|“Who The Hell Is The Foreigner!”
A while back I was riding a taxi, sitting gunshot, in Kabul when a policeman stopped the car near Zanbaq Square leading to Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were the first car that he stopped and behind us the traffic came to a stand still. Apparently some nobody who by the miracle of today’s connections had become somebody was passing through and imagined that someone else would want to waste a good bullet on him. It seems that it has become a symbol of power and prestige to stop traffic and the longer you hold people in traffic the more important you are. God forbid anyone think serving people or accomplishing the tasks of their job description would be a measure of success or importance.
Directly behind us was a NATO armored military vehicle. The armored vehicle’s driver signaled us to move aside so he could pass. The poor taxi driver dutifully obliged and advanced. He had not gotten a meter up that the policeman slapped the hood of the car, ordering the driver to stop immediately! Then the policeman angrily came over to the driver to scold him. The driver apologetically said that the foreigner has asked him to move up. The policeman, all steamed up, exclaimed “Who the hell is the foreigner!”
I was both scandalized and amused, at the same time, by this statement. It was one of those rare moments when so many thoughts and feelings rush through you, that you can’t react or reply properly. Not that anything that I had formulated would have mattered to this policeman in a traffic rush. Ever since I heard this statement, I find new places in me that twitch. Retelling the story to friends sometimes get mixed reactions. I especially loved the reply of one person whom I told the story later on: “tell him the foreigner is your daddy” or more literally ‘your mommy’s husband’. In Dari that would be “shoi-e nanait”.
What bothers me the most about the policeman’s statement is the blatant hypocrisy, which seems to have gripped almost everybody these days in Afghanistan. There is sense of distancing oneself from what goes on around them and a hypocritical sense of self-assurance that they are doing good but the system is corrupt. No one actually thinks that getting a large salary and being responsible for a key position actually means you have to do anything useful in return. The foreigners blame the Afghans for being corrupt, dismissive or incapable while Afghans think foreigners are overpaid, over appreciated and inapt, not to mention morally loose. Both sides blame the other for what is happening without looking at themselves.
In reality, the policeman works for a government that was brought to power by foreigners and the whole government system was modeled after foreigners. The constitution and the parliament were modeled and designed by foreigners. The cabinet was arranged by foreigners. Even the policeman and his military colleagues are trained by foreigners and he is paid by foreigners. If the foreigner does not like something, they would quiet literally tell his president to shape up or else. Worse yet, his president claims Afghanistan to be sovereign and capable one day, but the next day he wants the foreign army to stay in Afghanistan for the next 15 – 20 years because the Afghan army is not ready to defend this sovereignty.
In my prior articles, I criticize the blunder of foreigners quiet often and rightfully so; it is them who laid the foundation or helped lay the foundation of post Taliban and support those in power who are corrupt through and through. However, I am not blind to the fact that Afghans have been disorganized, unmoved and complacent partners in the process. Afghans do not provide an alternative as most are too busy collecting scrapes from the khaariji tables and missing their chance at something greater.
Lacking a national identity and constantly being disappointed by the so called ‘representatives of the people,’ not much has remained for Afghans to be proud of. Not ever being conquered or colonized is a huge compliment if it went hand in hand with national independence or at least strong sense of national identity. Ask 30 million Afghans to define being Afghan and you will hear 30 million different definitions. If not even two Afghans think alike, how can they rule themselves and how will they be ready take over from NATO?
There is no way Afghanistan will be a sovereign state or one that would be self governing if this situation persists. Perhaps the foreigner is all too familiar with this and wants it this way. A strong Afghanistan is really not in the best interest of the region, who have a lot more strategic importance at the moment than Afghanistan and the foreigner is all too willing to trade Afghanistan for favors.
Most of this reality is lost on the young generation who are either complacent in that they wish someone would do something but expect high posts after this dream revolution takes place, or are directly benefiting from this chaos, thus prefer to keep the status quo. Alas, financial gains are defining and effective incentives to overwhelm consciousness and a sense of justice. One would have assumed that free will and intellectualism would have yielded independent loving and sovereignty inclined ideologists and not self-interested individuals with compromising principles who are eager to pass the bucket.
The statement ‘who the hell is the foreigner’ and the pride of never being colonized would have been more worthy from those who actually controlled their destiny. In the title of my previous post, ‘make sure what you are laughing at is not your own beard’ I tried to underline this very concept which I am repeating once again, but from another perspective. In my previous articles if I had encouraged more transparency and justice from the foreigner, this time I am asking for a more realistic look at ourselves as Afghans.
Claiming national pride, if not earned, does not actually translate into real national pride. Freedom is a sacred privilege that is earned with sacrifice and maintaining freedom is a constant struggle. People are defined by their everyday actions and choices. The greatest gift to pass on to our children is freedom and the pride of sovereignty. That road starts with one small action before the other.
In the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘I have a dream’; that, one day, Afghans realize their value, each other’s value and that of their country.
By Rameen Javid in Kabul, Afghanistan