A Plan for Afghanistan
Here’s my blueprint for change in Afghanistan.
And for everywhere, to tell the truth.
Let’s spend our money creating Internet access everywhere, and give it away, free, to everyone. Let’s spend our money to create non-indoctrinating content that is useful to toddlers all the way to deep age/wisdom/continued mental growth and sharpness.
For toddler content, embed feedback that mimics a learning environment designed to sync with every minute stage of the continuum through which all of us have passed to reach the place where we can read this, and where I can write it. This involves spatial, directional (left-right or right-left, or up-down); concrete to abstract, perhaps tangible objects that a toddler might assemble from any environment–stones to count and add and manipulate; objects with their names in the native language that echo pronunciation and help language to emerge, a wealth of stories if adults are working or absent, and music, music, music. A portable, durable, cheap, replaceable, easy-to-use interface holding a universe of complexity. And go from there.
If we must have troops, those troops guard the right to use one’s own computer, to question freely, to grow according to the developmental program inside every human that loves and demands to learn. We are facile, plastic, powerful. Girls do not differ from boys in this regard. I’ve been reading a lot of primatology books, and of course we also share the violent, power-seeking thread of all the other living creatures with which we share this planet, from bacteria to elephants. Yet, we can control and shape our environment in novel ways. (Sometimes I wonder. Swift philosophised that if horses ruled the world, everything would be much nicer. I philosophise: what if horses had hands with which to manipulate matter? How would their particular brains then lay down pathways? What if we had more eyes; back and front and side; how would we lay down pathways. Hands are good: how about four? And so on. Fun? I don’t know. Dr. Moreau was horrified, but he was using primitive means. What if we could try out different options and run them and if we did not like the results, modify, reset, keep the original, try something else? Model.)
Communication and being connected is at the heart of our humanity and of our human power. We can give access to and guard and nurture content that is free of ideology, certainly when it comes to number/spatial understanding and manipulation. Language is another animal; each word is deep-laden with emotional content, and we learn to play our manipulative puzzle-games in rearranging these emotion and emotion-modifying packets when we learn language.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Here in the United States, we are mere decades ahead of Afghanistan, for instance, in guaranteeing educational and civil and property rights for women. That’s all. A blip, a nanosecond in time. If some men are ready to fight to the death to guarantee the ignorance and powerlessness of the women that they “own,” then we must guard the right of those women, and, for that matter, those men, starting with boys, who do want to learn and change. We are not doing such a great job here; the barrage of commercials in which women seem inextricably linked to housework has never changed. Women are supposed to be pondering which soap to use, and then use it; men are not to waste their time on these trivial matters.
Education need not mean indoctrination, although it can and usually does. But once a child has the basics of language, rooted in manipulation of the physical world, which is the activity that lays down pathways in our brains, the world opens up.
So, it is simple. If we want to fight for something, fight to educate; fight to keep communication and education and the internet in the hands of every child in the world, in Aftghanistan and in Africa and in our own rural and inner-city spaces. Combat those who come to blow up the schools, or to bully children going to school, as we did during the sixties in the south–not so long ago, eh? Guarantee freedom of education.
I think this approach would be more effective, cheaper, cost fewer lives, and would show concrete results in ten years or less.