Once upon a time my great grandfather was a very rich man. He owned numerous lands and farms. He didn’t want his children to go to school – anything not related to farming was a waste of time. One day, due to uncontrollable circumstances, he had to leave the country he was so rich in, and come to Oman. He lost all his lands. Because he was pretty much hopeless in anything else, and barely had any friends around to help him out, he worked as a truck driver. His older kids got similar jobs – construction, driving, garbage collectors etc. while his younger kids went to school. He was married to 2 wives with 15+ kids in total, and they all had to live in a 2 bedroom apartment. That was all they could afford. Did his independence help? I don’t think so.
Taking a nation-wide example, look at Iraq. Before the war in 2003, Iraq was pretty much independent in terms of infrastructure – roads, electricity, water, telecoms. Leaving aside all the political issues, Iraq was actually doing quite well in terms of quality of service –better than the GCC at the time. The war came, and 7 years later the country’s infrastructure is still in chaos! You can say it’s America’s fault; they’re not really putting an effort. However, if Iraq wasn’t INDEPENDENTLY providing these services through its ministries – if the providers were actually international companies – America’s interference in Iraq would’ve at least respected those companies (to keep their own international relationships at peace) and the current state of infrastructure services in Iraq wouldn’t have been this hectic. Hell, it could’ve prevented the war in the first place – by way of strong opposition from the other countries (them having their stakes in Iraq at risk). So while being independent was great for a certain period of time, it made Iraq exposed to greater risks in the long run which are now materializing.
In the situations above, risks were inevitable, and being independent didn’t help – it was actually a risk in itself. And this could apply to all of you, dearest readers. Leaving aside financials, let’s look at the effects of independence from family: a major difference between the civilized world and third world countries (e.g. Oman). Individualism VS Collectivism.
For a civilised family, once the kids become adults they have to learn how to be “independent” – live alone, pay their own expenses, and simply learn life the difficult way. And they do. They grow up, get married, create their own families, and eventually become really independent from their parents – it’s OK to dump them in an elderly home (I know I’m generalizing, but I talk about the majority here). Their independence transfers to their own kids, who also put them in an elderly home when their time comes. For “civilized” parents, it’s so important to have a pension fund, to “secure” their future by financial means.
On the other hand, not too long ago a whole Omani family would live in the same house, or on the same piece of land, for 3 or more generations (i.e. with the grandparents and aunts and uncles). Knowing you’re mother’s 3rd cousin’s in-laws’ grandfather was normal (maybe because it was your own grandfather, but you know what I mean). The interesting bit is not only knowing distant relatives, but actually being able to help them out, or get some sort of support from them, when either party falls into trouble. A “sabla” – a big living room open for all men – was essential in every city. The sablaat (plural) and/or mosques provided means of communication, discussion, raising issues in society, and opportunities for INTERDEPENDENCE – not independence.
Speaking from a Muscat-raised point of view, the current situation is quite different. A married man still living in his parents’ house could be deemed a disgrace. The importance of each individual is getting highlighted (as I explained earlier) – and consequently we’re investing more of our time and money on establishing ourselves, furthering our careers, building our future to be independent rather than building stronger relationships with family members, staying in touch, and having a wider circle of friends/family (although I must admit Facebook is helping A LOT). Nevertheless, visits have become cumbersome. Slowly we’re becoming, apparently, “civilized”.
Are we sure we want to? Do we actually realize what’s going on, or are we just blindly imitating the majority? Do we believe that if we work harder and strengthen ourselves to be independent then we’d be able to overcome the major stumbling blocks in life?
I don’t. No matter how much time, money, and effort is spent on becoming better, it’ll never be sustainable – look at my rich great grandfather, powerful Iraq, or the civilized parents – although independent; they all couldn’t carry on being wealthy, powerful and satisfied. It’s worth more to spend that time, money and effort on helping family, friends and strangers. What we call, “التكافل الاجتماعي” – social solidarity.So I don’t think independence is all that, what do YOU think? Agree? Disagree? Give it to me, I want a debate!