Open our Eyes in Afghanistan –from Kathy Kelly’s newsletter

Kathy Kelly, who was PPJ’s fall speaker, sends out a newsletter periodically from her organization Voices for Creative Nonviolence.  The following excerpt from an article by Hakim (Afghan Peace Volunteers) caught my eye. –Josie

Afghan Peace Volunteers

Open Our Eyes in Afghanistan by Hakim*

Even from kindergarten, my ‘inner’ eye was being blinded to alternative ways of learning other than a test-based approach. Unconsciously, I was motivated to believe, “This is education – reading and writing the English and Chinese alphabet well enough to be some ‘meritocratic’ top student.”

Many decades later, during a three-month peace workshop at Bamiyan University, the student participants identified illiteracy as one of the main reasons for the chronic wars in Afghanistan. My awareness had revolutionized, so I disagreed and offered, “The unlettered Afghan shepherd is usually enraptured by care for his sheep. He does not sit on councils to pen justifications for expending blood and money to wage wars. His illiteracy does not cause wars.”

Asad ( not his real name ) had become a young journalist, certainly literate, and educated, by conventional definitions. At a meeting of the showcase ‘Afghan Youth Parliament of Bamiyan Province’, this Hazara, wearing tinted glasses and a Western success-style coat, had concluded, “The Taliban are mainly Pashtun. If I took power someday, I will eliminate them.”

These days, think tanks, and these not even military think tanks, will praise this ‘realistic’ strategy, perhaps even recruit Asad. Asad’s eyebrows were contorted with prejudice and anger. His breath seemed to be puffs from ‘fighter jets’. The war will rage on in his personal and social life, along with the academic degrees he’ll frame and display is his bright-future office.

If I were an angel, I would have let in as much sunlight into that meeting room as possible, encouraged him to ease his frown, and enrolled him in a visionary kindergarten, where, after 5 minutes of “A,B,C” and” آ, ب , پ” , I would introduce him to a 5 year old Pashtun boy, and suggest, “Go out to the park together for the next 50 minutes. Look and listen attentively without alphabets distracting your minds, so as to understand how many different kinds of insects and birds there are and to appreciate their songs. Study how the snow leopard is endangered even though it won’t make you a high-dollar earning oil-driller, mineral-extracting corporatist, or the first financial derivatives trader in Afghanistan.”

“Remove the adult tinted glasses, and open your eyes.”

Excerpted from a longer article available at http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/05/open-our-eyes/

*Hakim, ( Dr Teck Young, Wee ), is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

 

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