Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Children Damaged by Materialism

A recent study discussed in BBC Health News:

Children ‘damaged’ by materialism

Some 89% of adults think children are more materialistic than ever

Most adults in the UK believe that children’s well-being is being damaged because childhood has become too commercial, a lifestyle poll has found. Some 89% of adults in the GfK NOP survey of 1,255 people believed today’s children were more materialistic than previous generations.

The poll is one of the contributions to a continuing inquiry into childhood.

The Children’s Society said adults had to “take responsibility for the current level of marketing to children”.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the society, said: “A crucial question raised by the inquiry is whether childhood should be a space where developing minds are free from concentrated sales techniques.

“To accuse children of being materialistic in such a culture is a cop-out,” he said.

Mr Reitemeier said: “Unless we question our own behaviour as a society we risk creating a generation who are left unfulfilled through chasing unattainable lifestyles.”

The children’s market is worth an estimated £30 bn a year.

As chief executive of the National Schools Partnership, Mark Fawcett brings business and marketing into schools, and he believes you cannot shield children from the real world.

“We have to live in the current communications era where children can see a huge amount of information,” he told BBC TV news. “We have to use our judgement and we have to, as an industry, make sure we are working with children and families, and not exploiting them.”

Selling lifestyles

The evidence on lifestyle is part of a six-part series of investigations published by the Children’s Society for a continuing inquiry into childhood in the UK which brings together the views of academics, religious communities, teachers, local authorities and authors.

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is patron of the inquiry, said: “Children should be encouraged to value themselves for who they are as people rather than what they own. “The selling of lifestyles to children creates a culture of material competitiveness and promotes acquisitive individualism at the expense of the principles of community and co-operation.”

Comment: It’s not just children. We are ALL damaged when we start to measure ourselves by what we own. You can read the entire article Here.

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Spiritual | 7 Comments

History of Architecture in Old Kuwait City (5)

One last quote from this wonderful book by Saleh Abdulghani Al-Muttawa, because it summarizes his ideas on what makes house practical for the weather and customs of this region:

Cultural Response

. . .the major critical cultural and customs problems which concern housing are;

1. Privacy for female inhabitants

2. Separation between female and male guests, and separation between guests, in general, and house members.

3. Future family expansion

. . . The approach to solving those critical problems are as follows:

1. To assure privacy for family members, and especially female members. The family part of the house has been pushed all the way to the back; in other words, it is on the north side far away from the street. It is difficult, or impossible, for anyone passing by the house to be able to look through and see the inside, especially with all those trees and plants placed in front of the house. Another conservative step has been taken by separating the family entrance from the guest’s entrance, and placing the family entrance close to the driveway and the garage for easy and private access. All that gave the female members of the family more free and secured mobility inside the house.

2. The prototype design provides a separate quarter for the guests, “Dewania.” The “Dewania” is placed on the southern side of the house away from the family entrance, to provide privacy for both family members and guests. The “dewania” is actually divided into two “dewanias,” female “dewania” and male “dewania.” For more seclusion and privacy of both sexes, the entrance of the female “dewania” is placed on the west side and the entrance of the male “dewania” is placed on the east side. Both entrances are close to the main road to make it more convenient and easy for the guests to come in and out. Each “dewania” has its own bath. There is only one dining room, because most of the time only men stay for dining. (Women have to go home to cook for their families.) If it happens that both sexes stay for dining, women can be accomodated in their “dewania.” A collapsible partition is placed in between the two “dewanias.” In big events like wedding parties or feasts, the partition can be collapsed, so the space would be large enough for a sizable number of people.

In a post last week, How decisions are made in Kuwait we had a long discussion about diwaniyas in the comments section. What I like about al-Muttawa’s concept is that collapsible wall in between the female and male diwaniyya. It could allow the females to listen in on major political discussions – what? You think we aren’t interested? You are wrong! – and participate.

“How can they participate while separated?” my western friends will be asking.

There are emmisaries. When sitting with the women, in Saudi Arabia, I wondered at first how my husband and I would both know when it is time to go. In western society, we have a meeting of the eyes and my husband will give an almost imperceptible nod and I know it is time to begin to make our farewells. As the hour got later and later, and still later, I finally asked one of the women how I would know when my husband wanted to leave.

“You want to leave?” she gasped in horror!

“No, No!” I assured her, “I just don’t know how I will know when my husband wants to leave!”

“Your husband will send for you! The children will tell you!” she laughed, and I stopped worrying. The children were running back and forth from room to room, reporting on the happenings in the men’s diwayya, where a holy man was discussing morality and requirements of morality.

This was one of my favorite places in Saudi Arabia, the house of friends. In the women’s majlis, there was only a TV, and seating around all the walls. There was nothing on the walls, nothing, not a picture, not a calligraphy, nothing, but the furniture was strong and comfortable, and the hospitality never-ending. When dinner time came, we went to an adjacent entirely bare room, bare except for the lavish dinner laid on the floor, where we all sat and ate, and one huge cupboard, full of mattresses. The dining room became one of the sleeping rooms when all the guests departed.

I didn’t get a tour of the house; I only know what I saw from my entrance through the family entrance into the female part of the house, my brief glimpse of the kitchen area – large and utilitarian. What I remember most clearly was the love and joy in the family, and that all the walls were totally devoid of anything decorative.

+ + + + + +

When I came to live in Kuwait, the real estate people showed me 20 villas and one apartment. The villas, each and every one, were HUGE! Most of them were three or four floors, more than one had an elevator, and several had their own swimming pools.

Most of the houses had a large kitchen – separate from the house, outside! Alongside it were the quarters for the maids, the drivers, the guard, etc. Most of the houses had at least five bedrooms, at least two diwaniyyas.

In the newer areas, there was barely two feet between houses, so windows on the sides of the houses were non-existent, or heavily curtained over, making those rooms very dark. In the older houses, the bathrooms were small and the spaces were divided strangely, by western ways of thinking.

Mostly, though, the villas were lovely, full of luxurious materials and beautiful touches. As I would walk though, sounds bounced off the thick cinderblock walls and the marble floors.

AdventureMan works long hours. I would think of me and the Qatteri Cat bouncing around in the huge house like two little peas in a big bowl, and where would I find him if he hid out for a while? The villas were just too much space for our little family, and we opted for the apartment, although the apartment is bigger than many homes in the United States. AdventureMan and the Qatteri Cat still look at me accusingly from time to time; they always enjoyed an hour or two together in the garden on Friday mornings, and now we have no garden. . . all we have (I can’t even keep a straight face as I write this) is that glorious 24-hour-a-day 180° view of the Arabian Gulf. 😉

+ + + + + + +

If I ever see this book for sale, I will come back here and update. If YOU see it for sale, please come back here and let us know!

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Building, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Privacy, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | , | 4 Comments

“Whirling Chaff”

From Psalm 83
Verse 13
O my God, make them like whirling dust,*
like chaff before the wind.

Reading the Lectionary readings for today I came across this verse in the very first reading. It brought a grin to my face.

Lent continues. The Lord sends me out in my car almost daily, in spite of my best laid plans. I struggle to keep my resolution not to call – not to even THINK – bad names at the fools on the road who cause disruption, chaos and pain. It helps to have a substitute in mind, so I have something I CAN say instead of just struggling NOT to say the words that immediately come to mind.

The above verse will do nicely – don’t you think?

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Character, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Humor, Kuwait, Language, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual | | 5 Comments