Is the Taliban patriotic?

The people of Afghanistan have become pawns and everybody in power is painting this story to suit their respective national interests

Saket Suman Sep 05, 2021
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Taliban leaders

The question seems absurd but absurd indeed are these changing times. While we mourned and grieved and struggled against a hundred odds to defeat the coronavirus, the China-spawned catastrophe on the face of the earth, terror returned to the land of the Kabuliwallah with the rise of the Taliban -- and now, we know they have Beijing’s backing!

“The world is at a tipping point as we march into the new decade,” I warn in my just-published book The Psychology of a Patriot. “ Instead of accountability, securities and liberties, we have to deal with taxes, restrictions and surveillance.”

The implications that this abrupt takeover will have on the lives of Afghans seem to have been ignored in the frenzy of geopolitical turmoil we are witnessing in its aftermath. The people of Afghanistan have become pawns and everybody in power is painting this story to suit their respective national interests. What is lost in the process is the place that sentiments have in our lives.

The thing we call patriotism is but a sentiment that cannot be poked and aroused. It’s something we acquire when we become us. The bond we share with each other manifests our patriotism. But most of us still feel horrible when we realise that we are obliged to pay taxes and discharge our duties as citizens whereas the guarantee of rights and liberties is not much realized in return. We feel betrayed when we are deprived of our rights and liberties that are central to the concept of patriotism.

We are able to do so because we believe in and seek to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. 

Patriotism, thus, denotes the harmony between people and the Patria (ancient Roman, for home) as opposed to a situation where they tolerate, exploit or forsake each other.

Let us now come to the story of the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan that was triggered by the decision of the United States to end its longest war. US President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had promised to end what he called the forever wars.

The outplay of events as a consequence of this so vital decision has been horrendous. We have seen a desperate withdrawal of troops among other early signs of the anticipated mayhem. 

Superficial idea of patriotism

And yet, we, as people of the earth and members of our respective countries and communities, we, the forever free, can feel that a very superficial and outward idea of patriotism is being constructed in our brains with the help of irksome algorithms on the world wide web. It is as if we are being prepared to accept this as the new normal and think about foundational issues under influences that may be vested or motivated. 

For patriots like us, who make a fuss, the Taliban is unacceptable because an atrocity anywhere is an atrocity everywhere. We are people of the earth, we always were, long before the countries were even imagined and thought of. We lived here with animals, birds and trees until the survival of the fittest kickstarted a series of radical transformations in what became nations and states.

That the Taliban stands against the very essence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it continues to be defiant in its attitude make it illegitimate stakeholders in the Afghan game. The discussion on the future of Afghanistan should begin after the Taliban do not meet the prerequisite conditions of upholding human rights. More than anybody else, it is an insult to the martyrdom of the American armed forces, the numerous sacrifices of its veterans and those who served in various capacities. Not that it was all hunky and dory over there; but they stood for a cause, the cause that the Taliban opposes.

It is okay to think about our short-term national interests but we should also know, understand and appreciate that when there is equality in and among all nations, there will be harmony on the planet we call home, the home that became the Patria to Romans, who found meaning in the word patriotism that is being so vigorously contested today. When there is harmony on the planet, patriotism will drive our zeal to give everybody the dignity of our shared evolution from apes to humans. That is the ancient Indian philosophy of patriotism where we regard mother earth as our home when we say Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the Sanskrit phrase that means "the world is one family".

To get there, we must aim for greater goals and be worthy of the great leaps we have made together as humans. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is progress humanity has made; it’s time to defend it in Afghanistan.

“Until then,” as I elaborate in The Psychology of a Patriot “patriotism will remain a sham, an invisible moral authority that prevents us from seeing that there are greater things at play, that there are deep states, the corporation and the powers that be, those that do not go away with the fall of governments or uprisings of the people.”

(The writer is the author of The Psychology of a Patriot published by Rupa Publications, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at writesaket@gmail.com)

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