Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ineffective Communication (III)

First of all it should be clear that Iraqis, just like many communities in the globe, are fascinated by the American society. Still, they know very little about how the US became a super power. The US for the Iraqis is a spectrum ranges between the troops touring our streets and Hollywood productions, and the first image of America evoked by Iraqi unconscious is the ugly Yankee. It is the product of an Arab-nationalism, religious, tribal, totalitarian society. A society which is governed by illogical way of reasoning.

Personally, I had a vague image about American individuals, since I had never had a real experience of interaction with non-Iraqis till March 2003. Saddam’s regime considered it a matter of espionage and treason. In addition, heavy security regulations and poor income per capita made it impossible for the Iraqis to go abroad. The result was, and maybe still, a segregated society symbolized by an Iraqi skeptic character filled with mistrust of strangers.

It was my transistor radio, before March 2003, which helped me to discover what was going on in the abroad world. It was a real struggle trying to listen to abroad radio stations with all kinds of Iraqi jamming frequencies. As an example, which I had posted about once, is hearing about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I was not able to lay an eye on a copy of it before 2003.

Thanks to the internet for making it possible to gain American pen pals and through them I learned something about Americans as individuals. I discovered that Americans do not differ from us as persons who have their own family problems and everyday life matters. One of my American pen pals grows vegetables in the backyard, just like me, putting extra product in boxes to be sold by her kids in front of the house. But the Americans have wonderful humanitarian feelings which we lack; another American pen pal has an adopted girl of Indian origin. The little girl has some defect in her arms (handicapped) which made me to highly praise the lady. I learned from this lady many lessons; first is tolerance towards people of different complexion, second is willingness to serve handicapped persons, third is the quantity of love this lady has…etc. What I am trying to say is:
“Show the Iraqis another face of America. The face of the average American citizen. Try to establish contact with the average Iraqi citizen. Don’t tell me it’s the Iraqis duty, since the Iraqis are mentally and economically exhausted for which they are unable to take the initiative”.

It is important to work on a long term-program to establish a pro-liberalism class in the Iraqi society.

In the short term, the US administration have to support an (anti) anti-Americanism media campaign led by Arab liberal figures. Liberal Arab writers, thinkers, journalists, academicians, clerics…etc have to confront and undermine the Arab’s way of thinking. Such work needs means. The US should provide them with these means. One of these means is Al-Hurra satellite channel sponsored by the US government. Still, the kind of programs introduced by this channel is not sufficient.

Few Iraqis, Arabs and Muslims know something about the US history or that of England & Europe. There is a total ignorance about the struggle of these nations to achieve what they have achieved. Making the history of Man available to the Arabs & Iraqis may help in changing their way of viewing the West. Uttering (US) provokes words like Red Indians, Vietnam, Israel, imperialism…etc in any Iraqi mind. Very few Iraqis can make an association between the US and League of Nations, UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, peoples self determination…etc.

Another project could be a scheduled visits (educational) for Iraqi students to the US & UK (something similar to Fulbright Program). Iraqi students (excellent in English for example) may compete to win a visit to the states. A visit of one month to learn about the US history, branches of the government, judicial system, scientific achievements…etc. In addition, Iraqi students may meet American students, American Muslims, visit mosques, churches, synagogues, libraries, museums, hospitals, universities, theaters…etc. and listen to lectures about how all this civilization has been built.

The number of Iraqi students to join such trip and its repetition may depend on the funds could be raised. Choosing these students from different Iraqi districts will help in spreading a new way of thinking among the Iraqis. It will help in reconnecting Iraq with the world after three decades of being besieged.

American political, religious & social research centers may invite Iraqi tribal leaders and clerics to change the way they view the American people. Iraqi civil community activists might be trained in some other ways.

It is an American-Iraqi joined effort to make positive change. And the US has to go to the end of the road; otherwise it would be a catastrophe for the region and the world. Much more endeavor has to be made to accelerate work and to fill up or to bridge the ‘big gap that crosses that ocean’ between the US and our society.


Blogger Noah said...

That was a nice post. It is good to learn more about each other which is why I like visiting Iraqi blogs.

12:24 AM  
Blogger mtnyogi said...

Interesting idea. How many Iraqis have DVD players or VCR players? I'm wondering if a set of DVDs could be made, perhaps even in Arabic, that could be sold in Iraq so that many many more Iraqis could share the experience.

Another idea would be to arrange to have groups of Americans and groups of Iraqis meet electronically and perhaps air it on TV (or DVD)? Perhaps have translaters help bridge the language gap.

Finally, suppose somebody (I'm thinking you, Ibn_Alrafidain!) write a book (in Arabic). Something like: "What I've learned about the U.S. through the Internet" or "The Secrets about U.S. (or Western Civilization) success that Arab leaders don't want you to know!". You could learn through the Internet. Maybe you could get Americans to write essays on various topics for the book that you could translate into Arabic? Maybe instead of a book, it could be a monthly magazine with a collection of essays on a different topic each month. I would think that you could get several U.S. bloggers to contribute essays.

The intent with all of these is to reach many more Iraqis than just a small group coming to the U.S.

What do you think?

4:52 AM  
Blogger Louise said...

You do have many good ideas, Al Rafidain. I hope some of them can be put into practice. Sometime a lonely little blog with the best ideas just isn't enough. Someone has to do the long, hard work of building the kinds of bridges of which you speak. Civil society organizations in both Iraq and the West need to be created (or found, if they already exist) to do the work. Do you know of any in Iraq?

5:56 AM  
Blogger Original_Jeff said...

Iraq probably has less than 5 million young men and women ages 18-24. If you think about it, we have spent $70,000 per each one of them on the war so far. If we had instead used $10,000 to fly them to the USA for studies and human exchanges, what would be the outcome?
Almost all Americans have the belief "that if they only knew us better, then they would not hate us"--which is what you are suggesting.
However, some of the leaders of radical Islam and of al-Quaeda spent quite a bit of time in western countries, so I am not sure the theory is always right.

4:17 PM  

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