Iraq is calling on companies to submit designs to build a giant Ferris wheel in Baghdad - the latest in a string of lavish proposals to show the capital as a leisure friendly city. The Ferris wheel will be about 200 meters (650 feet) high with air-conditioned compartments that would each carry up to 30 passengers, Adel al-Ardawi, a media official with Baghdad's municipality, said yesterday. (Sameer N Yacoub, Associated Press in Baghdad)
Writing on McClatchy's blog, Inside Iraq, Baghdad journalist Laith Hammoudi offers his personal response:
I can not describe the pain of my heart when I read the news. I even can not my feelings now. I wish I can cry. I wish I had power to do something, to change this ill reality. We don't have power in our houses and our great officials plan to build the biggest Ferris wheel. Yesterday was one more hot and moist day of August. We don't have an air conditioner in our house because we don't have enough power. I can buy four but they will be not more than a decoration. We use the air cooler which is not really effective but it's better than nothing. I spent the day at home. My two years old son was crying all the time because the poor child can not stand the hot weather. I tried to keep him always near the air cooler but its never enough. My son is only one child. We have hundreds of thousands all over Iraq.
It boggles the imagination, doesn't it? I try to picture an enormous wheel with air-conditioned compartments of smiling people sitting, chatting, whirling round and round, gazing out at Baghdad. Insulated in cozy pods, it must seem that the city draws close and then falls away, again and again, as the wheel revolves. How splendid to be so above it all, gazing over this city of 4 million people, its two rivers choked with pollution, its earth contaminated by spent uranium. How pleasant to relax, suspended above, far, far above the turmoil and struggle of everyday life in Baghdad. Cancer? Cholera? Malnutrition? None of that can reach the people cocooned on the wheel, who cannot hear the crying children, the exasperated, exhausted adults. So lovely, it is, this view that reaches to a distant horizon and overlooks the tedious present.
It could be a metaphor for our age, this ferris wheel of self-absorbed, self-indulgent people wasting precious resources, killing time spinning above and looking past the reality of life on the ground, claiming for themselves and their kin more than their due. Or a private lesson for most of us, hovering between the temptations of our own claims and desires, and the rights and needs of those we cannot see or hear, whose lives we may not understand or even imagine. But the story is not only about those who want--and ride-- the wheel. It is also of those, who, as Laith does, hear and feel and remember and hold love for those who suffer. And who want more for them. And who, as Laith did, call out for change. Change that must come, I think, not just from the Baghdad municipal government, but from each of us, seeking in our own ways to step off the wheel and live, on the earth, with our brothers and sisters.