Watched film The Lone Survivor (2013). The horror of war. The codes and rules contained therein.
And, in our highly compromised culture of illegality at the highest reaches of political and corporate privilege, we have before us a meditation on how we wish to dwell in a forgetful world.
We have something to learn from Pashtunwali, a pre-Islamic code of hospitality:
“Melmastia” (hospitality) is a key component of Pashtunwali. “Melma” means a guest. However, hospitality is not to be interpreted in the manner a Westerner would interpret it. It means offering hospitality to a guest; transcending race, religion and economic status. It also means once under the roof of the host, a guest should neither be harmed nor surrendered to an enemy. This will be regardless of the relationship between the guest and the host enjoyed previously. In this regard, melmasthia takes precedence over badal (yet another principle of Pashtunwali); so even the enemy who comes seeking refuge, must be granted it and defended against his pursuers Elphinstone in 1815 observed: “The most remarkable characteristic of the Afghans is their hospitality. The practice of this virtue is so much a point of national honour, that their reproach to an inhospitable man is that he has no Pashtunwali” (Elphinstone 1969: 226).
Simply put, “Badal” means “to seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer.” There is no time limit to when the injustice can be avenged. If badal is not exercised, the offended man or his family will be considered stripped of honour. The exercise of this principle can lead to generations of bloodshed, feuds, hundreds of lives lost for one insult. It requires a violent reaction to the insult or death or injury inflicted. A badal usually ends with a badal. An action elicits or demands an equivalent response - and the cycle goes on. Khushal Khan Khattak, the great Pashto poet, warrior and soldier, was not far off the mark when he said: “Let the head be gone, wealth be gone, but the honour must not go, because the whole of dignity of a man is due to this honour.”
(--Understanding Pashtunwali, by Yasmeen Aftab Ali, The Nation Newspaper - Lahore. Pakistan, August 06, 2013)
Wikipedia elaborates on the twelve principles of Pashtunwali:
Although not exclusive, the following twelve principles form the major components of Pashtunwali. They are headed with the words of the Pashto languagethat signify individual or collective Pashtun tribal functions.
- Melmastia (hospitality) – Showing hospitality and profound respect to all visitors, regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status and doing so without any hope of remuneration or favor. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.
- Nanawatai (forgiveness or asylum) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this refers to the protection given to a person against his enemies. People are protected at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified. Nanawatai can also be used when the vanquished party in a dispute is prepared to go into the house of the victors and ask for their forgiveness: this is a peculiar form of "chivalrous" surrender, in which an enemy seeks "sanctuary" at the house of their foe. A notable example is that of Navy Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a US Navy SEAL team ambushed by Taliban fighters. Wounded, he evaded the enemy and was aided by members of the Sabray tribe who took him to their village. The tribal chief protected him, fending off attacking tribes until word was sent to nearby US forces.
- Nyaw aw Badal ('justice' and revenge) – To seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer. No time limit restricts the period in which revenge can be taken. Justice in Pashtun lore needs elaborating: even a mere taunt (or "Peghor/پېغور") counts as an insult. Monetary compensation can be an alternative to badal, for example in murder cases.
- Turah (bravery) – A Pashtun must defend his land, property, and family from incursions. He should always stand bravely against tyranny and be able to defend the honour of his name. Death can follow if anyone offends this principle.
- Sabat (loyalty) – Pashtuns owe loyalty to their family, friends and tribe members. Pashtuns can never become disloyal as this would be a matter of shame for their families and themselves.
- Respect for the environment. Pashtuns must behave respectfully to people, to animals, and to the environment around them. Pollution of the environment or its destruction is against the Pashtunwali.
- Groh (faith) – Contains a wider notion of trust or faith in God (known as "Allah" in Arabic and "Khudai" in Pashto). The notion of trusting in one Creator generally comports to the Islamic idea of belief in only one God (tawhid).
- Pat, Wyaar aw Meṛaana (respect, pride and courage) - Pashtuns must demonstrate courage [مېړانه]. Their pride [وياړ], has great importance in Pashtun society and must be preserved. 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. If one does not have these qualities they are not considered worthy of being a Pashtun.
- Naamus (protection of women) – A Pashtun must defend the honor of women at all costs and must protect them from vocal and physical harm.The killing of women is forbidden in Pashtun culture
- Nang (honor) – A Pashtun must defend the weak around him. In Pakistan, the crime rate is much lower in Pashtun areas than non-Pashtun areas
- Meheranah(manhood or chivalry). A turban is considered a symbol of a Pashtun's chivalry
- Hewaad (country) – A Pashtun is obliged to protect the land of the Pashtuns. Defense of the nation means the defense of Pashtun culture or "haśob" [هڅوب], countrymen or "hewaadwaal" [هيوادوال], and of the self or "źaan" [ځان]. This principle is also interconnected to another principle denoting the attachment a Pashtun feels with his land or źmaka [ځمکه]. In times of foreign invasion such as the Soviet-Afghan War Pashtuns may unite for war under a religious leader.
In prison this Fall, if the coronavirus allows any return to what passes for normalcy, I will teach with an inmate assistant a course on The Code of the Warrior, Ethics and Character Development.
Being a warrior is broader and deeper than we might initially think.
And, perhaps, in this country, at this time, we have not yet begun to think.