(This piece is largely a generalization on my part, based on observations alone. It also has nothing to do with my trip to ARAMCO last weekend, sorry Ernesto)
During the fourth and final week of the WEP, I was lucky enough to participate in a class titled “Leadership Training through Improvisation.” Taught by three members of BATS Improv in San Francisco (including one Saudi national), the course enlisted Saudis, non-Saudis, men, and women. No stranger to the limelight, I soaked up the class for all that it was worth and felt like a star (didn’t hurt that I was the only native English speaker in the class).
What I never could’ve foreseen was the enthusiasm and participation on the part of the Saudi students throughout this short course.
In a country where on-stage performances are entirely non-existent, there are no cinemas, and music is largely frowned upon; I was amazed by the un-tapped creativity of the future leaders of the Kingdom brought about by this simple course. When everyday life only allows you to be as creative as the ingredients you put in your shawarma, it was obvious that these Saudi students were as eager as I was to take advantage of the opportunity to shine.
One stick that I continue to chew with the Kingdom and its ambitions to become a “knowledge-based” economy is the fact that creative outlets for the youth appear to be numbered.* When sport and videogames replace an appreciation for music and the arts, instead of complementing them, (if videogames can actually “complement” anything) I struggle to see ANY country producing a generation of “thinkers” that are as progressive as the economic investments that we see on a near-daily basis here in the Kingdom.
I can guarantee the future leaders of the Kingdom (college-aged and younger) don’t feel it yet, but the pressure to perform for their country is building (as in other emerging countries such as China and India). It’s a blessing to be able to appreciate the simple things in life, as many of my Saudi friends do quite well; but it’s also a responsibility to perform to certain levels when the Kapsa is served to you on a silver platter.
The creative potential has been located. So as they say in my home state of California, “drill baby drill!”
*I’m completely biased on this issue because of my upbringing, so forgive my ignorance.