Saturday, September 24, 2005

One Person's Prison is Another Person's Palace

Once upon a time, a dog owner tied his dog to a tree... the dog spent the entire day barking and pulling and gnawing to no avail on the rope that held him in his captivity beneath that tree. The next day, the dog owner felt sorry for the dog, so he untied him and let him run free, and an hour later he found the dog sleeping peacefully, enjoying the shade beneath the same tree to which he had been tied the day before.

Someone told me this story once, and I hope I am retelling it correctly...

There is an interesting meaning behind this story. On the first day, the dog would have been perfectly content to sit underneath the tree and enjoy the shade it provided if he had not been tied to it. However, because he was tied to the tree, it became his prison.

Over the past year, I have gotten to know a number of online friends who live in Iraq and have noticed that a few of them seem to spend a lot of time online (about as much time as I do). I know from talking to some of them that it's not really much of a choice: with the lack of security, it is not safe to be out at night, and so people stay home. And, rather than being bored at home, some who are able surf the Internet, chat online, and and perhaps do other activities like blogging. Chatting online has additional importance, since the Internet has proven itself much more reliable than Iraq's phone system over the past two years, and it is a way people use to keep in touch with relatives and friends.

Perhaps this whole concept was best summarized by HNK, who recently got back to Mosul from vacation and wrote, "After I visited Syria and Jordan and saw how the people out of Iraq live, I can't understand why people like you passed times reading my blog while they could do many many things to enjoy themselves."

Of course, there are a lot of people (including me) who spent a lot of time online well before blogging became popular. Personally, I live in a safe area and I have enough money to be able to go out and do things, but one of the most enjoyable activities for me is to sit here in my living room on my laptop computer surfing the web and chatting with friends. And, I know many other people here who are the same as me. However, unlike my Iraqi friends, I am free to go out and do other things if I choose to, and thus what is my palace becomes their prison.

It is interesting how an activity that many of us here in America consider one of the most enjoyable, and one that many people in the world wish they could do can become a pastime of last resort for those confined to their homes by the insecurity on the street. Like the dog in the story with his tree, I suspect many of my Iraqi friends will find, after the security situation in Iraq improves, they will still enjoy a nice evening at home in front of their computer keyboard.