Friday, May 07, 2004

The Third World And America

I often receive e-mails from readers asking me why Arabs hate Americans. I'd like to share one of these e-mails with everyone. I'm sure after reading the e-mail, many of you will say "That's exactly what I've been asking myself". Here's the e-mail:

  • I really don't think Iraqis would ever like Americans, no matter what. No one likes Americans on the planet, but they'd like to come here of course. I work in an office with an Ethiopian, a Turkish woman, a Norwegian, a Philipino, a Mexican, a Dominican and myself am a combination of German, Welsh, Scot-Irish and Cherokee Indian.

    Why are we all here (except my Cherokee grandmother for obvious reasons) in America? We wanted freedom (or our ancestors did) and freedom from religious persecution. As a result, Americans are just crazy about freedom (regular Americans - not corporations), and nothing gets their blood pumping like trying to bring it to someone else. I think we all here felt a tremendous sense of pride that we were doing something good in Iraq. Freeing the Iraqis from that nut-case Sadam Hussain. But we weren't the good guys for long. The America that people see in the movies (ourselves included) doesn't really work that clean or fast. The electricity, water didn't come on right away. It was worse than we thought. There was looting too, and government offices were unusable . All of a sudden a lot of people didn't have jobs, that always gets things heated up. ( I remember Watts in Los Angeles in the 60's). We had only an army and they weren't trained in running towns & villages, and the Iraq police force was gone along with Sadam and had to be recruited. Then the thugs and criminals start terrorizing the Iraqi citizens. Sadam's favored group (Sunni) was understandably pissed off having lost their positions and without much hope for the future. And we didn't help that either. A hot summer with no air conditioning and moods get really bad. Throw in an ambitious religious guy who can use all this to really stir things up and get his career going and voila! The good guys are the bad guys. I feel bad that so many of our sons and daughters (who thought they were doing a noble thing) had to lose their lives. It's not easy being the Satan of the world.

    I asked the woman who sits across from me in the office, why didn't the Iraqi people just start rolling up their sleeves and start fixing things once Sadam was gone. I didn't understand that. And she said " third world, Donna." When you grow up in the third world, in school you are taught not to think for yourselves just to do whatever you need to do to survive, depending on who's in power. It's dangerous to be otherwise. She told me that people here in America are taught to be leaders, and not followers, that's the big difference. I don't know, that's what she told me. She and her husband and children had to escape with their lives from Ethiopia to live in Saudia Arabia for 20 years, then to London (where as immigrants it was almost impossible for them to get a business license), then finally to New York where she can have any business she wants.

    I really want the Iraqis to be free and have good lives. Make good livings, have good educations, take vacations and see the world. From what I remember, Iraq used to be known as a rather cosmopolitan country with very well educated people. I was glad that we got this Sadam out of their lives so they could speak their minds, print their newspapers and have conflicting viewpoints without fear. But we and the world thought (quite rightly), that we made this mess and we had to stay and clean it up. But all of a sudden this week we've become occupiers. Wonder if we'd be called something else if we'd managed to get it all fixed and everyone jobs sooner? Guess it doesn't matter. Or probably we should have left right away (or at least right after Sadam was caught), You would have figured something out and it would have been your own thing. Doesn't look like our leaders had their planning all together for sure.

    Just don't let these religious guys turn you into something like the Borg (from StarTrek). Oh, there I go ....... that's from a Hollywood movie.

Now that you read Donna's e-mail, how many of you think the way she does? I bet most of my American readers do. So, let's analyze the third world where I was born and raised.

In Iraq and many other countries in the Middle East, we are born to follow a specific path. We don't have many choices. Our life is like shopping from a no-frills supermarket.

There's probably one thing in common between Iraqis and Americans. Our parents choose our name and religion. At least you, as an American, can change your name or religion when you're an adult. You have a choice. We, as Iraqis, must follow other people's choices and stay happy.

Iraqi schools are different than yours. For us, it's not about understanding the subject we're studying. It's about memorizing the book we're studying -- except for math. Not only do we memorize the books, we actually learn LITTLE if ANYTHING by the year's end.

American schools are about choices and discussions. You involve the students with many activities at an early age. You help them think for themselves. You help them become independent thinkers and choosers.

An Iraqi's future depends on his/her scores in 12th grade. If we get sick during the final exams and don't do well, it's our problem. If we can't grasp some subjects because the material doesn't make sense to us, it's still our problem. The parents and the society want us to become doctors or engineers. It doesn't matter what we want. It's what other people want for us.

Americans futures depend on their overall performance during school. At an early age, you decide what you want to be. You work toward this goal at school. Your teachers will help you achieve your goal. BUT, you almost always choose for yourself.

Iraqis finish their under-graduate studies and would have few job options and modern cities as choices. Most of the time, we end up with a job that has nothing to do with our studies. If we want to continue our post-graduate studies, then we better have done very well at college and graduated with honors.

Americans finish their under-graduate studies and have 50 states, with modern cities, and hundreds of companies as potential employers. You don't think twice when moving from one city to another because most of your cities have the same services and life standards.
If you want to have another degree or continue with post-graduate studies, nothing would stop you as long as you have a decent study record.

When an Iraqi guy decides to get married, it's a family matter. Everyone in his family has a say in his marriage and choice of a bride. And due to the financial difficulties which face many newlywed couples, they end up living with the groom's family. But, if the groom is from a rich family, the couple may be lucky enough to have their own apartment or a very small house.

When an American guy meets the woman of his life, then it is his choice. His family would accept his choice. It's not about his family, it's about his choice not other people's decisions.

In Iraq, the work place is NOT about being creative. It's about being at the work place at 8 a.m. sharp. What we do with our time at work depends on how important our job is. It also depends on our willingness to take responsibility. If we take responsibilty, we would have a pile of work to do every day. If not, we could pretend to be working until the end of work day.

In America, the work place is about being creative. It's about how much you're able to think outside the box. And if you don't like your job, you could always look for another job -- maybe less so during the last few years.

In Iraq, social life kills our private life. When I say social life, I mean our family, relatives, friends and neighbors. Most of the time, our decisions depend on what people would think of us. It's not about us, it's about them.

In America, your private life comes first. It doesn't mean you neglect your family or friends. It means there are limits to how much you let them influence your life. Your decisions are not influenced by what people would think of you. Your decisions are influenced by what you think of yourself.

In Iraq, overseas traveling is a fantasy for many people due to financial reasons. And if we have the money to travel, then we're limited to a few countries that accept our passport.

In America, most people have been at least to a country or two. If not, you at least have seen many parts of your beautiful country. And if you have a decent amount of money, your passport would take you to most of the countries on planet earth.

In Iraq and the third world, we have dictators ruling us for many years without being able to criticize them or change them. Saddam was a good example.

In America, you can change governments every four years if you are not satisfied with them. Not only that, you can criticize your government at anytime. You vote for your presidents. You vote for your senators. You vote for your city council. It's always your choice.

Iraqis learn not to make life-changing decisions. Americans are brought up to take risks and adventures.

I hope I answered your question.

Arabic Word of The Post:

school : مدرسه - medresa / med-resa /
schools: مدارس - medaris / meda-ris /

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