This is Sarah Chayes and she has written an amazing book called Thieves of State. She was a journalist and embedded herself in Afghan society and started a soap factory. She also got close to the Kharzis. She at first tried to help but became aware and then disillusioned.
Her thesis is basically, many states of the world have broken down because of corruption. Global aid in cash feeds this. Power brokers ‘capture’ foreign aid and development and then compete amongst each other for control of the cash or income streams that flow from it (cue the Russian mega billionaires).
The humiliation and daily impact on citizens, especially proud men in societies like Afghanistan breeds resentment; reprisal killings and inhumanities increase. The breakdown creates a vacuum into which the people reach for local warlords, ‘strong men;’ tribalism takes over as a de facto form of government. Even if bad, people often gravitate to these ‘strong men’ in desperation for some form of order, the chaos being too insecure, frightening and destabilising. And it is into this context that extreme Islam emerges (again, amongst proud resentful young men). They are told, “well, this corruption of police/politicians/leaders happens because they do not observe the law of god. If they did, this would not be happening.” Extreme personal morality becomes an attractive counter and hope to the hopelessness of corrupt and failed states like Afghanistan. It also provides an easy target for the breakdown and easily identifiable ‘enemies’ (people in power who have corrupted themselves). This is why America and the West, the source of all the money, is often viewed so negatively, a great corrupting ‘Satan.’ People who collaborate, are also viewed as part of the problem.
She says this is exactly what is happening now in Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia.
A feature is internal ‘civil war’ amongst tribal or regional groups competing with each other for resources in a completely corrupt and self-centered human societal context.
Fascinating. I agree with her. But I view this essentially rotting moral framework as both a natural human scenario but also driven by spiritual forces (of malevolence against humanity). This is a conventional Christian worldview.
To safe, affluent, sheltered critics of Christianity, there is really no answer to this. I argue, that Christianity –in the first century as well as the 16th century (in the form of the Reformation, a political reaction to the corruption of Divine Monarchs and the rotten Catholic Church empire) as well as now –is one of the few, if not the only, system or “ism” that can modify this slide to destruction.
Christianity’s power works at the level of individual human morality and self moderates. It is only as a collective of that, that it works at a State level (ie the takeover of the Roman Empire simply through the power of so many Roman citizens turning to christianity, and eventually the emperor himself). It eschews corruption and selfishness, and that is why where Christianity is generally applied – not to over state the case – as an underlaying principle of state philosophy or policy –say in Britain, or early America, Ethiopia– the worst excesses of human behaviour (corruption, greed, random killings, murders, pillaging, oppression of the weaker) is generally constrained and resisted.
The secular world has little response to the breakdown of states like Yemen, Afghanistan (both Russia and the West have tried there), Nigeria, Somalia (Black Hawk Down) other than to send in tanks and bomb the crap out of those involved in the dissolving system (victims as well as perpetrators).
It is a fascinating discussion and poignant in the context of geo-politics in our world today. Fascinated by (and involved in) politics as I am, I find this intriguing. The world we live in is largely unravelling as we know it; we are viewing enclaves of order and cohesion amidst seas of corrupt and imploding societies, mass exodus, refugees and war. This will only continue as a kind of tipping balance swings over. Jesus said, “In those times, nation will rise against nation, there will be wars…” “men will be lovers of self…”
For me, this is a biblical inevitability and a state of affairs warned about and described over and over by various biblical voices (the Prophets, the chronicle of Israel’s history, the lessons of her kings’ careers, the canon of apocalyptic literature, etc).
But I have hope. As modern life at the international level darkens, and the West (where there is still some light) reacts with bombs and guns and soldiers to hold back these chaotic developments (within as well as without) there is a Great Hope coming, who will Give Light to the Nations. But until then, we will have to endure, and wrestle with, the consequences of humanity’s natural way of doing things.