Thursday, November 12, 2009

one sky, many hearts

I might be starting something with this entry but I felt I had to post this in a larger venue. I received a response last night from a plea I wrote last year about educating girls in Afghanistan. You can read that post here.

Here is the response

Anonymous said...

So we should educate them so that they come to have the same western thinking and values we do? literacy is the mark of civilisation. These people have lived for thousands of years without literacy.What then after they have built rows of schools,then rows of malls, then rows of mcmansions?

Here is my reply....

Dear Anonymous,

I don't usually comment on things like this but your response prompted me to reply. Who said anything about Western thinking and values? Maybe if those values mean equal worth of women to men, yes.

Education = good health, tolerance, long life, greater understanding, ability to learn more to help others and yourself.

Afghanistan is ranked number 2 in the mortality of children under 5 years of age. As of 2005, 25% of children in Afghanistan will not reach their 5th birthday. Only Sierra Leone is worse. "Living for thousands of years without literacy" has helped create this situation. Knowledge saves lives.

The life expectancy today in Afghanistan is 44 years. In 1970 it was 35, education and knowledge are responsible for the lowered death rates. Vaccinations started also. Without education, how do programs like this get off the ground?

Only 29% of women in Afghanistan are literate. They are the caregivers and raise the children. They need to be filled with knowledge on how to make their lives and those of their families healthier. 40% of children under 5 are underweight and over half of the children in Afghanistan, 54% suffer from permanent stunted growth!!

As of 2005 the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 8. Out of every 8 pregnancies, one will result in death. Education and knowledge will go a long way to alleviating these statistics.

Broad education can only help, it does not harm.

Do you want to deny these people a chance at an extra 30 years of life? Children their mothers? Mothers their children?

I am sorry, but I disagree with you on the value of educating women and people in general.

I am not a fan of giant malls and mcmansions, I live simply, but I do believe that with knowledge, people are equipped to make better choices and can understand the consequences of those choices. People with literacy know how to find information about the things they are not sure of and can act accordingly. It is a great equalizer.

If people want malls and mcmansions so be it. Who are we to say no? Better malls and mcmansions than poverty, illness, ignorance and death. Creating buildings like these is a choice.

You have a computer, you have internet, you can read, you are educated. Would you prefer sickness, early death and a life with no words? Reading can bring comfort.It doesn't have to mean 'Western", What about the hundreds of Persian authors and the literature they have created over two and a half millennia? Jelaluddin Rumi, one of the greatest poets ever alive was born in Afghanistan.

I believe education is a gift that continues to give long after it has been received.

"All religions are in substance one and the same.
In the adorations and benedictions of righteous men
The praises of all the prophets are kneaded together.
All their praises are mingled into one stream,
All the vessels are emptied into one ewer.
Because He that is praised is, in fact, only One,
In this respect all religions are only one religion.
Because all praises are directed towards God's light,
Their various forms and figures are borrowed from it.
Men never address praises but to One deemed worthy,"

- Jelaluddin Rumi, Masnavi I Ma'navi/Book III, story 12


Sara said...

Very well said Shelagh.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Great response!

Alice said...

I absolutely agree with you Shelagh. Education is the root of so many things. Education gives us the knowledge and the confidence to question, to strive, to find understanding in life. This can never be a bad thing. I think you responded eloquently and with true belief. I actually get annoyed when people choose to post comments that are clearly going to provoke, but anonymously. If you believe in something you have the right to discuss it ... but please use your name! why hide if you believe in what you are saying?

Marisa @ Getting Back To Basics said... go girl!
Very well said.

jimspaulding said...

Indeed, Well said.

jimspaulding said...

Also, good choice on the Rumi piece. I think that you may be speaking to the real fear of your commenter, and others who may express similar opinions, by posting this particular Rumi piece. Much more so than any commentary on McMansions and Malls and Western ideals. Your commenter knows that knowledge is power, whether consciously or not. Perhaps it is only a case of severe misunderstanding and terminal cynicism, or perhaps your commenter is afraid of the people of Afganistan gaining the power that knowledge gives.

Hayley Egan said...

Thanks, Shelagh.

Karen said...


Marilyn said...

Beautiful response.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Well said Shelagh. I don't understand how anyone can be against education?

Kate said...

Thanks for educating me on this matter...definate food for thought. I was the original poster it was not meant to be controversial but a real fear of foreign alteration.But I think you are right - literacy is far from the problem.The near easterners after all have been literate long before northwest europeans in the historical record.

I am cynical of any sort of western/progressive input not for myself but probably because both my parents come from Africa [of both white and black ancestry]and i've seen the enormous breakdown of traditional values and systems and the dirth they create.I suppose this is my real fear.I see the problems there now to be a direct result of foreign alteration.

I highly recommend the book "the alphabet vs the goddess" on this matter of becoming literate.

p.s I actually love your blog and read it when I can.