FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Thirst That Won’t be Quenched

by KEN HANNAFORD-RICARDI

Kabul.

It’s early evening near Pole Sorkh (po-lay sork) Square in western Kabul.  Although it’s barely 6:00, winter’s cold bare feet have already started their walk across our apartment. Ali, Abdulai, Roz Mohammend, and Faiz have joined Maya and me on the floor of a small room that later will double as a bedroom for a quiet evening of reading and studying. Like most of the others, I’ve cocooned myself in a thick quilt and I’ve begun reading Ha Jin’s novel of the Korean War, War Trash.

Not five minutes into the Prologue, I sensed Faiz edging his way over to me. His voice quiet, almost a whisper, slips out into the room; “Will you study with me?”  Over the next fifteen minutes, we worked our way through three short lessons in a workbook written for first graders.  Each consists of a simple, one page story followed by a series of questions based on the text. They are extraordinarily simple; they seem almost humiliating for a twenty year old young man. As we study, nineteen-year-old Roz Mohammed shyly carried his blanket and English language dictionary to our corner and settled in.  Every so often, he’d shyly interrupt Faiz as he read and say, “Teacher, what does this word mean?”

Across the room, Maya and Ali worked on the meanings of basic words culled from a middle school dictionary.  Ali studied intently, pronouncing each word carefully, as if it were an egg that might easily be broken. “Basket. Bully. Bundle,” he would say, repeating each word until he got it right.

A half hour after we began, still only a few sentences into Ha Jin’s prologue, I looked across at Maya and asked, “Where in America can you find anything like this?  A cold room, nothing but quilts and a kettle for tea on the floor, and four boys asking us question after question about a language they’re trying to learn.”  In truth, this type of thing happens all the time in our small apartment.  The five young Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers who live here with their friend and mentor, Hakim, never go anywhere without a workbook or dictionary. After breakfast, one pulls a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket and begins to study.  Waiting for a ride, another asks, “What does this mean?”

Across the hall from us live four university students.  One is studying electricity; one aspires to be a pharmacist.  Two days after our arrival, one of them, a young man named Said, knocked on our door and asked if one of us would like to help them learn English.  Maya and I settled on meeting them in their apartment at 7 pm that night.  The first class had three students; the second, five; now there are six.  We work from copied pages and a white board.  Each student actively participates.

Each of these young men, all symbols of the “new Afghanistan,” possesses a thirst that won’t be quenched.  In our conversational practice, we talk of how they will shape their country in the years ahead. According to some figures, 68 percent of Afghanistan’s thirty one million people are under eighteen years old. No matter what the old guard wants to believe, the future of Afghanistan belongs to the young. We can only hope they won’t be co-opted by the temptations dangled before them by western “leadership.” We can only hope they’ll grab the reins of power and gallop off in a new direction, one of peace and reconciliation.

If the world you and I inhabit really wants to help these young people, and I doubt very much it does, it will do all it can to slake their thirst for knowledge. It will provide all the help they ask for, and nothing more. It will respect their intelligence and desire to find their own way. These students deserve our respect. They know, no matter what we say, they don’t have it now.  It’s about time they do.

Ken Hannaford-Ricardi is a long-time Catholic Worker from Worcester, Massachusetts. This is his second visit to Afghanistan. He can be reached at keninafghanistan@gmail.com

This article was originally published by Waging Nonviolence.

February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail