Friday, January 6, 2012

The 'other'

Sazan M. Mandalawi

The Kurdish Globe
By Sazan M. Mandalawi

It's not always about 'I' it can also be about 'them'

Earlier this week I met a young woman, she had abandoned a great job -- which paid well, too -- and a princess-like lifestyle because she didn't feel inner contentment. She left behind everything she had, from a large house, to a credit card that was limitless and three vacations a year to saving up money to buy shoes -- "not because they look good on my feet, but because I need them," she explained to me.

Now, living in a shared house and only having a small room, her volunteer work in an initiative to spread awareness about giving back to society, she says, is giving her all the happiness she wants. She says she feels liberated when she does something good for the community.

This gives me flashbacks and makes me think of home. I remember in one of my last nights in Erbil we were at Le Capital, with its beautiful seating area. Breathing in the summer evening air to the sound of replica waterfalls is definitely a lovely night out, in what was once the "other Iraq" but today even that doesn't fully reflect the fairytale story of Erbil.

What you often notice at these places is the small portion of society (which by the way is normal anywhere you go) who can enjoy the luxuries of life more than others. So, it is not surprising to see expensive cars lined up outside these cafes, like seductive models in a swimwear fashion show. Anything older than a 2000 model will seem out of place.

Nokia? Who uses those these days? In this part of Erbil, it's all about iPhone, it is "I" everything.

My dear reader, as globalization has played its game and we have developed at such speed, Erbil has put its toe into the waters of becoming a developed capital city. I must admit it is living up to the standards of the name "capital city," as well.

Today, we are actually hearing the name of our city on BBC, Al-Arabiya, CNN and other international media (even if it is only for a matter of seconds) for reasons other than politics, and conflict.

Seeing Erbil grow at such a pace, I cannot help but be worried for this generation and future generations, too. We need to start to give our young people a sense of responsibility to the community, of giving back and being part of society.

From a young age, students in schools and university must be familiar with volunteering and community work. This will, in turn, allow them to always think of the "other." It will build within them the compassion to think of others first and then to help others.

We live in a society that has a large gap between the rich and poor; the well-off younger generation needs to have a role in the lives of the less privileged. There is a lot our young people can do -- from visiting orphanages to working in shelters, teaching in illiteracy classes for seniors to social initiatives, such as planting trees to fundraising events. This all begins from school and built upon in a person's secondary education life.

It hurts me to see a group of young people live the ultimate life, while another group must suffer every day to put food on the table every night. Knowing our flourishing future, from today, we need to start to plant the seeds of compassion and thinking of others within our next generation's youth.

Kurds have experiences and have suffered too much to become a careless nation. We were, and always will be, people who sympathize with others. Kurds are generally people who would prefer their next door neighbor to have dinner before them. I just hope this side of the Kurds remains while everything else in our surroundings is changing.

I hope we teach our young it's not always about 'I' it can also be about "them."

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