How Afghans see others -

How Afghans see others


I’m reading Thomas Barfield’s Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. A couple of chapters in, it’s the model of how to write academically for a broader audience. He also has a great, dry wit:

Few peoples in the world, particularly the Islamic world, have maintained such a strong and unproblematic sense of themselves, their culture, and their superiority as Afghans…. Although the great powers might have been militarily, technologically, and economically superior, because they were nonbelievers, or infidels, their values and way of life were naturally suspect. Afghanistan’s Muslim neighbours, however, fared only slightly better in (Sunni) Afghan eyes. The Uzbeks must have been asleep to allow the Russians to occupy central Asia for more than a century; Pakistan is a suspect land of recent Muslim converts from Hinduism (Pashtuns and Baluch excepted) that never should have become a nation; and Iran is a nest of Shiite heretics who speak Persian with a ludicrous accent.

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How Afghans see others

  1. And yet in the west we see Muslims as a monolith.

    I don't know why, beyond western arrogance, but we do.


    • Speak for yourself. It would be arrogant to speak for "the west".

      • Western arrogance is well-known, and has been written about and discussed for some centuries now.

        It's called 'cultural imperialism'.

        • Isn't it just elements in the West who write about and discuss Western arrogance? The rest of the world seems more concerned with Western power…and enthralled by the other-wordly tastiness of our mass-produced hamburgers.

          • LOL no. Western arrogance is a hot topic all over the world. Western power, now fading fast, was used to back up the imperialism….and the hamburgers are a non-starter.

          • The burgers are ubiquitious – well, they haven't made it to Afghanistan or Uzbekistan yet, but McDonald's is operating in Pakistan, India and Iraq. The Iran franchise ran into some problems, but I'm sure it will be up and running again. And surely the rest of the world prefers to discuss its own arrogance, rather than fixating on ours? The West isn't all that special to most people.

          • Food is neither here nor there, we all have cosmopolitan diets anymore.

            The west isn't 'special' to most people, it's a fracking nuisance most of the time.

          • The West is irrelevant to most people – as is, by extension, Western arrogance. For all the Western ignorance and arrogance, the rest of the world probably knows less about the West than the West knows about them. This is because the West needs the information in order to market its hamburgers to achieve total cultural domination. That's how it always is with empires – taking more interest in the hinterlands than the hinterlands could ever take in the empire…

          • Obviously you haven't travelled, nor do you follow the news.

            Here's a number for you. 9/11.

          • Here's a number for you: 1492. What foreign press do you read to find all these examples of non-Westerners concerning themselves with the West?

          • Columbus was a tourist.

            Pick a country, any country. Pick a paper there, any paper.

          • Not about Columbus. And I don't believe you read all the papers in all languages from all countries. One of the disorienting things about many foreign papers is that they don't talk much about the West…

          • Actually I read dozens of papers every day. I think you must be reading WalMart fliers, because the papers do indeed talk about the west.

            I speak several languages, but not all of course….but there's usually a marvellous little button at the top of the page saying 'translate'.

            Or the paper may simply list all the languages it's available in. Pick the one you prefer.

          • Why would WalMart flyers not mention the West? Anyway, give me the names of a couple of the non-Western papers you read that mention the West and I'll have a look at them and be corrected.

        • Western arrogance is indeed alleged. The west though, isn't a monolith, though it is often treated as one.

          You and I for example, agree on almost nothing.

          • Oh western arrogance is more than alleged. And there are many things as westerners we are likely to agree on.

          • Well that settles it then: Emily has spoken! Silence, arrogant western imperialists!

          • I wasn't attacking you, I was mocking you. There's a difference. And I think we all know what cultural imperialism is, Emily, I just think we're all amused by how you consider it a simple indisputable fact instead of a complex concept to be considered and debated. But again, nuance isn't your specialty, as AJR points out.

          • Not really. And no, none of you are 'amused'. You just can't deal with a reality you don't like.

            "the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

            Samuel P. Huntington

          • Am I supposed to think somethings a fact because Sam Huntington says so? Sam Huntington says a lot of things that I would not describe as factual in any sense. Hey look, I can quote too!

            "Islam's borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power "

            Samuel P. Huntington

          • Like I said, it's a reality you can't face in yourself. You only ascribe it to others.

            If you want to toss around quotes, I believe there's one about the mote in your own eye.

          • Haha, it's like talking to a brick wall. But yes, I will refrain from tossing about polemic quotes in the future, even for the noble purpose of mocking the dim and simplistic. How very foolish of me. You?

          • Well it comes to dispelling ignorance, I indeed am a brick wall.

            Or a candle in the dark of a demon-haunted world.

          • Don't you understand Olaf? When she quotes Samuel P. Huntington, she's demonstrating education, sophistication and worldliness. When you do it, you're just tossing around quotes.

          • Doesn't this contradict the idea of cultural imperialism?

          • No, he was talking about applying force to do so.

          • Maybe cultural imperialism isn't a monolith either, because using force contradicts the basic idea under thedefinitions I've seen.

          • I gave you the definiton.

            Colonialism often didn't need force, because countries were unaware they were under attack when it started.

            Kind of like Grenada when the US 'won'….and the Grenadians said 'what?'

          • Yes, Emily, and the wikipedia article you linked to includes this line: "It can refer to either the forced acculturation of a subject population, or to the voluntary embracing of a foreign culture by individuals who do so of their own free will. Since these are two very different referents, the validity of the term has been called into question" Which is sort of like it's saying cultural imperialism isn't a monolith and includes meanings that exclude force.

        • You have to see the irony in describing some monolithic concept like "the west", and castigating it for not seeing nuance in the other side.

          The cognitive dissonance you display by doing so, is quite amazing.

          • It's how we see things. They are both the same.

          • The cognitive dissonance you display by doing so, is quite amazing.

            You really haven't seen anything yet. In another thread she stated matter-of-factly that mining does not count as industry, because mining is not manufacturing. (The logic is insurmountable.) So you see, she's an expert in cultural matters and economics. Few are the subjects in which she is not omniscient. Fewer still are the times when she fails to let us know.

    • It's not "arrogance" it's ignorance. The average person born and raised in Afghanistan, Syria, Thailand or Indonesia doesn't know anything about Canada either.

      • Really? No educated or travelled people there?

        • Um, my point was that the average 'Westerner' isn't arrogant, they're ignorant. And that they same holds for people who aren't Westerners. So while many Westerners don't know that the Muslim world is not homogenous or monolithic, the same holds true for other people's views of the West.

          • True…and our combination of ignorance and arrogance is particularly distasteful.

            Especially when the west has no excuse for being ignorant.

  2. Sounds like an interesting read.

    • It's great so far; easily the best (of a small number) that I've read on the country. Most books just rehash the various battles that have been fought over the place; Barfield's book begins with a long and helpful look at the population, culture, and geography and demographics. Plus it's pretty funny in places.

      • I highly recommend Ghost Wars, about the CIA's activities in Afghanistan from 1979 to September 10, 2001.

  3. "The wogs start at the Hindu Kush".

    • LOL that starting line has certainly moved a long way from Calais.

  4. "Afghanistan's Muslim neighbours, however, fared only slightly better in (Sunni) Afghan eyes. The Uzbeks must have been asleep to allow the Russians to occupy central Asia for more than a century; Pakistan is a suspect land of recent Muslim converts from Hinduism (Pashtuns and Baluch excepted) that never should have become a nation; and Iran is a nest of Shiite heretics who speak Persian with a ludicrous accent."

    Hahahahahahahaha. This passage reminded me of listening to my Yorkshire born, coal-mining at 11 years old Grandfather who loved to have a few drinks and then explain why everyone (particularly France and Germany) was shite and not to be trusted.

  5. But surely they all love the west and its values (esp. those which coincide with right wing ones) and all indications to the contrary are merely because they are held captive as a society by one or two evil guys in the Taliban. No doubt at the first opportunity they will shake off their oppression and participate with us in making Afghanistan a cute little democracy with no legalized rape laws and where homosexuality is not punishable by death (although no legal gay marriage, of course, they'll "get it right"!! on that one).

    All we need to do is commit countless time and enormous resources to the issue!

  6. Balochistan is an occupied territority,divided in Iran ,Pakistan,Afghanistan.Baloch nation is fighting for national liberation.

  7. Emily's on fire:
    Here is her wisdom for all to see. She wrote:

    It's called 'cultural imperialism'"

    You're right Emily……we shouldn't have foisted the burden of electricity, planes, technology, computers, modified crops to fee millions, medicine, or TV on the poor denziens of other nations. Shame on us. What say we ask for it all back?

    Her genius continues with:

    "Here's a number for you. 9/11"

    Yes Emily, but unlike you I think most posters on this board DON'T think the Americans deserved it.

    Emily's confusion remains obvious with this gem:
    "You just can't deal with a reality you don't like"

    Sorry, Emily, the reality you live in is no doubt confined by your metallic head covering in combination with the drugs you have forgotten to take.

    • And don't forget the most dastardly deed that western civilization ever visited upon the innocent masses of the world: the eradication of small pox. This sinister campaign of oppression, in which western do-gooders fanned across the globe to torture impoverished children and intimidate helpless indigenous peoples with painful needles, is easily the most brutal chapter in the long, gruesome history of western cultural imperialism. That they are now trying to do the same with polio shows that the western colonial attitude of "we know best" is alive and well.

  8. The font continues to spout as Emily declares:
    "I speak several languages, but not all of course "

    I agree Emily, I have you speak the following languages:
    1. Langues of Bull_shit
    2. Language of ignorance and naivete
    3. Doublespeak (it's double-plus good!!)
    4. Poorly worded English.

    But Emily….did you know George Bush is multi-lingual as well? I guess you and he share something after all.

    Emily goes on:
    "Colonialism often didn't need force, because countries were unaware they were under attack when it started. "

    That's right Emily. When we introduced steel to some cultures to replace stone…we were attacking them. When we provide medicine or health care to poor nations…we are attacking them. When we build schools or provide food aid…we are attacking them.

    Please Emily, tell me what culture would willingly go back to stone tools and the hunter-gatherer lifestyle? (Hippies don't count)

  9. It gets better when Emily states:__"True…and our combination of ignorance and arrogance is particularly distasteful. "____Actually Emily, so far only you seem to be showing your ignorance and arrogance. Quite effectively I might add. (You HAVE to be from Toronto)__________________________

  10. Sounds interesting , I am reading The Silk Road – Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia by Frances Wood (not very witty) but lots of pictures- lol. – ( touches on Afghanistan that's why I mention it).

    I have a map from some old hippie dude who traveled along that route in the 70s. He gave it to me when I was on the Mekong River going to Cambodia about 5 years ago.

    – This too shall pass