The Absurdity of Ideological Radicalism

Source: youthlinemedia,org – EPA/NOAH BERGER

As I continue to age, I have learned something very important about politics. A lot of our ridiculous, unwavering, uncompromising political positions come out of ignorance and being completely out of touch.

This is something that has made me appreciate people evolving politically over the years and that is why changing parties is not such a cardinal sin in my eyes.

I cannot possibly even come close to talking down to anyone reading these lines as I have held many of these extreme positions in the past myself, and possibly I am also holding quite a few at this point in time. It is easy to dismiss your rival political position as ignorant and condemn your opponents as unintelligent and immoral, but as we go closer, the many shades of gray reveal themselves out of the black and white.

My absolute ignorance of the legalized trophy hunting economics helped me realize how a distant observer fails to see its contribution. Even though I still morally oppose hunting wildlife. However, a trip to Gilgit-Baltistan and speaking to the WWF officials who facilitate legal trophy hunting in the area would shed light on how the local communities benefit from it. And how the activity helps preserve certain species, contrary to the impression of the knee-jerk activist. You just can’t ignore the facts.

I have only recently become more appreciative of military interventionism of the United States, despite obvious disasters such as the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War. And even bypassing the United Nations Security Council in some cases because in humanitarian disasters such as Bosnia, Darfur, Kuwait, and Mosul, when engaging with bureaucracy and particularly the Chinese and Russian votes at the Security Council could cost lives. At the same time, I can tell what a disaster being a blind hawk with neighbors such as India and Afghanistan can prove to be in an underdeveloped region constantly under the threat of a nuclear accident and in desperate need of free trade. And this by no means implies that cutting defense budgets would be any wiser.

I have learned over the years through the wisdom of my friends and by trying to stand in the shoes of struggling families, despite having a similar background, that safety nets matter. I have learned that you don’t exactly run a government like a business and oftentimes debt and stimulus are a necessity for economic sustenance. It cannot be emphasized how vital quality public education with critical reasoning is and how necessary an effective healthcare system is to the people. However, it is also important to recognize how the private sector can add value to both these spheres of social economy, especially medical research.

Flying routes that nobody else would fly has offered me an insight that perhaps having a national flag carrier is not a bad idea after all. But I do not have any doubts about private professionals managing it in a much more efficient manner. And that it is important to raise the alarm when far right partisans make efforts to either privatize or liquidate necessary government services such as public libraries and prisons. At the same time realizing that privatization of certain corporations unrelated to the government would be a better idea, as in the case of power supply companies and other for-profit corporations. I have also come to appreciate how arts and media education require close financial and promotional patronage from the government to thrive. Believe me, artists earn it.

It is important to weigh the facts of the world before becoming a Marxist revolutionary or a Libertarian anarcho-capitalist troll supporting the gold standard. Before completely condemning capitalism and the current global financial system as pure evil, we must consider the global prosperity and the technological advancement this economic model has brought about. It has made the rich richer alright but has significantly improved freedom of access and quality of life for more people than ever before. At the same time, we must never drop our watch of the shady practices in the business and industrial world and make all the strict measures and regulations to protect the environment, the consumer and the workforce rights.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world that is far more complex than any ideology could possibly encompass. There is little use in investing ourselves in radical ideas and extremes so much that our idealism and passion turn into venomous cynicism and defeatism. College students are particularly prone to nonsense in their earlier years of high passion and idealism. While time corrects your course over the years, a consideration of more pragmatic options over what makes you feel good could always lead to a balanced and more productive worldview. And above all, cements your faith in democracy.

We need to see through ideological radicalism for its absurdity. This might help us build more bridges between people while getting things done.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Bronchitis: Strike Three!

Source: shutterstock

Source: shutterstock

Forgive me for not writing for such a long time,  but so much happened since words last appeared on this blog. I embarked on a rollercoaster but enjoyable trip to Sukkur and Moenjodaro and survived massive fatigue in Swat.

For the last two years, I had caught the condition of bronchitis roughly around this time of the year. I had resolved that this year would be different. However, not to be. For the third straight year, I am now fighting the terrible condition of bronchitis which has made life as difficult for others around me, as for myself. It conveniently came when I was on an official tour to the northern parts of the country, which are not particularly known for moderation in cold temperatures. Perhaps leaving me in a more humiliating position than ever before.

I wrote about how bronchitis felt last winter. Similar feelings now. The same coughing fits. It’s just that I was prepared for it to hit this time around.

Just did not know I would hit the emergency twice in two days. Even though it just hit at the perfectly wrong time. When I was out in the field for work and just when I needed to keep myself fit and well. But I was anticipating its arrival. It was just a matter of time. And I would be lying if I said I took enough precautions. I guess it takes walking around wrapped in a quilt.

But as I approach the next year, I do have one resolution to make among a few others. I am not going to catch bronchitis for the fourth year in a row.

But I have a feeling that I will be writing a similar post next winter. And I seriously doubt that I would be walking around wrapped in a blanket.

I predicted it the last time too.

To Young Doctors Association in the Name of Healthcare

Source: lhrtimes.com

Source: lhrtimes.com

There is something about the protest of the Young Doctors Association that I really liked this time for a change. They must have been at it before, but I did not notice that. They have been setting up medical camps outside government hospitals where they are deputed. I think this is a brilliant way to protest because it does not in any way cause inconvenience to the public.

Like many in Punjab, I found their OPD strikes rather inappropriate with all the problems that it created for patients. Despite the fact that I acknowledge that it is the responsibility of the Punjab government. And yes I do recall news, true or false, of patients dying due to the absence of medical staff.

When that happens, I don’t care if it’s the government’s fault or the doctors’ fault. I say fuck them both.

First, the protests were about the payroll of doctors and later about providing better medical facilities, if I am not wrong. All perfectly legitimate and justified demands. But whether you support it or not, one thing is for sure. It pretty much failed to garner public support.

This is where I guess the Young Doctors Association seems to have learned something, as evident by their medical camp protests. Given the importance of the cause of better healthcare facilities, I think these doctors fully require public support to make it effective. This is why the way they protest, rally and get their voices heard is of utmost importance.

I believe their cause of pursuing better healthcare in Punjab is phenomenal and probably the most important of all the issues I can think of. However, in my humble and flawed opinion, they lose their strength and credibility, not to mention sabotage their own efforts, by choosing protest methods that disturb the already troubled patients in government hospitals. This is why I like the medical camp idea.

Apparently, the Young Doctors Association is pretty proactive when it comes to communication with the media, which proves that they want their campaign to be recognized publicly. This further enhances the importance of the methods of protests they choose. Because every time they do that, they are making a PR statement.

The medical camp idea is brilliant since their work is their greatest asset. It is also the medium through which they interact with the public and they can use their professional skills as the greatest form of protest. I know protests are impulsive and emotional things, but this is something the hot-headed leadership of the association needs to think about with a cool mind. Not saying if there is anything wrong with sit-in protests and rallies.

The Punjab government had been trumpeting a lot of propaganda against them and it worked because the general public found little reason to support their cause at the time. The government even used pretty brutal measures against the doctors but very few people objected to that from outside the doctor’s own group. At least in Punjab.

As a matter of fact, the earlier protests of the Young Doctors Association, when they were at their severest, created a triple conflict of Doctors v Punjab Government v the People. All three were working against each other and probably the greatest advantage of that went to the Punjab government which apparently had no issues with fighting either of the opponents, given their seriousness towards healthcare issues.

There is another reason why there are not enough protests in Punjab, and even anywhere in Pakistan, because healthcare is not an issue of priority for the people. People simply do not assign enough importance to it. I hardly remember anyone staging a serious protest due to the lack of healthcare facilities in my lifetime at least.

Our political parties spend billions of rupees on reconstructing roads and fly-over bridges to satisfy voters, when they should actually be spending a good amount of that money on hospitals and better facilities. Furthermore, there is really no one to lead the people to the cause of better healthcare, probably because it does not involve any special benefits.

Another positive about the latest protest campaigns is that its objective is better health facilities in general hospitals, offering the public an incentive to back it. Because I believe the objective should be to turn the equation from Doctors v People v Punjab Government to Doctors and People v Punjab Government. That should be the aim of any such campaigns.

People are selfish, you see. They are more concerned about their own convenience than any doctor’s salary. Since the public generally consider doctors profiteers any way. I am not implying that it is a fact, but that’s how the poor public sees just about any business they deal with.

Imagine what can be accomplished if the people stand with the doctors for demanding better healthcare facilities. It will certainly force the government to take some action.

But it’s how you do it that matters.

On How To Treat Unvaccinated Children

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

The past day saw one of the most ridiculous government decrees that I have ever come across in my life. But of course where it could have taken place than in the domain of the most dynamic and dexterous ruler of the world, the Khadim-e-Aala, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. As it could not have gone without his dreaded blessing.

The DCO Lahore announced that any child that goes without a necessary vaccination will not be issued a birth certificate and will not be granted admission to a school. I have never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. It’s just amazing the things they are coming up with these days.

I don’t know who really came up with this fantastic idea in the first place. I actually find it more bannable than any blasphemous novel or a video sharing website.

Depriving unvaccinated children of school admission is just like denying a starving child a meal just because their parents didn’t feed them. Actually, you can’t even explain it with analogies. It’s so plain ridiculous, it probably has no equal. It’s simply brilliant.

I mean, are they really serious? While a part of me does not even take this order seriously, are they really going to treat children who are not given a vaccination in that manner? Are they really going to keep them out of schools? And not issue birth certificates? They didn’t even know anything such as vaccines existed when they were babies. It’s the parents’ fault, if at all.

Furthermore, while there is no doubt that children must be vaccinated unless there is a valid scientific reason not to such as allergies, not every unvaccinated child is infected. Also, being unvaccinated does not make you infectious, just less vulnerable to virus attacks. Correct me if I am wrong please. Some people are under the impression that unvaccinated children can infect their children. Well, it depends.

If a child does survive skipping vaccinations somehow, then I guess improving access to healthcare is the best way to move forward, instead of adding to the country’s already apalling rate of literacy. Again, I am not really taking their “threat” too seriously, but you never know with people like these at the helm.

They can spend billions of rupees on fly-overs and unnecessary road reconstruction, but would not spend even half that money on the hospitals of the province. The budget for healthcare is simply not a priority for the government. Despite the repeated protests from an association of doctors employed in the government hospitals. It’s not that building roads is not important, but other things are too.

But what kind of regulations are these, and someone running the government should know better than to allow their enforcement. How infinitely stupid some of our civil servants are, especially with their licenses to fuck the lives of people beyond redemption. They look down upon people and consider themselves demigods of intelligence, but I can tell you, you can’t serve people like that.

But since they are so disconnected with reality that they don’t even seem to have common sense, you can hardly expect anything but such nonsense from them. It really should not be surprising.

River Ravi - Source: Express Tribune

River Ravi – Source: Express Tribune

Let us just hope the unvaccinated children do not get thrown in the river Ravi in the years to come. However, it sounds an apt way to dispose them off since they don’t deserve birth certificates and school anyway.

It could even prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it could be the first real step towards resolving the overpopulation crisis in Pakistan.

Look, Don’t Smoke!

Isn’t this image absolutely charming?

How do you feel looking at it?

Really makes you feel disgusted, doesn’t it? That is precisely what it is meant to do.

One of the greatest trouble with lawmakers is that they make laws for a living.

This pretty much means trouble for everyone else. You know, for people.

This is probably the most repulsive post that I have ever added and I want it to give precisely the kind of feeling that anyone looking at this image would have if it appeared on something that they consumed on a regular basis.

It appears on every cigarette pack in Pakistan. Required by law.

Just take a look at this picture. Why would anyone in their right mind would place such disgusting and horrific pictures on a commodity meant to be consumed.

Alright, before some of you start with all the self-righteous health rhetoric, I know that tobacco is a cancer risk factor. So are several other things like alcohol and maybe mobile phone electromagnetic microwaves and nuclear radiation. Well we hear about it all, don’t ask me for scientific evidence. You are supposed to follow what they recommend.

I know smoking can possibly cause mouth cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension and whatnot. Pretty much everyone knows that by now, but I seriously think somebody really needs to draw a line.

Before I continue, and before you make any judgments about my views, I would like to give the irritating disclaimer that I do not support smoking in public places and that there is no harm in enforcing laws that protect the rights of people who want a smoking-free environment, whether for security, health or comfort and convenience. However, smoking, or consuming any other drug for that matter, is a choice that every adult must be free to make.

Of course it gives you a different feeling altogether if you see this image like it is presented on a cigarette pack. It simply offers you a completely different perspective of it. Doesn’t it?

Well, for someone who smokes, the feeling is just like seeing this image on something else that they consume. Such as, say a bottle of juice, or a loaf of bread or just about anything you could think of. I know it sort of sounds sickening to everyone else, but hey, stand in their shoes for a second.

I understand that the requirement of printing such repulsive images on cigarette packs are supposed to make people stop. But is anyone stopping because of these images? Not sure. I hope at least some would have.

However, it only goes to show how sick is the reasoning and thought process behind putting such hideous images on commodities of consumption. It is also unscientific and exaggerated because not everyone who smokes ends up with the condition portrayed in the image above and other conditions that are portrayed around the world.

The idiotic law which created this eye-candy image was probably Statutory Order 1219(I)/2008 dated 25 September 2008, as per Wikipedia. I can’t find the precise Gazette of Pakistan copy online.

Tomorrow, July 1, 2012, marks the third birthday of this lovely image.

Here, take a look at some more perversions from all around Asia.

Well. congratulations dear lawmakers, you have really eradicated every trace of smoking from the world. I hope that makes you feel very good about yourselves.

Speaking of Pakistan, well. we already know how much health is a priority for Pakistani legislators. But I won’t use their lack of enthusiasm about providing healthcare facilities to the public as an argument against this law. That would be wrong.

I would just like to request the honorable parliament members to reconsider the choice of warning images. I am perfectly fine with the text. And I agree smoking must be discouraged through education and awareness.

Actually, I am pretty thankful to them actually for not having tobacco banned already because we seem to be gradually moving towards that direction and it is horrifying. I am really thankful to the legislators for still allowing the people access to the drug that they are so badly hooked to.

Also, I am also thankful to them for meticulously and religiously increasing the duty on cigarette packs in the fiscal budget every year. It particularly helps the poor people who have absolutely no access to the kind of drugs that they can afford. Expensive, imported, duty-free and high quality alcohol, for example. It really helps their way of living, ensuring a healthier, more pious, more fulfilling and a much happier life.

I was wondering that they could also consider printing warnings on a bottle of Coke, which must cause diseases in the long run in its own right, or maybe on the packaging of a Big Mac, or maybe on the favorite and most acceptable source of drugs for Pakistanis, tea.

Yeah, they should also print warnings on tea packs. It contains caffeine, the most widely accepted and silently loud drug in the business. It is an addiction after all.

But I am sure caffeine must have a lot of health benefits.

Alright, alright, I accept. We should have at least some sort of graphical representation of the consequences of smoking on a cigarette pack. Not every smoker can read, right?

So by that rationale, please also print images and graphical representations of all the side effects caused by every prescription drug used for whatever purpose. Not everyone can read the name of the drug.

So that people should know what this “substance” could possibly do to them.

I know smoking is bad, evil. Prescriptions drugs are great, necessary, healing.

But hey, a drug is a drug. Disease is disease. Horrible consequences are horrible consequences.

Why ignore them for one substance and cry about them for others?

Why not inform people about them by printing photographs of them all over the place?

People really need to know, isn’t it? And what is a better medium of conveying information than images? Especially those who don’t even know how to read the brand name of their cigarettes or how to pronounce or even spell the deliberately confusing name of their prescription drugs.

It’s a service to humanity indeed.

(This post is dedicated to Faine Greenwood)

Making the Most of Your Health

I was sick the entire last week. While being sick once in a while can actually be refreshing, as that can really cleanse your brain of the waste that occupies it during your usual routine, at least it is a great mind-cleanser as far as the effects of the social media are concerned, it can still be a troubling experience. When you are ill, you find enough time for reflection, if you do not find the energy to continue with your usual work, as was the case with me this time around.

The main thought that keeps on coming back to your mind when you are quite close to dying is what your life could have been. I have had these thoughts before and surely I will have these thoughts again, as almost every one of us will. But it is always useful if you get to think like that while you are still in your prime and when the old age has not yet set on to the horizons of your mind and body.

The greatest thought that occupied my dizzy mind during the illness was the fact that there is no such thing as health and that I should make the most of my health and youth as much as I can and as long as I have them. This recalls to mind the age-old saying that we mostly take for granted that health is the greatest wealth, which indeed is true.

So maybe I would try my best to see as much of the world as I possibly can and maybe take my camera along with me to preserve the memories, or maybe I would complete some of my unfinished projects without further ado. But all that requires action, so enough of words.

I am making the most of my health, while it lasts.