Peter Rhodes on Taliban rule, Greek dancing and the lamp made out of a glider

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Unforgettable – Mikis Theodorakis
Unforgettable – Mikis Theodorakis

Western journalists seem to judge the new rulers of Afghanistan by their own standards. You know the sort of thing. The Taliban announce their new government and, shock, horror, it is composed entirely of Taliban. There are no women MPs and no members of minorities.

Yes, and I daresay there are no unisex toilets in Taliban parliament, no LGBT sub-committees and no pronoun-awareness working parties. That's because the Taliban have their own solution to such social issues. It is called stoning the infidels.

What we see in Kabul is the 21st century colliding head-on with the 12th century . Expecting the Taliban to create some sort of caring, democratic and empathetic parliament styled on Westminster is like expecting a cat not to kill mice. The best we can hope for in the months to come is that they slaughter fewer people than in the past. Wokeness appears nowhere on their agenda. For the time being, the inaugural meeting of the Kabul Transgender Co-Operative is on hold.

People say the nicest things when you die. I was moved by this, from the Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni on the passing of Mikis Theodorakis earlier this month: “Today we lost a part of the soul of Greece.”

Theodorakis will be remembered as one who achieved so much in his 96 years but was known, in most of the world, for so little. Theodorakis was a political firebrand, a figure of defiance, a great rallying point for Greece's left wing. He wrote operas, ballets and film scores. Yet most of us know him solely for one of the quickest-recognised melodies of all time. Just two notes on the bazouki are enough to tell you it's the theme tune from Zorba the Greek. And you remember that golden evening at Lindos when the ouzo flowed and the mandolins struck up and, like Zorba himself, you joined the dance line, kicked your partner, made a total prat of yourself and fell over. Not as easy as it looks, is it?

I wrote yesterday about my grandfather, the joiner. He was a skilled and resourceful craftsman working at a time, like today, when wood was in short supply. One of his creations was made, as Gran told us, “with wood from a glider that crashed.” I never found out whether the glider crashed before or after Grandad took the wood.

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