Imagine a peaceful herd of deer grazing in the lush post-monsoon grass. Suddenly, the “lookout” animal gives out a bark of alarm, and out of the foliage, a striped form explodes. The chase to catch something to eat for one, and not to be a meal for the other, has begun. Had the herd turned together onto the tiger, the carnivore itself would have been dead meat. But that is not the way nature has fashioned things. Out of vast numbers of deer, one has died to sustain the life of an animal that feeds on it. It is to be noted that herds of animals walk casually by a well-fed carnivore, without the slightest risk to themselves. Grazing peacefully after some animals of their species have just been devoured is quite usual. There is no thought about the future or how to tackle the tiger menace together. This is an ordinary scene in the day of the animal kingdom.
Switch to a different situation. There is a hapless man, clothes stained with sweat and mud that he has fallen in a couple of times, as he tries to make a getaway. Tears are flowing unchecked down his cheeks, something he is unaware of. He has been taught that it is “unmanly” to cry since his boyhood days. His throat is dry. It is as if the sand which has encroached upon the once fertile land has coated his tongue and clogged his mouth. There is a wound on his back from which blood is oozing out. The colour of the blood is red and is yet to oxidise enough to match the old brown blood that has become part of the landscape.
The man—and in such a situation, his religion, nationality, language, and diet do not matter—is running away. On the other hand, his economic standing matters. Money has the magical faculty of being gravity-free and being able to vault over almost every division! What is chasing him is not a carnivore, a predator unlikely within the background of a ruined city and civilisation. What is commonplace and simultaneously horrendous is that the crowd chasing him, usually armed with stones, clubs, swords and daggers, and badly made guns, looks as human as you and me.
No, these are not cannibals having fun chasing probable fresh prey. Had it been otherwise, consuming human flesh would have been in extremely poor taste (pun unintended), but understandable. The only fault of the fleeing person is that he differed from the mob chasing him, in some manmade detail. These differences, whether minor or major, have grown to be deadly “societal viruses” which kill, and kill often and unfailingly.
The world is made up of several chunks of land, inhabited by people with different tastes, likings, and laws. The sum total of these human beings has no other choice as a domicile except planet Earth. While the adage that all human beings are equal sounds lovely, the reality cannot be further than the truth. Beautiful words now dominate much of human communications. Lies are expertly wrapped, so attractively wrapped that they look wonderful in both the givers’ and receivers’ hands. With a wolfish grin, the bountiful “givers” appear to their victims as generous altruists. Even wary receivers who have learned from the past, are often too scared to unwrap their “gift” in front of the world and expose the truth. It would seem that the natural state of interaction is when the disseminators of information, too, are far from objective.
The Afghanistan crisis is just the latest rotten egg in a crate full of putrid poultry droppings. After the havoc wreaked by the comically-moustached Hitler, the world ought to have been aware of the immense cruelty which people in thrall to such men are capable of, that too against their own species, Homo Sapiens. That there is as yet no antidote to the fuelling of such putrid hatred denotes either total idiocy or frightening innocence. Or, more likely, the manipulation of emotions and the action it generates.
Money has been branded as something that high-thinking people should abhor. People of class do not think, let alone talk about abhorrent things. This curtain of silence very conveniently covers up a lot of things, that therefore fester silently. It also makes money the prerogative of often faceless individuals who expertly navigate through this murky system. Laws of the land melt away or magically reshape themselves to adapt to the convenience and needs of such manipulators of people.
Dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire), and moksha (salvation) are the four tenets of Sanatana Dharma. The creation of wealth, rather than the (very unfair) distribution and redistribution of it, has to be the declared as well as an actual goal. Redistribution gives the power to decide where wealth goes, not to the hardworking generator of it but to the arbitrary “manager”, very often an ignorant politician.
From time immemorial, there has been a tussle between “good” and “evil”. What is good is left totally to the advocates of goodness. One way to deal with this is to leave each people to decide their own path and to intervene only when their path collides with someone else’s. This is a less messy, far crueller way. The other is to have a universal set of values that prove that human beings are “higher” than the animals they most resemble. Being like animals is far superior to what is currently happening in human society.
Under the guise of being “politically correct”, the vast majority of human beings choose not to see the atrocities happening around them. They would prefer not to acknowledge to themselves, and subsequently to the world, that the Taliban, ISIS, etcetera, are but different pet names for terrorism. “Half-dead” is applicable as a state only in books. Death can come in many forms, not just biologically. In fact, the death of humanism is a precondition to start heaping atrocities on them!
Is killing someone whose views differ from you good or bad? Murderous instincts take over in the animal kingdom when testosterone overcomes any other instinct, during the mating season. To expect only goodness and grace from all human beings would give Pollyanna an inferiority complex.
Are hapless, often clueless, people worth defending, if they are threatened by a clearsighted, pitiless group who uses violence to fulfil their wishes? To love a job or to get so much money that a chore becomes palatable are the two reasons why a person engages in an activity. There is one more urgent reason to do so. To believe that it is an honour to put in time and effort, even to give up one’s life for the sake of a leader or a philosophy, is much stronger than the former two reasons. The saving grace is that it is not easy to “market” such an attitude to the majority. What is dangerous is that just a few committed people, strategically placed within this ordinary group of people, are more than enough to wreak havoc on society.
Twenty years of outside “help” does not seem to have much of an effect on Afghanistan. Afghans who are outside their motherland weep over the situation there making the hit song “Ae mere pyaare watan” (O my beloved homeland) from the film Kabuliwala (1961) all the more poignant to us. The older ones recollect a place of agriculture, courteousness, language, and literature, of large flocks of animals, clean and plentiful water, innocent to the smell of blood. Amid jagged mountains, the hearts of the people were as open as the skies that draped the rocks.
The erstwhile USSR was the first contemporary intruder here. Harsh Soviet rules bound them with the same fabric which made the Iron Curtain. The proxy war against the USSR was waged here, with the local Afghan people being the casualty. It was like being extremely generous with somebody else’s money, to get a label of being altruistic.
Those forces which were forged in the furnace of political domination rather than humanitarian considerations have an uncalculated end result of being a monster programmed at birth to ultimately destroy its creators. This is true of any dispensation throughout the world. Purity of purpose, largely delegated to lip service, does take on strength all of its own, from the dark corners where it is left to rot. The declared, alleged good becomes fertile soil for just the opposite.
Twenty years was long enough to at least start the process of freeing people from those tyrants who were biding their time. Billions of dollars were used to “destroy” the Taliban. Very often, the root of this horrendous plant, gobbling up a country while the world watches on was left undisturbed to nestle in the earth awaiting a reawakening. Radical ideas were, more often than not, nurtured and spread by one or two fanatics, preaching to groups of impressionable minds. Like communism, the ideas expounded sounded wonderful! It was a guaranteed passage to heaven when one killed and died for an idea. The small but vital question of living here on earth is never asked. When one is handed a manual of “how-to-go-Heaven-directly”, one does not doubt the instructor. It is interesting to note that sympathisers for this regime worldwide are communist countries.
While airstrikes and press conferences often assured the world that things were well in this fairly inaccessible part of the earth, the reality was that there was absolutely no exercising of “soft” power that the West is so fond of touting. The Afghan army was helped and constrained by the Western forces. It was a matter of common sense that once the Americans left Afghanistan WITHOUT empowering the local population to survive on its own, in a direction which would leave civilians to lead a normal life, the seething extremists would grab all they could. Their sense of timing was far better than that of the rest.
After the World War II, American troops left before they were resented. Where they remained, as in Germany or Japan, they became a benign rather than threatening presence. The Caucasian people being VIPs is not looked upon kindly in any society where colonialism was not lost to memory. Had a fraction of the money spent in Afghanistan been used to heal the wounds in Afghan society, to expose them to alternatives rather than seeking to destroy ancient tribal alliances, the outcome would have been pleasantly different.
President Joe Biden came in on an election plank that was directly opposed to that of Trump who announced the withdrawal of US troops. To “create” a junkie and then withdraw his fix is not done by even the drug mafia. They try to turn the addict to a dealer, access to his own stash being the quid pro quo.
Doesn’t Afghanistan have intrinsic worth? Headed by lithium, the future, is it the huge mineral resources of that place, and who comes to control it the real issue? Unless and until these questions are formulated and answered, the area is going to go through a series of turmoil. The reason for that is not the “concern” of the spokespersons of the powerful of the world, while the vast majority of people are transfixed in horror in front of their television screens.
Basic honesty to oneself would be a good place to start thinking of a permanent, practical solution to the ever-present possibility of violent societal or other conflicts. Amidst the tragedy of Afghanistan, let us ask ourselves whether it is human at all to stand by and watch the decimation of a population, under the guise of inertia, political correctness, and of course, the greatest killer of all, hypocrisy.