How to Judge an Act

Source: APP/Dawn

I am pretty sure it always would have been sick to live in Pakistan, but I can tell you it is getting sicker by the day and I am afraid it will only get sicker in the future. For a people who have isolated themselves from the rest of the India supposedly for their superior moral values and purity (therefore the name Pakistan or “Land of the Pure”), away from unclean, uncircumcised and idol-worshiping Hindus, they have become so decadent that they have apparently lost all human common sense of what is right and wrong.

As if they needed any further degradation? Some might add.

In today’s Pakistan, the 21st century Pakistan, when humans are jumping off the edge of the stratosphere of the planet, we are still insistent on enforcing beliefs in barbarian medieval nonsense. But let us even keep religion out of it, because a lot of my friends are insistent that I am too obsessed with it, though it really is that way because everyone around me is. Though you cannot really keep it out of the discourse in context of the Pakistani society, can you? But saying that, it at least establishes how self-important and self-conscious it is of its morality.

Whenever you see some kind of moral idiocy emerge to public discussion, it is usually the result of some rotten and twisted piece of moral conclusion in a reaction to the wounded collective ego of a mob. You know, mobs like nations, religious communities and political parties, or may be even other groups. But so much for generalizations. Let us leave such privileges to the morally correct so that they can decide who is patriotic and who is moral and who is religious or not.

I have just discovered a new standard on how to judge an act. To be able to tell whether it is right or wrong. To be able to tell whether you are supposed to celebrate or mourn it. Simply see what kind of people are condemning or applauding it. So you would be able to tell whether you see such an act as a real occurrence or dismiss it as a charade pulled off by the master superpower forces of the world. There are no limits when you are thinking with a bias and starting your arguments with one. So it seems.

So now some of us, particularly the only patriotic, the only religious and certainly the most morally righteous ones of all, have sunk to a new low by imagining the shooting of a 14 year old as the justifiable punishment to “an American agent” at times and to be a complete fraud that had never actually have happened in the first place at others. I would particularly envy the intelligence of all those who are able to hold both these views on the Malala shooting incident at the same time. But then again, in a world ruled by Godly-Satanic superpowers, anything is possible. Of course, it must be something good if pro-West secular hypocrites are condemning it.

But I don’t really wish to be harsh. Not everyone thinks like a complete idiot, and I am talking about nationalist-religious patriots, even though it implies otherwise by definition. This is when matters of common sense and those of great sensitivity are discussed, such as the ones that involve 14 year old girls being shot by unreasonable and barbarian terrorists, or militants, or freedom fighters, but certainly criminals. As much as I believe in peaceful Pakistanis and peaceful Muslims, I am more than ever convinced that I am living amid individuals blinded by one of the most horrific moral standards and religious-nationalistic ideologies and who would go to any extent to justify their beliefs.

And I don’t say this out of frustration on dealing with their arguments, quite the contrary since they can so easily be proved wrong. Though making them believe that they are wrong is another story. But I say this because of the violence and the risk that it involves. I say this because you cannot breathe in this society without offending someone somewhere and getting threatened for who knows what. I say this because it is not safe, it has never been safe, to say what you think is right and to express what you really believe in.

I more than welcome and support the right of expression of ridiculous arguments, because all they end up doing is showing broad daylight. A lot of my friends oppose hate speech very strongly, to the extent of banning it. I oppose hate speech too and when it comes to direct threats, I would lean in favor of removing it from published and broadcast content as well, but I’d just like to make a point here. Firstly, you can’t completely ban hate speech any more in the world of social media, but even if you wanted to, displays of hate speech perfectly tell you the bigots from people who are controlling and fighting prejudice abuse, or the prejudices their upbringing imprinted them with.

You cannot help but feel disgusted at people targeting Malala like this. I made this point earlier too, but I am honestly sick up to the throat with this nonsense. The Pakistani nation is in a state of denial right now and they are in a state of denial because they are too afraid to face and consciously accept what they believe in, or what they think they strongly believe in.

Yes, denial is that easy when the reality is that ugly.

Like life.

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The Crime of Being Born Without a Penis

Source: aboutcirc.com

I never thought I would be writing a post on this but I guess there are a few things which I feel need to be said. A few things that I observed and that talking about them would do more good than harm for others than for myself. The last fortnight started with a tragedy and ended with all sorts of political and intellectual hilarity, as every week begins and ends in one way or the other in our world. Started of course with a plane crash in Rawalpindi/Islamabad due to alleged bad weather and an alleged lightning strike/downdraft. The plane crash killed around 127 people. The airline’s first flight in a little less than two decades, not exactly, and had earlier been banned for violating safety procedures. It seems no one will question the CAA too hard for clearing the 30 year old 737 to fly, though I had put the question to Honorable Interior Minister Senator Rehman Malik, which I expect no heed to be paid to. Another question to ask is this. Would the people and government had treated the airline in a similar manner had it been the national flag carrier. But let’s be honest with ourselves, friends, let’s be honest. Let us hope, and pray, if you believe in praying, that we don’t find ourselves in a plane that is about to crash. Because in any case, that is the end of that.

Later an article by an Egyptian American columnist Mona El Tahawy appeared in a magazine allegedly discussing Foreign Policy created a stir. The cover of the magazine, which I found pretty charming and a rather eye-catching form of graphic propaganda that some people saw as objectification of women, probably deliberately meant, was extremely useful in terms of journalism, or even propaganda for that matter, because it sent the right message straight away. Without a word being spoken. I wouldn’t be too proud of the issue but of the cover very much, had I been the editor. It was a great idea in itself, keeping the moral issues aside. You don’t have to agree with its morality to agree with its effectiveness by the way. I won’t go into the detail of that particular article because the internet has been exploding with it all over the place and you can go through it yourself. My comment is neither about women’s rights nor about feminism nor the opinion presented in the article itself, to which I mostly agree and which makes good sense factually given the history of discriminatory practices against women in the Middle East, but about the criticism of it and the response to that criticism, since I don’t consider myself qualified enough to talk about feminism and women’s rights, so letting the experts speak is the right thing to do in any case.

The moment I saw the article I knew that the twitter will turn into a battlefield and blogs populated with fresh rebuttals and counter-rebuttals, as it occurred, so let us stay out of the line of fire. I found the criticism more political and nationalistic in nature than dealing with feminism or women’s rights. I am not sure if all the people criticizing the criticism saw that, though I can safely assume that many did. As for the criticism, here is one argument for it and one against it. The criticism was primarily about wounded Arab nationalism and Islamic traditions than out of the genuine denial of women’s suppression, but one that was dripping with desperation. An insult was probably meant, it is safe to say, not necessarily by the article but by the issue, and was achieved it seemed. Now that is biased criticism in terms of the content of that article, but maybe not too much in terms of the context of the space in which it appeared. Some of the answer to that is already provided in that article actually.

Probably the critic had perceived the relevance of such article in a magazine that mostly talks about American wars overseas and the propaganda associated with it for a good deal of time, which is what US Foreign Policy has been mostly about for decades, to be inviting war in the Middle East for the cause of the liberation of women, since it exclusively talked about the Arab world. The most absurd thing you’ll ever hear though, even if that is the case. The Western powers, however, are not idiots and would be willing to do so anyway for several other reasons than that one, though would like you to believe otherwise. An argument against it obviously is that in the blind criticism of the article, her point of female suppression in the Middle East, which is a crude fact, had been conveniently subsided if not denied by many. This is where even the self-proclaimed constructive criticism starts losing its credibility and as one of my friends puts it, the gap between Western feminism and in his words so-called Islamic feminism shows broad daylight. But despite the criticism, I do think that Islamic feminism is a good idea on the face of it. Better than nothing.

I personally do not mean any disrespect to any particular culture or philosophy and do not feel the need to ever do so, but simply talking about things the way I perceive there are in this case. Those who do mean disrespect are noticed by their language anyway. However, it was entertaining to see the burka debate emerge all over again which involved one side challenging the patriarchal symbol of female suppression in the male dominated societies and the other side upholding the choice of the female individuals choosing to wear it. One sees burka as a symbol of oppression. Other sees it as a way of life. Both sides obviously thinking that the other is very wrong. I feel both are right in the sense that they have a point but both are wrong in the sense that they do not realize that they are actually on the same side of the struggle and probably even the same side of the argument. I do think that the struggle against the enforced burka can be carried out while accepting it as a piece of clothing. Maybe that is not possible but I can’t see why. However, the worst part is that both sides are not prepared to learn from the other.

There is a lot of cognitive dissonance involved in the burka issue because of the cultural shock factor. Everything you say about a burka is an insult to someone. Just like this post probably, which if it is, I hope at least offends both the parties equally, because doing that never is the aim. Supporting the burka is an insult to feminism and female emancipation and opposing it is an insult to some culture and women who support or wear it. Just like it is an insult to a woman to wrap a burka around her and an insult to another to stripping her of it. This cognitive dissonance is because of the merging of two distinct and apparently clashing cultural ideas, western feminism and Islamic culture. Yes, cultural shock is not always a cool thing. Not anymore, at least.

For some it is about which culture is superior, which I want to have nothing to do with because I find ideological warfare repulsive and disgusting. However, not every woman (speaking for women’s rights) living in an Islamic culture has accepted western feminism as it is, giving rise to what people refer to as Islamic feminism, while others have completely embraced it. Like it or not, this is a fact. Some of them may wear the hijab while others wouldn’t be found dead in it. This cognitive dissonance has given rise to the burka debate and a neutral observer has little choice but to respect the viewpoint of both the schools of thought. Then again, it depends on the neutral observer. Right now I cannot think of a way of describing it in a more scientific and objective manner.

But shouldn’t it purely be a woman’s debate? If that is not being sexist. I don’t know but men do comment on it. As for men commenting on it, the fact that men cannot understand enforced burka does not mean that they should abandon the principles of individual freedom, if they believe in them. For those who believe in telling people what to do are the cause of the entire problem anyway. The point is that you cannot tell people what to wear and what not to wear while still be concerned when fundamentalist Muslims criticize women for their clothing and tell them to dress in a certain way. This is why supporting democratic values and individual freedom mean opposing a burka ban in France as well as the absurd law-norm of enforced burka wearing in public places in Saudi Arabia. I presume many people would support the former while oppose the latter for some valid reasons. Not saying at all that this approach is not based on a principle and a philosophy, but not sure if it is as democratic as the one opposite to it and I personally do not respect it as much. Though I personally am not fond of the burka anyway.

Both the mentioned laws are wrong in my opinion, but to some both are right or one of them is. A ban on the internet is wrong, right? A ban on anything is wrong. That’s freedom. That is where you compromise the principles you claim to believe in to fit your ideological passions. But this is just a viewpoint and it can be wrong. Maybe the burka, which must also remind a lot of people of the Taliban, is banned because it harms women who want to wear it or harm other women and have far-reaching psychological and social consequences that I cannot even reach the understanding of in this lifetime. I am still learning about the science behind the burka, especially how it is made. Perhaps a burka ban would be more relevant in the context of a society like Saudi Arabia where women are forced and required to wear burka, unlike France where it is most probably banned for other reasons.

It would still violate individual freedom though. But since men cannot understand what it feels like to be inside a burka and the discrimination that it involves, though not all men are unfamiliar with sexual invasions contrary to popular opinion, it is fair to leave the choice to women, as in the case of childbirth and abortion, ideally that is. Maybe only women should be allowed to vote on such issues. This way it could offer a better picture to the solution of these issues. A recent example being all the female Republican senators voting for passing/renewing Domestic Violence Act in the United States but most of the male Republican senators voting against it. I don’t know.

But a few months later, there will be another article printed about it again and the debate will start all over again and will end in a stalemate, just like the debate about the existence of God.

A stalemate is a sign of an intelligent species. This much I can tell you.

So the point of writing all this was that we should try to learn from such a debate. But it really is true that men can have no idea what women go through with the societal norms that they have created and engage in misogynist behavior everyday, sometimes unknowingly, being raised up in patriarchal societies. Also true that Middle Eastern women and also women in Pakistan and India and maybe even Bangladesh are particularly oppressed by men. To the point of even hating them. A very good example being acid assaults in Pakistan. How heartlessly atrocious and subhuman low can you get. Nationalistic criticism of that viewpoint cannot change facts. This is something that a particular society should take the responsibility of changing itself by modifying some of its norms over time through education and awareness, easier said than done. Although all the advantage men have over women in such a society is that they are born with a penis and that women are not. So they can be thankful that nobody tells them to wear their underwear over their pants whenever they leave their homes.

In other words, women’s crime for being treated with discrimination is being born without a penis.

Isn’t that absurd?