By Dr Hakim

5th December 2017, International Volunteer Day

01 the Volunteers , with an open bin full of trash along the street

Students from the Borderfree Street Kids School in the clean-up campaign.

An overflowing trash bin is seen in the background.

 On International Volunteer Day in Afghanistan, let us be ‘mad’

These are times when we need to imagine differently to survive,

because our norms stink with the waste we produce

from buying, eating and consuming,

and because ‘democratic’ governments don’t guarantee freedom from trash,

physical trash, verbal trash, war trash,

nuclear power trash, oh, all sorts.

Our status quo spills sewerage and putrid venom into rivers,

turning life-giving water into carriers of disease.

Likewise, when fecal matter dries up quickly in the globally-warmed climate,

‘they’ join hundreds of other invading pollutants

to form a dusty shroud,

strangling our every-day and every-night existence,

confusing our reasons for living.

Even the elite have to wear masks when they step out of their palaces

and bullet-proof SUVs for a dainty while.

They can easily hide the problem of ‘killer air’

by spouting some pacifying statistics on the GDP,

using math to cover up the mess.

When Ali Sina handed out flyers of the clean-up campaign to shopkeepers,

a vendor asked, “Is there money to be had from this?”

“A passerby asked incredulously, ‘What are you doing?’.

I’m an Afghan Peace Volunteer, and today,

we are picking up the trash along this main street,

in Allauddin Park and in a small Garden we created,” Farida said.

“You must be ‘mad’,” the stranger responded,

“or perhaps, you’re being paid by the city municipality?”

Farida and the volunteers persisted,

picking up the drink cans, wrappers and endless packaging.

They were joined by visually impaired members of Rayaab,

a private Afghan association for the blind:

Banafsha and Mahdi Salami, the Directors,

with some of their students.

Like shining commentaries on callous governance and expenditures,

they spoke through their keen civic action,

“You see the trash.

We don’t see the trash.

Let’s clear the trash.”

Let’s not decide everything based on ‘money’.

Let’s re-form our vision.

“It feels lousy to be ridiculed for doing something good,”

Farida continued, feeling the weight of public satire,

the disbelief of fellow citizens who’re tired of government inaction,

or rather, government-driven destruction.

The people are legitimately cynical:

officials speak of ‘progress’ when the reality spells R-E-G-R-E-S-S,

‘think-tanks’ speak the merits of an ‘improved’ war strategy

as more and more civilians get ‘catastrophically’ killed.

The street kids were saplings of decency,

some holding trash bags as large as themselves.

Sakina gave a speech at the start of the day,

standing on stage with Zahra and fellow students,

describing her awareness of being nonviolent towards nature;

when do adults suddenly or routinely stop learning?

The Volunteers recognized that they couldn’t finish the needed work,

and that a day of ‘campaigning’

couldn’t untangle the root and systemic problems,

but daily, we must try to repair

our erroneous ways of treating Mother Earth

and poisoning one another.

When most people are barely coping with the rigors of survival,

volunteering has angelic qualities,

and that’s what the children and youth were,

against the hellish corporate behaviour

flaunted by local and international powers.

They are beautiful fairies, rescuers and carers

who are resisting conformity,

though their service is only a drop in oceans

which are accumulating more discarded plastic than fish.

Perhaps, when they think about the tonnes of waste

generated especially by ‘advanced’ societies,

they should remember the ants

who carry weights many times heavier than themselves,

who work together to accomplish feats

each individual ant would find impossible,

who work without pay.

As if daring the world to belittle them,

some of the volunteers donated blood at the program’s end.

If we have to be viewed as ‘mad’ in order to heal our ills,

let us be radically mad.

 02 the river, the drains, Kabul Peace Garden filled with trash and sewerage

Trash and sewerage everywhere –

in the Kabul Peace Garden ( a small strip next to the road on the right ),

in and beside the drains and in and next to the river.

 03 Ali Sina copes with disbelief from vendors and the public

An Afghan Peace Volunteer, Ali Sina, copes with disbelief from vendors and the public: “Volunteer?”

 

These are times when we need to imagine differently to survive,

because our norms stink with the waste we produce

from buying, eating and consuming,

and because ‘democratic’ governments don’t guarantee freedom from trash,

physical trash, verbal trash, war trash,

nuclear power trash, oh, all sorts.

Our status quo spills sewerage and putrid venom into rivers,

turning life-giving water into carriers of disease.

Likewise, when fecal matter dries up quickly in the globally-warmed climate,

‘they’ join hundreds of other invading pollutants

to form a dusty shroud,

strangling our every-day and every-night existence,

confusing our reasons for living.

Even the elite have to wear masks when they step out of their palaces

and bullet-proof SUVs for a dainty while.

They can easily hide the problem of ‘killer air’

by spouting some pacifying statistics on the GDP,

using math to cover up the mess.

When Ali Sina handed out flyers of the clean-up campaign to shopkeepers,

a vendor asked, “Is there money to be had from this?”

04 Farida picking up trash at Kabul Peace Garden

Farida ( foreground ) picking up trash in Kabul Peace Garden,

which the Afghan Peace Volunteers have been developing over the past three years

 05 Farida and other Volunteers at Allauddin Park

Farida ( fingering the peace sign ) and other volunteers at Allauddin Park

 06 Banafsha shows the way

 06a Banafsha and her visually impaired colleague, with trash in her hand

Visually impaired Director of Rayaab, Banafsha, showing others the way

07 Visually impaired students from Rayaab

Visually impaired students from Rayaab join the Afghan Peace Volunteers

 

“A passerby asked incredulously, ‘What are you doing?’.

I’m an Afghan Peace Volunteer, and today,

we are picking up the trash along this main street,

in Allauddin Park and in a small Garden we created,” Farida said.

“You must be ‘mad’,” the stranger responded,

“or perhaps, you’re being paid by the city municipality?”

Farida and the volunteers persisted,

picking up the drink cans, wrappers and endless packaging.

They were joined by visually impaired members of Rayaab,

a private Afghan association for the blind:

Banafsha and Mahdi Salami, the Directors,

with some of their students.

Like shining commentaries on callous governance and expenditures,

they spoke through their keen civic action,

“You see the trash.

We don’t see the trash.

Let’s clear the trash.”

Let’s not decide everything based on ‘money’.

Let’s re-form our vision.

08 Sakina with city municipality workers behind her, at the start of the day

Sakina ( right ) with Zahra next to her, and city municipality workers behind her, at the start of the day

09 Sakina and Zahra giving their speeches and setting an example

Sakina and Zahra with other street kids, sharing about their changed lives

 10 Sakina at the Park, along with other street kids

Sakina ( far right ) at Allauddin Park

“It feels lousy to be ridiculed for doing something good,”

Farida continued, feeling the weight of public satire,

the disbelief of fellow citizens who’re tired of government inaction,

or rather, government-driven destruction.

The people are legitimately cynical:

officials speak of ‘progress’ when the reality spells R-E-G-R-E-S-S,

‘think-tanks’ speak the merits of an ‘improved’ war strategy

as more and more civilians get ‘catastrophically’ killed.

The street kids were saplings of decency,

some holding trash bags as large as themselves.

Sakina gave a speech at the start of the day,

standing on stage with Zahra and fellow students,

describing her awareness of being nonviolent towards nature;

when do adults suddenly or routinely stop learning?

The Volunteers recognized that they couldn’t finish the needed work,

and that a day of ‘campaigning’

couldn’t untangle the root and systemic problems,

but daily, we must try to repair

our erroneous ways of treating Mother Earth

and poisoning one another.

 11 Street Kids on International Volunteer Day 2017

11a Street Kids on International Volunteer Day 2017

13 To heal our ills, let us each be radically mad

14 donating blood

Being ‘angels’ in a war zone

 

When most people are barely coping with the rigors of survival,

volunteering has angelic qualities,

and that’s what the children and youth were,

against the hellish corporate behaviour

flaunted by local and international powers.

They are beautiful fairies, rescuers and carers

who are resisting conformity,

though their service is only a drop in oceans

which are accumulating more discarded plastic than fish.

Perhaps, when they think about the tonnes of waste

generated especially by ‘advanced’ societies,

they should remember the ants

who carry weights many times heavier than themselves,

who work together to accomplish feats

each individual ant would find impossible,

who work without pay.

As if daring the world to belittle them,

some of the volunteers donated blood at the program’s end.

If we have to be viewed as ‘mad’ in order to heal our ills,

let us be radically mad.

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