People’s Political Indifference

By: F.S.

Nearly two years have passed since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, and during this time, the social system has been shaken to its foundation. People are deprived of their basic rights, poverty, and unemployment have reached their peak, women are deprived of their right to education and work, people are forced to migrate, former soldiers are killed every day, and people are subjected to being stoned, buried beneath walls, and all kinds of oppression. In the meantime, what we see every day is people’s indifference towards these changes. People are trapped in their daily routines and they have closed their eyes to the fact that even the smallest daily action is affected by the policies implemented by the rulers. Although people see that they do not have bread on the table and their daughters are left out of education and they do not even have the right to decide on the size of their beard and choose their clothes, they do not take any kind of meaningful action to stand against this situation.

The spontaneous reaction of people today is considered an effective tool in all countries. When the citizens of society take collective action and stand together against oppression and injustice, no force can silence their voices and neglect their demands. There is also a popular saying among the people that “the power of the people is the power of God”. So, according to this point, the question that is raised is why people have become socio-politically indifferent. Why do people not react to the events that happen in society? What has caused people’s numbness and their passivity in the direction of society?

In the first days of the return of the Taliban, nationwide women’s protests started, which were limited to a few provinces. However, the protest did not spread and did not gain the cooperation and solidarity of men as expected. Since then, we have seen that the people have not protested against the anti-human policies of the Taliban. They have neither reacted to the bread that was taken from their table nor to their freedoms and rights. Where do such coldness and indifference come from? The death of their countrymen does not make their blood boil anymore; seeing women stoned and lashed by the Taliban is tolerable for them, and it has become normal for their daughters not to go to school. All these injustices are being carried out by those who have taken away the people’s right to live peacefully and build the country for more than twenty-five years. The state of indifference is not the result of choice; in some cases, it is spontaneous and, sometimes, it is not. Both groups whether those who are consciously indifferent or those who are unconsciously indifferent to the political and social arena are affected by factors related to their current situation or lived experience. From a sociological point of view, with the reduction of social belonging in society, the sense of connection among people decreases and people do not consider themselves part of a whole and as a result, they become indifferent to the events around them. Moreover, poverty, cultural background, political culture, lack of connection between politics and individual and social happiness, social despair and confusion, people’s lived experience, epistemic system and fatalism, and the indifference policy of the ruling system are some of the factors that prevent politics from becoming an intellectual concern and a practical preoccupation for humans.

Afghanistan’s Political Culture

Political culture consists of the set of mental attitudes of people towards politics. The political culture of any society is the historical accumulation of traditions that determine people’s orientation toward political authority, political structure, government institution, and their awareness of the processes affecting political decisions. Despite the experience of 20 years of democracy, Afghanistan’s political culture is underdeveloped and highly traditional for various reasons. It is also worth noting that in Afghanistan, we have not witnessed a uniform political culture among all the people and political leaders. Three major ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences have shaped the social fabric in Afghanistan, each of which has its own characteristics.

In Afghanistan, every group that has seized power has tried to nationalize their own tribal culture and assumed their political culture to be the dominating culture of the whole society and to be acted based on it. Political culture, attitude, and behavior is the dominant historical and psychological reason for patrimonial rulers in which the government is the personal territory of the ruler, the interests of the ruler are called the interests of all the people and its nature is absolute. In addition, in such a system, power relations are established as a one-way between the top and the base of the power hierarchy. This type of discourse in Afghanistan has mostly been associated with political patriarchy, authoritarianism, pure obedience and subservience, the connection of politics with myth and religion, the sanctity of power, not being criticized, and the elimination of participation, which ultimately hinders people’s active participation in politics.

The Taliban can serve as a clear example of this type of political attitude. This group, which has e a tribal origin and arose from a certain political culture, considers the government to be their tribal heritage and God-gifted. They have a rudimentary understanding of politics and governance. In the best case, the Taliban analogizes Afghanistan to a patriarchal family and consider themselves the father of that family or the big brother while other tribes and groups are considered younger brothers and thus, they try to exploit them.

This group is indifferent to the people and their situation due to their authoritarian attitude toward the government. Indifference is still considered an order in the Taliban regime. Just as Hitler built his power on the basis of the masses who were apolitical and uninterested in political issues, the Taliban are also seeking to make the people indifferent to their autocratic and oppressive policies. Therefore, the Taliban want a society in which normal people are on their own and have nothing to do with social and political affairs and relations so that they can form their empire more easily and without hindrance from within.

The Knowledge System of Society, Fatalism and Irresponsibility of People

In Afghanistan, along with other factors, the knowledge system of society has made people passive. The worldview of most people is deterministic and the fatalistic attitude is prominent among them. The appreciative tendency has strengthened the perception among people that they consider the political events of their environment to be the result of a will and a matter of a divine and metaphysical force. It seems that every event is predetermined and people’s actions will not cause a tangible change in society. This type of attitude has caused people to shirk their responsibilities towards socio-political affairs. Besides, fatalism has caused people to lose faith in themselves as the only liberating force. Although this attitude is less common today compared to the past, it still exists among people to varying degrees. On the other hand, the Taliban regime has targeted this feature of society and relates every natural and earthly calamity to a divine force. They do not do anything for the people themselves and consider poverty and misery in the society not as a result of their injustice and domination over the country, but as a result of predestination; likewise, they delightfully consider their domination over the country to be God’s will and inculcate the same narrative in the people. In the same way, they invite people to raise their hands to pray for their liberation from poverty and misery, presuming that whatever misery they have brought to the people was the cost of the “Taliban’s Emirate” coming to power and God’s will, and the solution to all the problems of the people is to get isolated and keep praying. They believe that the hands of external forces are involved in whatever happens in politics. Also, the autocracy, bullying, corruption, and rent-seeking of politicians had made a mess of the political system and as a result, people did not see any connection between their individual/collective prosperity and the political system. Today, this kind of belief has caused people to run away from their responsibilities towards the affairs of society and do nothing to free themselves from the oppressor’s rule.

The Necessity of People’s Activism

Political indifference, both knowingly and unknowingly, contributes to the longevity of the oppressor’s rule, resulting in the oppressor continuing his oppression without any disturbance. With this fact, activism and resistance against the Taliban is one of the urgent needs of our society today. It is neither moral nor in accordance with human nature to indulge in eating and sleeping and assume that everyone’s pain is their own. Today, what is missing among normal people’s daily behavior is political activism. In this situation, unless the people themselves wake up from hibernation and fight for their rights and freedoms, no force is capable of protecting them.

The Taliban want a society whose people are like obedient sheep, not showing any reaction to their ruler’s inhuman and brutal actions. Therefore, they have created the atmosphere in such a way that they use the political passivity of the people for the benefit of their dominance. What people need to understand today is not to expect an external savior, but to rely on themselves and believe in the strength of their arms and the strength of their voices so that they can acquire their rights and freedoms. Otherwise, poverty and misery, discrimination, oppression, and deprivation will prevail and root in society and people will get used to it.