Skip to comments.Afghan Idyll
Posted on 11/12/2001 9:24:44 AM PST by IronJack
From a distance, Afghan society appears as repressed as Torquemada's housemaid. But upon closer inspection, one finds that they are party-crazed hedonists who make a Berkeley frat house look like a Franciscan abbey. Let's take a closer look at some of the wacky antics of those fun-loving turban-winders, while there are still enough of them left to constitute a statistically valid sample.
For example, what does the average Taliban child do when the bell rings and school's out for the day? Well, first of all, the bell doesn't ring. It runs on electricity and there hasn't been power in the city since 1982. The bell from the tower was melted down a decade ago for shell casings. So the muezzin comes in part time and hollers down the hall. Of course, it's hard to tell whether he's announcing recess, a bombing raid, or the next in an interminable round of prayers. But the kids can read the subtleties in his howling and know whether to head for the playground or the hills.
The streets echo with shrieks of childish laughter. What mischief is afoot? The youngsters have cornered a stray dog and are torturing it to death before dragging its still-twitching corpse into the cafeteria. There, the soothing hum of flies lulls the active children into a torpor, the better to digest the MREs dropped for them by satanic Americans, and supplemented by the dog carcass. The children's tender stomachs rebel at the rich meal of pup-on-a-stick and American soda crackers. They've grown accustomed to eating sawdust and tumbleweed stew. But, resilient as children anywhere, they manage to hold their lunch down.
Then it's time out for prayers. They unroll their rugs and bow to Mecca to thank Allah for the gifts he's bestowed on them in the form of Taliban repression, food barely fit for offal, and the life expectancy of a Clinton whistleblower. "God is great!" the muezzin wails over the sound of gunfire. "God is good!" amidst screams from a woman caught showing her ankles. "Mohammed is His prophet!" A jackass brays outside.
Only one boy dies during prayers today, probably from some kind of hemorrhagic plague. The headmaster instructs the Safety Patrol to carry the body to his office, where he will loot it for valuables like gold teeth. Afghani headmasters don't make much. An occasional corpse-robbing supplements his meager pay and helps buy ammunition.
Once late-early-morning pre-lunch prayers are over, the kids are dismissed. There's no need to keep them in school; everything they need to learn is either in the Koran or it's blasphemy. So the kids race to the door, fling it open, and promptly fall flat on their faces. Most of them have been crippled by land mines scattered in gay profusion across every corner of the countryside and they don't handle stairs very well. Their disfigurement is an economic boon though, since several children can share one pair of sandals, and their bathrobes often only need one sleeve.
They wend their way home taking care to avoid the bombed-out ruins of the cinema, where, in the Dark Times, Western filth delighted so many. It wasn't until the Taliban enlightenment that they discovered Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner were agents of Hell. Across the square, government goons are horsewhipping another deviant who was caught urinating with the wrong hand. His blood runs into a pool on the ground, and the children splash happily in it, churning it into a pinkish goo perfect for making mud pies. They were hoping for a beheading, not only for the gala spectacle it presents, but because the heads make good soccer balls, and bodies can be stacked up for goal posts. Today, however, there are merely a few public lashings and an amputation. Another group of boys gets to the bloody hand before they can. But there's always more blood and more mud pies.
The worrywart in the group reminds the boys that they need to be hurrying along, that it means a good flogging if they're caught outdoors at prayer time. They grumble - but only under their breath lest the religious police hear - then break up and stumble to their respective caves.
At home, little Muzzaf play with his scorpion, the big one they hid from mom before she could make supper of it. Dad's not home from work yet, so none of the 16 children or their 5 mothers gets a pre-dinner beating. Sometimes Papa is so tired from his job at the tumbrel factory that he can barely raise his fist. Those are sad nights, when his heart isn't in the abuse. His family feels neglected, since they know that kicking the snot out of them is the way he shows his love. But they all have their burdens to bear, and they make do by beating each other or throwing rocks at the Taliban gauleiter, who whips them obligingly.
Dinner tonight is tick kabobs and scab rangoon, a special treat for the kids after the dogsicles at school. Truly Allah has blessed them this day; usually they get meat only during Ramadan. And then it's usually just spiders. To keep from becoming spoiled, they'll each only get a teaspoon of the yummy entree; any more would be carnal indulgence and could get them branded with hot irons by the religious police.
Dad comes home and gives a round thumping to Abdullah, the 11th oldest son. The others grumble; Abdullah is his father's favorite and always gets the best beatings. Then the patriarch gives a desultory kick or two to a couple of his wives and sits down to read the paper. But since he can't read and the only paper he gets is the Taliban Daily, written in blood on the back of a CIA pamphlet, he settles for smoking opium out of a battered hookah rigged from a Fiat radiator and a length of garden hose. With visions of gauze-clad harem girls whirling through his addled mind, he slips off into a coma, from which he can't be roused to eat his slop.
The kids want to play outside the cave after supper, but their moms are afraid that they will drag in more junk. They're always picking up unexploded ordinance here and there, and being the pack rats they are, they never throw anything away. Just last week, Achmed nearly caused a cave-in when a mortar shell he was playing with blew up in his face. His brothers threw his body out for the vultures, then divvied up his clothes. Muzzaf got his sandal, although he had to knock out two of Abdullah's teeth to get it. And it turned out to be for the wrong foot anyway. But Muzzaf knows he can trade it for something fun - a new magazine for his Kalashnikov or a couple of fragmentation grenades - at school tomorrow (assuming the school is still there).
Mom(s) reluctantly agree to let the youngsters go out to play. "But make sure you wipe your feet when you come back in. Use one of your sisters if the doormat blew away again." The gleeful urchins tiptoe by Dad, now fleeing demons in his drug-laden stupor, then crawl through the entrance into the waning sunlight to frolic. A few stray wolves have come down from the hills to scavenge, and the boys play fetch with Achmed's shinbones. Little Assan stumbles and falls once, and the pack starts to close in on him. His brothers quickly wager on how long he can fight back. But an incoming artillery round scares off the predators and Assan scampers to safety.
Tuckered out after a hectic day of gratuitous cruelty, ignorance, and crushing poverty, they wiggle through the cave entrance, pray again, then drift off in the dank, dripping darkness to await another dawn. Dad finally rouses from his tortured slumber and throws the women out to sleep with the wolves while he beds down with a nanny goat.
A twilight hush falls over the valley as smoke from cooking fires shrouds the swales and an eerie mist creeps down the mountainside. The crickets chirp, the wolves howl, and the stars shine down on a moon-dappled landscape that hasn't changed in three thousand years.
Then the jets come