“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Afghans confuse democracy with fornication.

Afghans confuse democracy with fornication
By Sharif Khoram (AFP) – 2 hours ago

KABUL — Fornication, bare flesh and a descent into Western decadence -- these are Afghan definitions of democracy that expose how little the foreign concept has permeated the national psyche as elections near.

Afghanistan will vote August 20 in its second "democratic" presidential election but centuries of tribalism, decades of war and the draconian legacy of the Taliban ensure that confusion still reigns over what voting will bring.

"Western democracy is freedom and fornication. This is democracy for Western, American and European people and it is developing the same way here," said Wasim, a 28-year-old waiter in a Kabul kebab restaurant.

Mansoor Aslami, 21, a cosmetics shop owner, defines democracy as a boy and girl walking together on the street without being questioned, and is less than keen on some of the trends he sees among his patrons.

"I see signs of democracy among customers with bare arms and necks, but so long as democracy is according to Islam, it is good," he told AFP.

Eight years after the overthrow of the Taliban, much of conservative Afghan society has little understanding of democracy and sees it synonymous with a moral decline from traditional Islamic values, analysts say.

Afghanistan flirted with democracy in the 1960s and 1970s by holding limited parliamentary elections but the experiment was squashed with the 1979 Soviet invasion that set off decades of civil war and foreign intervention.
The 1996-2001 Taliban government banned music and dancing, ordered men not to shave, decreed that women wear the all-encompassing burka and banned girls from attending school. Punishments for violations were brutal.

After the Taliban were toppled by the 2001 US-led invasion -- sparked by Kabul's refusal to hand over the presumed Al-Qaeda masterminds of the September 11 attacks -- woman flung off their veils and celebrations erupted on the streets.

But the abrupt change jarred much of the deeply conservative, rural country. A Taliban insurgency trying to regain power and antipathy for Western troops has cowed many people into reverting to strict Islamic dress.

The country of 26-30 million adopted democratic principles in its post-Taliban constitution but with 70 percent of the population illiterate, the majority know nothing about representative governance.

For many "democracy" ushered in by the 2004 ballot, which swept Hamid Karzai to power, and preparations for presidential and provincial council elections this month have not been accompanied by awareness campaigns.

Access to the Internet and other media is scant. About 20 television channels and 90 radio stations established since 2001 mostly blare out music, offering little political debate or social programming.

But Mohammad Haleem, 25, is a convert. He says he will stand in line to vote for president and council members in his home province of Paktya.

"It allows us to select our fate," he said. "I will give my vote to the person who can serve Islam and the country."
Western films widely available after the fall of the Taliban gave Afghans an impression of democratic nations being morally loose.

"I don't know the meaning of democracy," said Noor Ali, an 81-year-old man with a long white beard sitting in front of a Kabul stall that sells petrol.

"I am old. I only know when I ask women 'why are you out almost naked in the street?' I am told 'uncle, this is democracy'," he said.

"Is this democracy? Dancing, having bare skin, dishonour? If it is, it shouldn't be," said Ali.
Critics warn that widespread corruption, insecurity and so many illegal private armies also threaten efforts to establish democracy.

Karzai's appointment of officials with dubious reputations and government failures to prosecute human rights' abusers and criminals have disillusioned many about the new system.

"I have bad memories of the past seven years," said Allah Mohammad, 60, working in Kabul dress shop and planning not to vote on August 20.

Many feel ideals that took centuries to evolve in modern Western societies were thrust upon the nation. They may eschew the polls or cast their ballot without understanding the issues, said Afghan analyst Wahid Mujda.

"When we ask people what democracy is, they will say democracy means lack of modesty and no religion, and that because of this issue there is a day-by-day increase in insecurity.

"Democracy is something that people have to get used to gradually," he said.


  1. Could be worse:

    "Daddy, it's me -- Tatum! "

    They had just put the casket in the hearse and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me,"
    Ryan tells Vanity Fair.

    "I said to her,
    'You have a drink on you? You have a car?'
    She said,
    'Daddy, it's me -- Tatum!'
    "I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."

  2. One could say that the Afghanis have a rather sophisticated view of what democracy is.

  3. During their first major break-up, O'Neal says Fawcett "was going through some kind of change. I didn't have a change of life; I was always a jerk."

  4. Some 101,000 NATO and US forces are deployed to secure the country. This includes a record 62,000 US troops, more than double the number a year ago but less than half their strength in Iraq, where violence is on the decline.

    Nine NATO troops have been killed in fighting or bombings this month in Afghanistan, including three Americans on Sunday and three on Saturday, along with two Canadians and one French.

    July was the deadliest month for international troops since the 2001 US-led invasion to oust the Taleban government for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, with 74 foreign troops - including 43 Americans - killed.

    Bomb Kills 11

  5. An open challenge to Doug:

    Kindly reveal (for enquiring minds) the things you have confused with fornication.

  6. While Snarlin Arlen puts the screws to us, cousin Phil gets a love note in prison:
    Charles Manson Sent Note to Phil Spector

  7. We are getting closer:

    Yesterday a survey reported 2 out of three respondents could not name the 2 branches of Govt.

  8. perhaps you meant to say 2 out of the 3 branches.

  9. "Mansoor Aslami, 21, a cosmetics shop owner, defines democracy as a boy and girl walking together on the street without being questioned, and is less than keen on some of the trends he sees among his patrons.

    "I see signs of democracy among customers with bare arms and necks, but so long as democracy is according to Islam, it is good," he told AFP.
    What is the point of Makeup in a Burqa?

  10. We gotta get outta that place.

    No Oil, No Love

  11. So, viktor silo having gone to bed:

    BTW, I did read with real appreciation your comment on Afghanistan, enough to write a response that I didn't post, or compose a conclusion to.

    Here it is:

    "We conclude that the UK's mission in Afghanistan has taken on a significantly different and considerably expanded character since the first British troops were deployed there in 2001," the report said.

    The booger they just can't shake.

    In Iraq, the lack of political will and cooperation on the part of the UK badly damaged the military and diplomatic efforts. For all the hoopla over the Anglosphere, that portion of it was a truly bad bit of business.

    We're hoping to avoid a repeat. Because as a practical matter we can't simply walk away. And for much the reason dear host gives for doing just that: "Afghanistan is land locked, cocked and stocked with narco criminals and warring tribal religious fanatics that make the Hatfields and McCoys look like a meeting of the Junior League." Except it's much worse than that.

    On the sunnier side of things, back when the Taliban was at its peak in the 90's it had hundreds of thousands of fighters. Today it's down to 20K or so. The pain lies in having to actually step in their shit. But as was the case in Iraq - and we hemmed and hawed on it for months and months - in the end there sadly just is no substitute for going to where the bad guys are.

    As viktor pointed out, the Canadians are committed until 2011, having met their own conditions for an extension from 2009. And it appears that Britain is poised to send 2,000 more soldiers.

    There you have it.


  12. Kabul resident Ismail Khan said he was conducting Islam's dawn prayer when the rockets went off in close succession nearby.

    Standing outside the Interior Ministry official's damaged home, witness Abdul Wali Zai said the rockets wouldn't affect Kabul residents, who experienced three decades of fighting, including rocketing that killed thousands of civilians as rival warlords clashed after Russian forces left the country in 1989.

    A few rounds of sporadic gunfire could be heard shortly after the rockets.

    Pre-election Attack

  13. Call it what they may,
    It always helps if someone actually *cares*

    HealthCARE for Canines
    Woman Saves Dog's Life With CPR

    Krisna says the dog's breath wasn't the best, but she only cared
    about saving Chicuaes' life at that point in time.

  14. On the road with Gen. McChrystal

    As top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, he spends several days a week visiting base camps and meeting Afghan officials, some of whom give him an earful

  15. (CNN) -- NATO will stay in Afghanistan "for as long as it takes," the military alliance's new leader said in Brussels, Belgium, Monday.

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen became NATO secretary general on August 1.

    "We will support the Afghan people for as long as it takes -- let me repeat that, for as long as it takes," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister who became secretary general on August 1.

    He said success in the country was NATO's top priority "to help prevent Afghanistan from becoming again the Grand Central Station of international terrorism."

    "Anyone who believes in basic human rights, including women's rights, should support this mission," he said.

    We could use the Herodian method of killing all the males. Effective but little used as of late. A tad brutal for 21st century tastes, I suppose. Tant pis, ce n'est pas?

  16. That's not exactly what Walter had planned.
    A Day at Walter's Fabulous Berry Farm

    Fabulous Farmer
    The Story of Walter Knott and His Berry Farm

    Having worked at Knott's Berry Farm in the early 1970's, I feel very fortunate to have met Walter Knott. I often saw him early on Sunday mornings before the park opened when I was going to work in Ghost Town and he was walking from his home (at Knott's) to the little church by the lake. He was always very friendly and always said hello to any employees who passed by.

    This book was the first of several books to be written about the entrepreneurial man who founded Knott's Berry Farm in the 1940's after starting to grow berries in a very rural Buena Park, California in 1920. He developed Knott's Berry Farm as the first "theme park" in the United States by bringing in old buildings from various abandoned gold mining towns to form "Ghost Town" as an attraction for visitors who were waiting to have Mrs. Knott's famous Chicken Dinner.

    This was his way of paying tribute to the pioneering spirit of his ancestors who travelled west in covered wagons. The story of Walter Knott is an inspirational one for anyone, but particularly for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. He never gave up, despite many hardships and set-backs.

    This is also a wonderful book for anyone interested in the history and development of Orange County up to 1956 when the book was published. Highly recommended!

  17. 69. Marty:

    The thing is, Conyers, Rufus, and Specter are right, reading and understanding a 1000+ page bill is a practical impossibility for a Senator or Congressman.

    The question should therefore be whether Congress should be legislating and the government should be dealing in so many complicated areas that the policy-makers can’t even make a try at understanding what they are doing.

    We are really at a crossroads, I think—we will choose, whether we know it or not, between small but representative government or what Theodore dalrymple calls “the omnicompetent state” which is really govt by bureaucracy with only the thinnest, almost meaningless veneer of representative democracy.

    I suspect that is the thinking in DC, and why the otherwise nonsensical rush to jam something thru–to get the country to “choose” the European model without understanding it is choosing.

  18. For the record,

    Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security all are patently bankrupt within a rather short stretch of time.

    What logic does it take to advocate more of the same as a remedy?

    This means you, Rufus.

  19. If only Issa were POTUS:

    Committee on Oversight and Government Reform - Republicans Press Release Report

    Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise

  20. It is outrageous that ACORN will be rewarded for its criminal acts by taxpayer money in the stimulus and is being asked to help with the U.S. census,” said Rep. Issa. “This report shines a light on clear criminal conduct and it is abundantly clear that they cannot and should not be trusted with taxpayer dollars.”

  21. I inclination not approve on it. I assume polite post. Expressly the appellation attracted me to study the whole story.