic and even through the emergency parking lanes at about 150 to 180 kilometers an hour.

In short, at such irresponsible Kuwaiti moments, (just as cars with bombings threaten lives in Iraq) I see murder as simply something waiting to happen on the roads of Kuwait.

On the other hand, half-way around the world, I believe America’s consistent lack of seriousness in rewriting the second amendment concerning gun regulations is a sign of similar parental and societal recklessness. This parental recklessness in raising up a new society has been going on in America for over two centuries. Even as guns and firearms of all types have become exponentially much more lethal since 1789, recent generations of American youth and the society as a whole have not come to recognize what all ex-pats from around the world see so clearly:


Therefore, we need to keep guns as far away from most Americans (who don’t handle or desire to handle them safely) until Americans learn how to become more disciplined with how they raise their off-spring. This means that a concern for others must dominate our thinking more than our demand for freedoms.


Returning to this topic the topic of raising of children and families society, I recall a recent article by a female Kuwaiti writer and published in the April edition of FRIDAY TIMES. (Interestingly, it was published just days after the huge massacre at Virginia which left many bereaved families and Jewish, Muslim and Christian victims.)
The author’s name is Muna Al-Fuzai. The article was entitled: LOVE ME…HATE ME…LOVE ME…HATE ME…”

This author wrote that families in Kuwait were raising their children to think in terms of a horrible dichotomy in dealing with others outside their own family. The author explained that this was an I-LOVE-YOU or I-HATE-YOU way of viewing the world.

Al-Fuzai charged, “ If we reward those who think and take vital decisions based on their emotions then Arabs will occupy first rank. This is the case since Arabs deeply depend on the eternal rhythm of love notions when deciding how to judge others. Unfortunately, many people still take emotions and love as the decisive factors when considering others.”

In some ways, this sort of attitude is not all that different than the trite and infamous phrase W. Bush used in waging the early stages of his War on Terrorism and in his failed attempt to try to goad other nation states and the United Nations to join in. Bush claimed that all nations and peoples were are either with “us” or against “us”. (I believe the “us” implies the U.S.)

Al-Fuzai noted in her critique of her homeland’s penchant for dichotomies: “What is really upsetting about this love-hate theory is that it makes us treat each other unfairly.” Even if love and hate are important for family circles, why does society let it be used in the workplace and publics spaces of Kuwait.

I want to ask the same thing of Americans who are so quick to support the bombings of unknown peoples far away and who then goes bananas in hate if someone bombs them. For example, America bombed 30 or so countries in the three or four decades leading up to September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, the USA only got bombed once (or twice if we include Oklahoma City) in that same period.

As an American, it is a good thing that I am living in Kuwait now and not a neighboring land. Recently, the KUWAIT TIMES conducted an opinion poll and 82 % of the people stated that they thought the media and newspapers in Kuwait show a pro-USA bias.

All and all, America and Americans are loved in Kuwait—although my government has tried its hardest in the last decade to get even Gulf Arabs, like Kuwaitis, to dislike it. Is this love of America reported back in the USA? Or do we hate or fear Kuwaitis as much as we hate or fear terrorists?

Now, I will share both a true story and one little additional “thought experiment” to make an illustration of how the LOVE-HATE dichotomous view of the world can turn everything upside-down in terms of human relations.


The true story occurred on the evening of Liberty Day in Kuwait, an event which takes place each year to commemorate the end of the Iraqi Invasion in February 1991. The year this particular set of events took place in 2004—almost a year after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

In the ensuing year life had gotten much better and more positive for most Kuwaitis (especially for Kuwaiti investors). The end of Sadam Hussein’s regime the previous spring had brought a great breath of fresh air for Kuwait citizens who had lived under the dictator’s shadow for so long.

In the evening of Liberty Day 2004, I decided to take my camera and go downtown to take photos of the colorfully-lit buildings and to observe any other celebrations I might find.

I had only been working in Kuwait for a month at that time, so I wandered about a bit lost. Suddenly, I saw lighted buildings in the distance and headed towards them. I quickly crossed over several streets and began to take pictures. Slowly, I moved closer and closer while taking more photos of the brightly lit structure.

To my surprise and consternation, an unmarked car filled with several plain-clothes policemen stopped in front of me and asked me what I was up to. They then told me to get into the car with them, and I was driven to a Kuwaiti police station. Naturally, by this time, they had confiscated my camera, too.

On the way to the station, I learned that the building which had been lit up in celebration was part of the National Palace. I thought to myself, “How stupid of me!” Previously, I had read in a guidebook that for security reasons in Kuwait it was against the law to photograph the National Palace.

I didn’t have a passport or a civil ID with me.
All I had was my Texas driver’s license. Nonetheless, when I spoke with the investigator, the officer accepted the fact that I was America and that I was relatively new to the country.

Soon, my camera was returned to me. The investigator shared that he himself had been to the United States recently. He had been sent to the Louisiana and had been assigned to the highway patrol as part of an international exchange program.

This police investigator not only let me go, but offered to drive me back to my home or back downtown--where I had been picked up by his plainclothes colleagues less than an hour earlier.

On the way, the investigator suggested I get out at the Liberty Tower and go up to see the view of the city at night. He indicated that Liberty Tower was only open to the public two or so nights a year as it was also a secured communications facility used by both the military and government.

Before I was dropped off at the tower, though, I had enquired a bit more about the meaning of Liberty for this particular officer. This Kuwaiti officer explained that he had been incarcerated in Iraq for most of the occupation in 1990-1991.

He added that when he returned back to Kuwait in Spring of 1991, he found Kuwait in a great chaos—with burning oil wells and destroyed structures all over the city. Soon, he had been involved in several interrogations with some of the captured Iraqis who eventually had been put on trial for war crimes.

This Kuwaiti investigator had asked those particular Iraqis why they had done such horrible things to Kuwait and its people during the occupation. (Many Kuwaitis are still missing from that era.)

In those solemn moments, the Iraqis’ only explanation was “We are animals.”

As the Kuwaiti police investigator told me this, I asked myself what it is that makes us human or behave like animals. This self-condemnation of those particular Iraqis calling themselves animals was not an explanation. In it one could hear the condemnation of a society that led its people to act like and to behave like animals.

I also reflected, “What a condemnation of ones self and ones people! How does one move from being a human being to being an animal?”

I suppose part of the difference between being a human and being an animal resides in how fast a human being can move from really loving to hating—and back again from hating to loving.

Or is that an animal instinct--to be able move from loving to hating and visa versa so quickly?


Naturally, I was very lucky to have been wearing American skin that Liberty Day evening in 2004 in Kuwait. Americans are generally loved here for having led the Invasion to free Kuwait in 1991.

On the other hand, what if I had been wearing Iraqi skin that night?

I believe, “If I were Iraqi and I had been caught taking pictures of the Kuwait National Palace, I would likely still be in jail to this very day.”

This doesn’t mean that all Kuwaitis see Iraqis as animals. Nor do many Kuwaitis voice a hatred for Iraqis.

Part of the reason for this lack of strongly voiced hatred 16 years after occupation is that extended families of many Kuwaitis do include families of their own in Iraq—just many Kuwaitis also have extended families in neighboring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon as well.

On the other hand, as Al-Fuzai wrote, there is a tendency in the Arab world to dichotomize with other foreigners or ex-pats in their own lands and abroad. This is true whether these “others” are from South Asian, Southeast Asia, Europe or Africa.

Naturally, I had also noticed a similar bad trend in child-rearing back in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s—a trend that certainly has had an adverse affect in our relationship to other peoples to this very day.

I recall teaching in two small towns in Kansas in two separate years. In both those towns, I noted that students were not behaving as I had been raised in a similar small American town to behave only a decade earlier.

Youth in my town in the 1970shad been encouraged to give respect to their teachers. In short, one gave respect. One didn’t demand that a newcomer earn one’s respect.

However, by the late 1980s and 1990s in small town America, the situation had clearly reversed itself. For example, my principle at one school chose to do nothing at all when students who hardly behaved well in anyone else’s class either came into class and told me, their new teacher, to “fuck-off”. I came to realize that a whole society had changed the rules of what had been considered good human behavior in less than a generation.

At both high schools, I held meetings with my students to discuss their behavior. I even met with supportive parents. However, non-support was the way of the day for outsiders in any school in Kansas at that time—so it would seem.

These students whom I met with explained to me that the new person had to earn their respect. They didn’t offer it to them!

I asked myself: “What kind of parenting is going on here?”

Now, just as Al-Fuzai tells her Arab counterparts to raise their families to not think in terms of either loving or hating someone, I think its time that parents anywhere—whether in America, Kuwait, Iraq or Timbuktu —need to make sure the basics of being a good human being are taught first. This involves loving “the other” first of all. Don’t start any relations with the gun-at-the-side: I hate you!

In summary, respect the other person.

Be concerned with the other’s safety. Don’t do things to cause him or her to have accidents or unnecessarily make trouble for the other.

Finally, we need to work on LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE—and throw out the either I-love-you or I-hate-you dichotomous way of relating to others. Such dichotomous views of the world and human being is the way of thinking that both terrorism and wars thrive on.