The Tragedy of Trading Sufferings

From the late nineteenth century, when the Afghan people found themselves ensnared in international rivalry within their geographical borders, their trade, travel, and cultural and political interactions with neighboring regions notably dwindled, effectively becoming disconnected. Consequently, they fell into the trap of dependency on international aid. Since then, the British, who had imposed various military and political barriers on this land’s inhabitants and offered kings a stipend as a friendly gesture, the “so-called” independent Emirs of Afghanistan eagerly anticipated each year’s shipment of goods and money from India.

The allocation of this aid, lobbying for its increase, and monopolizing what came from India consumed substantial energy from Afghan officials and authorities.

This dependency permeated society. People who had lived for centuries without foreign aid and who had not only sustained themselves but also supported opulent courts, and the peace of numerous artists and scholars through trade, agriculture, craft, and reciprocal exchanges with regional residents, were transformed into a needy community. The renowned civilizations across the Hindu Kush, Sistan, and Herat undoubtedly did not emerge by begging or receiving stipends. The inhabitants of this land were not vastly different from other regional dwellers in terms of trade, craft, agriculture, art, sciences, and literature.

The geographical confinement imposed on our people in the nineteenth century induced political dependency, official begging, and collective famine.

Consequently, the narrative of beggar-dom and victimhood peddling became entrenched in the nation’s politics, and regrettably, it gathered more devastating momentum over the last half-century. Currently, soliciting support from aid funds has become the paramount mission for the Taliban, mullahs, educated individuals, and politicians. This culture has also inflicted damage on our social relations and collective behaviors.

In the media, eliciting tears, exchanging sighs, and playing the victim have become commonplace.

Many apparently educated individuals, when they lose their status and livelihood due to political shifts, instead of pursuing another job, wait for “support”. If some resort to manual and daily wage labor, rather than taking pride in their blistered hands and acknowledging their resilience in life’s fluctuations, they moan, accuse the world of apathy, and lament their “harsh fate”.

Certain foreign institutions have also profited from the victimhood and economic dependency of our people. At times, to stimulate the aid industry, they manipulate numbers and documents, overstate disasters and problems, and depict the Afghan people as increasingly helpless and needy. In aid reports, the situation is painted in such a way that fruitful trees, blister-handed farmers, or industrious laborers seem scarcely found across Afghanistan. It appears as if all the springs have dried up, all the trees have lost their fruits, and the workers have no other task but to await global support.

We have accepted so much aid, conducted jihad with foreign money, instigated revolutions with foreign money, and undertaken pilgrimages and travels with foreign money, that we no longer consider receiving aid as shameful. Conversely, if we can compose a proposal and launch a campaign that brings a few million dollars of aid to us or our compatriots one day, we cannot suppress our pride and believe we have fulfilled our national and ethical duty in the best possible manner.

Some of us, when we become intermediaries in aid distribution, capture photos and videos with pride, claiming to be engaged in the best work, expecting praise from the people and special favor from God in the afterlife.

Although this victimhood and hunger peddling are the results of the imposed geographical and political situation, it is not our inevitable fate, and it can be ended. To escape from this situation, we must remind each other that victimhood has its projected patrons and can transform some of us into opportunistic traders or politicians, but it is not the way to salvation. Playing the victim, begging, and seeking help is a very painful social and political disease. We need to find a cure.