Being open-minded is a pretty complex thing in the Middle East. It’s usually synonymous with having some Western values, but most of the time it’s superficial things like speaking or peppering your speech with English, drinking, not being outwardly religious, being “cool” with drugs, having your finger on the pulse of Western pop culture, and adopting the manner of casual street chic clothing style. But is that really being open-minded, or is that just being .. a young person??
People in the Middle East often love to claim how open-minded they are, but when you scratch beneath the surface, all the hangups are still there. Gay? That’s disgusting, wrong, and a sin. Drinking? Cool. Girls drinking?? Probably whores. Bacon? Hell no. Smoking pot? Sure. Girls smoking pot? Probably whores. Dating and sex? Awesome! Your sister dating and having sex? I’ll kill her.
Being open-minded really means being open and tolerant to views other than your own, and leaving others to live freely despite your own personally held views. Being open to possibility and perspective. Listening and understanding that each person comes from a different time, place, upbringing, has different biology and sexuality and mindset. Consider the liberal stances of gender equality, acceptance of LGBTQ, free and fair freedom of political congress, and discarding social class hangups. How many people do you know that are truly open and accepting of these “Western values”?
Yet, Middle Eastern people somewhat revere Western countries and almost anyone under the age of 40 dreams of “getting the fuck out of here and living abroad.” But I would argue that they mostly revere how organized Western countries are, how the economic opportunities are better, and how their kids would have better futures. This isn’t exactly an acceptance and reverence for Western values, which leads to some pretty tough situations with adapting to a new environment. Countless stories of couples immigrating to a Western country and trying to impose their traditional upbringing, thought processes, and way of life onto their children have been told time and time again.
Why the obsession with living abroad if you’re still maintaining the same close-minded and traditional way of thinking that you were brought up with in a traditional, non-secular society? How can people reconcile their longing for living in a more progressive, civic-minded society that leads to economic prosperity and opportunity with their need to maintain quite non-secular and traditional ways of life?
Cartoon credit: David Hayward