Saturday, August 22, 2009

Remembering Najibulla

My perspective is that of a person who was born in a small country that still called itself a monarchy then (1930s) and was ruled by a regent—although we did have a parliament. I was raised in an awareness of a unique national heritage (whether true or not), in a military family (think unenlightened), and in a Catholic culture (read backward). To be sure the heritage on my mother’s side of the family was modern—my mother was a token evangelical but did not believe any of that; she came from three generations of physicians; my grandfather was a Freemason, which in Europe meant atheist. On that side of the family dislike of all hierarchies was palpable, and I had it with my mother’s milk. But why all this? I think we absorb our values through experience rather than reasoning; we taste and judge the flavor of reality and incorporate that which we feel is genuine. My own general reaction to the world was and is shaped by this background. It was complex; the traditional element had very deep roots and the modernism I imbibed was passionate and fervent—as my mother felt it. And it is this combination that makes me look into the past and into the distance as yet another staged drama unfolds in far-away Afghanistan.

From my perspective any change in government, no matter what form it takes, is illegitimate if it takes place in the presence of an occupying military, no matter how that military, or its masters, interpret their own presence. For this very reason, now—now again—as also during the days when Hamid Karzai was first elected president, I once more evoke the memory of Mohammad Najibulla, the last puppet master appointed over the Afghanistanis, that time by the Soviet Union.

Najibulla was born in 1947 and died after being tortured in 1996. After a brief life, he’d plumb run out of patrons. The Soviets had abandoned him, the UN couldn’t be bothered to save him, and this own people—at last left sufficiently to their own devices to fashion their own real government—did not wish to be ruled by a representative of modernity’s most recent spawn, the communist variety. So they did away with him in a brutal manner, to be sure, but in these situations brutality is almost incidental.

There will always be ambitious individuals who, like Najibulla and Karzai, lend their energies to the “nation building” impulse of some external power which intends to impose its will on the organic formations of humanity when these latter interfere with the imperial will. If the geography favors the locals—as it certainly does those in Afghanistan—the careers of these Quislings tend to end badly.

By happenstance Brigitte and I are watching, courtesy of Netflix, the John Adams series produced by HBO in which the period of convulsions that marked the foundation of our nation are the background. What an irony that people are watching this series while the latter-day descendants of those revolutionaries try to impose our cookie cutters over what isn’t even remotely a “dough” in the Hindu Kush. And no one, apparently, sees this irony. Vision, evidently, benefits from getting an “unenlightened” and “backward” education.

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