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April 29, 2004

An Iranian friend came over on this final-exam day of all the semester’s free time, and we striked up a good conversation -I later realized it was a rather long one too. Going into full details would niether be possible nor feasible, but I will suffice to tell you the main subject: it was around the question of identity. He had been experiencing what could summarily be called a crisis of identity, cliche and disastrous as that might sound. With what I had read from existentialist authors, I tried to communicate my take on his circumstance -or to use a more proper term, his predicament- from an existential perspective. I am sure his initial resolve to go to Iran is strengthened now. But what was most interesting for me was the way I found myself identifying with many of the things that he was saying: unsettled early youth, moving across and inside social settings, and a rather disrupted process of internalizatin of reality, resulting in a unique socialization. The subsequent effects on him and on me have been deep and drastic. I referred the to of us to a paper of the famous German peace researcher Johan Galtung on “Cultural Violence”. Laying out the four types of ‘basic human needs’ as ‘survival needs; wellbeing needs; identity/meaning needs, and freedom needs’, Galtung holds that depriving or hindering the full realization of all these needs -or threathening to do so- qualify for ‘violence’. This is a very interesting definition of violence for me, since I refuse to accept the conventional definition that is limited to ‘external-physical’ and ‘dual’ framework, and in which there is usually consent involved. What/where/how is consent involved, for instance, in cases where the identity needs of a person are under assault through forms of direct violence according to Galtung such as desocialization and resocialization?
Consequently the battle against these more amorphous forms of violence is harder and more challenging too, and fought on a different level from strategic nonviolence that is usually prescribed for external-physical forms of violence…
By the way I recommend the late Edward Said’s “Exile” for reading. I have heard it deals extensively with questions of identity and as the name implies, identity under assault.
How is that for a first posting on a weblog that promises political commentary on Afghanistan? But it is not too irrelevant either. As I presumptuously predicted while talking to my Iranian friend today, instances of direct, structural, and cultural violence are going to be more pervasive in the much smaller planet that earth has become today, and as globalization and the erosion of borders of all types picks pace by the day.


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April 28, 2004

Dear Reader welcome to Safrang:

In Dari -one of Afghanistan’s official languages- Safrang is an old word that can best be translated as ‘commentary’ and ‘analysis’. Accordingly, this weblog will be regularly updated with analysis of social and political events that take place in Afghanistan. The contents reflect my take of the events and do not represent the views of any other individual or group, unless indicated otherwise. Please feel free to post responses as you read the articles.
Thanks for visiting and hope to hear from you.

-hamesha.