Politics

The Dark Side

First published in ‘The Ism’, the newspaper of the Karachi Grammar School World Affairs Society. 

OSLO was once a far away city, synonymous with the welfare state, aurora borealis and fjords. And then Anders Breivik went on a murderous rampage, and Oslo became as real as the violent, tempestuous Karachi outside my window.

It’s tragic enough that over sixty human beings were massacred, but the reality really hits home when you see them as the idealistic young men and women they were, the same age as you, with similar political convictions, united by a burning desire to serve their nation. And their dreams were shattered by a madman, who fed off of conspiracy theories and an Islamophobic discourse constructed by disgruntled, fringe elements of the right.

But the real reason this was so shockingly personal was that I knew Breivik. We all do. We’ve all come across people in our lives who hate entire communities for no rational reason, who write off entire nations on the basis of the actions of a single person. Many such individuals live in my country. The India-hating uncle, the Jew-hating cousin, and the colleague who is adamant that America is behind every bomb blast in Pakistan. They generalise that all people belonging to certain sects or races must all behave in the same way. But mankind isn’t like that. Time and time again, painstaking research has proven that there is more diversity in intelligence, behaviour and personality between people of the same community than people living on different continents. The idea of ‘race’, —that people with the same physical characteristics all behave the same way— has long been proven to be throughly unscientific nonsense.

Then why do enmities, grudges and stereotypes continue to exist? Because people are afraid of change, of anyone who is different. Xenophobia persists precisely because it is the easy way out. You’ve never been to a country, never roamed it’s streets, or spoken to it’s people. It’s safe to assume that all must be terrorists, who hate you and your way of life.

But if humanity is to embark on the next stage in it’s evolution as a species, we must be willing to put aside the superficial differences between us and embrace each other as fellow human beings. Only by letting go of prejudice can we open our eyes to the rich, diverse world around us. Every man is a story, a piece of that great jigsaw puzzle that is our history. It is precisely in these Manichean times that we must defeat the Breivik in us all and learn to truly see our vibrant, diverse world as a source of strength, not weakness. It is our differences, once we get around them that lead us to discover that people really aren’t so different after all. They may, at first, be scared, or wary of anyone who doesn’t look like them, but deep down all they want is to be accepted, and loved for who they are.

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Politics

Conspiracy Theories

WE, AS a nation, are obsessed with conspiracy theories. It’s become our national pastime. It’s fashionable to attribute everything from the floods to the cricket scandal to a global conspiracy against Pakistan.

It’s surprising to see the number of ‘educated’ individuals of the bourgeois who think that the world as we know it is run by a group of Zionist Jews who sit in a secret room deep in the Pentagon and conspire against Pakistan. There, this cabal wearing black robes and holding bloody daggers thinks of ways to undermine our nation. They used HAARP to cause the floods. And Photoshop to incriminate our cricketers. And don’t forget how the lasers they had hidden in the Margalla hills shot down the Air Blue jet.

9/11 must have been a conspiracy and the suicide attacks that bleed Pakistan continuously could never have been done by the Taliban. It must be a Zionist-Hindu-American-Blackwater-Xe conspiracy. Haven’t you heard that the bombers were actually Sikh RAW agents in disguise? It’s all India’s doing. They are the ones causing agitation in Baluchistan. They are the ones who fight us with ‘water terrorism’, whatever that is. Pakistan is under developed because of the Illuminati and Freemasons. Not because of years of military dictatorship that left only one viable institution in the country: the army.

Democracy is an evil, ‘Western’, ‘forgein’ concept. And how can it work in a country where the ‘masses’ are illiterate? And since politics is dirty and democracy clearly isn’t for us, let’s have ‘enlightened despotism’. We are an idiotic nation that needs a dashing ruler on horseback (and in his khaki uniform). Oh and don’t forget to give him a big stick to keep us in line.

This is the kind of garbage that is floated about in our drawing rooms and by our civil society.

But why are we so venerable to these ‘theories’? Conspiracy theories offer an easy way out. They seem to reduce the complex, chaotic social earthquakes of our world into a manageable, nay, fantastic framework that is as spectacular as it is sinister.

These theories speak of a deep insecurity. They speak of a deep-seated desire to know that social ripples are not random but are systematic, thought-out, long-term strategies by a cabal of men. Psychologists attribute this belief to a need by some to know that man isn’t adrift but part of a scheme. This belief further implies that the evil group can be defeated (or joined).

Conspiracy theories are an easy way out. Unfortunately, we are at a stage where there are no shortcuts, no ‘quick-fixes’. Instead of looking outward, it’s time for us to look in and see what we have become. It’s easy to place the blame on outside forces and that is exactly what we are guilty of doing.

Enough of this nonsense! Enough of this intolerance! Enough of this myopia! Instead of sipping coffee and bemoaning the state of the our ‘becharay’ proletariat, Pakistan’s ‘educated’ class would do well to get up and help Pakistan achieve its rightful place among the civilised nations of the world.

This requires constructive criticism, not blatant pessimism. It requires us to use our common sense. It requires tolerance of those who are different in religion, ethnicity and political ideology. It requires us to actually listen to the other person’s point of view before agreeing or disagreeing. How someone who does not know and practice this can claim to be ‘educated’ is beyond me. But Pakistan is full to the seams with such educated illiterates.

Although it’s now clichéd, Kennedy was right on the mark when he said that ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your country’.

Pakistan Zindabad!

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