I am a terrorist… I am a personal terrorist … I use terror tactics to scare myself and so sabotage my progress. So by being a terrorist I often never attain the goals I want to reach and can do easily. I haven’t yet figured out what goes wrong.
So what form of personal terrorism do I practice? I am afraid of failure and yet I am an efficient person, when it comes to helping others I am a pioneer. I volunteer to talk about my neighbours or the attitude of the bus driver or the baker for an hour. As a habit I need to visit some friends or relatives everyday. It’s my very strict religious duty to distribute part of my wealth to the poor, no matter if they deserve or not as a matter of fact the distribution system is decided by someone else.
It doesn’t finish here. There are other codes of morality in the society too. I am strictly obliged to be hospitable, generous, aggressive, protective of my wife, sister and mother.
I terrorize myself by constantly letting other people’s feelings and anticipated feelings come first. The more I do this the better person I am accepted in the society. am I a martyr because I have always lived for others and therefore avoiding painful situations and am seen by others as a good person? I even don’t know how to enjoy myself without doing something for others. As a matter of fact I don’t know if there is anything I could do for myself. I tend to feel selfish If I do something I want to do, and even that is not enough the moral orders of society make me feel not only selfish but terrorized.
My terror started long ago when I was a kid; it started when I was a little boy. By the time I was six or seven, I had lost something very important. I didn’t know I had lost it, nor did I know what it was, and it was a very long time before I knew. But what I had lost was my mother. I didn’t know I had lost her because she was still there. But I had lost her because she had stopped being my mom. She became an embroiderer. Traditionally in our family, a girl can’t get married before she learns how to do embroidery and sewing, and every mom in the family knows how to do it.
She had to do embroidery so she can sell it to Agha Badar across the street. Agha badar is a tall man with long beard and light skin. He comes from Kandahar.
Agha Badar had a big gold ring with a piece of diamond sparking on it and a yellow watch on his rest. I always liked to run to his shop and ask him for time. Agha badar owned the only watch in my street and everybody was coming to him for time.
When playing with the boys on the street I was hearing rumours that he has big businesses abroad and he exchanges the embroidery for foreign currency.
This was all rumours, but what I knew for sure was that he was always praised by my mom for being a respectable person who always helps others and he doesn’t care about his well being and comfort. I remember my mom was saying that Agha Badar has some money to support himself without working but he chooses to help others.
My mom didn’t have the money to buy the materials and tools to do her own embroidery and sell it for a higher price. Even if she had the money the materials and tools were hard to get around my village. So Agha badar was a good person, because he provided the tools and materials and a reliable market for selling embroidery products. He was also putting orders for more and more embroidery, he also was supplying the designs and colours he needed every week. But in exchange for all this he was buying the product for 50% of the price.
I also heard that foreigners liked to wear hand made embroideries from Afghanistan.
I never understood “why?”. Apparently, they thought it was fashionable. That made me more confused; I thought it was the tradition of my village and it’s only fashionable here. One day I thought so and I run home and asked my mom.
– Mom, is embroidery the tradition of our village?
– Yes, of course it is. That is why I know how to make it and so does every other woman in the village.
– Then can I have a new embroidered dress?
– I will make you one day.
– can I have the one you are working on?
– no this is not for you. This is not for the village.
I soon learned that my mom would never be able to make me embroidery; she was too busy sewing for Agha Badar. She was sitting by the flickering oil lamp until mid-night sewing. In the morning her nose and eyes were black like the factory chimney. So was every body else. In the dark long winters we closed all air holes to protect ourselves from bitter winter. In a way the black thick smoke was appealing it kept us warm but black the next day.
In the summers it was better; my mom was sitting on the roof under the moon light and sewing most of the night. This way she could have saved the oil for cooking. But I hardly remember any hot food, first she couldn’t make time for cooking and every once in awhile when I asked for food she was telling me there is not available in the village to cook. So all I had was bread, and in the evenings with grounded garlic in salty hot water.
From time to time I was thinking about the embroidery and the kind of people who would wear them. I was wondering about what they do and I often thought if they were bothering to think who make their fashionable clothes.
My mom started the embroidery after my father’s death; after she had to support our family.
One day four men delivered a bed covered with white clean sheet to our house as soon as my mom saw it she knew what has happened, she started weeping loud, grabbing and pulling her hair, I never seen her so emotional before.
Neighbours started to visit my mom and in every visit my mom had to repeat the same torture. She had to go through the same process of deep grievance and stress. To my total surprise all the neighbours were also doing this with my mom. It was like the whole village was trained how to make themselves deeply upset and how to help others become sad by spreading their grievances. First I thought my dad’s death meant he went to a long, deep, clean sleep somewhere; especially when I saw the men taking him out in the same bed with the white sheet on it and some red tulips too.
After a few months I realised that no one in the village, neither my mom herself, tries to get out of mourning and continue with her life. In fact she and everybody else wanted her to be sad and it was the best to show her caring toward my dad.
I doubt if my dad wanted to kill my mom emotionally by his physical death.
I sometimes think I have inherited from my mom; the will to sacrifice my desire in order to meet others anticipations.
In my highly stratified village, with very little opportunity for people to move out of their given social positions, when you are to mourn you should only mourn in the village way, there is no other way. a code of rights and duties serves the village which at least serves to curb some excesses, and to mitigate the effect of domination. I was not sure whose domination is served by my mom’s behaviour. Maybe Agh Badar had a benefit. Maybe all the men of the village.
I was depressed as I saw there was no possibility for my mom to go outside it; and raise any question of the village in am more fundamental way. It was inconceivable for my mom to negotiate with Agha Badar. The question of needs and interests can’t be brought to the open in my village.
In my village there seems to be many situations where people resort to moralistic considerations about what they ought to do in relation to others, when it would be perfectly possible to consult those others about what they actually want.
Then I started to see more and more men in the village going to sleep and they were carried out of the village on a bed with white sheet and red tulips. The same process of moaning was repeated over and over again. After the moaning the lives of women had totally changed; they transformed into depressed creatures. I was really surprised how everybody reacted the same way to mourning and lost of their loved ones. Later I came to realise if these women continue with their normal life and with their own way of dealing with the crisis; the village can’t tolerate that, there was not enough room for everybody to be themselves. I started to understand how the moral order worked.
As I was growing up my thought were evolving. First I thought my dad was asleep then I was convinced he is in a secret place, then I liked to believe he has joined his soul and is in another parallel world and finally I just accepted the termination of his physical existence. But it’s weird that everybody in the village no matter how old they are they all think my dad is living with the angels.
With the increased number of deaths in my village more and more women had to do embroidery to support their families. There were more cloths than Agha Badar could sell to the rich foreigners, one day Agha Badar said the foreigners don’t want to buy them in the usual price so he had to bring it down. Every body was sad at the beginning but they started to get used to it as Agha Badar was buying it cheaper and cheaper; and one day everybody decided to stop doing embroidery because they couldn’t make enough money. Instead they started waving carpets. My mom started to make more money again. But it didn’t take that long until the carpets lost its profit too. Agha Badar was saying the foreigners still like our carpets but it’s not something they can consume everyday.
One day my mom wanted to talk with me. We were sitting in our garden. Her hands were shivering, her eyes were flat and watery, she was pale, her cheeks had lost its colour, she was covering her head with a piece of very old scarf. She started:
“You know I am old now I can’t do embroidery or waving anymore. My eyes can’t see, my hands don’t help me anymore. But I still have to bring some food for us.”
She was really looking worn out and old, but my mom wasn’t old, she was seventeen when she got married and it was twelve years ago. She started to believe she has no control of the difficult situation anymore, she showed more emotional stress than ever before; more than when she believed its all going to be over soon. My dad’s death and support of the family caused my mom to face the difficult situation of life and experience a more intense shock of life as more uncomfortable than before.
She asked me to find a job and help her support the family.
This is the day when my mother becomes my daughter whom I had to look after her and be responsible for her. This meant that I had to be very old, almost as old as king Zahir shah, who also had daughters. And I had to look after the young little boy as well. Of course I didn’t want to be an old man because it made me very anxious. But I became two people in one, a young little boy who wanted his mother, and an old little boy looking after his mother/daughter.
I had no skill and no idea of what to do, the only thing I had was the blessing from my mom, and she blessed me clearer in spirit, simpler in thought, greater in love, more confiding in hope more ablaze with faith more humble in spirit.
The village was brining up a new generation of teenagers after the war, whose fathers were dead in the battle and whose mothers were dead in their very alive bodies. some modification in the village culture came about in response to variation and destruction of village agricultural and irrigation system, the fortitude of villagers, and the discovery and adoption of some new material technique like the carpet waving. This is not the end of it; the air of the village was filled with smoke of the war and the rooms were dark and filled by the thick smoke of oily lamp and sadness.
The teenagers decided to revive the agriculture and resort to the pre-war condition of their fathers. But it wasn’t possible in the short term, to live the teens started to grow poppy. It was introduced by Agha Badar, he said the foreigners will buy the product at higher price and it is not like embroidery or carpet. The market for Heroin is unsachetable, because there is always more and more need for it. This started to become a single social life-world. A single framework of shared meanings; a single way of agriculture and survival. All the social practices, both those which we describe as having mainly instrumental function (such as procuring food and shelter) or those primarily expressive (such as music or story-telling) fitted together into a single pattern. The symbolic structure of myth and religion helped to make the fears, tension and contradiction of poppy cultivation acceptable in daily life. Then the interpretation was not enough and using the religious myth my village started to promote the open expression of emotions. Hyper emotionality replaced some other expressive instruments such as music and story telling. Emotionality banned music in my village.
This is when the terror got deep in us; I was not the only terrorist in the village. All of us shared the same faith, and terror didn’t remain a personal issue. We started to terrorize each other. Village control was a collective principle and responsibility; the principle sanction of action was shame, a public loss of face. There was no internalised sense of ought. Punishment became a collective action for losing the face of guilty.