[ by Charles Cameron — matching aphorisms for a glimpse of contrasting worldviews — Western, Taliban, South Asian, African, ISIS ]
Francesca Borri, writing for Al-Monitor under the title Behind the black flag: current, former ISIS fighters speak, is my source for the aphorism in the upper panel, which, if I might move up a level or two of abstraction, translates to the “ratio”:
you : bounded :: we : boundless
in spatial terms — really not a far cry from its temporal equivalent in the lower panel:
you : time-bound :: we : time free
Here’s a touch of context for the ISIS fighter’s remark:
M. is still a fighter. When ISIS withdrew eastward, he withdrew, too, speaking to Al-Monitor via Skype from Al Bab. Aleppo’s countryside is scattered with ISIS gunmen.
I asked M. if his movement was bent on redrawing the map of the Middle East, to which he replied, “There is no map. … Where you see borders, we see only your interests.”
And here’s Joel Hafvenstein at Registan, supported by the redoubtable Joshua Foust, describing the alleged Taliban aphorism as “oddly condescending and inapt” in a 2010 post titled Oh, And We Have The Watches Too:
I’m curious: has anyone out there ever personally heard an insurgent (or any Afghan, for that matter) use the proverb, “You have the watches, but we have the time”?
I’ve heard it quoted grimly by a lot of NATO military personnel, and of course it’s been repeated ad nauseam by the media. But it sounded strange and inauthentic to me from the first time I heard it in 2003. I never saw it attributed to an actual Afghan; many early reports openly called it apocryphal, before it took on a life of its own. In my admittedly limited experience, I’ve never heard it used by an Afghan. But it’s a familiar phrase in other parts of South Asia and Africa, where it’s used very differently: to contrast the soulless Western rat race with the local good life.
So the DoubleQuote may be a QuoteMisquote, at least as far as Afghanistan is concerned – but whether its talking insurgency warfare or the good life, it suggests — as does the upper quote — that an overly-calibrated life may lose in its rigidity what a more free-form and responsive life may gain in fluidity.
Shades of Lao Tsu, and the way that can be quantified is not the way of quality!