Saturday, December 22, 2001

Thank You, MSNBC

I am learning so much about what life is like in Afghanistan. Not just that "the people are poor", which is generally all that the humanitarian organizations have traditionally wanted to tell us before picking our pockets, but what life is like. For example, they had hydroelectric dams, which generated reliable electricity for a significant fraction of the country ... but they (or their armed tourists) looted the power plants and stole the wires for scrap metal, and now they have one power plant, that sorta works, some of the time.

The more I learn about that part of the world and its people, the more I respect everything that allows me to sit here and chat about it. The technology, the culture, the value we place on individual achievement, all that I take for granted, they don't have. The USA might as well be on the moon for them, and the idea that anything we think or do has anything to do with them must seem as unlikely... as the reverse seemed to us on September 10.

Even (especially!) the assumption that government derives its power by consent of the governed. Afghanistan doesn't have that. (However distrustful I may get of government agencies, I know that the occasional *bang* I hear outside my window is only a vehicle backfiring, and the water in my tap is safe to drink.)

The important part of the press coverage of this adventure *ahem* is not the war news, but the stuff that fills time around the war news. The wider dissemination that gets, the more we may realize just how rich we are.

(Further reading: P. J O'Rourke, All the Trouble in the World.)

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