Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saw Kite Runner, brilliant, sad movie. so i wondered about Afghanistan again:

Some rambling notes on Afghanistan and Homo sapiens in general


What can i say? so you have two different human lifestyles. Nomadic on the steppes, and settled agriculture. Maybe urban trade centers is a third? Maybe sea ports is a fourth? The steppe nomads are constantly roaming around. Settled agriculturalists are accumulating wealth and developing settled 'civilization' structures. They push on the nomads for land? For taxes? The nomads occasionaly get rich from them and want to take over?

What is now Afghanistan is a region separated from the northern reaches by mountains and the south by almost desert. It is in a larger region who's climate does not support much agriculture or accumulation of wealth. This makes it different in strength from the Indus valley or the Fertile Crescent. And Persia? Where did/does its strength lie? In the modern maps of raw products almost NOTHING comes from Afganistan, just sheep. Persia? By the maps Persia has two regions of wetter climates where tree and fruit and other crops are grown. And of course it often had the Iraq valley. but then again didn't Afganistan sometimes had Peshawar? Lots of ag there on the Indus. Now i have to go back and see how often Afganistan had that!

Anyway the center had nothing. Nomadic sheep herders and northern turk/mongol nomads constantly coming in. And of course constantly being jockeyed back and forth between India and Persia. A mess.

And the killings! Constant gossip tabloid-like rivalries killing each other. Is this a product of agriculture or is it already present in the nomadic peoples? Well you don't sack a city unless the city has accumulated agricultural wealth! A pity we have no history of this BEFORE agriculture surrounded and influenced the region. Why do hoards of humans follow millitary leaders and kill each other? Why do HORSES agree to come along and carry them? Few other animals will!

And then by the time the ottomans fade and India is shackled by Brittain, It's the Brittish and Russians who play their games with the region.

The notable thing is that the region is under constant flux, assasinations of 'rulers' back and forth taken by different powers! The whole near east a vast swarm of culture and millitary campaigns washing repeatedly over it, absorbing slaves from the outskirts who become the next round of millitary leaders, absorbing invaders from without and eventually integrating them into its culture. Which, since 600 was Islam.

Note Cyrus 'creates an empire', then Alexander 'creates an empire' right over it! What does that mean? What real local institutions and patterns among the people where laid down that Alexander's could settle right into what was already there?

And the written histories! my god what CRAP! I'm reading the encyclopedia entry for history of Afganistan and it reads mostly like TABLOID GOSSIP, no reality of everyday life and real patterns underlying and SUPPORTING the trivial millitary arguments and killings. Why are we fed this? To keep us ignorant?

And then there are Nations. More a European invention than Asian. That's a fifth pattern. and maybe Buckminster Fuller's hint of the great sea pirates? A network of seagoing tradesmen that were the most widely learned of the way of the world and that ruled it behind the scenes economically? Who are now doing it as CEOs abord international jet planes? hmmm...

What new territory to explore!

from 1500 to 1700 the region is half Mughal and have Safavid. Then Bayazid Ansar (Pir-e Rowshan) and Khyskhal Khan Khatak and Mir Veys Kahn awakened things. Even at times the region held some of persia and India.

Then baba Akhmad Khan Abdali (later Akmad Shah Durrani) is elected king of the Afghans in 1747 and 25 years later he creates a nation. This is from a Pashtun tribe. The Pashtun consider themselves Chthonic to the place.

Then the Barakzai (who were they) who are the Afghans? Pashtun?

Then tossed like a rag between Brittain and Russia. Finally in 1880 the Brits leave and Abdorrakhman and Habibollah Khan create things. Abdorrakhman laid the boundary between Afg hanistan and India. Splitting the Pashtun people!. Till 1919 then another assasination. then skirmish with Brits and India. Then recognized as country in 1921. Then comes a continuing battle between those who want to enter the modern western world and those who don't. A FUCKING MESS.

Ah, there are millions of Pathans (Pashtuns) in Paskistan! more friction! Pakistan's independance in '47.

From '33 to '69 there is some stability and western modernization that of course involved letting U.S. and Russia invest in the country. Tension about this. The tension between traditional and modern comes to a head in '71 and it's a mess again. Then bloody pro soviet coup in '78. In '79 Russia begins POUNDING THE SHIT out of Afghanistan. U.S. covertly supplies aide against this? (Why do the soviets want to do this? What's the prize in this godforsaken piece of land?) Soviets leave in '89 (TEN years of war!) and Afghanistan is a mess between, I suppose, those who wanted Soviet involvement (STILL?) and rebells. I suppose the soviet backed regimes... If you are in power you get addicted to it, over the people.. In 1992 the soviet backed regimes are gone, rebells win. In all, 2million dead and 6million emigrated, leaving ~25million left. That's ONE QUATER of the population gone after 14 years! WOW.

'96 to '98 finally all this chaos breeds the Taliban who take over the country. In aug '98 U.S. bombs facilities south of Kabul (#deaths?) claiming them to be terrorist training camps run by wealthy businessman Osama bin Laden. Afganistan refuses to release him to U.S. Probably he returned the bombs in sep 2001. We begin pounding Afganistan in earnest. Results? Then we go after Iraq. On the other side of Iran. Iran our goal?

Nice story.

I need to find better written histories.

Everytime i read the details of history of one of these places I'm struck that life here in the U.S. for the past 200 years (at least in the north, at least for white folk) is a disney fantasy of comfort and stability by comparison. We cant possibly imagine 200 continuous years of political back and forth, being pulled back and forth by outside powers, assassinations of leaders every 5 to 30 years...

And the cultural/linguistic homogenaity that we have. Modern Afghanistan has Pashto (Pashtuns) and Dari(Khazaras) and Uzbeck and Turkoman (Turks).

What do we have? A melting pot of course of dozens of european groups but only one language. And of course the Africans! Who we wisely imported as AGRICULTURAL slaves, not MILLITARY slaves as do the people in Near East/Asia! So we kept our slaves down for 200 years so far, they have not been given the opportunity to become millitary leaders and command. Curious. So that practice in Near East/Asian has kept things in constant turnover. Is it CREATIVE or is it Chaotic? Hmmm... It certainly kept things vibrant from 600 (Muhammad) to 1800 (collapse of Ottoman empire). That's a LONG run! I seriously DOUBT the united states as an empire or civilization will last 1200 years! HELL, Europe has only been a vibrant center for 600! Even 600 to 1400 for Islam's height is EIGHT HUNDRED YEARS. Still 200 years older than Europ's play. And Europe just might be set to fade soon and never reach that length!

1 comment:

Sneb said...

You must read this:

Excellent book about walking across Afghanistan. The author, Rory Stewart, is an amazing guy.