Squid games in Kuwait

By Sahar Moussa

The human instinct to survive is our most powerful driving force. We struggle to find jobs to put food on the table, earn money, make sure our children are well fed and dressed, and pay their school fees and rent. It has become very hard for many people to stay afloat financially, especially after COVID, when many people worldwide lost their lives, jobs and businesses, and were left with nothing but loans and debts.

The Squid Game series talks on Netflix has garnered worldwide attention for its themes of survival and debt. The series is about debt-ridden people who play children’s games for a chance to win cash -they are killed if they fail. It criticizes capitalism to its core and shows the true nature of people and the choices they make to survive.

In Kuwait, a majority of people – residents and locals – are in debt, and only a few people are living comfortably. We are in a capitalistic society where the working class is condemned to remain poor and in debt, and as a result, they pass it on to their children. It is like a vicious circle which is hard to break.

Every character in Squid Game represents a person we know and can relate to in real life, even if we do not realize it. The two main characters are trapped in a web of debt. The first is a divorced chauffeur and gambling addict. He participates in the game to settle his debts and prove he is financially stable enough to get custody of his daughter and help pay for surgery for his ailing mother. The second character is a former head of an investment team at a securities company, who is wanted by the police for stealing money from his clients and racking up massive debts from bad investments.

Look around you – I’m sure there are many people in Kuwait who are engaged in some type of financial risk: investments, cryptocurrency, new businesses and projects. In the blink of an eye, these people lose everything. The third character enters the game to pay a broker to help her parents cross the border and buy a house for her reunited family to live in. How many expats in Kuwait have worked extremely hard to pay money to visa traffickers to bring their families here?

The fourth character is a migrant worker from Pakistan, who enters the game to provide for his young family after his employer refuses to pay him for months. This character is the character that many can relate to. I personally know two expats who worked hard all their lives, and in the end, their merciless employers did not pay a penny to them and they drowned in debt.

Squid Game is a microcosm of the life we are living in, with all its violence, injustice and capitalism. It deals with everyday characters caught in the quagmire of life, looking for an escape from their worries. It talks about how sometimes we are pushed to the edge and put in a situation where we are obliged to take bad decisions and make sacrifices for the sake of our beloved ones. It depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life. It describes our economic struggles as well as the class disparity in our society.

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