Karachi’s killing fields: Gunshots that don’t touch our hearts

Published: June 29, 2012
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I met Hafiz Muhammad Waqas a day after he nearly died of gunshot wounds, in a target killing attempt. The electricity was out, Hafiz’s brother led me to a quiet dark room where he lay bandaged on a bed, talking over a cell-phone, assuring a concerned friend on the other side that ‘things were ok’.

A single glance at his family, their traumatised looks, told me that things were not ‘ok’. 

This brings me to the question I want to ask today:

Who do we care for? Our families, friends or friends of friends?

Technically speaking, it has a lot to do with social value, usually derived through memorable interactions, which may be anywhere from real life to strictly cognitive. If you haven’t ever heard of someone at all, they typically don’t have much value for you. The more you learn about them, the more prominence they have in your life and the more likely it is that they will be placed on a higher pedestal.

Hafiz Muhammad Waqas was, sadly, just a number in the newspaper.

A statistical numeric.

He was one of four people shot that day. You may be moved by the number, but the social value to you of any of the victims is likely to be negligible. It may be slightly higher if the paper mentioned names, but not as high as it should have been. This number conveys to you a message, a report and a comparative analysis on how bad the halaat are now.

Don’t get me wrong, of course you care.

But do you care enough to act?

This is what I want to talk about; caring enough to act. You can care, think, express ideas, post self-assuring anecdotes on Facebook, but what value do all of these have without any action?

In theory, we claim to care, however this claim to compassion translates into a real life activity only when the person in question has enough value to you. So technically, your care alone would be useless to that person. This person needs to be at least a friend of a friend of a friend or someone you know for you to act. Otherwise their value is no more than a figure, translating for a newspaper as sales, and translating for the reader as an update on the ‘halaat’.

Being indifferent and saying “I don’t want to think about it” is also a choice. Being neutral without an opinion is a choice, quite a cowardly one in my opinion, but a choice nonetheless.

In this video, I have used this technology to tell you who Hafiz Muhammad Waqas is. I’ve tried to make him more than a number. I wanted you to care about him more than you already did and I hope I was able to.

So I ask you again, choose to act.

Read more by Ali here, or follow him on Twitter @alikapadia

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Ali Kapadia

A filmmaker from San Francisco who swings between art and technology. He tweets @alikapadia

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