Hello there! I’m going to have to come up with a name for you if I keep writing here. It’s rather a confusing prospect, what to call you. I definitely don’t intend to go all ‘Dear Diary’ over here, but all the same I need some sort of nickname to reference you. There’s plenty of possible candidates but I’m going to just randomly pick one and call you Gandalf. I’d like to think Gandalf reads my thoughts. You with your big bushy beard and your magical powers. I’m glad to have you around, Gandalf. Welcome to the Taha-Train. I hope you don’t leave too soon, although that’s up to me, of course.
So, what is there to report on today? Let’s think about it for a second. Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmm. I started a new book, for one. Lesley Hazelton (the one from the TED talk)’s After The Prophet. It’s a lot like Barnaby Rodgerson’s book in that it traces the history of the Shia-Sunni divide, and it’s a lot like most Western scholarship on the question in that it has a visible if not blatant Shi’ite bias.
I have a slightly odd quandary when it comes to perceiving this situation myself. So, by virtue of being a communist, I have an almost instinctive urge to favour the underdog in any given scenario and to morally identify with them. Logically speaking, on any averaged global level, said underdog are the Shia, not the dominant Sunni. However, if I look at the situation logically : While I don’t completely agree with either side, I find the Sunni logic, if not their conclusions to be considerably more sound. By that I mean that I dislike the way that the Sunni try to claim that there was some sort of coup-like attempt from Shi’ites and that they’re evil and all that, but I do fully agree that the spirit of a more democratic early Islamic community was preserved to a much greater degree in the Sunni ethos than in the hereditary fetishism of the Shia. Add to that the hero worship which surrounded Ali, turning him into the Arthur of the Islamic world (not that the modern Sunni is any better with the Prophet and the Sahaba), and the Shia embody many things which I am not comfortable agreeing with.
But I still love and support them. And therein lies the rub; I have an instinctive and often logically unjustifiable need to support the ‘oppressed’ without a material or ideological understanding of the situation at hand. Tell me Russia has invaded the Ukraine; I’ll sing for the banners of the Ukranian nationalists. (This has changed now that I know they’re fascists). Funnily, it doesn’t actually even make all that much sense for me to favour a minority community over a majority. Being a communist, I am defined by opposition to a rich minority. Why does this minority-majority logic not apply elsewhere? Why are the dynamics of ethnic/religious/sexual divides distinct from those of wealth? It’s a rather interesting question, to say the least. I intend to put much thought into it and come up with some manner of a satisfying answer.
Speaking of satisfying answers, there’s one more I need to attempt to reach. Lots of high profile Taliban kidnapped individuals have recently returned home. People like Shahbaz Taseer and all. They’ve grown overtly religious and have done their best to not condemn their captors. They’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome-like symptoms. Why? The immediate answer which comes to me is that they’ve just been kidnapped so long that they had no choice but to attempt to rationalize it in a manner which makes it look as though nothing is wrong. That’s fine, but still strikes me as a stretch from reality. Amnah thinks it’s true. Putting more thought into it, I think that the first question that I need to answer is why I have a hesitation to accept this conclusion. Let me try to break it down.
-Person was kidnapped
– Person had to rationalize their situation
– Person rationalized situation by bonding with captor
I think my problem is with a hidden premise : that it’s possible to bond with the captor. And I think that likely speaks to a deeper prejudice in me, one which revolts against the idea that it’s possible to form human connections with the Taliban. Ironic, considering how often I’ve said that terrorists are just hurt and lost people who need help. Why is it that my deepest self hasn’t internalized that? I really must. If I do reject this prejudice and accept that it’s possible to bond with a terrorist captor, then the rest of the argument logically makes perfect sense. The captor is a captor, but he is not necessarily cruel or inhumane to the captive. He’s possibly even friendly, likely being some poor lad who’s met his first celebrity. In circumstances like that, it would make it seem much more likely that it’d be possible to bond with them. That’s a much much more satisfying conclusion.
Well, Gandalf, that’ll be all for today. Thanks for your time. I’m interested to think what you’d be doing right now, trawling the plains of Valinor. I hope you get all your powers back. I wrote a poem for you when I was smaller, it’s still online, you should definitely read it.