Afghan women’s protest against humiliation of civilisation
Any war comes to an end after a certain time. Sound of bombing and firing stops. Flames of fire get quenched but the injury continues. Life span of a mourner is not prolonged when the corpse is reduced to ashes or buried deep in the ground. Those who are living in Afghanistan under the Taliban at this moment with life in hands know very well how they are passing their terrible days, It is said that truth is stranger than fiction.
Once again it is proved when we see that just to escape from Afghanistan people are riding on wings of a plane at Kabul airport. Thrilling scenes of James Bond movies become meaningless when people fall on ground from aero planes flying at an altitude of thousand feet and turn into a lump of bruised flesh. All explanations, reasons and analysis revolve in vacuum.
In this dark time we can easily remember the theory of mimetic desire of French historian and mathematician René Girard. According to Girard, we think that our independent personal thoughts are at the root of our needs and desires but actually our desires are imitations of others' desires. May be of a leader, a film star, a friend, teacher of anyone else. As I am influenced by them they may be overshadowed by me (or the reverse) and this process continues.
As described by Girard, mimetic theory works through a four-stage process viz. mimetic desire, conflict, scapegoating and cover-up. When basic needs are fulfilled people try to follow or influence others and then a conflict arises. This conflict leads to chaos in a community or country and one group (or groups) violently try to eliminate others and mutual enmity gradually develops. As a result target (power, institution, knowledge, technology or anything) of all groups becomes the same.
Girard's invaluable theory resembles the history of Afghan crisis. Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the US and Saudi Arabia's activity to remove them, utilisation of ISI, nothing was left unattempted. Recently the players have been changed. Beside America's inaction Pakistan and China have become overactive and the situation has taken a pathetic turn. As the cycle of imitative desire or enmity continues a weak scapegoat is needed. It may be an individual, an animal, an organisation, a political party, a religion, a community, a particular ideology, a work of art or even a country.
When the American president declares that he is not repentant and it was not the responsibility of his forces to handle civil war in Afghanistan it becomes evident that after the end of interest how a superpower looks for a scapegoat in the excuse of restoring peace and prosperity. Surviving Afghans (mainly elderly men, women and children) are those scapegoats. China and Pakistan have reached a peaceful understanding between them, Russia is maintaining safe distance but smell of gunpowder is spreading all over Afghanistan.
Sara Karimi is an eminent filmmaker of Afghanistan. Statement of this lady tells how her country is going to be destroyed by Taliban oppression and aggression, the respect and freedom of women of her country, civilisation and various cultural activities are going to be stopped. Her pathetic appeal has reached people associated with film and culture all over the world so that they can speak out against this violence.
There is no doubt that the best artists, writers and intellectuals in the world have always created resistance against barbarism at different times and certainly they will do it again. Yet, sometimes such tragic insult to civilisation raises suspicion. Question naturally arises whether films, dramas, music, paintings, poetry come to any use in the end. Is such hesitation or doubt is a sign of weakness? Isn't it a sign of cowardice or uncertainty to be stunned by this barbaric form of violence?
We have read the story of such a sceptical prince time and again. The name of that character written by William Shakespeare is Hamlet. In his book, The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche explains that despite knowing the history of his father's murder stumbled Hamlet falls into deep suspicion and becomes inactive while trying to punish his uncle Claudius. It is not a sign of cowardice or weakness. Rather, understanding the truth stuns him. The dilemma of to be or not to be stands strong appears before him.
Hamlet's departed father directs him to take revenge but to obey that order he also has to enter into that traditional rotten cycle of irrational revenge through another murder. Thinking it Hamlet stumbles. Explaining Hamlet, Girard speaks of an isolated barren range with contradictory indications from two sides. The place between to be (revenge) or not to be (no revenge) becomes dominant. Stuck between revenge or inaction our present world becomes inactive in the web of questions and doubts like Hamlet.
However, one time his inertia ends. Through staging a play Hamlet tries to arouse remorse in the mind of his uncle. He soon realises that an work of art cannot stop violence, can't wake up moral feeling. Shakespeare finally employs Hamlet in a tragic end. Yet, the range between revenge and non-revenge, gains unbounded importance.
Many scholars have commented that Hamlet is an incomplete creation. Yet, millions of people are reading it repeatedly. It has been staged and filmed many times probably because of this incompletion. Hamlet reminds us today of the helplessness of all free-spirited people in the world. There is no shame in this helplessness. There is a longing for finding out the truth.
Certainly, most of the Afghan women have not read Hamlet but like Hamlet they are not at all hesitant. To protest against the Taliban rule they have participated in procession. Different women organisations across the world have conveyed congratulation but apprehension is mounting. Already the Taliban have renamed the Ministry of Women Affairs as Ministry of Virtue and Vice. Co-education has been practically banned. Afghan women and girls played a pivotal role throughout the history of their country. It is essential to continue this role and their hard-won rights must be protected. Afghan women now need all out support more than ever.
The writer is a former
Commissioner of Taxes