Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#GoneGlobal (Again): Color-Coded Cultures

Social media: where trending topics spread faster and further than wildfires and diseases... That may be a disturbing analogy, but there's no other way to explain how consumed we are with gossiping online and obsessing over often unverified news. It's sickening how our beliefs commit to backing one instant tweet versus the credible sources we once relied on to keep us updated about current events in the past. 

If the subject isn't repeatedly mentioned on your timeline, then it's not worthy of being acknowledged, right? I foolishly thought this was a stateside-only issue. Surely, I assumed, people in the Middle East knew nothing about this problematic mania. I was wrong. I figured they had more important things to focus on, like the fearfully pressing traffic issues, than allowing U.S. fads to spill over into their high-maintenance lifestyles. 

Going global isn't for those with closed minds and unwavering values. I've quickly transformed into someone who constantly yearns for satisfaction, although my inquisitive nature has always been evident. This new desire is hard to explain, so I decided to use colors as an extended metaphor that will hopefully relay my overall message. 

Labels are what define us, no matter how subtle or apparent... from more severe categories, such as gender, race, and sexuality, to simple things like food and fashion. 

For instance, me: heterosexual, Black, woman, meat lover, sporty

We are constantly required to solidify who we are and what we prefer, which stifles us as individuals and collective members of any and every society. Likewise, we seek empty approval from virtual followers, speeding to post irrelevant thoughts for "likes" while carrying on pointless conversations via threads. Social media is an addiction; segregation is too. Stay with me...

Growth comes in spurts and usually at an appointed time, after we've made numerous, sometimes unforgivable, mistakes. Kuwait has introduced me to so many truths and reaffirmed some of my alarming concerns. I'm more aware and surprisingly more willing to try new(er) things. But, traveling and re-traveling back to another country, has awakened my sense of understanding. In the midst of the adventure, beyond my initial purpose, I realized that unity is a necessity. We invest so much energy into separating ourselves, trying to be different, yet forgetting that obtaining power has never been a solo effort. And what's more powerful than a group full of people operating on one accord? 

Before these revelations, I could hardly wrap my head around why many pageant contestants, like a broken record, verbally expressed their wishes for world peace; because it's something that's simultaneously accessible and avoidable. We fear the solidarity system because it may expose our weaknesses, and we are too wrapped up in the notion of competing, inwardly and outwardly. 


What does it all boil down to? Well, one of my students asked me an innocent question, a question that has been floating around with the circulation of an unattractive dress that seemed to magically change in appearance. 

"What colors do you see?" 
I stated, "White and gold." 
She chuckled and disagreed. 
"No, Miss, it's black and blue!" 

The humor within the moment, as well as the ongoing chatter about this weirdly-designed object, inspired me to dissect the idea of colors. No tangible thing is merely black or white, or black or blue (turns out, this option was actually accurate). 

All matter has meaning. Whether labels are blatantly stated or hidden within cultural practices, someone, like me, can identify and decode the message if enough time is reserved to study it closely. What you find may actually prove how similar we, as humans first, are after all.

Comparing and Contrasting 

Consider the foundations of each country...

Kuwait Flag
  • Red (Blood)
  • White (Purity and Innocence)
  • Green (Fertile Land)
  • Black (Defeat of the Enemy)
U.S. Flag 
  • Red (Hardiness and Valor)
  • White (Purity and Innocence)
  • Blue (Vigilance, Perseverance, Justice)
Consider how we are blindly communicating with currency exchanges...

Kuwait Dinar
  • Brown (Security) 1/4 KD
  • Green (Balance) 1/2 KD
  • Gray (Compromise) 1 KD 
  • Purple (Imagination) 5 KD
  • Red (Passion) 10 KD
  • Blue (Peace) 20 KD 

U.S. Dollar
  • Green (balance) with variations of color surrounding former Presidents and a blue security strip on new, larger bills. 

Consider the limitations placed on mobility...

Kuwait School Buses 
  • Private (White)
  • Public (Yellow)
U.S. School Buses
  • Primarily Yellow
Kuwait License Plates  
  • Black & White | Yellow for Taxis
U.S. License Plates 
  • Variety of graphics and patterns to choose from
Consider our food and beverage intake...

  • Required to eat/drink only what is clean and wholesome (no dead meat of an animal that has been killed by blunt force, no pork, no alcohol allowed in the country)
  • Complete freedom of choice and personal selection, from no exclusion of anything at all to vegetarian and organic/vegan. Alcohol is openly served and absorbed in public.
Kuwait Milk
  • Whole (Blue Cap)
  • 2% (Red Cap)
  • 1% (Green Cap)
U.S. Milk (may vary based on brand)
  • Whole (Red Cap)
  • 2% (Blue Cap)
  • 1% (Dark Pink Cap)
Consider the differences in religion...

  • Islam - Primarily Muslims
  • Wide range of religious practices, most popular is Christianity
Consider the comfort of home...

  • Inner-City Buildings/Apartments/Villas (White and/or Tan)
  • Oddly Shaped, Mostly Rectangular 
  • Modern Area Buildings/Restaurants (Mosaic)
  • Address Format (Area, Block Number, Street Number, Building Number)
  • Date Format (Day, Month, Year)
  • Phone Number Format (+965 60672912) - My international line
  • Apartment Complexes & Homes sectionalized in all shapes and sizes
  • Address Format (Street Number, Street Name, City, State, ZIP Code)
  • Phone Number Format (Area Code) 555-5555
Consider the freedom of expression, or lack thereof, by being informed of the fact that a Kuwaiti-born friend of mine questioned her very own blog post about marriage and also fervently shared her thoughts about bedoons (an ethnic group within the Persian Gulf/Arab region that cannot properly claim a nationality and are somewhat viewed as illegal immigrants). As one of the blog's commenters states, "being a bedoon is like having no parents, being illiterate or having no friends." So, consider being a bedoon, deserving of a classification, yet still in limbo with limited privileges. Or, consider being me... the passionate woman from Jacksonville, FL who somehow ended up in a foreign country, studying and writing about its traditions, firsthand, despite warnings from family understandably worried about her safety. Consider feeling like you don't belong, but being welcomed into a culture that functions on a strict level and adjusting to respectfully fit in and stand out. Maybe, just consider being nonjudgmental and color-blind, period. How else can we live life clearly, correctly and confidently? In conclusion, liberty should an all-inclusive, worldwide goal, but it isn't ... and since we are distracted by the hypnosis of social media, many of us are visually impaired and failing to comprehend what's truly most important.