Tornado-proof Umbrellas in Afghanistan

Not long ago, I received an email from a geographer friend with a link to a news report that the Taliban have overrun yet another district in Afghanistan.  A short comment followed the link: “After a trillion $$ and countless years of US presence, the place is still $%^& up and probably always will be.  The “brass” simply fails to understand the difference between folk and popular culture (and, of course, the “Warlords” simply being tribal chieftains who are doing

Aspects of Berlin’s Dysfunctionality

Geography Berlin is a bureaucratic nightmare and, as The Economist magazine reported, a city that is dysfunctional on many different levels.  In debt for nearly 60 billion Euros, Berlin drains more from the national account than it contributes, which is unusual in Europe where national capitals are usually the main economic drivers.  In this mess, a major contributor to the dysfunctional reality of Berlin’s existence—its cultural geography—deserves attention. Geographic factors have played an instrumental role in Berlin’s fate during the

Kabul, Afghanistan’s Gordian Knot

The most difficult issue to discuss about Afghanistan’s future is that of ethnic groups, particularly their distribution relevance to political power.  Blindly ignoring it has been widespread among the foreign providers of funds for the country’s security and reconstruction.  Their actions resemble that of land developers near the San Andreas Fault, who hope that an anticipated cataclysmic earthquake will occur after they develop and sell the properties. People of various ethnicities do exist in Afghanistan and occupy territory they specifically

Deconstructing Seattle’s Construction

The growth rate of Seattle’s commercial and residential construction, much of which I can observe from my home, has reached unprecedented levels.  Satellite imagery on Google Maps cannot keep a pace with the ever-expanding Amazon campus in South Lake Union.  Facebook and Google are also “sneaking in” their operational facilities closer to Amazon. Figure 1. Landscape of downtown Seattle, a tourist destination and a builders’ playground. (All photographs were taken by the author.) Recently erected residential towers designed for luxury

Novi Cives: Saturation and Superficiality in Critical and Analytical Thinking

Winning Hearts, But Not Minds Despite an unprecedented access to information and means of acquiring knowledge, it appears that, as a society, we have chosen to rapidly descend into an era of anti-intellectualism.  The ongoing change is drastic and cultural implications are extremely serious. People today often perceive an invitation to a conversation about serious topics as a form of brain torture.  Such actions seemingly saturate one’s brain too much—unlike superficial and meaningless conversations contributing to nothing other than its

Geographic Illusions and Delusions in Contemporary Croatia

“Historical claims—and, in the context of central and eastern Europe, this means claims based upon medieval and feudal pretensions—have no relevance to the twentieth century.  It is one of the great tragedies of Europe that peoples of central and eastern Europe, with long historical memories and little historical sense, cling so obstinately to these illusions of vanished grandeur.”   Norman J. Pounds (geographer) The Scope of Geographic Imagination In cultural geographic terms, the “railroad tracks” in the Balkans run north to

Finger-Testing Somalia’s Size With Minimal Spatial Distortion

For some reason, a great number of people tend to equate geography with trivia; i.e., they perceive geography not as a science, but as an exercise in the memorization of facts, something that everyone can understand and do.  Once they realize that geographic analysis is actually much more complex—difficult for them to fully grasp even when informally illustrated by an expert—they opt for one of the following: Accept that they need to learn very important concepts, which takes time and

Culture Change and Conflict in the Mountains (of Montenegro and Northern Albania)

The process of cultural transition in the Balkans’ mountains has been anything but slow.  From empires to nation-state political systems, feudal to socialist and capitalist, totalitarian to democratic, folk to market economy, are just some of the rapid culture changes that occurred during just the last several generations.  Peaceful harmony, however, was seldom achieved during the transitional period. Rather, the change frequently resulted in a (cultural) conflict.  Among the main reasons was the inadequate amount of time for people to

A Tradition of Fear and the Geography of Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Unlike the United States, where an individual’s biggest fear may be of public speaking, in the Balkans region of Southeastern Europe, the universal fear is that life tomorrow may be better than it is today.  A negative outlook on life is a trait deeply entrenched in local culture and unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.  This worldview stems from a tradition of fear built upon actual experience and compounded through many generations. Although not geographically exclusive, a grim vision

Fighting Season in Afghanistan and Other Nonsense

For reasons unknown, some myths about Afghanistan refuse to die.  They are practically engraved in Western consciousness.  Any attempt to provide an alternative viewpoint is greeted with a complete refusal for consideration.  Some of the better-known fables include: Afghanistan is a graveyard of empires The Soviet Union lost the war in Afghanistan Tribal code of honor dictates life in Afghanistan Pashtuns are the majority of population and they won the war against the Soviet Union Afghanistan is a place of