Author Topic: "As an Afghan immigrant, Britain and atheism showed me the bright side of ..."  (Read 128 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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As an Afghan immigrant, Britain and atheism showed me the bright side of democracy

My life would be completely different had my parents chosen to settle in Kabul. Since coming here, I can’t help but think about how much it means to have access to knowledge so readily

There’s so much I wish I could tell people about me, like the fact that my dad doesn’t know how old he is (in Afghanistan they didn’t used to record birthdays), or that every day I am thankful to be living in a democratic state. I was naturalised as a British citizen when I was very young; being a Londoner is all I have ever known since the age of three. But there’s lots of little things that I adore which British-born citizens often overlook.

I’ve been back to Kabul, where I was born, since settling in the UK. There is no sewage system, no waste management systems, no rule of law. People burn their garbage in the middle of the street. If you want to send a letter, you can’t because there’s no postal delivery system. Visiting a friend’s home for the first time? Good luck trying to find a map that helps you navigate locations; homes don’t even have door numbers. As aesthetically pleasing as some places were to visit, travelling to Afghanistan at an early age opened my eyes and gave me perspective. It’s one thing to read about democracy in a textbook, it’s another to experience first-hand how its manifestation can alter the fabric of one’s existence.


There are more sinister parts of my identity. For example, I wouldn’t dare to disclose to another Afghan that I am an atheist. In fact, I would rather say that I am from another country just to avoid the conversation altogether. It is a fear that I have, being attacked for my belief system, or lack thereof. Once I realised at age 17 that I was an atheist, I began to understand my purpose a lot better. I no longer felt lost or at war with the nature of reality. Now when I experience the first few stages of lust, for example, I don’t see it as magic, I know its evolutionary biology prompting a cascade of chemicals.


Every day I am grateful for encountering science, humanism, reason and the grace of literature. My life would be completely different had my parents chosen to settle in Kabul. I would likely be illiterate, prohibited from working, sadder even – I might never have encountered Bukowski, neuroscience or stoicism.


The overall point here is that we all benefit from democracy, those of us in the western world, and to overlook the little luxuries is the cause of a lot of discontent within most people. One of my favourite Stoic philosophers, Epictetus, once said “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.’’ I really believe that to be happy means to live in eternal gratitude for everything, even the little stuff. When did it become fashionable to be a cynic? I find nothing noble or admirable about constant complaint and judgement. If only we spent more time rejoicing and celebrating the richness of life.

Life in the west is truly a marvel, it took me travelling to the ends of the earth to really learn this, and it will take a lifetime to truly embody it, but the philosophy remains the same: he is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

A beautiful story. :)
"I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that’s all around us." - Christopher Hitchens