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Afghanistan
July 31, 2004 5:20 PM   Subscribe

There is talk of rebuilding the Bamiyan Buddhas, and some archaeologists are looking for a third Buddha (I think the cows and sheep are more useful.) A greater loss may be Medecins Sans Frontieres pulling out because of the lack of security. There is optimism in Afghanistan, but attacks are on the increase, and some are worried that it may still implode.
posted by homunculus (49 comments total)

 
Meanwhile, the Republic of Kabul is doing wonderfully.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2004


"Better times are just around the corner" - Herbert Hoover and GWB
posted by nofundy at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2004


rebuild the buddhas!!! yay!! rebuild them!
posted by muppetboy at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2004


Suffering arises from attachment.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:01 PM on July 31, 2004


Why not slap a new nose on the Sphinx while we're at it? You can't rebuild an ancient treasure. Let the ruins stand as an eternal monument to fundamentalist idiocy.
posted by RavinDave at 6:17 PM on July 31, 2004


what RavinDave said. And make the whole country safe and stable enough so that any artists alive there now can make new masterpieces.
posted by amberglow at 6:21 PM on July 31, 2004


Why not build giant panda statues instead?
posted by srboisvert at 6:41 PM on July 31, 2004


I recall my classics teacher chilling the class once with the sobering observation that there is a (stronger than you might think) movement among Egyptian fanatics with the stated agenda of destroying the pagan symbols of Egyptian antiquity. God help us if our Mideast meddling inadvertantly puts them in power.
posted by RavinDave at 8:19 PM on July 31, 2004


A very well-considered post, homunculus. It is extraordinary and chilling to see MSF leave - I hope people know that they are doing so as an act of protest, and not one of cowardice.
posted by stonerose at 8:36 PM on July 31, 2004


Afghanistan is a nightmare in so many ways. An unnatural state divided in half geographically (mountains and plains), and ethnically (Pushtuns and everybody else), it seems to be a place that needs to die in order to live.
What I mean by that is a cultural death penalty: the importing of hundreds of thousands of people from other nations to make Afghanistan as multi-cultural as Amsterdam.
The logic is that fanaticism, tribalism, and traditions of warlords can be broken up with forced homogeneity. That your neighbors are intentionally different from you--living examples of different cultures, traditions, and ways. Soon, the absolute nature of your world view becomes diluted in a cross-cultural mix, and if you want to live, you must learn to get along.
And there are so many people in the world not averse to the hard work needed to rebuild Afghanistan, from every corner of the world, with every known skill.
posted by kablam at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2004


What Amberglow and RavinDave said, too. I was frustrated watching the destruction of the Buddha, because I truly care about art. But it made makes me even sicker that so little attention is paid to the truly wretched living conditions in Afghanistan, and the huge role the U.S. and Pakistan played in creating and promoting the Taliban. (Yes, the U.S. did play a huge fucking role).

If any country deserves the attention of the world, it is Afghanistan.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:41 PM on July 31, 2004


Hey gesamtkunstwerk: How much of a huge fucking role did you play in ending the Cold War? Remember that little scurmish? Do you know that you're doing a huge fucking amount of Monday-morning quarterbacking? I can't think of anything that's more huge fucking lame than that.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2004


If any country deserves the attention of the world, it is Afghanistan.

Afganistan... ~sniffle, fucking, sniffle
posted by WLW at 9:30 PM on July 31, 2004


kablam: or, you could just relocate them wholesale to Siberia, like Stalin did to the Chechens. Because that worked out for the best.

And WLW, have some fucking sympathy for the country that won the fucking Cold War for you.
posted by Ptrin at 9:45 PM on July 31, 2004


Actually PP, I was in the Soviet Union in during the invasion of Afghanistan. And no, I didn't bring down the soviet union single handedly. I tried, but I think the Soviet incompetence beat me to it. And yes, at that time I did think funding the Mujahadin was a pretty lame idea at the time.

WLW I am not responding because frankly, your comment just isn't worth it.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:55 PM on July 31, 2004




Yes, it was all entropy and inertia. Just as the Third Reich would have collapsed of its own stupidity, all by itself--How positively European of you.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:07 PM on July 31, 2004


In as much as creating a vigous opposition to Soviet occupation demoralized the Soviet public, funding the Mujahadin was not a bad idea. Did it create the Taliban? Bin Laden? I question a causal connection, but even assuming, arguendo, that it created both, only the Soviet Union had megatons of nukes pointed at us; so it wasn't an unreasonable strategy.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:12 PM on July 31, 2004


Don't be tedious, Paris. If you think you can win an argument by using European as a pejorative then you're obviously too dumb to realise that you've already lost it.
posted by lagado at 10:32 PM on July 31, 2004


only the Soviet Union had megatons of nukes pointed at us;

And we had a fucking huge plan for keeping track of those as well.

Let's see...
Not keeping the Taliban/Mujaheddin on a leash
+
Not keeping track of megatons of nuclear weapons in a bordering country
=
Condi's mushroom cloud, in a U.S. port city, sometime in the near future.

Not unreasonable at all, now that I think of it.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:13 AM on August 1, 2004


P.P: In as much as creating a vigous opposition to Soviet occupation demoralized the Soviet public, funding the Mujahadin was not a bad idea. Did it create the Taliban? Bin Laden? I question a causal connection, but even assuming, arguendo, that it created both, only the Soviet Union had megatons of nukes pointed at us; so it wasn't an unreasonable strategy.

So you are saying it was a small price for them to pay for our freedom and security?
posted by srboisvert at 4:06 AM on August 1, 2004


And WLW, have some fucking sympathy for the country that won the fucking Cold War for you

The United States doesn't need my sympathy.
Reagan and Bush won the cold war
posted by WLW at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2004


Thank you.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2004


Reagan picked up the ball on the 20-yard line, with 30 seconds on the clock.
Not having been able to get the ball into the endzone, he called in Bush Sr. to kick a field-goal from the 12.
Nice win, but give a little credit to the guys who started the drive - beginning with Truman.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2004


And your point is?
posted by ParisParamus at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2004


"So you are saying it was a small price for them to pay for our freedom and security?"

Small price, no. Does the United States have the right to protect itself at the expense of other countries? Depends on the "expense": it's not like it would have been better to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:31 AM on August 1, 2004


Bashos, while I don't question your implication re GHB, it's not clear whether Reagan took over on the 20yard line, or the 35, or even 40. OF course, the consensus Metafilter view is that it was actually a soccer game, on a field built on a steep hill, and that Reagan took over with the ball a meter or so from the goal.

In the first place, that's dellusional. In the second, the Cold War was won in feet and yards, not meters!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2004


Paris: "delusional". "delusional". "delusional".

If you're going to use that word as often as you do, you should at least learn to spell it.

</peeve>
posted by ook at 8:43 AM on August 1, 2004


Well, the last time I looked in on this thread I though we were going to have an interesting discussion on the relationship of buddhism to art and whether rebuilding the buddhas was a symptom of our attachments to the physical representation of otherwise abstract ideas. Apparently, not so much. Hmmm.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2004


Ptrin: actually, your suggestion to ethnically cleanse Afghanistan would have just the opposite effect from what I suggest.

The purpose of what I propose is to surround them with people who want to do everything *but* wage war, mistreat each other, engage in tribalism, or submit to some warlord.
An Afghan would still live in their house, but their neighbors might be a Mexican family who own a grocery, a Phillipino family whose father is a carpenter, a Japanese family of teachers, and a retired lady from Spain.

The idea is to take create choices: you don't have to be part of a tribe; you can't be a fanatic and get what you want at the expense of others; you have to be equal, even if you don't want to be equal. Concepts such as these.

Their nearest Afghan friend might be a block or two away. And granted, they would still want to segregate off with that friend because of what they share in common. But it would become very, very hard for them to ghettoize, to exclude other people and other ideas from their lives.

Their would still be just as many, or more, Afghans in Afghanistan. But not heterogeneous groups, that attack other heterogeneous groups. Tribes and sects and gangs that hate each other. Instead of emphasizing their differences, they emphasize their similarities. And peace is far easier to maintain in a time of prosperity.
posted by kablam at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2004


" Don't be tedious, Paris. If you think you can win an argument by using European as a pejorative then you're obviously too dumb to realise that you've already lost it."

In as much as "European" is shorthand for econo-whore nations such as France and Germany (and Russia, although mitigating circumstances there...), who think that war is never necessary, because such countries have too much investment in odious places, and influence the UN accordingly, YES, European is pejorative.

My sincere apologies to all those Europeans who think France and Germany are as corrupt and amoral as I know them to be.

The
posted by ParisParamus at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2004


delusional. It's a spell-check thing in my Word. Just fixed it. Sorry.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2004


kablam, are you volunteering for this vast social(ist) experiment? (and you can't make it happen anyway--diversity happens because of perceived or real opportunities, and/or as a result of some draw--land of the free, the streets are paved with gold, a booming economy, etc--or because the place where the people are now is worse, and there's no hope or opportunity. What does Afghanistan have that makes people want to go there, as opposed to NYC or the US in general? What makes Eastern Europeans want to go west? What's making the boom cities of China grow?)
posted by amberglow at 9:53 AM on August 1, 2004


What would Buddha do or say if asked about rebuilding the sandstone sculptures of himself? I think he'd remind us about impermanence ... all things are impermanent. This is the nature of all things. Nothing lasts, nothing stays the same. To cling to anything will lead to suffering.

In other words, let it go. Don't hold onto the past. Something new will always replace what is gone, and then it too will eventually be destroyed in some way. That's life. Doesn't mean it isn't sad that they were destroyed, it upset me when I heard about it. But to rebuild statues of someone who spoke against attachment to the world and worldly things, spoke on the impermanence of all things, seems wrong somehow. Perhaps they should build some totally new ones, or some other sort of artistic, something that reflects the "now".

monju_bosatsu: I have discovered there's not much around here anymore that can be expected to lead to any sort of reasoned discussion. Eventually, it all becomes a lot of yelling about something mostly off-topic and political.
posted by Orb at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2004


you're such an american paris!
posted by fuq at 10:01 AM on August 1, 2004


Why were they built in the first place, Orb and monju? It seems very un-buddhist to erect monuments like that.
posted by amberglow at 10:04 AM on August 1, 2004


There's a big difference in the Buddhist tradition between creating and preserving. While I can't speak to the motivation of those who originally carved the Bamiyan Buddhas, I think of the sand mandalas created and destroyed by Buddhist monks as the logical extreme. The object itself means nothing, the meaning is in the making.

Who would try and put a sand mandala back together, grain by grain? Better to make new mandalas, with new meaning.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:51 AM on August 1, 2004


Note that the Hazaras who live in Bamiyan are not Buddhists, they're Shia muslims who had been viciously persecuted by the Taliban. They want their Buddha statues back not as religious icons but as cultural monuments.

What would Buddha do or say if asked about rebuilding the sandstone sculptures of himself?

I don't know, but I'd guess he would say the statues were unimportant, and I think he'd give more value to the cows and sheep which the Kiwis brought. He might ask MSF to come back, and ask the American soldiers to stop pretending to be aid workers, which puts the real aid workers in more danger. And Buddha would remind us not to feed the trolls.
posted by homunculus at 12:04 PM on August 1, 2004


kablam: "What I mean by that is a cultural death penalty: the importing of hundreds of thousands of people from other nations "

Apart from the unlikely idea that "a Mexican family... a Phillipino family... a Japanese family... and a retired lady from Spain" could possibly be enticed to live in Afghanistan at the present time, don't you think that such a policy is tantamout to colonial settlement? And thus - despite the agreeable aim of creating a country as "multi-cultural as Amsterdam" - likely to cause more problems than it could possibly solve?

"what I propose is to surround them with people who want to do everything *but* wage war, mistreat each other, engage in tribalism, or submit to some warlord"

I don't think the average Afghani is too hot for any of those things either. The major obstacle to Afghanistan's peaceful development is less a deeply held cultural resistance to peace, tolerance and the rule of law as it is a critical lack of democratic institutions and the continued power of the warlords/Taliban remnants. The registration of 90% of eligible Afghanis (8.7m out of a possible 9.8m) for the first democratic elections suggests that maybe Afghanis are more interested in peace and prosperity than you give them credit for.
posted by pots at 1:50 PM on August 1, 2004


What would Buddha do or say if asked about rebuilding the sandstone sculptures of himself?

I don't know, but I'd guess he would say the statues were unimportant...

---

This is an easy cop out. Who can say what Buddha would say or do about this? Are you fully enlightened?

In Buddhism, those with faith regard statues or images of the Buddha as /the actual Buddha/. This makes blowing up these ancient statues a lot harder to forgive. If the statues inspire devoted practice in thousands or millions of people, it's hard to say what their value really is...

Since Buddha is supposedly a divine being with tremendous powers (including the ability to see the future, I believe), he might not see things the way you do.

For example, in one Buddhist story, a highly advanced monk sees that a mutiny is about to occur on a ship. He sees the future. If he doesn't kill the lead mutineer, nearly everyone on the ship will kill each other. Given no alternative, he kills the mutineer.

While such actions are not to be taken lightly (or by those who have not achieved full enlightenment), it is not outside the realm of possibility that an enlightened being might cause great harm to one or more living beings out of compassion for others.
posted by muppetboy at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2004


...it is not outside the realm of possibility that an enlightened being might cause great harm to one or more living beings out of compassion for others.

That sounds a lot like "we had to destroy the village in order to save it"
posted by amberglow at 3:00 PM on August 1, 2004


Are you fully enlightened?

Yes. Thanks for asking.
posted by homunculus at 3:06 PM on August 1, 2004


I don't know, but I'd guess he would say the statues were unimportant...

This is an easy cop out. Who can say what Buddha would say or do about this?


No one, which is why I prefaced with "I don't know, but I'd guess..." It was speculation. I've read that during his life the Buddha discouraged creations of his image, and that the tradition came later.
posted by homunculus at 3:18 PM on August 1, 2004




BTW, I would like to see one of the two Buddhas be rebuilt, while the other should be left as a monument to the destruction of the Taliban. But I don't think it should be a high priority. I'm more concerned about improving the security situation in the rest of the country and getting MSF to return.
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on August 1, 2004


And Buddha would remind us not to feed the trolls.

Well put homunculus and well done for bringing the thread back on topic.

Personally, I think there's something weird about rebuilding the buddhas because Buddhism was already very much in decline even before the arrival of Islam.

It's just a great big pity, but not an unusual one alas, buddhist grottos have been defaced by zealots all throughout Central Asia. Christian converts would have done much the same.
posted by lagado at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2004




Some may be suprised to know that Afghanistan is very diverse ethnically, considering it has been a trade route for just about the entire history of trade amongst human beings.

By not supporting Abdul Haq, and the peaceful expulsion of the Taliban and Al-qaida militants, choosing to bomb and destroy the country, the US and UK have simply added to the long list of abuses perpetrated against the people living in this area. There was a real chance for Afghanistan, which was actively avoided by the US and UK.
posted by asok at 5:06 AM on August 2, 2004


Afghanistan Revisited
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on August 4, 2004


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