Long Drive Ahead

     
 

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I really like the idea of girls driving in Saudi. It’s hopeful, it’s pretty and sort of liberating.

But I don’t and wouldn’t drive for as long as I possibly can.

I can drive in Indonesia but choose not to. Simply because I’m too lazy to look after a car (I barely shower, man), and because it’s faster, safer and environmentally friendlier to get an Ojek (taxi-motorbikes).

Besides, whether or not I can drive is irrelevant when I’m stuck in a 6-hours traffic jam, in a flooded city, going at 8.3km/hour, which is more or less how fast I can pedal my mountain bicycle.

Needs

Whether or not women can drive in Saudi, whether it’s a Maserati or an 18th century carriage or a donkey, the issue here is personal mobility. Getting between places. Logistics. Getting things done.

People need personal mobility to fulfill basic needs: to buy food, get to work, to get the education that got them working and – here we go again – pay for the convenience of personal mobility. I could go on, but my point is, fi car wala mafi, there have been ways that Saudi women have gotten by without being able to drive.

The argument that the right to drive should be granted gratis, whether or not women need it, bores me. In places where women-driving is the norm, women who must drive are the middle classes and women who are chauffeured are the extra-comfortable. Think about it. When women started demonstrating for the right to drive isn’t it also an indicator that there is a lot of basic needs lacking in that society?

And when basic needs are lacking to the extent that it is driving women out of their homes, armed with a mind that’s ready for whatever may come, doesn’t it  show a symptom of a deeper and more complex desperation underneath?

So what gave? What basic need has been desperately lacking in Saudi? If we ever cracked this part of the puzzle, then the anger that is ruining the journey we’re on, might lighten up a bit.

Law

When it comes to basic needs, the law of لا ضرر و لا ضرار thou shall not do harm, is the only rule that applies.

If driving (the mean) could distract us from doing our jobs and obligations (the ends) then something is not done right. If driving in Saudi could put me in jail, or if driving in Jakarta is going to make me late for my appointments, then wouldn’t it be better, faster and safer to find other means of transportation?

It’s not a moot point; because critical shortages bring supplies of creative solutions. In Jeddah, every one of my girlfriends’ phones are fortified with an armada of freelance drivers. And these girlfriends exchange drivers’ contact numbers, and the drivers recommend one to another.

Legal rights aside, women in Saudi do own the streets. These women make a pretty strong – albeit pink - economic pillar, supporting families who’ve got the cars and not the ways. And let it be known that this credit includes my fellow Saudiyyats as well as my non-Saudi mother and non-Saudi girlfriends as part of the resilient and versatile force behind that pink socio-economic wheel.

Power

Fact is, being able to drive does not guarantee the fulfillment of basic needs, nor does it come free of other additional difficulties. For example: The time we spend waiting for a driver is actually less than the time (and energy and money and worry) we spend on waiting for the mechanic to balance the wheels, or for a turn at the gas station.

Being able to drive doesn’t necessarily create more freedom, or the sudden ability to take better photos or pass exams. And if you’re the type who worries about karmic inventorying, then before the gates of heaven or hell the Auditors are not going to ask you if you knew how to drive. They will ask you instead where you went. And where you got the money to get there. And what you did when you reached your destinations.

On the other hand, whether or not women in Saudi can drive, whether or not they have drivers’ licenses or barely educated beyond tricycles, they have undeniably done heck a lot of good already on the streets, in their homes and as dutiful citizens and resident of Saudi Arabia.

Reread that line again until you can recite it by heart. Then own it. Squeeze every bit of pride in it, for how you’ve managed to get by every day deserves plenty of due acknowledgement.

Priorities

Alfarhan mentioned that our priorities are different from each other; and that the least we could do is to respect each others’ journeys to reach those personal goals. I am all for women driving. I am all for personal mobility and the freedom to self-actualize, as fair and far as they may be optimally achieved. I just hope that we remember during this long journey ahead to look out of the window and enjoy the view and remember what we’ve done so far to make it look so gorgeous.

I wish us all a pleasant journey. توصلون بالسلامة

 
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