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More than you’d think really. Human beings seem to intrinsically value fairness and equality and yet, as of today have constructed societies based on moving as far away as possible from any sort of equitable norm.
Take note of the piece on John Rawls and how using the Veil of Ignorance idea as a cognitive filter for making decisions. I think it is a great idea adding to the list of processes one should go through in making tough decisions in the personal, moral and political sphere.
It is kind of amazing how Wikipedia manages to survive given all the anti-reality tendencies of the human race. Religion, extreme right and left politics – wikipedia manages to muddle through most of the time and present a version of truth that is mostly acceptable. More amazing is that the editors are more or less, like you and me.
Listen and watch Zittrain explain how the useful Wikipedia is and how it could be used in the future as a hands on tool for participatory citizenship.
We tell ourselves the stories we need to hear. This is excerpt details American involvement in Afghanistan, but from a non-embedded reporters point of view and analysis.
“The central thesis of the American failure in Afghanistan — the one you’ll hear from politicians and pundits and even scholars — was succinctly propounded by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: “The war in Iraq drained resources from Afghanistan before things were under control.” In this view, the American invasion of Iraq became a crucial distraction from stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, and in the resulting security vacuum the Taliban reasserted themselves.
At its core, the argument rests upon a key premise: that jihadi terrorism could be defeated through the military occupation of a country. That formulation seemed natural enough to many of us in the wake of 9/11. But travel through the southern Afghan countryside, and you will hear quite a different interpretation of what happened. It comes in snippets and flashes, in the stories people tell and their memories of the time, and it points to a contradiction buried deep in the war’s basic premise.
You can find this contradiction embodied in a sprawling jumble of dust-blown hangars, barracks, and Burger Kings, a facility of barbed wire, gunmen, and internment cages: Kandahar Airfield, or KAF, as it came to be called, the nerve center for American operations in southern Afghanistan, home to elite units like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets. A military base in a country like Afghanistan is also a web of relationships, a hub for the local economy, and a key player in the political ecosystem. Unravel how this base came to be, and you’ll begin to understand how war returned to the fields of Maiwand.
In December 2001, an American Special Operations Forces unit pulled into an old Soviet airbase on the outskirts of Kandahar city. They were accompanied by a team of Afghan militiamen and their commander, a gregarious, grizzly bear of a man named Gul Agha Sherzai. An anti-Taliban warlord, Sherzai had shot to notoriety in the 1990s following the death of his illustrious father, Hajji Latif, a onetime bandit turned mujahed known as “the Lion of Kandahar.” (Upon assuming his father’s mantle, Gul Agha had rechristened himself Sherzai, Son of the Lion. His first name, incidentally, roughly translates as “Respected Mr. Flower.”) With American backing, Sherzai seized the airfield, then in ruins, and subsequently installed himself in the local governor’s mansion — a move that incensed many, Hamid Karzai among them. Nonetheless, Sherzai brought a certain flair to the office, quickly catching notice for his fist-pounding speeches, tearful soliloquies, and outbursts of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes all in a single conversation.
Sherzai may not have had much experience in government, except a brief tenure as Kandahar’s “governor” during the anarchic mid-1990s, but he knew a good business opportunity when he saw one. The airbase where the Americans were encamped was derelict and weedy, strewn with smashed furniture and seeded with land mines from the Soviet era. Early on, one of Sherzai’s lieutenants met Master Sergeant Perry Toomer, a U.S. officer in charge of logistics and contracting. “I started talking to him,” Toomer said, “and found out that they had a knowledge of how to get this place started.” After touring the facilities, the Americans placed their first order: $325 in cash for a pair of Honda water pumps.
It would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. With Sherzai’s services, the cracked and cratered airstrip blossomed into a massive, sprawling military base, home to one of the world’s busiest airports. Kandahar Airfield would grow into a key hub in Washington’s global war on terror, housing top-secret black-ops command rooms and large wire-mesh cages for terror suspects en route to the American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
For Sherzai, KAF would be only the beginning. In a few swift strokes, he made the desert bloom with American installations — and turned an extravagant profit in the process. He swiped land and rented it to U.S. forces to the tune of millions of dollars. Amid the ensuing construction boom, he seized gravel quarries, charging as much as $100 a load for what would normally have been an $8-a-load job. He furnished American troops with fuel for their trucks and workers for their projects, raking in commissions while functioning as an informal temp agency for his tribesmen.
With this windfall, he diversified into gasoline and water distribution, real estate, taxi services, mining, and, most lucrative of all, opium. No longer a mere governor, he was now one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan. Every morning, lines of supplicants would curl out of the governor’s mansion.
As his web of patronage grew, he began providing the Americans with hired guns, usually from his own Barakzai tribe — making him, in essence, a private security contractor, an Afghan Blackwater. And like the employees of that notorious American firm, Sherzai’s gunmen lived largely outside the jurisdiction of any government. Even as Washington pumped in funds to create a national Afghan army and police, the U.S. military subsidized Sherzai’s mercenaries, who owed their loyalty to the governor and the special forces alone. Some of his units could even be seen garbed in U.S. uniforms, driving heavily armed flatbed trucks through the streets of Kandahar.
How to Fight the War on Terror Without an Adversary
Of course, even in the new Afghanistan there was no such thing as a free lunch. In return for privileged access to American dollars, Sherzai delivered the one thing U.S. forces felt they needed most: intelligence. His men became the Americans’ eyes and ears in their drive to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Kandahar.
Yet here lay the contradiction. Following the Taliban’s collapse, al-Qaeda had fled the country, resettling in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in Iran. By April 2002, the group could no longer be found in Kandahar — or anywhere else in Afghanistan. The Taliban, meanwhile, had ceased to exist, its members having retired to their homes and surrendered their weapons. Save for a few lone wolf attacks, U.S. forces in Kandahar in 2002 faced no resistance at all. The terrorists had all decamped or abandoned the cause, yet U.S. special forces were on Afghan soil with a clear political mandate: defeat terrorism.
How do you fight a war without an adversary? Enter Gul Agha Sherzai — and men like him around the country. Eager to survive and prosper, he and his commanders followed the logic of the American presence to its obvious conclusion. They would create enemies where there were none, exploiting the perverse incentive mechanism that the Americans — without even realizing it — had put in place.
Sherzai’s enemies became America’s enemies, his battles its battles. His personal feuds and jealousies were repackaged as “counterterrorism,” his business interests as Washington’s. And where rivalries did not do the trick, the prospect of further profits did. (One American leaflet dropped by plane in the area read: “Get Wealth and Power Beyond Your Dreams. Help Anti-Taliban Forces Rid Afghanistan of Murderers and Terrorists.”)
-Excerpted from No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal, published by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Copyright 2015 Anand Gopal
This is old teleological hat with regards to anyone who has participated in debates with the religious. I like the video though because, even though it rehashes the old themes, it does so in a way that separates and insulates one against some of the white hot emotion that can and does go into debating the religious view of reality. It’s a clean, thoughtful presentation through and through.
On the whole, a very nice thought experiment put forward by DarkMatter2525.
Now that we’ve dispensed with that missive and hopefully all of the egalitarian fun fem types, we can be begin proper on the little ways of that being human and female are different in society. My faithful readership thoughtfully intones,”But why Arb, you’ve posted stuff like this before… we get it.” I’m sure you do, but not of enough of the people out there seem to get it, and thus we have will have another narrative interlude in which we get to see what it’s like to have two X chromosomes instead of just one.
Thank you Maggie for sharing.
” This post is going to be a mess, because I’m just …untidily angry right now. It began with a series of tweets I made today about my ever-broken Datsun. The mechanic had told my husband that he was “working on that Datsun just as fast as I can because now that I’ve met her I can’t wait to get that little girl behind the wheel again.”
As I tweeted that I was 33 and had earned each of those years and thus preferred to be referred to as “Danger Smog-Dragon” or “Rage-Mistress” or “Ephemeral Time Lady” or “Maggie Stiefvater, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of the Raven Cycle,” a well-meaning fellow replied that perhaps I should “use [my] words, politely but firmly, to his face…” He further observed that he’d told his wife that “you know, Honey, unless you’re willing to SAY THAT to (those people), NOTHING is going to change”.
(note: please do not go search for this fellow on twitter to rage at him; this is not about him. He is set dressing, made more appropriate to the conversation at hand by the fact that he probably is a perfectly nice guy who really didn’t mean disrespect).
I told TwitterMan that I was tired of have to use my words.It’s been 33 years of using my words. Why is it my job to continuously ask to be treated equivalent to a male customer? Why is that when I arrive at a shop, I’m reminded that I have to push the clutch in if I want to start my own car? It’s 2015. Why is it still all sexism all the time?
I discovered that I was actually furious. I thought I was over being furious, but it turns out, the rage was merely dormant. I’m furious that it’s been over a decade and nothing has changed. I’m furious that sexism was everywhere in the world of college-Maggie and it remains thus, even if I out-learn, out-earn, out-drive, and out-perform my male counterparts. At the end of the day, I’m still “little girl.”
Possibly this is the point where some people are asking why this tiny gesture of all gestures should be the one to break me.
Here is the anatomy of my rage.
Step one: It is 1999 or 2000. I am 16. I go to college. A professor tells me I’m pretty. A married man in the bagpipe band I’m in tells me he just can’t control himself around me: he stays up nights thinking of myskin. Another man tells me he can’t believe that ‘a little bitch’ like me got into the competition group after a year of playing when he’s been at it for twenty years. After becoming friends with a professor’s daughter, I’m at her house sleeping on the couch, and I wake up to find the professor running his hand from my ankle bone to my thigh. I pretend I’m still asleep. I’m 17. “If something happened to my wife,” he tells me later, “I could be with you.” At my next visit to her house, I see the wife’s left a book on the kitchen table: how to rekindle your husband’s love.
Step two: It’s 2008. I finally buy the car of my dreams, a 1973 Camaro, and make it my official business vehicle. The first time I take it to put gas in it, a man tells me, “if I were your husband, I wouldn’t want you out driving my car.” I tell him, “if you were my husband, I’d be a widow.” The car requires a lot of gas. I get cat-called every other time I’m at a gas station. Once, I go into the gas station to get a drink, and when I come out, a bunch of guys have parked me in. They want, they say, to have a word with me, little lady. We play automotive chicken which I win because I would rather smash the back of my ’73 Camaro into their IROC than have to stab one of them with the knife on my keychain.
Step three: It’s 2011. I’m on tour in a European country, on my own, escorted only by my foreign publisher. I am at a business dinner, and say I’m going to my room. My female editor embraces me; my male publicist embraces me and then puts his tongue in my ear, covering it with his hand so that the crowd of twenty professionals does not see. My choices are to say nothing to avoid making a scene in front of my publisher’s people, or to say FUCK YOU. I apparently was never offered the choice of not having a tongue in my ear.
Step four: It’s 2012. I buy a race car. Well, a rally car. Someone asks my male co-driver if I’m good in bed. Someone asks me if I got sponsorship because someone was ‘trying to check the woman box.’ People ask me if I drive like a girl. Yeah, I do, actually. Let’s play a game called: who’s faster off the start?
Step five: It’s 2014. I’m driving my Camaro cross-country on book tour. It breaks down a lot. I’m under the hood and a pick up truck stops beside me. “Hey baby,” asks the driver, “do you need any help?” “Yeah,” I reply, “do you have a 5/8 wrench?” He did not.
Step six: It’s 2015. It’s sixteen years after I learned that I was a thing to be touched and kissed and hooted at unless I took it upon myself to say no, and no again, and no some more, and no no no. My friend Tessa Gratton points out that a male author used casually sexist language in a brief interview. She is dragged through the muck for pointing out how deeply-rooted our systemic sexism is. The publishing industry rises to the defense of the male author as if he has been deeply wronged. I tweet that the language was indeed sexist, though I didn’t think it was useful to condemn said male author. A male editor emails me privately to ask me if maybe I wasn’t being a little problematic by engaging in the discussion?
Step seven. Still 2015. Someone very close to me confesses that her college boyfriend keeps trying to push her past kissing, and she doesn’t want to. I tell her to set boundaries, and leave him if he doesn’t. A month passes. This week I find out she just had sex for the first time after he urged her to have several glasses of wine. She doesn’t drink. She was crying. She says, “I didn’t say no, though.”
It’s been sixteen damn years. I’m tired of having to say no. I’m tired of the media telling me that it’s mouth breathing bros and rednecks perpetuating the sexism. No: I can tell you that the most insidious form is the nice guy. Who is a nice guy, don’t get me wrong. I carry my own prejudices that I work through, and I don’t believe in demonizing people who aren’t perfect yet — none of us are. But the nice guy who says something sexist gets away with it. The nice guy who says something sexist sounds right and reasonable. The nice guy’s not helping, though. It’s been sixteen years, and the nice guys are nice, but we’re still things to be acquired. We are still creatures to be asked on dates. We are still saying no, still shouting NO, still having to always again and again say “no, please treat me with respect.”
I was just invited to a car show; the well-meaning guy who asked wanted me to bring my souped up Mitsubishi. I clicked on the event page. It’s catered by Hooters. I’m not going. Yeah, it’s a little thing, but I have a lifetime of them. I’m taking my toys and going home.
“I can’t wait to get that little girl behind the wheel again.”
I have not listened to Tori Amos in awhile. I shouldn’t have stopped, she’s still great.
Amos wrote “Spark” after suffering a miscarriage. She discussed the song in an article from Q magazine in May 1998.
“Y’know, once you’ve felt life in your body, you can’t go back to having been a woman that’s never carried life. The other thing is feeling something dying inside you and you’re still alive. Obviously when it was happening, it was already over, but in my mind, you don’t know that it’s over yet. You’re doing anything, thinking, ‘Oh God, maybe if I put a cork up myself, maybe it’ll keep this little life in.’ That’s why in ‘Spark’, I say, ‘She’s convinced she could hold back a glacier/But she couldn’t keep baby alive.’ You just start going insane. There’s nothing you can do, so so you surrender and then… start again.
You don’t really know what’s going to happen to her, but that’s not the point. She’s trusting her instincts in a way she never has before, she’s finding something in herself she never knew even existed. The man who’s trying to find me, probably is the driver. You don’t really know too much about him, but you know she’s got to get away from him. The water shot – it was about an hour and a half. It was 5:30 at night, and the sun was going down. [switches to up-close shot where she wriggles from the blindfold] Here, right here, I’m in a different water tank, and they had me swimming around for a while trying to get close-up shots. [About the overhead shot where we see Amos running along the banks of the river directly after the water sequence] Well, that was my double, right there. She was walking in a forest while I was shooting all this, because it took hours to get those two seconds. I had changes of clothes – I had wet clothes and dry clothes, and in the middle of the forest the girls would stand around me in their parkas and I’m putting the wet clothes on and putting on the muddy clothes to get the right outfit at the right time. “Here [the car at the end], these two are brother and sister, and they’re in the album artwork, where they look like angels in the artwork, although here they’re very much like the Village of the Damned. You don’t know what’s going to happen to this girl, but she has a will to live.