Saturday, October 09, 2004

Tribalism Meets Democracy

"Democracy, if you can call it that, collides in strange ways with the tribal system of Afghan village life. Dehnow is a mostly Pashtun village, and Hamid Karzai is a Pashtun. Even without the instruction of the leader of the village council, Dehnow would probably come out for Karzai. In Dehnow, like many villages across this remote and isolated country, decisions are made collectively, bubbling up from the 3,000 families that live here, and trickling down from the elders who are village council members.

"As the voting began, it became clear that for many, especially the least educated, simply making their own decisions about political matters is a new and uncertain thing. When handed a ballot, with pictures and symbols to help identify the candidates, an elderly man looked at the long, 18-name list with confusion. So he asked the advice of the polling station staff and was told make a mark here, in this box. The one next to Karzai's name. It wasn't clear how often this happened throughout the day."

I'm not sure what I think about this, but it's fascinating. I have long heard that tribal peoples are rather like children when viewed from Western eyes. This seems to flow in that vein.

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