On Afghanistan

October 28, 2006

No. I am not going to write about Afghanistan. Not now.
I am unable to bring myself to write on this subject. Especially these days it is a big wad of unpleasant news. And I am in denial.

What is there to write about that has not already been written, opined on anyways? It just seems like an old, tiring cycle -one that anybody with a cursory glance at our sorry history would know has been repeating itself for at least three centuries now. Especially the last few decades has been a nightmarish deja vu. And all the noise around leaves little appetite to add one’s own voice to the solemn chorus. You can’t get creative here. And creativity, experimenting with new ideas, is a big part of the blogging experience for me. Am I too selfish?

And let’s face it: when all you hear is Afghanistan, at work, in school, on your homepage of BBC Persian for Afghanistan, at lectures, in talks, in your conversations, it just becomes too much to handle. Remember, for me the major attraction of blogging is in it’s escapism.

And so, for those who come here for news and opinion on Afghanistan from an Afghanistani, well, sorry to disappoint. This one is just too tired of it all himself.

But then again you can always count on the regular occurence of one or another collossal adversity happening that wonderful country of mine, enough to leave me sad and stupefied enough to come here and want to share my thoughts on it with you.


On the Immediacy of Politics in the Third World -from an Actor?

October 28, 2006

This morning I was listening to an NPR interview with Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. The Motorcycle Diaries is his only film I have seen to date (and for someone who has idolized Che since his early teens, the film trivialized his life and left me rather unsatisfied- but let’s not digress.)

In this interview, one gets a glimpse of the young actor’s mind -and it is a rich place. He speaks with the same intellectual cultivation and literary-philosophical sophistication as if he were a novelist and not an actor. Maybe his tone and lofty intellectualism is emblematic of most people associated with the “cinematic arts” in continental Europe (France) and much of the third world (places where cinema and film are still regarded as an art form and not yet an industry or “the showbiz”), and perhaps there is a tad of prentension in all of that. All the same, it is a big break from the intellectual vacuousness of Hollywood (not that I am a regular E! watcher, but it is so pervasive you just can’t help it.)

The respect that Mr. Garcia Bernal accords his profession (“the craft” as he calls it), the hindsight with which he recounts his early career (speaking of a “primal fuel” that all young and ambitious can identify with), and the way he regards the development of many of his characters as “an act of faith” and discovery is diameterically different from what we have come to expect of Hollywood. I can only describe the general direction of the American film industry as a race to the bottom- in its desdain for its audience’s intelligence, its dumbing down of everything, and in the infamous lasciviousness of most of the celebrities.*

Mr. Garcia Bernal also spoke about “owning” a language (in tones that reminded me of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s), and about the immediacy of politics in the developing world poor countries:

“It is very hard to exempt yourself from politics coming from a poor country, it is impossible, because everything you do has a much more …the complexity and the qualities of a political decision..whatever you do.. going out to the streets and deciding where to buy what you have to buy..it involves a politics decision everywhere else, but in poor countries you feel it even more closely…”

All in all, something you won’t hear in Hollywood (well, save for Maddonna’s attempt to rescue an African child by bringing him up in America.)


*(“with a few notable exceptions” – I decided to add this as a disclaimer and a way out for when in the future I will take to praising some hollywood flick that I will inevitably watch and perhaps like.)

Eteraz on Hijab, Clinton on Values, and the ROARing Lions

October 28, 2006

Until I return to the proper blogging mood (of actually setting aside some time and cranial stamina to write something worthwhile), I shall content myself and shortchange my readers with dumping links and playing the middle-blogger. It really seems that I will take some time in transitioning from a passive consumer to an active blogger.

Since my graduation from college -yes, a whole summer ago- I have been a consumer-reader -primarily of graduate school informational packets, but also a few novels and blogs here and there, and because of a free subscription, a hostage to the Wall Street Journal. I don’t even have to write term papers and such anymore. (Wait… what graduate school applications?)

While still connected to the blogiverse, I often read the “Unwilling Self Negation” blog by Ali Eteraz. The new Eteraz in WordPress is a pleasure to rediscover- in particular a fantastic post on a theme that I struck upon on an earlier occasion in Safrang- “The Unintended Consequence of Headscarves?”. Eteraz’s piece “To My Dear Hijabi Sisters” is many times wittier and certainly bolder, and though I will maintain that I was the first to strike on the subject, his is more poignant nowadays in light of the pronouncements from the British government about Hijab (which is really an attemp to emulate the French -an age-old game of catch-up that the Brits have played with their more sophisticated and no less xenophobic continental peers). Appropriately, Eteraz blogs from the UK, I think.

Also, worthy of your attention dear readers, is this talk by former president and current moral compass of everybody left of the farthest rightwing fringe of the Republican party Bill Clinton in his alma mater Georgetown University. (That a sleazeball who was nearly impeached for perjury and perversion comes to be regarded as a moral compass is a sad testament about our times and the deep moral abyss that the politics of my wonderful host country has descended into these days- especially after the successive Lay/Delay/Foley episodes.)

But seriously, listening to Clinton over the past few weeks (on the campaign trail -for the Clinton Global Initiative) has restored my faith in politics and pulled me back from the edge of nihilism as far as my attitude towards public officials is concerned. (Also noteworthy is his infamous interview recently with a “a monkey posing as a newscaster” -Keith Olbermann’s words about the FOX news interviewer). Maybe Clinton has the luxury of lofty moralism, now that he is an ex-president. Been there, done that, don’t need to keep doing it. All the same, his musings on faith, the importance of values in public life, committment to truth, fight for justice, and his indignation at all that is wrong and immoral about American politics these days -including, as he admits over and again, in his own party- is uplifting and restorative and heart-warming. (Yes, it is true that his unmatched charisma is a big help too.)

And lastly, tonight I took my little cousin to her elementary school’s Holloween social party gathering night thing. Everyone agrees that these are usually awkward affairs for adults. It is all about the kids, regardless of how the parents try hard to busy themselves at the expense of their kid’s reputation among his/her peers. But what piqued my interest in this certain elementary school (which shall remain anonymous, save for its mascot of the Roaring Lions) is the motto of the school. It is ROAR, a nice play on words with the “Roaring Lions” mascot, and an initialism for words that I thought were far too disciplinarian and damaging to young souls:

Respect, Order, Attitude, Responsibility.

Save for the vacuous A for Attitude, the rest of this (plus the obsessive emphasis at the event announcements on the words “Safety” and “Dangerous”) is a perfect recipe for bringing up a conformist, orderly, and spartan society. I am of the opinion that is a terrible development, and that a good measure of irreverance in young people is a healthy thing. Getting home, I started listening to “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, The Wall (1979).

We Don’t Need No Education / We Don’t Need No Thought Control / No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom / Teacher Leave Them Kids Alone

Hey! Teacher, Leave them Kids Alone…