Finding the silver(ish) lining in Afghanistan's Emerald City

But, They’re All Terrorists, and They Smell Weird

I had started to put together a post similar to this one over @ Transitionland. If you read nothing else today about Afghanistan, please read this. For those of you that are regular readers and subscribers to this blog (all 6 of you), I highly recommend that blog.

I have the draft of my posting attempt last night here, and at some point I referred to the over-capacity staffing arrangements at the Embassy as a “tumorous suppurating pustule, that, if released, would release its ooze into the districts of Afghanistan like so much effulgence from the abdomen of Shelob.”

I may have gotten a little hyperbolic, and I didn’t make the Shelob reference until I started on the current post this morning. I can get a little nerdy at times. I’d almost abandoned it, but seeing that post this morning gave me the impetus I needed to continue. Lucky you, reader.

Outside of the whole discussion about how much money is being flushed down the reconstruction toilet, and veering away from the obligatory references to convoluted and conflicted rules of engagement, strategy, and policy, there’s this: There are quite a few people working here on aid projects that are pretty much racist pigs. I’d like to say that it’s just some kind of cultural thing, or just not understanding the people that live here, but it’s not that.

These are people who talk about Afghans as if they’re just seconds away from flinging their own feces in celebration at their latest terrorist spectacular (a word I hate, by the way), since, after all, they’re all pretty much terrorists. I’m sorry, but sometimes it’s hard to understand these people while they’re talking… they only cut holes in the sheets for the eyes, and so the words coming out of their mouths get a little bit muffled.

And the worst ones? Afghan-anythings: Afghan-Americans, Afghan-Canadians, Afghan-New Zealanders (I’ve met all 3). I keep waiting for these types to order up the sedan chair to take them from their room to their office every morning, muttering to themselves about how you just have to keep an eye on the savages. Unfortunately, these hyphenated self-important mistakes of conception are treated like valuable assets because of their language skills and “cultural understanding.” They know this, and as a result spend a great deal of time making anyone who’s not like them feel like second-class citizens.

They will rattle off to you how far back their families go into the Afghan ancestral abyss. They will regale you of how wonderful it was for them before the Soviets came. Or the Taliban came. Or the Americans came. The beauty of these types, too, is that they really want it both ways. If it’s Eid, they need time off. If it’s Christmas, they also want the time off. I wish I were making that up.

I’ll say this for the hipsters…yes, they have their own issues too. If you’re not wearing your Buddy Holly glasses, Chucks, and carrying some kind of leather satchel (see photo in the Transitionland post as illustration…it’s practically a uniform), they can really have a hard time talking to you. But, they actually showed up here to engage with the Afghans. They can be a royal collectively “holier-than-thou” pain in the ass…I’ve had more than one tell me with a great deal of pride that, “Well, I NEVER was in the military.” Thanks…’cuz that was a puzzler.

I’ve got a few who are great friends, and I completely respect the work they do, but, a hipster’s a hipster. That aside, they want to absorb this place, these people, and get to know the Afghans as something beyond just an academic exercise.

The others, who I’ll refer to henceforward as the “polo people,” think of Afghans as something that’s better scraped off of one’s shoes before entering the sacrosanct land of the expat. In any kind of social venue, this always gets a little awkward: usually the only Afghan present was one of the house managers, and seeing that poor guy accosted by yet another polo person who can’t hold his alcohol, loudly telling him what a great job he was doing, was just magical to behold.

My all-time favorite? Separate dining rooms. Not like there’s a wall in between the two. Nope, as in down the street, down the stairs, into the basement next to where the generator fumes mingle nicely with the sewage cleanout fumes. That’s where the Afghans got to eat. Every day.

Then someone, presumably from headquarters, raised the issue during one of those VIP visits, and then there was one dining room. For like, a whole month. Here’s where that got weird: about 3/4 of the expat population, a group of long-time aid workers who would wrinkle their nose at me with my military background, opted to eat in their rooms with whatever groceries they’d squirreled away, or make their own lunch in a separate kitchen rather than be subjected to what the locals were eating. Finally, though, since so many expats complained, things went back to the way they were, and the Afghans got their own dining room again. No, they didn’t move it, but I think they did buy some new chairs, though.

If you can’t handle direct interaction with the Afghans who are supposed to be your colleagues, please hold a call from 19th century Britain: they’d like their colonial attitudes back. I’m sure you’re a completely open-minded individual, but, based on how you treat the people who actually live in this country, I’d be pretty safe in assuming that you periodically sigh internally that they took away all those “whites only” facilities and let “those people” sit anywhere they wanted to on the bus. Not that you’d be caught dead on a bus, but, the principle of letting “them” sit with people that look like you on any kind of public transportation is just… appalling.

So, to all those of you socially and technically incompetent, pseudo-intellectual, progress-averse because-it-means-you’ll-work-yourself-out-of-a-job, closet (or not so closet) racist morons: do the Afghans a favor. Stay…home. Or go home. Don’t stay here. Because if you’re the cure, I’m pretty sure they’d rather die of their disease.

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3 Responses »

  1. Great, pithy overview. Thanks for the read.

Trackbacks

  1. It’s time to ban Afghan-free zones in Kabul (via Absurdities & Atrocities) | Hamsters on the Titanic
  2. Turning the Page: Reassessing Assessments | Hamsters on the Titanic

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