Showing posts with label social issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social issues. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Not quite modern after all

As humans, we love to criticize the politicians, criticize the relatives, criticize the neighbors and criticize every person whose part of our day to day lives. … So, lately (and quite predictably ) , the victim of  our insatiable need  for  criticism has been our  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been facing serious flak for reading off pre-written notes at the joint statement with President Obama instead of speaking extempore . The twiterrati have been up in arms about it, accusing the Prime minister of being childish and under confident. But it’s not paper-reading, or not being articulate in English which measures the maturity of a person’s mind - it’s definitely more complicated than that.

The problem doesn’t lie with one person, but with our society in general, which is like a teenager going through puberty - very emotional, confused and gullible.  We are a confused lot, not knowing whether to adopt the changing trends of the western world, or stick to our historical traditions and (much glorified) cultural values.  We talk about big words like “revolution” and “change” (Tsunami, cough cough), but are we actually willing to take the giant leap?

In the urban cities of Pakistan, modernization is rapidly replacing social traditions.  It is mostly the aftermath of globalization and ever-increasing technology that has enabled us to challenge our customs and take one step further in the march towards a modern Pakistan. But let’s not kid ourselves, dressing up in western attire, or drinking (illegal) booze at a local party proves nothing! This is just a false illusion of “being modern” we create for ourselves… But our little “Hollywood Dream” (as I like to call it) shatters into a million pieces the minute you actually get to know that these seemingly modern people are just a bunch of kids trying to act cool!  Their minds are still too immature to understand and adopt new concepts, and once you pull of the masks of modernism that they proudly flaunt, one can expect the same century old viewpoints from them on contemporary issue.

What can you conclude when these same seemingly modern people go around justifying murder on the accounts of blasphemy, or when these same people hurl abuses at their female classmates and colleagues?   What can you say about their maturity level, when these ‘advocates of modernism’ choose to remain silent spectators, as they watch cold blooded rape become endemic in the country? And yet they talk about “Change” and “Revolution” which themselves seem like big words coming from an infant’s mouth. And let’s not forget about their never-ending conspiracy theories! Everything that goes wrong is this country is either a “bhaarti or a yahoodi saazish

The truth is, we need to pull our act together and grow up! We need to go into the depth and details of things before forming opinions about them.  Grownups take responsibility of their mistakes, and learn from them, rather than pointing fingers and coming up with all sorts of nonsense conspiracies.

Just the other day I saw this meme, showing a girl with a positive pregnancy test having a huge smile on her face hugging her boyfriend who  was far from amused, rather he looked as if he was struck by lightning. This was supposed to be humorous by the way. I dont get it!!!! Why engage in an adult activity, if you’re not ready to handle the consequences like adults? ……. But wait!  Isn't that exactly the same mindset of our “Pakistani modernists” as well?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Naya Pakistani - A Fight against Patriarchy and Double Standards

Earlier this year, Pakistan was struck by the election fever and there were chants and roars of  “Naya Pakistan”  (new Pakistan)  echoing from every nook and cranny of the  whole country. I’m not too sure what that whole campaign was promising, and I must admit that I was (and still am) very skeptical about Imran Khan’s idea of “change”, but I do believe that in order to progress, what this country desperately needs is a “Naya Pakistani”.
Pakistan is strictly a patriarchal society, where the main purpose of women is servitude. The women are looked upon as a secondary entity that has to be controlled, either by the father, the brother or the husband. The way we look at and treat our women is deplorable. Street crime, sexual harassment, rape, honor killings and female infanticide, child marriages all take place on a day to day basis, and our reaction –silence.  This says a lot about  our ethics as a society. Even in colleges and workplaces, more than often women are quick to be categorized as “loose charactered” , ( which is society’s terminology for  being immoral and easy) and that too on the basis of the way they dress and their independence.  But of course the same doesn't go for men.
 From childhood onwards, there is a certain level of bias in most households which is constantly brainwashing the minds of both boys and girls in the house making them realize their gender roles.The boys are allowed a lot more liberty than girls, encouraging them to believe that they are superior to girls in a number of ways. The girls are forced to dress in a way that is considered acceptable in the society, stripping them of all rights to dress according to their own choice. Even when it comes to marriage, a girl who dares to marry with her own will is shunned and labeled as shameless but there are no such rules for the boys.  Now we know that smoking is injurious to health for both male and female. Find out your teenage son is smoking? Lecture him a bit, scold him a bit, and that the end of the story. Find out your adult daughter is smoking? Yell at her, start crying, start hiding face from the society, curse her, hurl abuses at her and in short make life a living hell for her! So are we not promoting the patriarchal mindset ourselves, every time we define gender roles in our homes?

Even the aunties, who are hunting for a bahu rani will dismiss the thoughts of any girl who dares to go against the society’s norms.  If you’ve ever been to the seemingly hifi desi weddings there’s always a group of four five ladies, all ready with their designer outfits, perfectly blow dried hair and meticulously painted faces ready with all the latest family gossip. (I can’t help but listen to their conversation wondering if their talking about me!)  Their typical conversation “That girl seems sweet, but haiii no I saw a picture of her wearing sleeveless”,  “That girl over there seems sweet too , but oh my! I’ve heard she’s had an affair in the past, what shame she has brought to her family, uff Allah! *makes that frown face* , oh but wait that girl over there in yellow with a duppata on her head seems like a good match…” then one of the other aunties will say, “oh don’t even think about it, this head-covering shovering is all a clever act, I tell you on the inside she is of ….loose character!” …..So ironically, even our own women promote this patriarchal “It’s a man’s world” mindset.

What’s even more disgusting is that since a very early age boys are given a free pass to disrespect women and pass judgments about them.  Whistling, passing lewd comments, groping, stalking and harassing are the norms, and instead of finding these acts shameful, it is usually a matter of pride and a way to bond with other men. But of course the men are never to be blamed and always get to hide behind the security blanket society’s given to them. In a society like ours,  all it takes to get away with this wretched behavior is to blame it on the girl , the way she dresses, the way she walks, talks, and if nothing else, then fabricate a story of her being loose charachtered and deserving of such treatment! 

How can we even dream of  a better Pakistan with such pathetic morals and mentality, where the females are the most vulnerable of all living things, where the male ego is so large that even murder in the name of  ‘family honour’ is accepted.   It’s high time we bring about a revolution from our own homes, and transform ourselves into “Naya Pakistanis” where we rise above these societal pressures and treat our women with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  We need to break free from the chains of patriarchy and give our woman their rights when it comes to education, property, power and status. Only then can we hope for a Naya Pakistan!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rituals without Meaning

Human beings rely on habit and rituals to an extent that they form rituals for everything in life, either big or small. Cutting a birthday cake is a classic example. Why cake and why not a boiled egg? Why does a bride have to be dressed in an expensive outfit and look best on her wedding? Why can't we just get married in normal everyday casual clothes? Rituals have taken over our minds, because we've stopped thinking who we really are and what we really want.

If we look closely, our lives are actually ruled by rituals and tradition since the day we're born. The family  introduces us to religious rituals from the very next day, whether its saying the “Azaan” in the baby's ear, or pouring holy water over the baby’s head. As the child grows older, he notices more and more rituals and subconsciously believes that’s the only way, or the right way and everyone else's way is unacceptable. And as adults it’s hard to let go of the channel we grown up in, and so these traditions we learn in childhood become a part of our everyday life without even questioning them or finding out their importance and what they mean to us.  Now in particular, I don't have any problem with rituals, but what I do have a problem with is their significance and their importance in our lives. It's hard for me to understand that why someone would want to spend their lifetime's saving on their daughter's wedding when they could do a lot of other useful things with that money. Why would someone who doesn't even like cake want to cut cake on their birthday? Why doesn't a bride ever wear black? Why should we get buried wrapped in white cloth and not red? I came across this story which sort of answers some of my perplexities.

As a little girl watches her mom prepare the Easter ham, she wonders why her mother cuts off both ends of the ham before putting it in the pot. So, she asks why, and her mom realizes that she doesn't know. That's the way her mother prepared the Easter ham.
So they call grandmother and pose the question about cutting off the ends of the Easter ham. Grandmother admits to not knowing either. She just prepared the ham the way her mom did it.
Their next call is to great-grandmother. When they ask her about her method of preparing the Easter ham, she laughs. Then she says, "It was the only way I could get the Easter ham to fit the small pot I had!"

So the point being, most of us have no clue as to why we're following a certain custom anyways! And it gets worse. We start arguing like little tots about why “our way” of doing things is better than everyone else. I think that we get lay way too much importance in act of performing the ritual that we forget the deeper meaning behind it. It’s often forgotten that it’s far more important for the  couple to be happy on a wedding , then spend fortunes on the event and costumes. The idea is celebration, and it doesn't necessarily have to be elaborate.  Even when it comes to religious rituals, often the meaning or significance behind the ritual is lost, and the ritual itself becomes the main importance. Comes Eid and everyone here in Pakistan are all set to slaughter their well decorated, ornament wearing,  henna tattooed , goats but if you stop and ask them “Why?”, then most of them would give you confused , half baked , incomplete  answers . Hardly anyone understands the central meaning behind it which is to sacrifice from what you have in order to give to the poor, and also distribute among family friends and neighbors in order to spread love and peace in the society. If we notice, all religions teach these basic values of humanity, but differ in traditions and rituals. So beneath the symbolism, the meaning is the same. So isn't that the same as 2+2, or 1+1+1+1 or 1+1+2?

What it all boils down to is fear. Fear of what the society will say, fear of displeasing the gods and perhaps fear of the much popular ‘life after death’.  So for most people the driving force behind these practices is fear. That’s why they are bound to become slave to the rituals without searching for a deeper meaning, or a convincing reason.  But that’s humans for you in general, show them a picture of hell, and they’ll do anything to avoid it, no matter how stupid or ridiculously senseless it may be.