In an interview with the New York Times former Government official Aftab Khan Sherpao speaks out against the current lackluster opposition to the Taliban in the frontiers of Pakistan. It’s a pretty blistering condemnation from one of the best known and most respected politicians in Pakistan.
Just one revelation from the interview before I link it: Apparently the Taliban is paying the opposition parties in the frontiers not to run against their picked candidates.
I’m playing with my camera again, these photos were shot in a dark bathroom at 1/125th. One is ASA 200, the other 1600. Ignore the yutz on the mirror, and don’t tell my wife I used one of her crystal vases for this experiment.
In some of the recent debates across the blogosphere one of my key arguments has been that only endearing culture endures across time. Ugly, undesirable culture isn’t adopted willingly unless it is force-fed to youth with immature critical thinking and judgement skills. In other words the only way ugly culture can perpetuate itself is through indoctrination, and over time that breaks down.
In Palestine they teach children a grievance, revenge-based story of history, and they create murdering suicide bombers imbued with hate. (no need to detail this as it’s available here; read a few of the entries with the term “child abuse” in them.)
In the extreme Belgian political party Vlaams Belang they teach their youths grievance theater based on hate, (your grandmother had her head shaved, your grandfather had to flee to Argentina, the Walloon officers got us killed in the first world war because the orders were in French instead of Dutch, etc.) It’s how they propagate Flemish supremacy and nationalism, which keeps concepts like apartheid and neo-nazism alive in modern Europe. See here.
In the hinterlands of Pakistan they teach their children that their tribe is best and that to marry outside it is to bring dishonor on the family – hence honor killings.
These are all vain attempts to keep the current ugly culture of tribal supremacy and cultural barriers of pride and grievance going forward.
The tribalists are losing the battle to keep the ugly parts of their culture over time. In the hinterlands of Pakistan there are Trekkies, in Palestine they love Star Wars, and American pop music is heard more by the youth of Antwerp than nazi punk rock.
Left to their own devices humans are innately curious, and they explore. They try new things, and those which are endearing they keep. The power of beautiful art and culture cannot be underestimated, and over time it survives while that which is ugly rots in its own bile.
Sometimes in America we forget things that are beautiful; the power of them reaches from the past and makes them continually new again. Iowahawk loves hot-rods and the beauty of detroit styling of yesteryear, and he keeps it living on the web. Others do the same, and over the past few years you’ve seen that reborn in Detroit showrooms full of “retro-styled” vehicles.
At the Atlantic, Virginia Postrel tells the tale of how the forgotten children’s story of Mr. Pine is new again through the inspiration of the internet as well.
So the power of our culture relies not on how well we propagandize, but rather on how beautiful and open it is. In the US we tend to be adopters of good things from other cultures – you can find great sushi in the midwest, pinatas at kid’s birthday parties are common here, and you can find almost as many flavors of Vodka here as you can in Europe.
That’s right: we will steal the good parts of your culture and make them ours. Over time that becomes so powerful that everyone except the indoctrinated wants to be us.
When I feel down and out I pull out a book titled “The Endurance“. It’s the tale of Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole and how he and his crew survived trapped in the Antarctic Ice Shelf for nearly two years, and how they all lived to tell the tale.
They went through hell unimagined, and nothing I’ve faced in my life has ever been that dire. (Once when my car’s gas line froze 30 miles north of Tok, Alaska while the temperature was -70 and the wind blowing thirty miles per hour things were grim, but that was short and we didn’t even get frostbitten during that four hour glimpse of infinity.)
The tale itself is both an example of terrible leadership, and a tale of supreme will begetting great leadership. Shackleton could have made several smarter decisions before he became trapped in pack ice with his crew, but he didn’t – that’s the bad leadership. The great leadership comes into play in how he kept his men going even though they were in a ridiculously terrible environment and most dire strait all due to following him.
It helps me put things in perspective. No matter how bad things seem here, they certainly aren’t that bad.
To the left you can see their ship, The Endurance, trapped in pack ice at night. The photograph was taken by Frank Hurley, and in another six years it will be 100 years old. This post is mostly about this photo, please click on it and enlarge it. Then imagine yourself there, thousands of miles from anywhere in 1915 while the First World War was on with no one coming to rescue you.
Then be happy, happy that you are warm, happy for whatever you have, and for whoever you can hold. Think of the ship next time you flip on a light, or open the fridge, or turn on the TV, and you will know joy.