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Ever think the whole world is getting to look the same? Paul Overby talks about this in his book about the Afghan War from the rebel's side, Holy Blood.

Twenty years ago in Sumatra, while walking near Lake Toba, I came across a small stone table and a ring of stone stools overgrown and abandoned. The tiny, deserted stools seemed poignantly to symbolize the collapse of Traditional Culture. The old way of life of the people around Lake Toba, or so I imagined, had shriveled into insignificance and irrelevance before the more powerful sun of Europe: the overwhelming military power of the Dutch, the scientific knowledge that could dependably alter the physical world. The richer and more tantalizing luxuries. Each one of these pulled people away from the old ways, and at the same time made the ground for Islam harder.

From Afghanistan to the Amazon, all over the world traditional cultures are being challenged by a single enemy: Western modernism. Afghanistan is one battle in a world war between one system and all other old systems, a war that extends in time and space far beyond the Hindu Kush. It is a war of desperation, a deadly serious wrestling match over reality, social reality. A powerful, aggressive and often apparently soulless culture has appeared from a distant place and seized the lives of the local people. They struggle to protect the fragile, shriveled creature that was once their existence.

The Afghans have struggled particularly hard against the encroachment of modernism because they are mountaineer conservatives and because they are Muslims. Islam has given the Afghans a hard shell to protect their ways. The disadvantage of a place like Afghanistan in this contest is unconsciously expressed by a leading Afghan intellectual, Hafiz Olfat, who, in writing about the need to borrow foreign words for Pashto, made the stunning assumption that nothing new comes out of Afghanistan: "Those new meanings which are now created in the world naturally do not have a name in Pashto..."

When I was with Mullah Naqeeb in Aghrendab, as we were making one of the daily shifts of location to avoid enemy attention (Mullah Naqeeb driving his own pickup, lugging it, describing wide awkward turns), I noticed a motorcycle passing the truck. Next to me a young mujahid, mouth slightly open, followed the motorcyclist's progress with total absorption. His The look of awe and admiration and desire on his face said it all. He wanted that bike and the power and the speed. Between the donkey he could have any time and that would do the same job of getting him to town, between the old donkey and the motorcycle there was absolutely no competition.

The look on his face, so immediately comprehensible, so hard to quantify, is the impact of modernity. The effect is pervasive, and enters into society's pores in a way that energizes and confuses, and also fills the traditional world with unease.

Excerpt From Holy Blood: An Inside View of the Afghan War, Paul Overby, Praeger, p. 191.

Available through:
Praeger Publishers
Box 5007
Westport CT 06881
Tel: 1 (800) 225-5800

The opinions expressed in the above excerpt are not necessarily those of Atiyeh International, Ltd.

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