Money has no real value. We use it to exchange goods and services only because we all have faith in what we collectively agree to be its worth. If we lose that faith, money is worthless.
I think a similar sort of faith exists in civic life. When people have faith that there is accountability, civic life flourishes. If there is no faith, people end up doing what they want without fear of reprisal.
Kuwait is not just corrupt but also corrupting. Most people assume that success is achieved only through ‘wasta’ or some other unfair advantage. I don’t think that’s because Kuwaitis are inherently corrupt or bad people. We just live in a state where it’s easier to break the rules than follow them and it’s infinitely more rewarding to let corruption continue than to stop it. With time even the most well intentioned person is corrupted or is at least demoralized to the point of submission.
We have simply lost faith in the rule of law.
In order for us to change we first have to reinvent the environment of civic life. To transform a crumbling neighborhood the first thing you do is replace all the broken windows. That one simple act communicates to people that the neighborhood is being taken care of and it is not being neglected.
The problem in Kuwait is not that we don’t have any laws. We do, but they’re not being enforced well enough. Before we can see any kind of progress at a political, economic or cultural level we have to start aggressively and ruthlessly enforcing the laws that are in place. Once people regain their faith in the rule of law, that everyone is treated equally and fairly, we can confidently begin rebuilding Kuwait.