One Good Reason to Celebrate the Valentine’s Day

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

Many of us are cynical when it comes to the Valentine’s Day. And for a good reason too. The Western and probably overly commercialized holiday makes you cringe. And of course, you don’t even need to focus on the harassment that ensues.

But we have forgotten in our sharp criticism that somewhere people with sincere expressions of love are celebrating this holiday too.

I know many people respond that they don’t need a specific day to express their love, because they do so every day. But perhaps we do since we are so lost in our materialistic pursuits in a gesellschaft.

How many times do you speak to a particular friend in a year? Let alone a love interest. At least I don’t nearly as many times as someone would expect, if at all. But I should speak for myself only.

But if none of these arguments make any sense to you, which is perfectly fine, there is one good reason that would help you celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or at least realize that it should not be taken for granted.

Don’t forget that Sabeen fought for the freedom to celebrate the holiday. I don’t know about most of you, but to me, Valentine’s Day is a good occasion to respect the memory of Sabeen, a true Pakistani free speech hero.

Well, now you would hardly find a trace of photographic evidence of this episode online because our overly concerned media publications worried about the sensitivities of their audience too much. However, like the photographs from the campaign, the courage of Sabeen Mahmud in the face of religious authoritarianism must not be erased from our memory.

We know for a fact that the campaign at least jeopardized her life thanks to the instant fatwa machines in the Karachi madrassahs. However, you could speculate if that was the only motive of her killer, if any at all. But that’s what they tell us.

With every forgiven attack and every neglected bit of hate speech and death threats, we are condemned to desensitize ourselves from this moral abomination. However, we are also condemned to put up with it, until we are not. Because in a land where morality is enforced by threatening the life of its citizens, the only law is that of the sword, not of some high moral divinity.

In a society, such as this, celebrating the Valentine’s Day is an act of defiance in itself. Especially when our courts issue verdicts such as banning the holiday in public spaces that defy the standards of civil rights. In some cases, it is even an act of sheer mad bravery. Not very different to what Sabeen did during her campaign challenging religious authoritarianism.

I am not a fan of mingling political statements with holiday celebrations at all. But this is one exception that I would not mind. So, when you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Pakistan, do keep in mind that in such a society, the holiday is more than just vain indulgence.

Isn’t it a good reason to celebrate?

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Drugs Should Be Free

The highly specialized urban society in our world comes with a price. The price of stress and depression out of the lack of freedom that a person would like to have to control his or her life. It would actually be a little unfair to say that this disadvantage is exclusive to the highly specialized urban society, though I considered it important to mention, because such stress would also be experienced in a close-knit homogeneous society, perhaps in a different form. But it would be safe to say that both the kinds of societies offer their own challenges and disadvantages.

The stress and depression have the power to take away the will of living from individuals. While this statement may appear a little exaggerated, I have reasons to believe psychologists would find no hesitation to support it, as it is one of their most frequent observations anyway. This drives most people to find an instant psychological and neurochemical distraction to curb the feeling, which leads to the consumption of drugs. Strong or mild, dangerous or lethal, but some sort of drugs. This again depends on access, which would cause further stress in case of deprivation.

While you may have anticipated a left wing rant in the post from its title, it is not really the case. The vicious title to this post actually makes one point. Having access to the drug of choice, once initiated, should be a human right. But then again, there are economic factors behind access. But if that argument be accepted, then the same is true for food, clean drinking water and some other commodity that is considered indispensable to human life. A critic would assert that such an analogy would be flawed since those are basic necessities and a drug is not, but in most cases, drugs do become a necessity than a luxury, once initiated. The social imbalance and the human nature can be and are actually used as means to a form of slavery.

While some people on the left would not find this possibility perfectly harmonious to their views, drugs can easily make people dependent. No wonder why Karl Marx used the analogy of opium for religion. However, what needs to be understood here is that drugs are not just confined to chemicals that affect your consciousness. Every person can choose their own drug and adapt to it as per the availability constraints. The availability constraints can either be social or legal such as alcohol in a dry country, or even personal. But dwelling on that too much is immaterial to matter at hand.

Sex is not really a drug but does involve neurochemical and hormonal reactions in the body which actually involve pleasure, something that addicts seek in a drug. Pleasure brings relief from stress and depression and that is why some people become sex addicts, while others simply become obsessed with it. It is all pretty much understandable, though not socially acceptable. Most drugs are not socially acceptable too. Caffeine is, and perhaps nicotine, or may be it used to be, and alcohol, and maybe some other drugs depending on the particular society.

The idea that the access of drugs should be a human right and that they should be free is neither a demand nor an assertion, but a thought to be examined by the philosophers, the politicians, the moralists, the theologians, the humanitarians, the medical experts, the realists, the idealists and above all the policy makers of our world wherever they are. I don’t care which drug you consider, what drugs you allow, what drugs you take away. But I want the possibility to be considered. I know some drugs can kill people and I don’t think people should take such drugs. But if they do, they should be offered help, and demanding money from them is not really helping them.

In one way or another, every drug works like a slow poison. But so does oxygen. And besides, no one ever gave a second thought to the health threat that drugs pose when they started consuming them. But maybe some of them do. I am not arguing here about how risky or safe drugs are. We all know the medical and scientific facts about them and you can ask any physician or a psychologist about any drug you want and you will get a good deal of information about what a drug can do to your mind and body. Please read this post with an understanding that all the risks of drugs are understood while we consider the idea that drugs should be free and that their access should be considered a human right.

Once you start considering the matter just like you consider things like food, water, healthcare and education as the rights of every individual and that they should have free access to them, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or any other attribute that can be attached with a prejudice. It sounds like a socialist dream but it is a thought worth considering and exploring. If only, to be rejected. We reject the ideas of food for all and healthcare for all and education for all anyway. It would not be something unusual if we reject this idea as well. By the way, if you anticipated the post to be talking about free drugs, as in free medicine for all, I would be really delighted as I really support that idea even strongly.

But why do people need this neurochemical distraction in the first place? This brings us to the point from where we started. To fight stress and depression, but most of all, to extract pleasure. While there are a number of things which people can find pleasure in, drugs seem to be an option that does not involve other people, does not involve intruding into the lives of other people and involves changing their state of mind in a way that they cannot be achieved in any other way. Not implying that drugs should be recommended for these reasons. Just saying that people are more likely to use drugs than go for anything else which may appear any saner to any other person for these reasons.

So what do we establish. Should drugs be free?

Or maybe, Pleasure should be free.