Election Day in #Kabul #Afghanistan

 

Karzai and author Hardie Karges

Karzai and author Hardie Karges

Tomorrow is election day in Afghanistan, and all fingers are crossed, all eyes watching. Regardless of who wins, the future is not so bright. The Taliban vows to punish anyone who votes. And they aren’t known for making idle promises. Of course the real challenge begins when the US pulls out later this year, and questions remain what sort of contingency will live on here. The smart money would probably bet on smart money, with few soldiers. That would probably be the best move.

Of course the widely predicted civil war won’t necessarily occur when the US pulls out, and if it does, that doesn’t mean that the Taliban will win again. Another possibility is that the country might be partitioned de facto into a Taliban-controlled south and a more liberal—less conservative, that is—’Muslim lite’ north, where women can walk the streets without a burqa and men can eventually learn to appreciate that, and their equality. Isn’t that the real problem anyway: ignorant a**hole macho men who’d rather beat women down than lift themselves up? Old ways die hard, I guess…

Guys in the Market in Kabul, Afghanistan

Guys in the Market in Kabul, Afghanistan

Partitioning is problematic, though, and symptomatic of possibly THE biggest problem in Afghanistan, its fragmented landscape. The fastest land route between Kabul in the central east, and Herat, in the central west, is through Taliban-infested Kandahar in the south, ‘only’ two days. The ‘straight’ route over hill and dale takes three days, with no guarantees. A flight only takes an hour or so, of course. You get the pic.

I personally have no special interest in Afghanistan, no more than any other region of the world, anyway. My main reason for being there now—last week, that is—is two-fold: it’s on the land route from India up through Central Asia and back through China, which I originally planned to do, AND… Afghanistan may be entering a dark time in which travel will be impossible. In other words, it may be now or never. Once there only then did I begin to see the country in a different light, full of real people in a very real situation—a very good metaphor for the modern world itself—mostly gone wrong, I might add.

Street Urchin in Kabul, Afghanistan

Street Urchin in Kabul, Afghanistan

Volumes have been written about Afghanistan’s lack of hospitality, but I didn’t find that, just the opposite, in fact. And once people realized that I was NOT ‘up to no good’, harmless as a church mouse, in fact, they opened right up, pictorially, at least. I took no picture of a person that I was not invited to take, and I took every one that I was invited to take. The multiplicity of hired gunmen did not fit that list, unfortunately.

I was accused—excoriated, in fact—for being a pretentious self-promoting faux “bad-ass” by some NGO-type who offered not much more clue than that to his own services, but… yeah, right. Me, “bad-ass”? Possessed of a death wish, maybe, but hardly “bad-ass” in my mind or in fact. Whatever, I simply go where I go and I report facts as I see them. And I wish the best for Afghanistan. I didn’t get to see it all, hardly any in fact, due to the security situation, but it certainly has an incredible history and rich ethnic mosaic. And I know little about any of the particular candidates, to be honest, nor do I care too much.

The challenge is to build a modern society with diverse interests and viewpoints, all of which get their share of airtime and consideration, and a say in the final mix. In actuality the real issue is how to deal with the Taliban and to what extent to include them in a process in which they place no credence. Anyone who can placate the Taliban without undermining democracy has accomplished the impossible.

Strawberry Vendors in Kabul, Afghanistan

Strawberry Vendors in Kabul, Afghanistan

The real problem is ignorance, of course, and the irrational fears that men have for the unknown. This is where religion can help, up to a certain extent. Unfortunately fundamentalist Islam has become a dark force in the world—mind-control—like its distant cousin Communism before it, so not much help on that count. Ironically, those dark forces aren’t the cause of the world’s main problems: economic inequality and global climate change. We can thank happy-go-lucky mo-growth capitalism and consumerism for that. Go figure. If it takes a little darkness to save us all, then so be it. God help us.

 

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