Review From User :
It shocks me that William Vollmann is still alive. I read most of this during the summer and I'm reviewing some of my notes now - I would like to return to the book and see how it pans out, but I'm not sure whether I'll get a chance.
So I'm going to squeeze out as many interesting lessons as I can from this:
1. It's far easier to harm than to do good. Vollmann entered Afghanistan with good intentions and ambitions, but, other than giving him an interesting story, it didn't really make the dent he seeked. For some people, the takeaway here is: don't be naive, don't try, the world is what it is, that's it. I disagree. The takeaway here is that anything worthwhile is risky and difficult, and it requires competence, grit, and some luck. Continue to be well intentioned, but back it up with skills and hard work and understanding and actual empathy, rather than daydreaming about 'change'.
2. I live in Gibraltar. If Spain decided to send some troops or unofficial terrorists to kill any individuals here, it would cause more hatred towards Spain, more resentment, and stronger resolve. Yet some people here think that places like Afghanistan and Iraq, along with their people deserve it (including the hundreds of thousands of kids who died from not getting vaccines thanks to silly sanctions, or the families that lost loved ones, not to glamorous bombs, but due a lack of access to antibiotics).
3. I have every intention of going to Afghanistan in the future. The tip on reading the Quran with hosts will hopefully come in handy.
4. I recall reading Vollmann's digression on being sick and the impact it has on memory and perception whilst I was down with flu. Made my being sick a bit better, so kudos.
5. I have some other thoughts on this but I'm gonna leave them for later.
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