Getting to know Iraqis up close
December 25, 2005
Second LT. Edwin K. Morris’ empathy for the plight of the Iraqi people [See Journal report, October 11, 2005] engages the reader at the immediate instinctual and intellectual level. His personalized description of the war-zone family phenomenon portrays a sense of compassion that culminates in an expression of human needs such as social belongingness.
After the devastating attack on September 11, 2001, many felt feelings of reprisal, sometimes expressed in cruel terms. Yet, in the mind and actions of a Sparty soldier from Spartansburg, PA, we see a focus on the human aspect of conditions in Iraq.
Morris’ passionate analysis -- Iraqis are a lot like us, people with family ties and needs for jobs -- reflects a humane understanding of human nature.
According to the German philosopher Hegel, the progress of the human spirit as the self-actualization of freedom is universal. This includes human aspirations for freedom of expression, and the rights of security (civil liberties), socioeconomic rights (access to basic human needs), and political rights (democratic self-governance).
These rights are achievable only if human needs are met. Morris rightfully addressees the Iraqis innate emergent needs in the devastating state of civil war chaos.
Abraham Maslow, the human psychologist, proposed a hierarchy of five innate needs that activate and direct human behavior. These needs are ranked in order as physiological needs (food and water); safety needs (security, order, and stability); belongingness and the need for love; esteem needs (often self- and social); and finally, the last stage of human development, self-actualization. Hegel’s concept of progress is the gradual development of freedom as manifested in the human spirit.
The question is whether these values -- in spreading by diffusion from one culture to another -- diminish in universal relevance? Moreover, do any or all of Hegel’s three “rights” belong in a model of human development? How universal is the human aspiration for these rights? Is this something that is experienced in all cultures, or only in some cultures?
The aspiration for these rights does not develop at the same time in all cultures. It is spread through a process of diffusion. This takes place when cultures come into contact with one another. New ideas, developed in one place, are assimilated and adapted in another. Although these new ideas were not invented independently, they are recognized as something to aspire to.
Morris’ vision for Iraq is an inspiration to all of us here at home. We leave the hardest job to him and the other American soldiers in Iraq, who, through their actions, put humanity at work. More power to Morris and our other patriots.
Fatima Farideh Nejat holds a Bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary
Studies of Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology and Women's Studies;
and a Masters of Arts degree in International Training and Education
from the American University in Washington, DC. She served in diplomatic
corps of Iran working at the Iranian Embassy in Washington, DC,
from 1970-80. She is currently Assistant Professor at the Department
of the Army, Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.