PENSIEVE:Hail our national mediocrity

Discussion in 'China' started by ejazr, Nov 19, 2010.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Mediocrity of our national spirit, meanness of our circumstances and stupidity of our collective ambition never seizes to surprise me. I mean now we have issues with the US supporting India’s bid for UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent membership. Nobody here wants to point out that whatever India is gaining has been earned through hard labour. But no sir, we have to strengthen our archaic and outdated grand narrative by emphasising that the entire world is conspiring against us. Let us be honest here. Just for the sake of the record, let me state that I do not support the expansion of the veto or non-veto power permanent members of the UNSC. In fact, it is my belief that the idea of a UNSC membership with limited powers is in contradiction with the democratic spirit of the UN charter. Hence, the entire body should be scrapped and the General Assembly empowered. But still, if anything Pakistan is in no position to complain. And I will tell you why.

    I am not going to bore you with the tall tales of Pakistan being bypassed in President Obama’s visit to the region or the fact that we are always on our knees with a begging bowl in our hands. No. I want to tell you why. Being a journalist I interact with all sorts of people and my first inquiry is about the books being read. Usually the titles that are mentioned are too old, meaning that the reader has not read anything new since ages, or else only run-of-the-mill stuff. And this is our collective intellectual input. Let me also remind you what is our intellectual and of course knowledge based output. Nothing at all! Can you compare the number of Pakistani Nobel Laureates with those of Indian origin? What are our chief contributions in the field of mathematics — which does not need any costly technology — physics, economics, medicine or even philosophy? How many papers do you come across in any of the above disciplines written in my country? Any well known pure research journals around here?

    I do not want to overawe you with the Indian names. But let us start afresh with this exercise in soul searching. Any recent contribution to music after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan? Any big movie with a decent storyline? Any good television plays after the golden era of Pakistan Television (PTV) and Network Television Marketing (NTM)? Any world-renowned novels of late? Any inventions to our credit? Any well-known painter recently? You still do not get it, do you?

    Here is another try. What is the characteristic distinction of Pakistani architecture (and please exclude the Mughal and Arab heritage for neither are Pakistani). What defines Pakistani literature? Any famous poet in recent days who is recognised around the world like Faiz? I know from time to time we do get some fine intellectuals but what is the point in having them when our entire nation is not ready to embrace them? And then we talk of the entire world conspiring against us.

    And oh yes, let us talk about our infatuation of the last three decades — religion. You know we never let our banking sector flourish because interest — riba or sood — is haraam in Islam. Yet everywhere I see interest being charged in the name of interest-free, halal or Islamic banking. And please trust me no one, including our religious political parties, religious institutes or scholars have a clue how to make this concept work or be viable.

    Now the practical side of our soul searching. What are the major exports of this country apart from agricultural products, textile products, a few sports goods and some other nominal items? Any well developed tourist spots? Any famous universities with the gravitational pull to attract students from across continents? Five famous websites that can affect the global culture? We are a country that has to import newsprint and yet we think too highly of ourselves. This practical part is crucial too because it does not just reflect on the intellectual decadence but also on our collective entrepreneurial skills, man’s ultimate bid for survival. I can understand that in a society sinking in the quicksand of poverty it might be difficult to find great inventors, geniuses or intellectuals, but we do have our fair share of adept businessmen. Does it take a rocket scientist to bring new useful products to the market? I hate it when I have to buy Chinese or American lighters from the market to light my imported brand of tobacco. And imported tobacco not because I am obsessed with everythirng foreign but because our local products are so roughly made they end up giving me inflamed sinuses. We are living in mediocrity, a nation reeling under the onerous burden of inherent contradictions and obscurantist self-deceptions and yet we never tire of complaining about being given less importance than our neighbours.

    I am narrating all this with pain in my heart. A close look at our intellectual legacy reveals all. The fact is that a couple of days ago my country celebrated Iqbal Day. Who was Iqbal then? Oh our national poet and thinker. You know, totally apart from the debate on his intellectual calibre, I have wondered since my childhood how could our national poet write no anthem for us when one was clearly written for India. And that is not all. Our national poet and thinker never set foot in independent Pakistan. I am not implying that it is his crime that he was not alive at the inception of our nation. No sir. All I am saying is that our nation could not even create one national poet and hence we had to borrow an Indian poet for the position. And look at the names of missiles: Ghaznavi and Ghauri. Hah.

    The problem dear reader it that in my country there is no real sense of justice. And I do not mean justice as in the Supreme Court’s kind of justice. I speak of it as the basic sense of proportion. Where one knows that the country already has too many doctors and engineers hence the child should be sent to some other discipline. Likewise, where should the military spending end and educational budget start? Now do you still want to complain about the Indian bid for permanent membership in the UNSC?

    The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at [email protected]

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