As an impromptu exercise this morning I decided to read two news features—at the extreme ends of the spectrum of human existence—simultaneously. Two paragraphs here, two there and then back again.
One was a piece in The Guardian headlined “Beheadings, roadside bombs and airstrikes: one day in Afghanistan” and the other in The New York Times headlined “Around the World in a Day With Carmen Electra”. It was a deeply upending experience which I recommend anyone who can spare about half an hour.
In one corner of the world, a grotesquely unconscionable war burning for the past 17 years—today is the Afghan war’s 17th anniversary—and in another a chronicle of a ceaselessly glamorous life of Carmen Electra.
Just consider these two paragraphs as a juxtaposition.
From the Guardian:
Three beheadings at a school, and an airstrike after 11pm were the last of the conflict-related violence recorded in Afghanistan on 30 June. Taking place on the first day after a three-day ceasefire, these incidents were the culmination of a day of murder and maiming, shootings, explosions, aerial bombardments and one unclaimed political assassination.
For everyone except the injured survivors and families of the dead, it was an unexceptional day in a conflict that much of the world appears to have forgotten. There were no such attacks in big cities, no key battles, just the ceaseless grind of war.
From The New York Times:
“At the last minute, I almost backed out. I was really nervous because you have to wear something. You know what I mean? Just a little something,” said Ms. Electra. “My publicist said, ‘No, you’re going to be barefoot.’ I go, ‘Barefoot and naked? I haven’t done that one.’”
“The way something like Playboy works, you would start off almost like a striptease, where you’re wearing stuff, and that gets you comfortable,” Ms. Electra said. “They would say, ‘O.K., take off the corset.’ Then you’d be in little panties, or whatever, and a bra. One thing comes off — but I always had shoes.”
Beheadings at a school versus a celeb’s dilemma whether to take off her shoes for a shoot after taking off everything else on her. In the interest of clarity, I am not at all censuring Carmen Electra or her lifestyle but merely using them to illustrate the existential absurdities of human life as contrasted by one 24-hour, blood-soaked period in Afghanistan.
By the time I finished reading the two features, I was both tickled and traumatized in equal measure.
While reading the Afghan piece it struck me yet again that there has been no serious attempt to fix accountability for the utterly misanthropic bloodletting going on for 17 years. People forgot who was fighting whom and for what purpose a long time ago. Now it is just perpetual killing fields in a country that catches no break. On a single day—June 30—60 people died across the country and barely found any mention in the international media.Individuals do not matter in a war like Afghanistan, it seems. They are just faceless bundles of human flesh, bones and blood which had life once.
On the other hand, the most significant challenge a single individual—namely Carmen Electra—faces is whether to keep her shoes on while posing nude. Let me reiterate that I am not even remotely judging her life but merely using it to underline how bizarrely uneven human lives are. More power to Carmen Electra for being able to do what she wants and when she wants. It is not her fault that the relentless Afghan war continues to strangle an entire country in broad daylight.