What's your favorite thing you have in your 'SAVED' section on reddit?

From /u/Lorpius_Prime

So... it's difficult to comprehend the political reality of Afghanistan from the perspective of someone used to modern, Western conventions. The place is not a country, not really, and it never has been. It is more accurate to call it simply a geographic region, and one composed of innumerable different polities, some of them very tiny. The myriad cities, tribes, and villages have only ever been united in the most tenuous of ways, and hardly ever as a single unit.

The place is often described as being stuck in the dark ages, and there's a kernel of accuracy to that. But it's far from a complete picture. You can find those dark ages in poor, isolated villages mostly cut off from the rest of the "country" in their own lonely mountain valleys. With very little social or economic interaction with anyplace else and very little education, the people in places like that can grow up and live without the slightest notion of just how economically impoverished and culturally backwards they would seem to someone living in the urban sprawl of a western nation.

Try to wrap your head around what something like a war seems like to people from places like that. Wars are when your distant cousins from two valleys over, whom you've seen maybe once every ten years, come and say they need help to fight foreign barbarians. A handful of young men from your village--because a handful is all who live there--leave with them to join the fight, because that's what young men do for family. It's what your village has always done all the way back to when it was the Mongols that threatened to loot your homes rather than the Russians or Americans, and you know so because your grandparents still tell stories about it that they heard their own grandparents tell. They don't go fight for any high ideals, the very concept of philosophy isn't something they'd be familiar with. They might have heard talk of things like "freedom" in news broadcasts from the village's one radio, but to them "freedom" simply means not having to worry about foreigners burning down your village.

So the young men go off to fight, and everyone's proud because they know it's the right thing to do; though of course they're also worried sick because they know wars are dangerous and it's tough to sacrifice the work of many people even for a short time. Time goes on and maybe some of the men who left eventually trickle back with stories of fighting, and you hear news reports about it on the radio, but you don't really know what's going on because you have no concept of how far away these places you've never been really are or how many people live there or what's really at stake.

Then a while later some armed men show up in the town in a couple of jeeps--which is itself a spectacle because the one truck in your village broke down back in the 1970s. They speak your language, and come from your tribe, which makes them a little okay; but no one actually knows who they are. They say they come from Kandahar, which might as well be Shangri-La as far as you're concerned: a place of mythic wealth and beauty, but also unimaginably distant. They say they've come to spread the revolution against the foreigners and infidels. And everyone's still pretty okay with that, because even though they weren't all that concerned before, they're still all good faithful folk committed to defending their own against foreigners and infidels.

Things start getting a bit tense, however, when more of the fighters from Kandahar start showing up and setting up camp around your village, where there wasn't a lot of free room or food to begin with. To make matters worse, the fighters are pretty pushy about their religion, which you're starting to discover is a lot more fervent than the pretty quiet and simple version that you're used to. Eventually there's an argument between some townsfolk and the newcomers over respect for property... and it ends with the fighters stringing up your village elder and shooting him to death for heresy. Now everyone in the village is pissed at these people, but they're also scared to death because the fighters have lots of guns and the village has maybe three rifles that were 80 years old when they were being used against the Russians and just a handful of equally ancient ammunition. So the villagers, rather than resisting openly, turn to small acts of sabotage and displays of contempt; but that only leads to more brutal retaliation from the the fighters.

Eventually one of the older men decides to make the trek to see family a few valleys over to complain and see if he can't get some help... only to discover that his cousins' village has been bombed out and burned by other fighters from an even more mythical and distant place called Kabul. They're from another tribe entirely, just as foreign as the Russians were 20 years ago, so the old villager gets the hell away as fast as he can. Only he returns home to find the Kandahar fighters have been getting ready to go attack that very troop of men from Kabul, and they're demanding that the village cough up a few dozen men to join them; or else face severe penalties for everyone who lives there. Left with little choice, the village begrudgingly complies, and finds itself even more closely caught up in this terrible struggle that it doesn't comprehend and wants no part of, but cannot seem to escape.

If the village is lucky, the fighters from Kandahar eventually move on to somewhere else, leaving the place slightly more impoverished and depopulated than before, but at least relatively intact. Eventually, they manage to win the fight against their enemies, which victory the village is only aware of because it's mentioned on the radio, whose broadcasts now take on a somewhat more fervently religious character. Everyone gets a little stricter about reading (or listening to readings of) the Koran and following its tenets the way the fighters said they should be followed, because on some level they're scared of the fighters coming back and purging the village again, but also because they really do feel at least a bit of the fervor themselves after the stories they've heard of the great fight.

If the village is unlucky, the tit-for-tat cycle of resentment and retribution escalates until the fighters from Kandahar simply slaughter enough of the population that the village can't sustain itself and the survivors flee to other villages or cities for refuge. Or there's a battle fought between the fighters and another faction that similarly destroys the place. Or the fighters never leave, and choose or install their own new elder to lead the village according to their strict principles and collect grating taxes for a "government" that they never see.

And one day a funny-looking foreigner visits the villagers with a camera, and asks some of them--through a translator--if they're happy that the Taliban won the civil war and now rule the whole of the country. And the villagers say yes, even though they don't really feel like much as changed for them. Because those Taliban are their tribesmen, and it's better to be cheated and beaten by your brother than by a barbarian infidel. And what business is it of this strange man, anyway? All they want is to be left in peace. And maybe now that the war is over, that's what they can have.

/r/AskReddit Thread