Different? Or worse?

Sep 15, 2020 | Stories of survivors

The Third World. That is where war never ends. That is how it is over there. I have heard this many times about the place where we work and the people whom we try to help. Have you ever thought how divided our planet is based on stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality?

But first I will surprise you with several curiosities which I think many of you have not known about. I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “Third World” which today is applied mainly in relation to African, South Asian, and South American countries. But do you know where this phrase comes from? What do “First World”, “Second World” and “Third World” countries mean? As usual, the French are to blame. That’s a joke of course. I do not intend to offend this brave nation, however, this classification was introduced in 1952 by the French sociologist Alfred Sauvy. Later it gained popularity during the Cold War. At the time, Poland together with the entire socialist block and China was classified as the “Second World”, while the “Third World” included… Yugoslavia. Today the first two are largely outdated, but the “Third World” is still in use with reference to the poorest countries in the world. Currently, countries are classified according to the Social Progress Index which differs from the former one. However, it is still based on wrong assumptions. Iraq is currently counted among the Third World countries. Its neighbor Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, belongs to the First World, the group we belong to as well.

Are they different?

Everyone knows the situation in our country. Some would say it is bad, some others that it is quite satisfactory. It is a matter of experiences, salaries, place of residence, and many other factors. We need to objectively look at various life aspects, and I will try to juxtapose them with Iraq which I have managed to get to know enough to make a small comparison. It will not be an academic paper. There is no sufficient or reliable data from Iraq on the unemployment level, salary structure, or education. What do I want to compare then? I will compare people because they create this world. Not tables, graphs, indexes, but people. So first we will debunk several myths, although I will make a separate video related to that. For example, some people think that every woman in Iraq wears a burka or a hijab. Burka covers the entire head and face leaving a small slit for the eyes. Hijab is a headscarf covering the head and breasts. Not everyone knows that the hijab predates Islam and was worn, for example, in ancient Israel. So do the Iraqi women cover themselves? They started covering their faces in March this year due to the same reason as we did. Coronavirus. In normal conditions, it is rare and mainly in the form of a hijab. Anyone that had or has a grandmother living in a village can see a common denominator here. Obviously, there are places in Iraq where religious restrictions apply, but that is just a part of the entire country.

But we are trying to analyze the difference between the First and Third Worlds. Maybe there is a civilizational gap? It’s interesting how sometimes people in Poland offer us “help” in the form of advice and life wisdom to pass on the people that we are helping. I will only remind you that agriculture and farming came to us largely from the Middle East. When formalized, well-developed countries existed there, in our part of Europe people were learning how to make simple things from clay. Obviously, we are talking about the very old days and we have progressed since then. So how is it now? In a huge mall of a large Iraqi city, you can buy iPhone or the newest laptop model, and such products are released there at the same time as in our part of the world. Toyota showrooms offer models, usually with an automatic gearbox, which you can rarely spot on our roads. Watches connoisseurs can find the newest Rolex. There is everything, but not for everyone. My friend Shamoo watched the Champions League final on cable TV and congratulated me on the victory of Robert Lewandowski whom every child in Iraq knows. Many times I have walked past a child wearing a Bayern Munich t-shirt with nr. 9 on the back. People in Iraq love sport, music, and they watch movies on DVD. Access to the Internet is widespread and although the connection is sometimes not good enough, everyone seems to have a Facebook account. In larger cities, there are hotels and restaurants with staff speaking fluent English. So everything is there, but as I’ve said, not for everyone. You need to have money, and there are many wealthy people in Iraq. Social inequalities that exist there are similar to ours.

Do we have similar needs, dreams, and goals?

So sometimes people ask: why don’t they help each other? Well, it is enough to look at some of the online fundraisers and think about why people collect money for medical treatment or to rebuild a house that has burned down. Because that’s how it is. Because there are affluent people next to really poor ones. In Iraq, this inequality has been amplified by war, genocide, and terrorist activities. It is difficult to explain all the mechanisms that lead to a situation where several kilometers from wealthy Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan there is a camp for internally displaced people where several thousand refugees live in tents. Some questions can’t be easily answered. So the only choice is either to try to help or to find an excuse not to. If someone wants to choose the latter, one of the above-mentioned examples will be good enough.

Essentially, in Western World, more people fulfill needs from the top of the Maslov pyramid (the hierarchy of needs). Although his theory is widely criticized, we can see that we have arrived at a point where our needs include fulfilling our passions, access to culture and art, and confirmation of our self-esteem. We go to cinemas and theatres, we have hobbies and complete training courses. What people in Iraq need, first and foremost, is peace, security, and stability. On the other hand, their very strong family bonds is something we can be jealous of.

Are they worse?

Every time I go to Iraq, I spend many hours talking to people who help us implement our projects. Humanitarian help is not the only thing we discuss. We can pick any subject and find mutual understanding on many issues. It’s true that many of my interlocutors have never been to the theater, the art gallery, or even the cinema. But it does not mean that it’s difficult for us to understand each other. Quite the contrary. We live in two different worlds, but our lives are very similar. We have different needs, but the same situations make us happy or sad. In this article, I have included pictures that I received from Shamoo. It’s a Sar Dashty camp on top of the Sinjar Mountain. In these pictures, the Third World is visible. Our role is to look after it, just like you would look after your own backyard. There is no civilizational gap between us. Our places can be reversed anytime. We have been living in peace for 75 years. That is probably the longest period without war in the history of our country. But what if we were forced to experience the tragedy of war again? Would we fall into the Third World category as well?

Author: Dawid Czyż

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