*You’ve probably not heard of Sondos Al Qattan. Neither had I, until recently. Sondos Al Qattan is a Kuwaiti beauty blogger, if you hadn’t already guessed. I realize that in the world of political correctness, using the title Miss, Mrs. or something else might be presumptuous of me, so I will just use the name. You can assign a gender as you wish, or, not even use a gender. Let’s not assign genders here, as that is politically incorrect and presumptuous.
I will get straight to what Sondos Al Qattan said in social media regarding new laws passed to help the Filipino housekeepers in Kuwait: “The new laws that have been passed [in Kuwait] are like a pathetic film. For her [domestic worker] to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her,” she said in a video in July, adding, “”
Pretty strong stuff. A day off a week, and the ability for the worker to hold in their possession their passport was just too much for Sondos Al Qattan, who had to speak out. This comment has a lot of people in an uproar, not the least of which from Philippine media. Coming to Sondos Al Qattan’s defense was “prominent businessman” Mishal Kanoo, who is “the chairman of Bahrain-based family conglomerate Kanoo Group.” Mishal Kanoo stated that Sondos Al Qattan had the “right to speak her opinion” and no one, at least in the U.S. would disagree with that right. (By the way, Mishal Kanoo used the word ‘her’ so get angry with him about assigning genders, not me.) Of course, Sondos Al Qattan could express disdain towards the government imposing outrageous limitations on the owners, excuse me, employers of Filipina workers.
Website researchgate.net describes moderate inequality thusly: “Moderate inequality, according to the World Bank’s definition obtains when the poorest 40 percent of the population receives between 12 and 17 percent of society’s income. In Kuwait, the poorest 40 percent receive 15 percent, the middle 40 percent receive 34.4 percent and the top 20 percent receive 50.6 percent of society’s total income.”
In the U.S., “According to the UC Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the 160,000 or so households in that group held 22 percent of America’s wealth in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1963.” The 160,000 households translates into 0.1 percent of American households holding close to a quarter of the wealth. While the U.S. might not be much better, at least there isn’t the indentured servitude which seems to be allowed and even fostered by other nations.
The sad part of this story is that Kuwait is not alone in this culture, or tradition, or whatever other rationalization used for what is economically little more than indentured servitude.:
I’m waiting for the “global citizen” out there who reads this to tell me that I’m being “culturally insensitive” and that “traditionally” workers in Kuwait work seven days a week, and of course they cannot have access to their passports because their owners, excuse me employers, could not function if the indentured servant, excuse me, worker, suddenly left the country. Even if the worker had a death in the family or some other emergency, the owner, excuse me employer, would have to authorize them leaving. Want to leave? Only with your owner’s permission. Want a day off a week? Not from the owner, unless the law requires it, and then the owner will complain bitterly.
The sad part of this story is that Kuwait is not alone in this culture, or tradition, or whatever other rationalization used for what is economically little more than indentured servitude. When someone has to announce that you have the right to speak your opinion, I am wondering what kind of society needs to be reminded of that right.
Apparently publicly expressing one’s opinion is a relatively a new idea.
Of course, there is always the inherent danger of expressing one’s opinion, and perhaps Sondos Al Qattan has stepped into the trap of expressing a controversial opinion. Internet sources indicate that Sondos Al Qattan may be “blacklisted” and not able to keep Filipina indentured servants, excuse me, employees anymore. Good golly gosh, whatever will Sondos Al Qattan do? Perhaps pay people a working wage, allow them a reasonable amount of time off, and let them keep their passport? What is this world coming to?
In the closing of this culturally insensitive diatribe, I would like to note that sources are listed at the end of this essay. I try to be as meticulous as possible with facts, and I consider the sources listed as reliable, as well as the facts used in this essay were also verified by cross-referencing. Now for the spoiled, soft-gloved “global citizens” in the U.S., consider what it would be like to work seven days a week in a foreign country and not have your passport to leave. Still want to be a global citizen? I willingly accept any criticism displayed, intentionally or not, of cultural insensitivity. If you are inclined to call my criticism of indentured servitude, excuse me, foreign workers, culturally insensitive, you and I will have to discuss American culture from 1790 to 1860.
To close with a culturally insensitive comment: Sondos Al Qattan, I think you would look prettier with your hair in a different style. Your present style does nothing for you.
Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary