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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mindset of Hindu Kush and adjacent peak-dwellers

Sat, 14 Mar 2009 09:44:12 GMT
The casket-like shape of the historical Hindu Kush is shown on a map.
By Mahmood Pervez Alam

The ebullient youth in the rural stretches and outskirts of urban areas in Afghanistan as well as the tribal belt in the North-Western Frontier Province in Pakistan and even in parts of Balochistan share a common hate-radiating slogan: "Foreign troops get out of our land; we do not want you here."

The inadmissibility of Western uniforms is so staunchly asserted that not only promises but also the introduction of development plans to uplift their traditional patterns of existence and their living conditions are either flatly rejected or dismissively spurned. Traveling on foot long distances seems to be a natural part of everyday life and a necessary assertive adjunct of the robust male ethos.

Roads are suspiciously judged as paved arteries that facilitate foreign traffic. Bound by a common ancestral language and dialects, the geographic boundaries imposed by the now defunct colonial masters do not very well fit into the tall attitude of that rough and tough culture.

The British, who were in the habit of ruling with roaring guns, were forced to respond more positively to their roar for independence. Whether they controlled the areas as they wanted or willed, they willingly endorsed the independence of Afghanistan in 1919.

Encouraged by their victory in World War I in 1918, the British dispatched two divisions to establish their suzerainty in Afghanistan. Sporting rickety tanks and trucks and other impressive weaponry of that time, they proudly pushed their way into the heartland of Afghanistan. When everything seemed accomplished, the massive shroud that time had woven and history had unfolded from time to time closed in upon them from the peaks.

Every brave soldier was unrelentingly gunned or gutted; 39,999 of the two divisions, except a surgeon, who after being duly incapacitated was neatly tied to a steed and directed back to the area he had driven from to recount the harrowing tale of the proud British army. Only his picture survives the onslaught.

Born with a rugged peak-mentality, efforts to change the socio-cultural and psycho-political framework that history has diligently brewed are deeply resented. Any attempt to change the traditional status-quo is considered an attempt to emasculate their male ethos. The male ego that hovers high, considers such democratic endeavors as a deliberate satanic attempt to undermine the uninterrupted supremacy of the patriarchal dynasty.

"War is to man as maternity is to woman" is the order of the day, and any endeavor to change what centuries have deeply delved in their psyche is considered a deliberate attempt to violate what time itself has legislated. Whirlwinds of modernity that claim to enfranchise women are viewed as rude efforts to imbue the minds of females with dangerous, rebellious, revolutionary tendencies.

The women have to remain obedient to the dictates of the male mentality. Men eat first is the law that time itself seems to have made. In many places, women themselves seem to be content, and if not so, are forced to remain content by a known authority in the air vouchsafed by custom and tradition. Among these people, it is an accepted norm that women can be changed the way shoes are.

He-manship is apparent in the guns they prize. The worth of a man is determined by the gun he carries or owns. Since birth, gun-culture prints on the mind of children the bearing it can have on their social personality. Gun is the symbol of their manhood, freedom and history. The word freedom-fighter reverberates this deep-rooted belief. Gun is not a weapon of defense but a telling reminder of the dominant aggressive male instinct. Boys grow with this elemental pattern of thought into men with this unobtrusive ethos of culture.

Freedom, a gift of history and time, has been guarded by all kinds of weapon ranging from stone, steel and guns. They have their own ordinance factories producing a homemade brand of weapons. The quality of high-tech military hardware produced in the West is countered by strengthening prejudice and even fortifying hatred. The willful male ego readily absorbs the aggressiveness native to this attitude.

Semiotically, their deep interest in pointed projectiles is embedded in their ferocious masculinity. A monkey is shown in paintings, darting from one peak to another and in the middle of the way without having a solid rock to spring back from changes its mind, and instead of falling down in the gaping ravine below, is able to move back to the place it started from. This feat of extraordinary strength is made possible by a habitual intake of a glutinous black substance that oozes out the mountain peaks. Men become super male studs if they make use of that magical product obtained from the stubborn mountain peaks.

A strange lizard found in the mountains is often sported in the alleys. It gives out an oily substance from its mouth when it is swung from its tail and then dashed to the ground. The magical oil that comes out of the dead creature is fabled to have special potency and is an inalienable part of the male superiority and prowess sustaining culture.

Knives are loved as they depict the fundamental roughness of the frontier brag. The murderous knife that tells tales of cold-blooded brutality is whetted by their unrelenting inborn thirst for revenge. Bitter blood feuds keep vendettas alive for centuries.

Akin to this culture is what existed in the frontier America about a hundred and fifty years ago. The murderous knife of Jim Bowie and gunslingers like Jack Slade are naked references of the rough cruelty and lawlessness that reigned supreme in America at that time.

Smothering life out of a sleeping victim by crushing his head with a big boulder is considered an act of just retribution. The ferocity behind their trigger-happy, gunaholic and knife-thrusting implacable pride is their geographically sustained male ego. The Hindu Kush mountains, which means killer of Hindus, also assert their murderous authority.

The casket-shaped depiction of the historical coffin on the map shows that legions that love to flirt with history dig their own graves when they dare challenge the evil ferocity of the saw-shaped peaks that resemble the jaws of sharks.

History stands witness to the defeat of invincible empires that tried to crush the ego that thrives within the peaks. The Bermuda Triangle is just an imaginary place not shown on any official map but the Hindu Kush is a living monster that has baited superpowers to their death. About twenty years ago, the ex-Soviet Union died after being bitten by the monsters living in the peaks.

The British lost most of their Empire after thirty years of their snobbish thrust into Afghanistan at the end of World War I.

The concept and the definition of freedom as envisaged by the West is the main reason of the widening split between their way of thinking and that of Western countries. According to the peak-dwellers, Western countries try to pull wool over their eyes by talking big of their freedom. To them, the Western culture is sick, and it stinks.

According to them, the West has exploited both the human and the natural resources and has thus caused the destruction of morals and detriment of nature. Gay marriages officially recognized between same sexes both religiously and socially are a shameless violation of the laws of nature.

A man giving birth to a child may be considered a great scientific achievement by some techies but a loathsome opprobrium and insult to the time-venerated concept of woman and especially that of motherhood. The melting ices and the economic-environmental crisis are all due to selfish abuse of human and natural resources.

Freedom when applied to women means liberty to do what they desire. The rough easygoing tomboy mentality in girls is seen as an end of the coy revered beloved for whom chivalry demands a treatment par excellence. The evolvement of a male-militaristic mentality in women is debunked outright as a downright violation of the great values associated with the idealistic concept of womanhood.

The exposure of young girls to unbridled freedom through the courtesy of satellite dishes stiffens male attitude. It is not surprising to see the Taliban purging the Swat Valley of Western cultural influence, and the Pakistani government tacitly accepting and even approving their demands.

Flogging of individuals seems cruel but it is definitely less baneful than the systematic mass encroachment on their ideals of existence leashed out by the propaganda machine on their traditional values and the willful bombardment of civilians by foreign forces. If a lash that punishes an individual for the crime committed is considered barbaric, then what word can be used to describe the slaying of human life on a much greater scale in the name of democracy and the introduction of cheap, ignominious, debasing, immoral rubbish in the name of freedom, which they themselves do not approve of?

The mindset of the peak-dwellers counterbalances the idealistic with the militaristic, the propagandistic with the dogmatic, freedom with thralldom and unleashed democracy with absolute theocracy. The West and especially the new administration in the White House will do well to look at the peaks of the Hindu Kush and gaping the caverns below many times before escalating the conflict with death.

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