After reading an excerpt from Jenny Nordberg’s book, The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, I wanted to throw up my hands in despair. (“Hiding girls in plain sight,” The Week, December 5, 2014 pgs. 40-41, excerpted from The Underground Girls of Kabul: In search of Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, by Jenny Nordberg, Crown Publishers, copyright 2014.) Certainly, the idiocy of cognitive dissonance has no greater expression than in the lengths Azita, an educated Afghan woman and a member of parliament, has gone to satisfy the mores of her society and the belief that a woman without a son is cursed and unworthy of trust.
To solve her problem of being the mother of 4 girls, she and her husband agreed that one of her children should pass as a boy. Mehran, the six-year old, was offered the freedom to run in the streets, fly kites, laugh and climb trees with all the young males in her village if she would cut off her hair and dress like a boy. The girl agreed.
Of course, a person would think the neighbors might notice so dramatic a change in the family’s composition and to their credit, they did. No one was shocked and a few not only approved but complimented Azita for finding a clever solution to her shame. Having a false boy, they agreed, was better than having no boy at all. No one asked what will happen when Mehran grows into puberty but Azita has thought ahead. When that occurs, she shrugs, the child can become a girl again. No problem.
Afghanistan culture can easily be written off as the fossilized foolishness of a patriarchal society, one known to treat women “like animals.” (Ibid pg. 40) But foolishness abounds in our society as well. Pockets exist in the United States, for example, where people go on denying global warming despite the overwhelming evidence that it is occurring. If it were profitable or comforting, I suspect, they’d believe the earth was flat, as well.
The human species is capable of accepting fiction over fact whenever it is comfortable or convenient. Examples of this behavior abound throughout history and to the present day. I don’t understand what Nature intended when it made us masters of self-delusion. I only know this talent is ubiquitous, a flaw in our nature that requires us to be patient with one another. For every ignorance, there is a season.