Of Hyperbole, Sensationalism and Self defeatism
If ever there were loud-mouthed armchair warriors anywhere, we, the Pakistanis would definitely take place of state. We take glowing pride in having a (re)sound(ing) opinion about everything under the sun. From the state of our own politics (our most favourite Topic of Rants) to how India should conduct itself within and without its borders, right down to how the emancipated Pakistani female should laugh in public – they’ve already unashamedly ripped through the first part of the sacred social canon of “not being seen, nor being heard” and now to actually hear them having a good time publicly! Qiyamat ki nishani hai bhaiyon! (1)
But i digress, as i tend to do when the feminist within kicks in. The point is that in our closeted but unceasing admiration of the West, we have taken to exercising their First Amendment rights to a whole new local level; Article 19, its Pakistani constitutional counterpart with its myriad crippling pre conditions, be damned! We have, over time, and encouraged by consecutive unscrupulous, corrupt governments, made voicing any kind of an opinion, synonymous with unrelenting whinging and griping. This antagonistic view has also been sublimely perpetuated by our overly-seasoned politicos. This intrepid lot, in their unrelenting efforts at survival, have about-faced so many times keeping with the widely opposing mandates of varied administrations, that to transform a previously defended sacramental truth into current State treason, takes but a heartbeat….and of course the quintessential quality of passionate gloom. This has unerringly and copiously helped to paint an overall negative picture of the Republic, many times less maligning facts notwithstanding.
Our elected leaders are like the communal Fathers of the State (if you see an insidious pun in that, i rest my case). And to emulate ones paternal elders especially, is considered a righteous duty in our part of the world. So it is quite unremarkable that the Pakistani body politic following their administrative patriarchs, regurgitates as terrifying a mix of factual and concocted postulations as their varied and many social interactions allow.
A recent example is the PIA pilots’ fake licenses issue that has blown up not only on our own beleagured soil but indeed globally. (As of now, our national carrier has been banned from a number of international destinations for at least the next 6 months). The truth of the matter is far from what meets the eye or what has made the news. Pakistani pilots traditionally, have been some of the best internationally and have not only trained their foreign counterparts but have also served to defend allied states through skilful aeronautical strikes (PAF pilots led successful, course-altering air strikes against LTTE* bases in 2008 during the Sri Lankan civil war).
The current May 2020 tragedy, while definitely requiring its own very comprehensive accountability and remedial measures, has been wrongfully used to malign the entire Pakistani commercial pilots’ fraternity. All based on erroneous hyperbole in the constant battle of our inept administration to pass on the buck. Political knee jerk, self preservation tactics have always included gross exaggeration of our shortcomings, and in this particular case that penchant has exploded in the most self defeating manner on the international stage when Pakistan is already grappling with copious other negative press.
We may be a nation weighed down by the cumulative incompetence of decades of self serving administrations, but in the larger picture, we are still an independent nation that has survived the turbulence of wars, refugees, lost opportunities and foreign right wing religious subterfuge. There are nations, at least as beset by fate and circumstance if you will; but there is an unwritten national ethical code that the last man on the street follows – in some books it is referred to as Basic Patriotism. We, the Pakistanis have it all backwards: we will always criticise our own when we can; we will dutifully pull the carpet from under our brethrens’ feet if it served to make our individual purpose minutely better; we will glorify heresay and hyperbole if it meant even slightly stirring up our otherwise mundane lives. We will shamelessly, consistently antagonise, sensationalise, politicise and demonise.
The truth of the matter is that the global community is not in the mood to give magnanimous benefits of the doubt or even indulgent hoists up from the knotty quagmires created by incompetent domestic governments and juvenile societies. A rap on the knuckles is swiftly followed by a myriad organised aggravations that the whole nation is then subjected to from the international collective. These range from crippling trade and travel bans, to the as yet unrecognised psychological effects of being “eternally vilified”.
The pithy lesson here is that we, the Pakistani citizenry, need to exercise a little more pride or even just forbearance vis a vis our collective nationhood, and indulge in just a little less irresponsible State related defamation and slander. We are already sliding down the slippery sluiceway of “black-listed/ high risk” nations. We then, as the body politic can and must do our part even if it is simply to make overall discretion the better part of valor in our daily social interactions.
The ask is considerable, agreed, as we sit comfortably ensconced in our living room sofas, probably suffused in a euphoric post-Nihari* stupor, when the tongue is loose and morals looser. But we owe that bit of restraint to our much bedevilled country and the few cogs of our unwieldy administrative wheel that are still trundling away in honest enterprise.
De Khudai pe aman.
*Idiocracy: title taken from a 1996 dystopic movie directed by Mike Judge
(1) – “An indication that the end of the world is nigh, my brothers!”
*LTTE: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was a Tamil militant organisation that was based in northeastern Sri Lanka.
*Nihari: A stew from the Indian subcontinent consisting of slow-cooked meat, along with the bone marrow; mainly the shank meat of beef, lamb or mutton.