Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Optimism is not passé

By Quatrina Hosain
(She also hosts a show on Express 24/7)
Cynicism should be the purview of a few select few, whose jobs require them to take everything with a pinch of salt — like traffic policemen, bank loan officers and debt collectors. But when did cynicism become a national characteristic? And why are we so angry all the time? And sadly, it is the younger generation that seems to be the most jaded, angry and cynical of us all.
As a teenager, I took my identity as a Muslim and as a Pakistani for granted. Yet today, almost every young person I meet is looking to define their identity — an identity they feel is under threat and they feel obligated to defend. It all changed on 9/11. A group of 19 hijackers split the world irrevocably into two camps, best exemplified by George Bush’s infamous “either you are with us or against us” speech. Never mind that all 19 hijackers were Arabs. It was Afghanistan that housed Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
But today Pakistan is considered to be the most dangerous place in the world and a breeding ground for international terrorists. No wonder we feel resentful and defensive.
Ask someone what makes them happy and you will be greeted with a blank stare. Somewhere down the road, we have lost our ability to smile, laugh and enjoy life despite the challenges it throws us.
Sure we have plenty to be disconsolate about. If I were to make a list of everything wrong with our lives, I would run out of space in this column. And if I were to make a list of everything going right, I would be done with the list in a few words. Or would I? At the heart of the matter is the fact that being perceived as optimistic is passé. It is seriously unfashionable to be naive and idealistic. But without ideals, we are nothing. Without optimism, we cannot grow. And without happiness, we cannot live, we can merely exist.
Without idealism, we will lose the battle. I am still optimistic that the battle has not been lost. We can change the world or our corner of it anyway. Who cares if the world wants to paint us as global terrorists? We know we are not jihad central. We are warm, generous and affectionate people. We care for our elders, we love our children and we look after our own. Let’s recall how we all rose to the occasion in October 2005.
The earthquake killed thousands in Azad Kashmir and northern Pakistan and the country was galvanised into action. We put aside ethnic and sectarian considerations and worked together as Pakistanis. So let’s not allow others to define us. We have to define ourselves.
The first is to take a good long look at ourselves as individuals. I, for one, am sick and tired of the constant moaning and groaning that is becoming our national hobby. I say it’s time to fight back and reclaim our lives. I have started by making a mental list of all the things I have to be grateful for, including even the most mundane things that bring me happiness. You will be surprised at how many things will be on your list. Let’s smile again and spread the word. Happiness is contagious and idealism addictive. Have a great day!
Published in the Express Tribune, May 25th, 2010.

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Saalik Siddikki
I hold the writer in high regards and appreciate her point of view on the subject that is, indeed, one of the burning issues particularly for today’s Pakistani youth.
Being a big-mouth advocate of positive thinking I agree with her that ‘it’s time to fight back and reclaim our lives.’ However, she skipped, perhaps erroneously, suggesting any applicable solution of the problem. Simply making a mental list of things we have to be grateful for is definitely a positive thought, not an agenda to reform the bureaucratic and political sins being committed by power-holders to keep the masses deprived and backward.
She is a bold and blunt lady, but, to my chagrin, she has expressed a myopic view of the identity problem of today’s youth. I don’t understand why she has evaded the truth that the bureaucracy, army and politicians are responsible for this crisis that is pushing our young men and women to the edge of mental collapse.
Anyway, writing on this subject is itself a positive step that needs to be appreciated. I look forward to reading a series of more in-depth articles by her. 
Ibrahim Sajid Malick

Dear Ms. Hosein,
You have asked pertinent questions and many of us have also wondered why is it that Pakistanis have become so overly sensitive? Why are we so easily offended? Why do we get provoked so quickly? Why do we become angry and defensive? Where is all the angst and anxiety coming from?
Allama Iqbal told us: “Khudi ko kar boland itna” but the stewards of Pakistan (Ayub-Yahya-Zia-Musharaff) led us to a ditch where we find our youth with inadequate self-esteem.
We find ourselves in a state of profound crisis. It is a complex, multi-dimensional crisis whose facets touch every aspect of our lives —- our health and livelihood, the quality of our environment and our social relationships, our ideology (faith, beliefs, religion), our economy, technology, and politics. It is a crisis of intellectual, moral, and spiritual dimensions.
You are absolutely right that 9/11 has changed many things. In the past ten years Pakistanis have been erroneously stigmatized as terrorists. Many of us have personally felt the wrath of suspicion. Without going into details, it is an understatement to say “9/11 changed our lives.” There is no denying that ‘special’ treatment are afforded at the airports and elsewhere are due to our name and country of origin. It is very tempting and easy to view the conflict in Muslim-Christian/Jewish framework. And, that is what Pakistani millenials do. But they are wrong.
Why is it that Muslims from Qatar or Oman: Muslims from India, Bangladesh, Malaysia or Indonesia are not under scrutiny? Why is it that a Pakistani has to go through “enhanced” security measures at American and European airports while Muslims of many other countries walk with their heads high? If we are judged by the company we keep ask yourself why we are in the company of Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya and Syria? I wonder what is common among these nations?
In my opinion these countries are defined by the absence of mature governance model and corrupt, uneducated, greedy leadership. Why is that we don’t have highly educated Pakistanis in parliament and cabinets?
I would agree with Mr. Siddikki that we need to be cognizant of the sins of “bureaucracy, army and politicians.”
I believe in past six decades we have nourished a culture that protects and respects illiterate thieves- not only in politics but also business. A handful of privileged and filthy rich Pakistanis collude to artificially raise prices of important commodities like sugar and cotton.
I always wonder how a nation in the throes of one war and a half on two fronts, an undernourished, calamity stricken nation like Pakistan condones such behavior on the part of a few rich, self-interested people. These people are the real terrorists of the land; they deserve to be caught, imprisoned and punished for the way in which they are corroding the economy of Pakistan, and by their ill devised foreign policy diluting our brand in the world.
Look closer at these robbers and you will find them in military uniforms, parliament, senate and cabinets. These corrupt elite of Pakistan are responsible for not only destroying economy but their adventurism has put us in harms way.
No wonder our youth is unhappy, bitter and blue. Hopelessness and pessimism are pathologies that are contracted from surroundings. Watch your news channels (of course not your show) and you quickly realize that these famous anchors read poisonous narratives written on their teleprompts. These narratives are framed by those with vested interests as Mr. Siddiqkki said: “bureaucracy, army and politicians.”
But I am glad you had the courage to start this thread.
Ibrahim Sajid Malick
New York 
Saalik Siddikki

Further expressing my heartfelt appreciation of Ms. Quatrina’s initiative in starting a dialogue on one of the most volatile issues, I owe a word of gratitude to Mr. Ibrahim Sajid Malick for voicing the silent shouts of millions of Pakistanis who are sacrificing their basic rights at the altar of the interests, benefits, advantages, perks, luxuries and survival of the oppressors.
Mr. Malick’s comments are actually a full length article that must find a space in The Express Tribune separately. His insight and analysis of the real problem deserve further discussions.
I am sanguine Ms. Quatrina Hosain would honour her readers with detailed and analytical articles in the future.
Dear Mr Siddikki
Thanks for your comments. I agree that its is the army, bureaucracy and politicians who are pushing young people and others into a state of national depression. I see that as a self-evident truth, which is why I didn’t reiterate this. We all know what the problem is. The burning question is what we want to do about it. Of course we need an action agenda. But first we have to INDIVIDUALLY fight our own depression at the state of affairs instead of just complaining about it. We need to be optimistic that things will change and then make that change happen. What should the agenda be? What do you think it should be? Let’s get some concrete suggestions from everyone. Let’s start talking about HOW we can make things improve. But don’t forget the list of things that make us happy. I practice what I preach. Otherwise I would sink into a morass of apathy and self-pity. Let’s get the discussion going on this thread. And to Ibrahim Malick, great comments.
Majeed Shaikh
I really, really like this debate. I like the article and both of the comments very much. THIS IS WHAT WE CALL REAL JOURNALISM.
I say bye bye DAWN and Hello- Tribune! Please keep up this great thread.
And, yes Mr. Siddikki and Malick both deserve full length columns here as well.
Mr. Siddikki I read your blogs and you are a great thinker.
Ms. Hosein, please continue what you have started.
Nusrat Ali
Allah said that pessimism is a sin. Ummah today is not pessimist we are realist. Because of the onslaught of kafeerun we have to be on guard. That looks to some as pessimism. No one can be more optimistic than a Momin… who knows that Allah (SWT) has nothing but heaven for us. 
Saalik Siddikki
Thank you very much Ms Quatrina Hosain for reverting with more insight. I fully agree that ‘first we have to INDIVIDUALLY fight our own depression at the state of affairs instead of just complaining about it. At least that’s what I have been doing personally for some time and preaching it as well. But I expect your grace also to agree that only individual positive thinking can not change the ’system’ even in the next two hundred years. There has to be a collective struggle to dislodge the arrogant, pitiless, shameless and inhuman pharaohs from their strongholds.
The only question of 60 million dollars is how to achieve this? In my humble opinion, this debate must continue in the print and electronic media without being emotional or biased. We need thinkers, not mere speakers, and analysts to accomplish this task.
Our case is quite different from that of America and Europe. They opted to transform their societies from upper level to downward and they achieved what their elders had perceived. We are different in that we have not been fortunate enough to have a substitute of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Rahmat-Allah-alaih).
Our so called (pseudo)leaders shamelessly expect and demand us to offer sacrifices while they themselves are devouring the roots of Pakistan’s economy and resources. Here I would like to quote Bilawal Zardari’s historical statement that ‘democracy is the best revenge.’ Yes, he was right they are determined to take revenge from masses of Pakistan including their own voters and supporters through the nicotine-pills of democracy.
Hell with such democracy. We need change, both at individual and national levels, that could ensure all the privileges for each and every Shoka, Billoo, Peeno and Chhotta!
Thank you Mr. Majeed Shaikh for your invigorating comment that has elevated my spirits.
Syed Muhammad Saleem
I totally agree with Mr. Ibrahim that our youth lack self-esteem. He correctly invoked Iqbal as Iqbal spent all his life trying to inspire muslims of south asia to learn the will to power in order to break away from their years of pessimism due to subjugation by britishers. I am sad that Iqbal’s project failed to complete despit independence from britishers because that did not led Pakistan to break the shackles of colonialism completely, instead soon the army establishment reighned in the liberated soul of Pakistanis. We need many leaders like Mr. Ibrahim who understand Iqbal’s message to lead us through our independence from the colonial rule of our new kala angraiz in uniform.
Malik Rasheed
“Happiness is desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else. Honor, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves, but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself. Happiness, then, is something final and self-sufficient.”-Aristotle
Ms.Hosain, I remember somebody telling me that happiness is a perfume you can’t pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself. I am in full agreement that one could be happy despite all challenges.
Ibrahim Sajid Malick presents a vivid picture of the miserable mindset of anger, anxiety and want of honor because we find the state and society in a profound crisis. For someone who lived as long as I have, the crisis began before 9/11. Just to put another date for reference 16/12, 1971 crushed pride of many. Religious extremism in Pakistan has grown to such proportion that recent outburst against Facebook was an exclusively Pakistani affair. It is not the airports only where Pakistanis stand alone. Lessons learned over six decades are quite valuable and forces that perpetuated thievery and brutality are desperately perturbed. Journey from wilderness to society takes time. Vigor expressed on this board cheers me up. Thanks.

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