Tribes fighting tribes for control of resources, for revenge, and for the shear thrill of being young and vicious. Here is a haunting picture from the New Yorker that has just published a superb piece by Jared Diamond in which he traces the deeds of Daniel Wemp in the New Guinea Highlands as he goes about organizing his relatives to kill in order to revenge the killing of his “beloved paternal uncle Soll.”
Reading Diamond’s article, we soon come to realize the power of family and tribe to induce irrational loyalties, to induce murderous acts, and to substitute for the reason that is at the basis of a lawful society.
On a seeming unrelated topics, I notice in a document the date of which I cannot establish and which seems to be issued by the Secretariat for the Ministry of Mine and Industries, Kabul, Afghanistan, the following:
Gold has been worked in Afghanistan for centuries from many areas including Takhar province in the north and from Ghazni, Zabul, and Kandahar provinces in the south-west of the country. Currently, gold is produced almost solely by artisanal miners working the Samti Placer Deposit in Takhar Province.
More on this seemingly unrelated topic, I came across the following report, the accuracy of which I cannot confirm, on a strange site called monsters & critics:
The Afghan ministry of mines will hand over the rights to mine for gold in the northern province of Takhar to a private Afghan company, an official said Friday. Local media quoted Ibrahim Adil, Afghan minister for mines, as saying, ‘An Afghan private company won the bidding last year and it would invest around 40 million dollars for extraction of gold located in the northern Takhar province.’ According to the minister for mines, the project by the unnamed mining company will create job opportunities for more than 4,000 people in the region. ‘Scale and level of gold is not specified so far but according to the contract, 50 per cent of the income from the gold extraction will be given to the Afghan government,’ Ibrahim Adil told local media.
Now that is a royalty payment: fifty percent! Probably that is why the unnamed company that “won the bidding” won and is an “Afghan private company.” What western company would be prepared to mine for a mere fifty percent.
But the Chinese are there already. Imagine: Canadian and American soldiers are fighting and dying so that the Chinese can go in and mine the gold. I quote from the same report in monsters & critics:
The Afghan government signed a contract for extraction of copper with a Chinese company called Metallurgical Group Corp (MGC) in November last year. MGC will invest 2.8 billion dollars to extract copper from the Ainak mine. The Ainak copper mine, located 30 kilometres south-east of Kabul in Logar province, has over 12 million tons of copper, making it one of the biggest copper mines in the world. According to the Afghan ministry of mines, the Ainak copper mine has been leased for 30 years to the Chinese company, which will pay 400 million dollars annually in tax to the Afghan government.
To bring these seeming disparate reports together and to a conclusion: The British Empire grew as soldiers paved the way for priests who paved the way for merchants.
Are Canada and the United States in the grip of a collective tribal instinct to go out to revenge the past in Afghanistan and so intent on tribal revenge that they do not even notice the Chinese merchants come sneaking in to make money as we spend both money and blood?
Or is the western adventure in Afghanistan just another instance of empire building in which we have yet to progress past the first stage of soldiering?
Or are the Afghans, or at least some tribes thereof, glad to be free of the restrictions of other tribes and now are running to enrich their tribe under cover of American folly and Canadian visions of an all inclusive, heterogeneous society of homogeneous goodness?
Regardless of the answer, I find something totally distasteful about the idea that Canadian and American soldiers are dying so that some Chinese and some privileged Afghans can go about making money mining.
I know the answer if that we should be proud we are restoring Afghan society to the point where it can mine…but still there is something wrong with this story, where we die for mere gold coins?