“Shlonek dektoor?” my local Iraqi barber lazily enquires as I hurry past him on the high street. “how many people have you saved today?”
Was that a mocking tone? I wondered to myself through the heat and exhaustion of a sweltering working day. I try not to rise to the bait but ask in turn how many bad haircuts he had imposed on hapless victims…
What I should have explained was that doctors on the whole don’t regularly save people’s lives , they prolong agony and many pointless lives but illness and death was usually as a result of genetics, childhood, socio-economic status, lifestyle choices as well as divine decree. Doctors just happen to find themselves in the middle of manifest destiny and pretend to be the architects rather than in reality mere midwives of misfortune.
So the half-hearted reverence was misplaced. Iraqis tend to pile on the platitudes when it comes to the medical profession, and this drives me crazy. While I accept that the medical profession has always occupied a hallowed place in society, it seems so much more exaggerated amongst expat Iraqis.
Some of it can be explained by migrant syndrome where the secure and well-paid professions are much sought after anchorage in an otherwise precarious translocation. I would also venture to say that the medical profession was probably the least compromised by Saddam’s regime by virtue of the fact that you could employ scientists, engineers and architects to build weapons and palaces but doctors are of little use in this regard (except maybe plastic surgery for Uday’s double or torture techniques). However the endless stream of bright young Iraqis who blindly enter the profession goaded by their parents and peers is to be lamented.
Young British Iraqis are barely literate at the best of times (IYF’s book club is timely) and medical school puts pay to any creativity and breadth of knowledge they may otherwise pick up in further education. They are then bundled off into the human meat-factories that dot the land and end up trapped in the inexorable jostle towards consultancy and the profound emptiness that awaits.
All is not lost as the newer generations seem to be bucking the medical trend but they remain frustratingly unimaginative. Most seem to be gravitating towards politics coincidentally following the collapse of the Baath regime or towards finance and the city despite the immoral collapse and equally immoral recovery of the financial sector. IT is another dull sector that engulfs many while engineering is a lesson in professional pointlessness in an economic downturn.
Career aspirations are funny things as we are expected to make life-changing choices at a relatively young age. Most of us end up in areas that we had never dreamt of gracing and find pride, satisfaction or just regular income to continue our mundane lives. So let’s try to support our younger siblings, friends and even children make more informed choices and hopefully become pioneers in the fields of their choice be it art, literature, science or heaven forbid entrepreneurial ventures.