Thursday, April 7, 2011

Enemies and Friends - Pashtunwali and Modernity

It is a very dehumanizing experience to sit with people or be around people that one hates and dislikes. Office/work life is all about struggling to cope with emotions like hate which one often feels towards his fellow colleagues and bosses. Humans are not made to fit cubicles inside offices that look like cubicles etc. We have evolved to live in a different world all together, a world where enemies are enemies and friends are friends. Modern life has blurred this definition of friendship and animosity. It's actually beneficial in a modern work place to be friends with your enemies, not showing your inner emotions to your closest enemies.

Now the problem with hiding emotions is that it is chronic. And this happens day in and day out and goes non-stop. People rarely fight in offices, and once too often we hear of people completely going nuts breaking stuff with some of their friends (disguised enemies) uploading their youtube videos and making them and instant hit.

I was reading on pashtunwali and thinking about this difference between modern and ancient heuristics about friendship and enmity.

Modern heuristics on enmity:

1) Treat your enemies as your friends, call them once in a while, go and meet them and act friendly towards them, go out of your way to make sure that your inner emotions are always hidden.

2) Be even more friendly to your enemy than your closest friends if there is a reward at the end of the tunnel

3) Your friends wouldn't really be sure if they truly are friends because friendship/enmity signalling is so mixed up. You would most likely have no real friends and the people you think are your friends may actually be your enemies.

4) Be chronically stressed about your relationships

Ancient Pashtun heuristics

  • Melmastia (hospitality) - Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of distinctions of race, religion, national affiliation as well as economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns are considered to be the most hospitable people in the world. A Pashtun may go to great lengths to show his hospitality.[4][14][15]

  • Nanawatai (asylum) - Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this is used for protection given to a person who requests protection against his/her enemies. The people are protected at all costs, in many cases even people running from the law must be given refuge until the situation is clarified.[4] It can also be used when the vanquished party is prepared to go in to the house of the victors and ask for their forgiveness. (Is a peculiar form of "chivalrous" surrender, in which an enemy seeks "sanctuary" at his enemy's house).

  • Badal (justice) - To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. This applies to injustices committed yesterday or 1000 years ago if the wrongdoer still exists. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or "Paighor") is regarded as an insult - often, shedding the taunter's blood is the only acceptable redress (and if he isn't available, then his next closest male relation). This in turn may lead to a blood feud that can last generations and involve whole tribes with the loss of hundreds of lives.[4]

  • Tureh (bravery) - A Pashtun must defend his land/property, family and women from incursions wherever he or she might reside. A Pashtun should always stand brave against tyranny and he should always be able to defend his property, family, women and the honour of his name; killing the offending party is an acceptable recourse for an attack on any of these.[4]

  • Sabat (loyalty) - Loyalty must be paid to one's family, friends, and tribe members. Disloyalty is extremely shameful in Pashtun culture, and a Pashtun's family, friends, and tribe members are also shamed if one is disloyal.

  • Imandari (righteousness) - A Pashtun must always strive towards thinking good thoughts, speaking good words and doing other good deeds. Pashtuns must behave respectfully towards all creations including people, animals and the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.[4]

  • Isteqamat - Trust in God (known as "Allah" in Arabic and "Khudai-ta-Allah" in Pashto).[4] The notion of trusting in the one Creator generally comports to Islamic belief in only one God (tawheed).

  • Ghayrat (self honour or dignity) - Pashtuns must maintain their human dignity. Honour has great importance in Pashtun society and most other codes of life are aimed towards the preservation of one's honour or pride. They must respect themselves and others in order to be able to do so, especially those they do not know. Respect begins at home, among family members and relatives.[4]

  • Namus (Honor of women) - A Pashtun must defend the honor of Pashtun women at all costs and must protect them from verbal and physical harm.[4]

    Not all apply to enmity and friendship but here is the crux of the matter.

    In pashtunwali, you treat your enemy in the worst possible manner (revenge is compulsory) but when he seeks hospitality/help or asylum from you then its your duty to take care of him even if your own family goes hungry. In pashtun culture, the enemies house is the best place to seek help when one is in trouble.

    In modern times, it's the opposite, you treat your enemy as your friend but when he seeks hospitality/help or asylum, you hesitate to offer it, which is a weaker form of revenge and far worse.

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