Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Read of the Day

I came across an essay today that contained the following passages:

"Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us... that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit. 
An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving [people] is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business. 
It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today... If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of ... school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past."

Exactly what all right-thinking Pakistanis have been moaning about for the longest time, isn't it?

Good to know that celebrated American poets feel the same way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mysteries of the Week

I know, I know. We've been terribly bad. No need to rub it in. But the simple fact of the matter is, things have changed since we began this blog. On the positive side, far more people are keeping tabs on the media in particular and even the media itself has matured and become more self-critical, which takes some of the burden off us and this is something to be celebrated. On the negative side, we have let our own punishing work schedules make us a bit lazy and perhaps also complacent - it's not easy doing things as kaar-e-khair for so long.

In any case, one of the most daunting things is getting back into writing after a fairly lengthy lay-off. Especially, as is always the case with Pakistan, there is so much piled up worthy of commentary. In fact, one of the things that made me hesitate about a number of different posts I wanted to write was because, after such an long absence, I felt the first post should be something truly substantial. I realize, of course, that this was precisely the wrong approach. One really has to ease back into blogging. Furthermore, one should not give two hoots about the morally outraged trolls who inevitably flood every post with their indignation that it is not about what they think should be addressed instead. You know the sort: 'How can you talk about Maya Khan when drones are raining death down from the sky and Memogate threatens to destroy the country?' 'You're writing about drones? What about the genocide of the Baloch Shia!' 'How dare you make fun of maulvis. Why don't you write about the liberal elite scum that have destroyed this country?' You can never win with this lot. But the point is, why should one care what trolls say? You're so concerned, troll, that each and every post is not what you want it to be, why don't you go write about it and leave us the eff alone?

So, with that realization behind me, I present the two great image mysteries of the past week. Look at the following two photographs, both published in The News.

The first is from the March 23 paper, showing the reaction of a crowd assembled in the Arts Council Auditorium watching the Pakistan cricket team securing a last-ball win against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup finals:

The second is from the March 26 paper, showing the reaction of a crowd attending a Karachi mushaira (poetry reading) when suddenly shots rang out outside the venue:

Now, don't you just want to know more about the Uncle in the top picture and the Aunty in the second one (both circled for easy identification)? I mean, in the first photograph, the entire crowd has erupted in jubilation, yet Uncle seems supremely uninvolved, if not downright glum. Was he supporting Bangladesh? If he was, shouldn't he still show some more emotion than he does? Does he play poker? Does he not care about competitive sports? And if so, why is he there?

The second picture is even more of an enigma. Half the audience seems to be on the floor in terror, apparently to save their lives, while a few seem less concerned. But Aunty, oh Aunty, is not even bothering to look around and staring straight ahead at, one assumes, the stage. Was she transfixed by the beauty of the couplet she had just heard? Is she meditating on the metaphysics of a particularly deep ghazal? Or did she have too much Lexotanil before leaving home?

Come on, journalists of The News. Where is your sense of curiosity?