Friday, June 20, 2008

Empowering the youth of Bahrain

One of the first things I noticed when I first came to Bahrain 21 years ago was the absence of teens working in positions commonly held by teens in America...such as fast food...newspaper deliveries...or maybe even yard work and car washing etc. All of these positions were taken up by foreign labor while Bahraini teens whiled away their days watching tv or ....or what else was there back in the day...not much. It was rather a shock to me since the work ethic in America is stressed so much from an early age...being responsible for yourself and for your own future is paramount in this economic disaster we call The American Dream. To arrive in a culture that doesnt even require its youth to lift a hand outside the home until they are maybe college age was something not easy to get use to. 21 years later...Im still not use to it.

I open the papers regularly to headlines shouting about the unemployment rate or Job Expos that dont get much attention from Bahrainis...or maybe letters complaining about Bahrainis being generally lazy and not caring enough about their jobs to dedicate themselves to doing a good job and maybe even having some loyalty to the employer. Its a common topic for debate and I must agree with the lazy view when it comes to my experience with Bahrainis in general...from what Ive seen they pretty much dont really care if they "get the job done" by any kind of deadline...or whether the customer is satisfied...or even if they get personal satisfaction for a "job well done". Bahrainis just want money...thats it. The easier it is to come by...the better...for them. Whether from parents...a bank loan...or a govt handout....its all the without work. Again...this doesnt mean all know if your one or not. I might also add that when your not busy with a part time job or something equally time consuming....then your more likely to be up to something Mom and Dad wouldnt approve of...not to mention considered culturally unacceptable.

Anyhow, knowing what I know about this culture etc I cant really blame Bahrainis for this "easy money" mentality they have. Its fostered from a young get money from family...and during Eid they will even get it from strangers. Teens...rather then be encouraged to go out and make some pocket money doing odd jobs or working a part time shift at McDonalds...are not allowed to work and must still rely on famly to give them money. This goes on for many of Bahrains teens well into their 20's since for some they are not required to be independent and responsible for themselves until they marry...for some...not even after that. So much does the culture spoon feed its youth throughout their lives...its almost as if Mom and Dad and society in general doesnt want the next generation to be self reliant and independent. Always relying on family and the govt to give you what you want can be very stunting and cripplying for the pysche...and is so dangerous and destructive to the future of any society.

Could somone please explain to me why Bahrains teens are not allowed to work until they are practically grown...18 I believe..yes? Many Bahrainis believe its better to marry prevent sexual its ok to marry young but not ok to work and provide for that wife etc? I know of some young couples that are married as teens and yet depend completely on his parents (or sometimes hers) to provide everything for them. What sort of beginning is this to a can anyone step into the responsible role of husband or wife...when they cant even be responsible for themselves? Why should a man work so hard to provide for his wife when he can just fall back on family, the bank, or the govt to support him? Why should a woman look to her husband for that sort of responsibility when she knows she can look somewhere else for it when he doesnt come through? Why should they even try, strive, work for themselves when...actually...they dont really have to?

I might add that this dependence on other sources for support and income also has other fallout of which is disrespect for those that do work in what is commonly viewed as menial labor. In America the youth are washing the cars...serving the burgers...bagging the groceries...and delivering the paper...not only are they learning to work hard for what they want...but they are learning to respect others that work alongside them or maybe even under them. Its rather hard to hold that "Im superior to you" mentality when you've done that job yourself and earned money for it...and maybe some callouses on your hands from it. When I see some of Bahrains teens completely disrespect non Bahrainis that might be laboring to wash their cars...iron their clothes...serve them french fries...or even clean up after them in their homes...I want to just shake them and open their closed minds to the damage they are doing to themselves and to their future and the future of Bahrain. How can a society prosper and move forward if they are always thinking backwards? To believe you are superior to someone just because they use a mop rather then a computer is destructive to your soul eventually....and a very lonely feeling as you might eventually feel superior to everyone around you....including the very family that didnt encourage you from the start.

Recently in Al Wasat newspaper there was an article encouraging the Bahrain govt to start some sort of work program in which Bahrains teens can work during the summer months and establish a work ethic and learn something along the way. This article mentioned that there is very little else for the teens of Bahrain to do other than hanging out at the malls and getting up to nothing good...cant argue with that. While I might agree with some sort of govt program that encourages fostering the work ethic among teens...I think it would be even more beneficial to lower the legal working age...for part time work at least. Also, since the foreign population seems to be getting out of control and if the teens of Bahrain, who are quite capable of doing many of the jobs these labourers do...were encourged to do so then why not lower the need for foreign workers by getting the youth into those works well enough in America...why shouldnt it work for Bahrain?

Bahrainis seem to have an inborn belief that they are only capable of doing certain jobs and that all those undesirable jobs are meant to be done by someone else...someone who apparently has less dignity and so less right to complain...not to mention...can be treated like shit because they are doing the shit jobs you wouldnt be caught dead doing.

This reminds me of my first week working at Kmart. I never gave it much thought when I went shopping for clothes...when you shop you might pick up a shirt and look at it...hold it up to you...then decide its not for you and throw it back on the shelf. One week trailing behind inconsiderate idiots masqurading as shoppers taught me one thing...(other than how to control my anger and not strangle customers)...that when I shop now I dont just throw the shirt back on the shelf....I fold it and place it there. In other words...I have developed empathy for the people that do a job I once did...I think its one of the more meaningful codes that governs society....Fold Unto Others as You Would Have them Fold Unto You...or something like that.

How better to foster the work ethic among the youth and to aid in the development of empathy etc not to mention lowering the foreign labor force by getting Bahrains teens doing the jobs that teens around the world have been doing for decades without a problem? Worth a try right?


Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Fold unto other....that one gave me a chuckle, but it's so true!

I'm afraid less and less American kid seem to be doing yard work and fast-food jobs. Perhaps I've become a poor judge of age, but the people working at places like Target seem to be a bit older than 16-18. That said, I'm currently in Minneapolis, and we headed down to one of the lakes to rent a canoe. All the employees were young men and women-likely no older than 21.

I think Bahrain faces similar problems to the other Gulf states. The problem is that they government, for example in the UAE, tried to do right by their people when oil money rolled in. I believe every national family in Abu Dhabi got a car a good while back. There are huge allowance for getting married, and though Emirati national are meant to receive a housing stipend of some sort, some of my Emirati students have said they never saw that money. In creating all these benefits for their people, they didn't realise that they were also creating a welfare state-subsidised electricity (who pays when they need to increase?) and a slew of other benefits to a generation of people who know no differently is, as your say, crippling. An Emirati friend of mine is involved in taking young Emiratis out on these camping excursion in the UAE. He recognises the damage money has done to at least one generation, and he wants to help fix that by instilling pride, a work ethic, reasonable behaviour, etc. It's a tough job, and it requires the time and effort of other Bahrainis/Emiratis/etc. who understand the problem and want the same thing.

rebellious said...

i think what u said sister tibicly right and am gonna send it to every one i know ,

coolred38 said...

abu dhabi....thanks for the tell the truth Ive been over here 21 years so Im really speaking about life there 20 years you might be right about the age these days.

your right too that the bahrainis themselves need to take an interest in their own future...if they dont...who will?

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Defintely-20 years ago I was 16. I had been babysitting for a few years at that point. I got my first real job just shy of 16 working for Sea World (yep-there's one in Ohio) in their various gift shops. What I got from that job was a sense of responsiblity, but I also met some great people. It helped me mature, form friendships outside of my high school existence, and it taught me the value of money. I used the savings to pay for a trip to Spain my senior year, a trip to NYC my junior was expected and I understood that from that money I would buy things I wanted (versus things I needed). So, 20 years ago the US was very much as you describe. It seems now kids are too cool for McDonalds these days...though I hope I'm wrong about that. :(

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Here are a couple ideas passed along to me:

You can also pay to use the Private beach, which is well worth it considering that Bahrain strangely lacks any decent public Beaches.

The best Shisha cafe is situated next to the HSBC in Adliya. Amazing Burgers, steak's, Jucies and the fastest wifi connection i have ever seen!

Other restaurants worth checking out are Upstairs Downstairs and monsoon, Both in adliya.

The junk food monster in me wants to write.... For someone who has never had the Pleasure....A Burger at Fuddruckers and a Milk shake from Dairy Queen is an Absolute must!!

Susanne said...

Great post! Where I live there are teens who work at McDonald's and grocery stores and so forth when they aren't in school. I enjoyed reading this.

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