Why I’m off to Iraq

I read a book recently that changed my life. The door opened just wide enough for me to get a foot in and go on to learn the most import­ant les­son of my life. This is a little story of the lead-up to that les­son and the point bey­ond: becom­ing part of the Truth Justice Peace Human Shield Action Iraq.

I’ve been in Lon­don for about nine months, here on my big O.E. (a favour­ite Kiwi tru­ism, the Over­seas Exper­i­ence). The thing is I haven’t really been doing much. I’ve scratched the sur­face of Lon­don. Popped over to Wales and Bath. Been club­bing. Done a lot of read­ing. Took part in my first mass anti-war march. I’ve been look­ing for­ward to my sister/flatmate hav­ing a baby. I even stood for NZ par­lia­ment while here. But no globe-trotting anti­podean style.

Much of the reason for this is simply that I haven’t had the money, due, in most part, to not get­ting work in my chosen field, archi­tec­ture. But there’s another more per­vas­ive reason. I’ve been hanging out in Lon­don this whole time won­der­ing just what the hell I’m doing here. When I dreamed of the big O.E. as a teen­ager I dreamed of a time-honoured Kiwi tra­di­tion; a chance to travel the world and see places, meet people, get to know your­self and come back an adult with a few spare Sterling.

But this is not what I found on my arrival in Lon­don. What I found was yet another cul­tural tra­di­tion con­sumed by con­sumer­ism. Yet another human tra­di­tion turned into a anti-human profit-making ven­ture. Trav­el­lers didn’t own this tra­di­tion any­more. Busi­ness people did. I couldn’t fig­ure out what I wanted to do… where to travel first, what travel pack­age to pick, which tour pack­age to take! But you know what, maybe the big O.E. is alive and well after all. Maybe I just couldn’t see it through the haze that is the world travel industry.

One night a truly good and old friend of mine told me in passing, “I love ya Briggsy.” I’m not sure if this was the first time but because of the book I was read­ing it really hit home. A couple of nights later I went out with a bunch of friends and ended up back at his place chat­ting about this book, Free to be Human, by David Edwards; a book about free­dom, and above all about the idea that there is often no greater obstacle to free­dom than the assump­tion it has already been fully attained. A book about why true hap­pi­ness can be so elusive.

I explained to my old friend just how much it meant when he told me he loved me. I sur­mised how insane it is to think that just get­ting that next job; mak­ing that next pay-packet; find­ing your “true-love”; get­ting that next model com­puter; how insane it is to think these ever-expanding desires can pos­sibly lead to hap­pi­ness. How can they, they’re never sat­is­fied? I was start­ing to real­ise that to be truly happy you have to look deep inside your­self for your own true desires. Not desires imposed on you by oth­ers, by school­ing, by con­sumer­ism, but your own truly human desires. This isn’t pyschobabble. We all have desires. Whose do you have?

I made a throw-away com­ment that if I could be any­where at the moment I’d like to be in Iraq. Little did I know that what I had learnt over the past few months wasn’t just going to pan out as rhet­oric. It had fun­da­ment­ally changed me… or more pre­cisely it had woken me up to who I was and what my real desires were. A couple of days later some­thing “presen­ted” itself. I happened across an art­icle writ­ten by a inspir­a­tional per­son, former U.S. Mar­ine and Gulf War vet­eran, Ken O’Keefe. I was three para­graphs into this art­icle when I real­ised I was going to Iraq.

I am join­ing the Iraq Human Shield cam­paign because I believe in a very simple concept: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” But here in lies the twist. The change I wish to see is not simply that of count­less Iraqi lives spared, but that of pos­sibly inspir­ing just a small group of people I know; my fam­ily, friends, and com­munity (Napier, New Zea­l­and), illus­trat­ing to them an unbe­liev­ably import­ant and simple les­son I learnt recently: Wanna be happy? Just centre your life around mak­ing oth­ers happy.


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Khalid Khan,

    u know what i had choice to make on which coun­try to go to for my higher educ­tion. i decided on NZ. and you know why.….……because of you.……

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