Days 33-34 – “We live to survive”, 24 June 2010

WE LIVE TO SURVIVE. I was having a conversation with an Afghan colleague, admittedly a bit melodramatic, who nonetheless gave an elegant elegy to life in Afghanistan. He said we don’t live for joy. We live to survive. His portrayal was that Afghanistan was the most dismal place in the world. Even the worst places in Europe and the US were better than Afghanistan. He mentioned there were five main pursuits or objectives in life: health, clothes/shelter, food, education and joy. He said we cannot pursue joy because the other objectives are a constant struggle. He turned his attention to the religious extremists and noted that most suicide bombers were not ideologues but desperate people. The fellow mentioned that the religious extremists were crushing the capacity to have joy. His example was that in his stressful life and struggle, a very normal thing would be to take a walk in the park or travel somewhere with a woman. Men and women spending time together is not a religious value but a human value that is denied to Afghans. When I asked how does Afghanistan solve this, surely there are other people that think like him, he said people are too scared because they worry about their livelihoods. He said if he didn’t work for one month that his family would starve. Until people are not worried about basic survival, changes won’t occur.

THE NEXT GENERATION ISN’T ALWAYS WILDER. I was speaking with an Afghan-German woman who is working for the German Government here in Kabul. She mentioned that she would be going to a cousin’s wedding. She said that she was looking at pictures of her uncle and aunt’s wedding (the cousin’s parents) and it was a big blowout party in Kabul with women in miniskirts, big hair, music, fun, etc. Her cousin’s wedding required separate receptions for the men and women, religiously compliant clothing, etc. We talked about the men and women being separate and I relayed the remarks of the fellow who said that it was a human value for a man and a woman to take a walk in the park. She said that a married couple could take a walk in the park but they don’t. Police are around to harass any unmarried young lovers and essentially, the parks are occupied by men only. There is a women’s park. She said there are also very few Afghan women in restaurants also.

– Awesome end to the US World Cup match. USA! USA!
– Flu bug spreading through the house. I caught it yesterday. Bummer. I had been really healthy.
– Lots of work to do. Time to get to it.


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