Thursday, November 12, 2009

Land of Confusion

Tonight I attended the Shanaakht [Identity] festival going on for the last three days in Karachi. A truly commendable and well-organized event, the special attraction this evening was a musical evening dubbed "From Raag to Roll," which featured the following bands: Taal Krisma, Aunty Disco Project, Laal, Fuzon and Noori. Despite lows and highs in terms of music and performance, overall the extended concert was a refreshing throwback to the days when one worried more about the quality of music than the quality of security.

Then I came back to see Hamid Mir on Geo's Capital Talk programme (on repeat) trying his darnedest to get people in Charsadda and Peshawar to say that the bombings of their markets - which killed hundreds of people - was NOT the work of the Taliban (reason: of course, no Muslim, no Pakistani could ever do such things!) but of India's RAW, Israel's MOSSAD and USA's CIA (all without any proof by the way). By and large he was successful. Talk about living a delusion. I mean, not only was the Charsadda blast a suicide attack - try getting anyone to blow themselves up just for money - even the police is on record having said that they have traced the groups involved in the Peshawar Peepal Market blast, all of whom were paid by the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Nevertheless, Mr. Mir concluded his programme by claiming that he knew for certain that the blasts were engineered by RAW. It made me sick to my stomach. Nobody is saying one should discount the possibility of external agencies being involved. But at least present some evidence other than your soft spot for psychotic extremists when making such claims! It is this constant fallback on "outside hands" conspiracy theories propounded by the likes of Mirs in the media - without a shred of proof - that have led to this country being confused beyond belief.

I was sort of thinking I was better off listening to the musicians tonight - however baysura some of them are - until I chanced upon this from the New York Times. Could there be a more damning indictment of our "rocking" musicians??

Just listen to what the Zaid Hamid-inspired Ali Azmat and the gutless Noori have to say. Music "revolution" my ass. Perhaps we do deserve the Taliban after all.


Ali said...

Awww! Why so cynical? It is just a case of misplaced incentives, is it not?

Anonymous said...

anyone want to predict how long before Ali Azmat is reciting naats on aalim online?

Ahsan said...

I dont say that there are some external agencies funding or causing these incidents to happen here, but how the hell can you outweigh these possibilities.

just because Hamid mir is saying it on his show that this is the case, i am not going to believe it but who knows? have we ever bothered to know it ourselves.

what a TV personality is saying doesn't give me a reason to believe in it. or does it? this is a question for which we all need to find out an answer, most importantly, for ourselves. now who would want to make a fool out of himself.

ya i know the above is crap, but think over it. you can deceive anyone but who would want to deceive oneself?

Ahsan said...

i listen to Fasi Zaka with a heightened interest but i would disagree on his comments on Shehzad roys video! it had nothing to do with religious extremisim. in his words: "...pointing out a very very strong finger at the religious forces..."

what did that have to do with religion. i think pakistanis act dumb in their normal life.

Ahsan said...

The nation has chosen their representatives and all tehy are interested in is fighting for their own reign, interests and life.

and yet we will choose them again because they are not done yet, the point is not yet proven.

and i am guilty of not voting in the previous elections, though i was eligible to. and this what more than 70% (just a random figure) of we the pakis should feel guilty about. but yet they are not!

Ahsan said...

and most importantly, i would like to say sorry to all those who have read all the above c.r.a.p coming out of me. but i am seriously worried that when will we start changing things around. Ah! here i go again..!

XYZ said...

@Ahsan: er... ok, dude, as long as you're just trying to make your thoughts comprehensible... thanks for sharing.

Ahsan said...

To be clear, this is a different Ahsan. A very different Ahsan.

Ahsan said...

yes ofcourse
i am not a blogger
and usually i dont post comments on blogs until recently my love for these has increased
but was i off topic or wrong in any way?

XYZ said...

@Ahsan (not the blogger): No man, you were not off topic and you are most welcome to post comments... It was just that you seemed to have presented all sides of the argument - which confused me about what exactly your point was.

XYZ said...

The following was misposted in a different post but obv referred to this one, so am re-posting here:

Sla. said...
Excuse me, but why are you insistent on recruiting musicians into marching, lockstep, in your anti-extremist crusade? Surely their right to sing what they bloody please is what gives them any value? And why use these epithets, except as placeholders for real criticism? Is this post simply a rant? In which case, meet Mr. Hamid. Zaid, meet XYZ.

November 15, 2009 5:01 AM

XYZ said...

@Sla: My friend, nobody is insisting on "recruiting musicians into marching, lockstep, in [our] anti-extremist crusade" - as if we could! But surely, one has the right to analyse a phenomenon where those who CLAIM to be representing what is going on around us are strangely silent on an issue that obsesses EVERYONE including them. Or to call them out when they say idiotic nonsense that betrays their warped perceptions of reality. I could have actually said a lot more (and perhaps you're right that I should have) but somehow I don't think you were referring to that kind of criticism... I guess the only valid criticism by your criteria would be questioning why Noori or Ali Azmat used a B-minor rather than an A-flat...

But just so you know I'm not the only one talking about this, here's what Dawn carried today:

Sla. said...

No, you're quite right, that is the only criticism that is justified. I think it's the only type that's justifiable. Sure, Noori were being twits. Nonetheless, no right exists for ANYONE to judge a citizen by what they say during a crisis. In crisis, or peace, you leave others alone. You may decry their stupidity, but demanding coherent commentary on current affairs is wishful thinking, both on CNN's part and yours.
Run a thought experiment: assume Pakistan suffers for 6 years under a Taliban regime in the near future. If the regime falls, and democracy in some semblance returns, what law will enable you to hold artists responsible for their silence? Their stupidity? Will you call for them to explain what they were up to while others suffered? What right, except an editorial one, do you possess that enables you to ask that question?
But your position is to accuse them of not using their responsibility seriously. In this, you're sharing the assumptions of any news source that says Noori is the 'voice' of anything.
Thanks for re-posting. If this comments thread gets too long, I would love to continue this argument via email. I've been away from Pakistan for a stretch, and have been reading online commentaries such as yours to get a picture of what goes on.

Re: Dawn - a majority opinion can be, often is, objectively wrong. This goes for most editorials as well.

XYZ said...


A couple of points:

1. You say "no right exists for ANYONE to judge a citizen by what they say during a crisis."... I actually believe that, in fact, it is during times of crises that one can make real judgement of people's character and intellect. And it's not like any of the people interviewed here are in any immediate danger, e.g. the musicians of NWFP and Afghanistan who were and yet were much more steadfast and coherent. In times of no crisis, who cares if a loony pop star says whatever...

2) You say: "...demanding coherent commentary on current affairs is wishful thinking, both on CNN's part and yours." ... One, this was NYT. Two, I am NOT so blinkered as to expect incisive political commentary from people who I know have hardly ever read anything or thought about things in any great depth. But I do believe in the dictum that it's better to keep one's mouth shut and be considered stupid, rather than open it and remove all doubt. My own reaction is based on these guys violating that dictum.

3) Re: the responsibility of artists... This would lead to a very long discussion and there's enough stuff written out there about it. But suffice it to say that I think your analogy is mistaken - we do not live under a Taliban-type dictatorship and I'm not in the least bit talking about taking any legal action. Yes, you are correct that I am exercising an editorial right. And that is all any publication, or cultural critic or blog does.

4.You say "'re sharing the assumptions of any news source that says Noori is the 'voice' of anything."... You are partly right in this, but beyond that also that whether they represent anything or not, they have a privileged position of being able to talk directly to the "masses" (be it the youth only) through the media. You and I may not like it but it is a reality. Having seen them perform as the top billed act at the Shanaakht Festival the same night, and knowing how viral their Coke Studio hit Aik Alif became on Youtube, I think it would be a mistake to underestimate their reach.

The point was simply this: in a thoroughly confused society fed by a thoroughly obfuscating media, the last thing you need is MORE people in positions to be heard adding to the confusion and obfuscation. I would rather they had just refused to talk to the NYT and let the NYT reporter make his own conclusions.

Sla. said...

Thank you. You make some excellent points, esp. the last one about obfuscation.
Can we agree that, if someone does not provide a complete chain of reasoning, we can assume their answer is no better than "witches did it!"? In other words, if someone says, "the moon is that size because the gods made it like that", their explanation, not taking account of such things as mass, gravitational force, and density, is incomplete?
In other words, changing "Witches did it!" to "God did it!" does not a better explanation make, because "God did it!" can be just as easily changed to "That malevolent-looking owl did it!" This is, I hope you agree, the hallmark of any reasonable argument, that it rests on non-arbitrary foundations.

So in turn, each of your replies rests on arbitrary standards, applied by yourself. This is what I meant by "marching in lockstep", that your standards of clarity, civic responsibility, or editorial right are not based on anything non-arbitrary. Note, I say non-arbitrary, not tangible. I'm not saying you should back your statements up with force. I'm saying your reasoning, in
(1) is based on arbitrary analogy to Afghan musicians, in
(2) on a reaction to stupidity, in
(3) on a confusion between a thought experiment and actual experience, and in
(4) on the overly charitable assumption that media reach = spokesmanship.
I'm really only asking for one thing: that a reason be given, based on a similar historical or legal precedent (there are very good ones, in Nuremberg and the Vichy trials), for why it is better for artists to speak up, responsibly, than to stay quiet, beyond your and my subjective judgments as to their moral or intellectual depth.
This is where that what-if scenario becomes important: imagine, for an instant, the Taliban rule, and are toppled. What basis would you, simply as yourself, have for questioning Noori's actions in such a situation? Apply that basis to yourself NOW, and see if it stands.
For the simple reason that your explanations provide no such reason, and rest simply on your editorial status, I must conclude that you were ranting. In which case, obfuscation wins out again.

PS again, thanks for your reply.

Anonymous said...

apart from the topic of this post, listen to Co-Ven, great band (6:10)

Anonymous said...

very early comment i know.. i take personal offence to your last line "perhaps we do deserve the Taliban"
NO ONE deserves the taliban.. Definitely not Pakistan..
and note that I'm an Indian saying this..