The Afghan Middle-Class

I have not written a poem in some time. I have not been inspired – and I cannot tell you why. Perhaps with age comes an inability to multitask. Perhaps I have been gathering inspiration and now it is time to write a bit.

The New York Times is my computers Home Page. Some of you know that war has long given me inspiration. Today one of the headlines is: “34,000 U.S. Troops to Exit Afghanistan Within a Year.” This headline has five photos next to it, yet they are a part of another article titled: “New Afghan Middle Class Fears for the Future.” Each photo is current. I find the first photo riveting. It is modern but looks like a painting done in the fashion of realism, but set in the latter 19th century. Poem linked to dVerse Poets Pub OpenLinkNight Week 83.

The Afghan Middle-Class
Your country in ruins, toppled, rubble all around you.
Yet oblivious you stand at the bar ready to drink the blood of your brothers.

Yes, you are the middle class, the class that capitalism and war have built.
In your dark Brooks Brothers suit you stand at the bar Martini in hand.

Confidence gives you a slight aura of a halo. But it is the wrong color betraying your motives.
You don’t see those behind, pressing about you, men and women in tribal dress.

For you it is about the money, the power.
For them it is about little pieces of freedom.

How long will her face be uncovered, her dark glasses go un-cracked?
What peace has come to them through ten years of war?

War torn, this a country of fragmented pieces without peace yearns
To be put together and made whole. Will you rebuild with these shards, this detritus of war?

Or will the broken buildings simply become bunkers for the next battle?
As I look beyond the holes in the earth, the dusty playground, I see new tombs of the rich, ugly monolithic apartments built with acts of corruption.

They create a backdrop for war-youth playing kickball in the dust.
Afghanistan has a new and fragile middle class.

A middleclass made all the more fragile by a thin partition,
the wall pushing back against poverty, ever present.

The headline reads: “Fears of the Future Haunt a Budding Generation of Afghan Strivers.”
The strivers are in their tall semi-safely constructed compound.

They are separated from the youth playing in the dust of the street.
The strivers are mere feet from poverty. How long before they fall to the next war predator?

Always the illusion of safety, created by the money of corruption separates one from poverty, until poverty comes knocking on your door again.
Better, so much better to dismantle the wall yourself and meld with a piece of that poverty, lifting up rather than separating.

Yes, what will become of the middle-class?
The middle-class is in their wasteland.

42 thoughts on “The Afghan Middle-Class

  1. always the illusion of safety…i dunno do you praise them or fear them…those that can compound themselves from poverty by feet…do we need them to help forge a way out…i like your thoughts on melding with a piece of that poverty…it all comes down to the heart behind it you know…glad you found your poetry…smiles.

  2. I can’t imagine what the Afghan people are experiencing. Even after my oldest son returned after a seven month tour from Afghanistan and told me stories and shared about the local customs and their day-to-day lives, it was hard to imagine what they are enduring.

    • Talon, please thank your son for his service. I hope that he is adjusting well and not experiencing the difficulties that so many do experience after living through war.

      Thank you for your comment. I am with you – I cannot imagine what those who live in Afghanistan experience. I just cannot.

  3. I can’t really speak to this subject intelligently, as I haven’t read the article or other articles. I do fear for Afghanistan though. They have had a history with war. I do wonder if THIS time they will find a way to avoid going along with some empty promises of outsiders….or perhaps those within who would strive to control with weapons rather than making use of the ballot. I wish I could say I was hopeful about that part of the world, but when WAS the last time they knew peace?

    • Mary, thank you for your comments. This country has been occupied and at war for so long, with no one ever winning so to speak that there is no real predictable outcome. I believe war to be the greatest evil upon earth. Afghanistan has seen MORE than it’s share. Corruption is rampant, religious fundamentalism is chaotic and tribalism pretty much takes away all hopes for the people. I am sorry that we ever went in there.

  4. You know this is true not only in Afghanistan but in other Third World Countries and war-torn lands. The middle class is torn between the poor and the mighty who keeps and provide for their material needs. Eventuality, the middle class segment will disappear and I hope they will find their voice ~

    Nice to see you at D’verse ~ I had a smile when reading your comment about “mature”…ha..ha…


  5. oh i really felt this – the danger, the tricky position of having got to middle class… and afghanistan, yes, what’s to become of it and its people?

    a well-thought-out exploration of your subject, in a form that suited it perfectly

    • Thank you Ruth. When it is right – the words just flow. I really wanted to use the photo that inspired me but it was not mine. And I am not sure that one can use a current NYT photo even if giving proper credit.

    • Ah … but just one poem. My reading of war has come to an end. Thank you for the book reference but I can read no more. I literally find it too painful. I would be in tears the entire time. That is not an exaggeration. I went to see Cafe Chanson several weeks ago. Paris, WWII, G.I.s as my husband said – it has every necessary element for me. I cried thru out – which was really annoying. But, I do thank you.

      The whole process was for me to come to understand what it means to”feel deeply.” And I have.

  6. standing at the bar ready to drink the blood of your brothers…oh dang…that gave me shivers already…and yeah…i think war is so often (even mostly) about power and money…and only for a few people about freedom…sad as it is…

  7. The history of emerging middle class throughout the world has not been easy. Such a shock to the real culture, this illusion. Your words capture it beautifully.
    Thank you for the comment on my blog.

  8. There are no easy answers to your questions, and what has happened in Afghanistan is only a small reflection of a global problem. As I type these words on my laptop, seated on my comfortable sofa, surrounded by the symbols of a vast wealth that is beyond the imagining of the Afghan middle classes, I know that from a global perspective I am one of those who is insulated from poverty – I am part of the problem. The big quesion is, what can/will I do about it?

  9. Though I’ve been to Afghanistan twice, I don’t know the country. I do not about the have and the have-nots. But it seems you need a certain critical mass of “Haves” before you can expect hopeful change — and it ain’t 1%.

    When I was there, corruption was a cultural norm — both in the villages and the middle-class. I don’t idealize the poor at all, they are often the seeds of the horror of their middle class.

    “tis a tough situation.

  10. Well-penned, my friend, as always. So much suffering over there, more than we can imagine, most likely. I have read about the suffering in Viet Nam after the GI’s were pulled out………I hope the same doesnt happen here. We swoop in like heroes, then pull out and leave them to their fate. Maybe we should think longer before swooping in!

  11. i think this poem could be read to us in many countries. Even America seems to be less cohesive with poverty and frustration as well as gated indifference. We need a different economics.

    • You hit the nail on the head! We d need a very different economics. But the US is a Christian country and American Christians worship money. So money rules. You may lie, defraud, cheat and steal to get it. The larger the crimes and the more monies you acquire the more you are seen a a hero. There is lots of “its my right, it’s American, blah. blah, blah. Yes indeed Lucychili we need a new economics.

  12. Great post Raven.

    Going forward, how the world and its people manage disparity would take centre stage for achievement of sustainable development, peace and understanding. We need to put on our collective thinking caps for finding options and solutions.



  13. My oldest son just returned from a seven month tour of duty in Afghanistan. He’s a Corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces. He was assigned to a protection squad of the high ranking officials and officers who came and went from the base in Kabul. He said to see it, to smell it, to hear it, to be in it, is very difficult to describe. He said it’s mostly people trying to live a normal existence under extraordinary circumstances. He brought back some original crafts and holding the wood carvings, looking at the intricate details of an oil lamp, I try to imagine someone doing such beautiful work in a place torn apart and my imagination fails me.

    • Hello Talon,
      Thank you for sharing what you have said. I have been unable to post a comment or you would have received a more prompt reply. I am so glad that your son brought personal objects of art home. That alone will bring the space between you caused by war, closer, with more understanding. I appreciate your word and your sons service to the free world. Truly I do.

  14. Oh Wiley, what a delightful surprise. I do understand how you feel, for I gave to Jax and to Paggy each an old bathrobe of mine this winter and they do each love them.

Your words of response are greatly appreciated.

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