Horror and moral terror are your friends. The genius, the will, and the strength. The total revulsion, the total repulsion, the ability to sacrifice one’s own flesh and blood. These are not monsters. They fight with their hearts. They are filled with love. Moral. Primordial. Without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.
No noble savage, no exoticism, no civilizational superiority, no modernity, no backwardness. No emic, no etic, no “being there,” no words. Impossible to describe in words, as Col. Kurtz says. Not the kind of “teachable moment” most academic anthropologists would look for, or choose. We don’t have the words for this: this goes beyond mere cultural relativism, it is going beyond going native, it is even deeper than an inconceivable emic detachment. It goes beyond the boundary. It’s not “constructive academic engagement,” because it’s better. It is truth beneath the truths.
There may be lessons for anthropology, but there are also some very wise words for coming to an understanding of resistance groups that are routinely demonized, turned into monsters, judged to be irredeemable by the international, “civilized community of nations” (i.e., usually the white ones), whose sole fate is to be extirpated by those who would judge them. For those who see it as their mission to be in Afghanistan, to remove the Taliban from this world, they have already lost.
[material originally appearing here was removed and saved for a different post]