27 July 2008

The Tragedy of Ignorance

We were talking to some villagers about our respective countries and mentioned America had put a man on the moon. "They don't understand", said our interpreter. "How can a man stand on something the size of a coin?"
- Soldier serving in Afghanistan.

Sometimes we wonder why the insurgents of these areas fight, and how they believe they can possibly win against the US military.

But for all they know - not unimaginable for those who think the moon is the size of a coin - the entirety of the US military could be the 10 Soldiers and the couple of helicopters they have personally seen.

For all they know, when a small patrol base is broken down to be moved elsewhere, it's because the Americans have been beaten by the small arms fire they coincidentally took the day before, and are withdrawing in defeat.

So they fight on, knowing only that which they see.

In the mountains of Afghanistan perhaps two or three of the elders of a village may be literate. Even that mundane capability contributes to the unlimited power they hold.

Who knows what they tell their people about us and why we are there? How much can even the "elders" know?

The answers to those questions are likely to vary widely. Some use their knowledge and power for good, such as those who harbored Marcus Luttrell. Others take a different path.

But the fact is, without knowledge, truth becomes a relative thing. Such is the tragedy of ignorance.

And the danger.

Meanwhile, in another village, an interpreter turns back to the American Soldiers and weeps for his people. "They don't even know there is such a thing as an ocean."

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