Red, White and Black

Hoodbhoy on “Unity, Faith and Discipline”
14 December, 2006, 11:31 am
Filed under: Pakistan, social

A hurried post. Came across this masterful address to students of Indus Valley School by Pervez Hoodbhoy. Some excerpts that I just loved:

First, I wish for minds that can deal with the complex nature of truth. Without minds engaged on this issue there cannot be a capacity for good judgment. And, without good judgment a nation will blunder from one mistake on to the next. Now, truth is a fundamental but very subtle concept. The problem is that things are usually not totally true or totally false. Still, some things are very true and others are very false … But these are quite easily established; separating true and false is often extremely difficult.

My second wish is for many more Pakistanis who accept diversity as a virtue. So I am not asking for unity, but acceptance of our differences. Let’s face it, we’re all different. The four provinces of Pakistan have different histories, class and societal structures, climates, and natural resources. Within the provinces there live Sunnis, Shias, Bohris, Ismailis, Ahmadis, Zikris, Hindus, Christians, and Parsis. Then there are tribal and caste divisions which are far too numerous to mention. Add to this all the different languages and customs as well as different modes of worship, rituals, and holy figures. Given this enormous diversity, liberals – who are rather good people in general – often talk of the need for tolerance. But I don’t like this at all. Tolerance merely says that you are nice enough to put up with a bad thing. Instead, let us accept and even celebrate the differences!

My third, and last, wish is that Pakistanis learn to value and nurture creativity. Creativity is a difficult concept to define but roughly I mean originality, unusualness, or ingenuity in something. If nurtured from an early age in children, it leads to great writers, poets, musicians, engineers, scientists, and builders of modern industries and institutions. No one can dispute that creativity is a good thing. But how come Pakistanis – with some important exceptions – have done so poorly on the world stage? Why are there only a dozen or two internationally known Pakistani inventors, scientists, writers, etc for a nation of 165 million people?

First, we need to bring economic justice to Pakistan. This requires that it possess the working machinery of a welfare state. Economic justice is not the same as flinging coins at beggars. Rather, it requires organizational infrastructure that, at the very least, provides employment but also rewards according to ability and hard work.

Second, we must fight to give Pakistan’s women the freedom which is their birthright … The culture of suppressing women and excluding them from public life is spreading like wildfire. As our collective piety increases, the horrific daily crimes against women become still less worthy of comment or discussion.

Third, and last, we have to wake people up and get them politically engaged again. Young people have tuned into mindless FM entertainment and tuned out of participation in social causes. University campuses are empty of discussion and debate, and movements against manifest social and political injustice bring forth only handfuls of committed individuals… We have become cynical and think that nothing can be done. Today the military rules an apathetic nation.

This apathy must go, and can go. Last year’s earthquake galvanized people across the country. It broke the myth that we have stopped caring for each other. I have never seen Pakistanis give so whole-heartedly of their money, time, effort, and energy. Ordinary people, students, shop-keepers, businessmen…just about everybody pitched into the huge relief effort.

I literally rooted when I read the last bit of advice! Oh yes! Yes! Yes! Please give his lecture 15 mins of your time, it’s worth it all and more. : )


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

We face pretty much the same issues, here in India.

I think the most important one and wherein lies the key to resolving most of the other ones is the last i.e. apathy on the part of the youth. Apart from notable exceptions like the recent anti-reservation stir, the educated young of India mostly seem to have chosen to ignore the major issues facing the nation.

The creativity and inventiveness that they show is mostly displayed after they have emigrated to a Western country.

Comment by Sidhusaaheb

Totally agreed sidhusaaheb!

I raised the issue of apathy in my generation a while back here and interestingly the responses I got from the Indian visitors were much the same. But somehow, my interaction with some of my Indian friends has led me to believe that the problem there is not quite so acute.

But I hope things will change for the better!

Comment by ayesha

wish you guys had a lot more poeple like him. And yes, one needs to speak out to see a change come.

Comment by Rajat

But somehow, my interaction with some of my Indian friends has led me to believe that the problem there is not quite so acute.


Comment by BD

That was nice one Ayesha !

Comment by Haroon Saeed

BD, think RTI or the student protests against reservations and the likes? The youth are making their voice heard aren’t they?

Can you find a comparable example here?

Comment by ayesha

Take Junoon for example! The way they articulated social issues in their songs, and how these songs passed on a message of change among the masses, in a subtle yet powerful manner.

I can’t find anything comparable to that in India!

Comment by BD

Real gems!

Comment by Hamad

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