March 24, 2017
The “new” is not necessarily the better. This small fact is often trampled before the juggernaut of the new. The “old” is often berated as obsolete and is considered something worthy to be jettisoned in the name of progress.
In Pakistan, before mobile phones and talk shows swept society, one’s family, friends, and neighbors would visit without advance notice. There was informality. The sheer spontaneity of it all was a source of joy and merriment. Ubiquitous phones ultimately curbed the trend for non-transactional socializing.
“Old” has a pejorative connotation as if it is something stagnant, dated and inferior. At the same time, “new” is touted as a superior discovery, superseding the defunct.
30 years ago, the best and brightest minds of the world’s top beverage corporation came up with the zany idea of dispensing with the old formula of Coca Cola and displacing it with the reformulated version of the New Coke. It was a disaster. Only 77 days later, consumer revolt forced the company to re-launch the old Coke with the nomenclature 'Classic Coke.' In that case, old was gold.
Forgotten in the rush to embrace the new is the fact that the old may have stood the test of time. New and old can coexist without canceling each other.
In the name of progress, downward steps sometimes are undertaken. The advent of cell phones and tweets may have unleashed an instant flux of information and connectivity. But that cannot be confused with insight and perspective. Thoughtful reflection and conversational skills may have fallen by the wayside. Social media does not equal social sense.
Undoubtedly, technology has made human connection easier. However, the capacity to connect has not always instilled bonds of community spirit and civic sense. Dissemination of hate, xenophobia, and obscurantism has multiplied online. Better communication has run parallel with isolation, ignorance, and disinformation. In refreshing contrast, a book by noted Lahore philanthropist/lawyer, DrParvez Hassan, “Stories of Gratitude,” salutes those whose values left an inspirational imprint.
When Pakistan's East Wing seceded in 1971, West Wing beneficiaries of vivisection proudly proclaimed a 'Naya Pakistan.' It was sickening. The jubilation of the minuscule few was in stark contrast to the anguish of the many who were vanquished by grief.
Come 2017, charlatans can be heard chortling about 'naya' (new) Pakistan while being oblivious to its perils. The new may bring sham prosperity but at the cost of tranquility.
Old Pakistan, which was purana Pakistan, was once 1 nation under 1 flag, with comradery and pride in its common destiny. Then, provincial and tribal divisions were not being fanned and inflamed, and ethno-national prejudices were discouraged.
Unity in purpose was a carryover from transcendental values, which had motivated and mobilized the Pakistan Movement. Its peak was the September 1965 War, which witnessed a stirring display of national resolve, self-esteem and fighting spirit.
That dream plummeted in 1971. The new truncated Pakistan and its aftermath was not what the Quaid had envisioned.
The spirit of service and sacrifice had taken a hit. But it is not irretrievable. It is never too late to rejuvenate. Purana Pakistan was Quaid-e-Azam's Pakistan.
By Mowahid Hussain Shah
Hate is the takeaway impression from the first month of the new White House Administration. Hate against the “other”.
Demagoguery through the ages has found it expedient to drum up hate. It’s simple; it’s easy; it’s uncomplicated; it’s safe; and it’s profitable. It is essentially the bully targeting the vulnerable under the assumption and the comfort level that the target cannot or will not make a proportionate response. From the bully point of view, it is safe to hit those who cannot retaliate.
Preachers of hate know the value of stereotyping and scapegoating. They also know how manipulable the general public is, irrespective of where they are and how formally educated they may be. Sometimes, the educated have more tools in their toolbox to weaponize hate through disinformation.
The latest report of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “The Year in Hate and Extremism”, furnishes substantial evidence. US-based hate groups, their numbers already at “near-historic highs”, still “undoubtedly understate the real level of organized hatred in America” due to the proliferation of right-wing extremists operating on the Internet. The report highlights the “dramatic” and “enormous leap” in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups over the past two years. The Center also reported on the right-wing Patriot movement, which has adopted “violent animus toward Muslims” as a key component of its beliefs. According to the New York Times of February 16, the FBI reported a 67 percent increase for 2015 in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
The not-too-distant past has resurfaced. The precedence of FDR incarcerating full-fledged American citizenry lifts the veil on the dark underbelly of US history. On May 9, 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order to round up and imprison in camps about 120,000 people – men, women, and children – of Japanese descent, mainly US citizens. Marking the 75th anniversary of the order, the original document has just gone on display in Los Angeles.
According to ABC-TV of February 19, immigrants and families are now fleeing the US on foot to cross the northern border for Canada, with uncertainty fueling fear.
America today is not a fundamentally white Christian society, despite delusional flailing attempts to roll back the past. The pressing momentum of demography prevents that. On February 16, nationwide in the US, many restaurants – including many McDonalds – shut down as a gesture of solidarity against the targeting of immigrants, ironically, in a nation of immigrants. According to ABC News, there are an estimated 30 million immigrant workers in America, paying over $300 billion in taxes each year. Added to this are a huge number of undocumented workers, who hold about one-third of service jobs, like cab drivers, domestic helpers, and hotel workers, according to the Pew Research Center.
Past precedent verifies that flames lit by hatred turn self-consuming. Hate exists everywhere. But when it is institutionalized and legitimized by officialdom, it sets the stage for an accelerated decline. The entrenchment of Hate, Inc. makes shallow the claims of being special and exceptional.
Pontificating about values is easy. Having those tested through the crucible of fire is another matter. Looming ahead is the fight between meanness and fairness.