the great escape

I look around and eye the **exit** my great escape, the red flashing sign, the word EXIT, written up, loud and clear, I eye it. And I make a run for it. The two hosts grab me before I even take a step, each with one arm locked into mine, they **crack a joke** about me, the audience laughs. They hand me a metal statuette, I hold it --the heaviest thing I’ve ever held on to-- it falls through the stage, through the wooden floor, with me holding tightly onto it, through and through. “Ladies and gentlemen we just witnessed **a great escape** for the first time in the history of this event, has the winner escaped in such a dramatic fashion, and without giving a speech either.”

Tuesday, January 11

A How-To Guide for the Weak-Stomached on Building Tolerance

Suddenly there’s a lot of debate over tolerance and engendering some sort of empathy and understanding in Pakistani society. For a society that’s seen random spurts of violent urban attacks, sensational acts of terrorism, ethnic violence, and even a spate of target killings to have some sort of identity crisis is perfectly normal. However, this time it seems to be a severe reaction pointing to the fact that perhaps we somehow haven’t managed to come to terms with who we are.

The recent attack on the "liberal" community, especially, sparked a lot of controversy over whether those whose beliefs don’t coincide with the social mean should be respected or simply eradicated. Most people really wouldn't give a damn either way, but nowadays everyone seems to be caught up in the crossfire between the ultra-radical hyper conservatives, and the flip-flopish moderate supporters of a semblance of liberalism.

Besides the sensational coverage of all the Television news channels, Other than newspaper editorials repeatedly asking “Why we are the way we are?”, or disgustingly lukewarm apologetic sonatas declaring “Today I too am a minority” (for one day only), the average person these days is brought into the center of the debate through cutting edge social media, like Facebook. There have been several instances of people blocking or “de-friending” their Facebook friends upon finding out that hey were either blasphemous, supported blasphemy, or supported the violence against those who supported blasphemy. This has resulted in a massive social reorganization of Pakistani Facebook networks based on what side of the debate the person’s Facebook status took.

Many people are simply in shock over the flaring up of the recent issue, and have simply failed to get a grip on reality. Where social tolerance is concerned, I think being tolerant is one thing, and pretending to be tolerant is a whole different thing. For me tolerance and intolerance within society is like having tolerance or intolerance for certain substances, for instance lactose intolerance (or other forms of tolerance), if you have a certain threshold of tolerance and you know it all is well, but if you have relatively low tolerance, and you pretend to be highly tolerant then things can get very risky. Things can take a turn for the worse quite quickly, since you wouldn’t know your own threshold, you might end up throwing your guts out at the end of the night.

Which is precisely the predicament I find our society to be in right now: hunched up over the bowl going through the all-too-familiar gagging motions as vomit spews out of the mouth while uttering the words “never again” in-between mouthfuls of gastric juices and semi-processed morsels of food. The “never again” is the most important epiphany as this whole episode runs on to its usual conclusion, because it implies that never again will you cross that threshold as you go on pretending to be tolerant.

For one, I think we need to come to terms with the fact that as a society we’re highly intolerant and that there’s no way we can stomach all that cultural diversity. So expecting ourselves to be tolerant about the views and opinions of others is a little too much to expect from such weak-in-the-stomach people. Then rather than making a show out of how tolerant and accepting we are on the outside, I think we need to be more in touch with the reality of how insecure, and complex we are on the inside.

We can hardly stand diversity, and whenever one social group treads a marginally different line from the mean they are immediately identified, excluded, harassed , and targeted. I mean forget crumbling Jain temples, and ravaged Hindu communities, last year over two hundred people were arrested for violence against Christians in Gojra, from our very own ‘brotherhood of the books’.

When such overpowering facts are staring pretty much in your face, then how can you go on pretending to be a tolerant society which respects fundamental human rights, and believe in equality and liberty for all. We really don’t. And if you don’t happen to agree with that, then let me tell you that you too are a vast minority in the face of the intolerant masses, and that you’re lucky that you blend well with
the intolerant ones, because if there was a way to single you out, you wouldn’t be reading this article— you’d be dead.

Grim endings aside, I think its important for us to know our own egalitarian limitations. Because really, every time we pretend that we can get up and stagger our own merry way home, and to never re-visit the ugly stomach-churning episode again, the withdrawal symptoms of our own addiction to hate-spewing rhetoric and extreme firebrand ideals brings us back to our knees in prostration in front of the toilet bowl once more, to partake yet again in the ritual of coming to terms with ourselves, and whispering “never again” quietly underneath our vomit-ridden breaths.

catching up/update/getting upto speed blasphemous (read: dangerous) times like these..

apologies to anyone who actually reads this for not posting in the past 3..4? however many months. moving out of lahore and into new york caught me off guard, as did the demands of an academically intensive graduate program. regardless.. now that i've managed to acclimatize, i wish to inform you actual readers, that i will be posting regularly from here on in.. this haloed eleventh day of the first month of the year of our lord, two thousand and eleven 1/11/11 or 11/1/11 depending on what part of the world you're in. it should be evident that i have a slight fetish for 1s and 11s wherever they appear together esp. in dates and times.

anyway, just because i haven't updated this thing does in no way mean that i haven't been thinking strange and deep thoughts. just so you know, i have been thinking a lot of those, and more importantly, i've been building them up for one big motherload thats coming your way very soon!

apart from some posting some previously written material, topics i'll be exploring include:

* the lotta/toilet paper litmus/acid test: how to measure how desi you really are

* something on the halal/haram toleration of interest in financial systems of Islamic republics

* something about how liberalism sucks as a political discourse and how i hate being called a "liberal" (yukh!)

* other goodies that i can't think of right now but they're there in the back of my head or my hard-drive i promise!

so stay tuned..