A farewell to drawing rooms

Published: September 5, 2010
Email

The nation has too many arm chair analysts. It is time to stand up.

As a kid I grew up listening to older members of the family discussing conspiracy theories all of which concluded with ‘Pakistan tootnay wala hai’. I didn’t exactly understand what that meant but the sentence always scared me. By the time I reached my teens, the conspiracy theories were still alive and kicking and the wretched conclusion was still the same. However, by then I knew what it meant and it scared me less; there was faith in the future and overwhelming love for Pakistan to be bothered with the conclusions of drawing-room discussions among withered bureaucrats and bored housewives.

Beyond the early teens there were a number of ups and downs, governments as usual were ousted, every now and then there was tension on the border and of course once the twin towers fell the age of terror was born; but in my mind as in the minds of my peers there was still hope. We were the future, surely we would bring change, the corrupt system would have to die when we took over – a new era was to begin! Those were the days when hope was our ally and no matter what happened the future was as bright as the sun itself.

But I’m not sure what happened or how or when the daily chores of life become so important that ideals had to take a back seat. Slowly, enthusiasm became restricted to reading online newspapers and like the withered bureaucrats and bored housewives, we found ourselves discussing Pakistan over hot and cold beverages in expensive cafes. It felt sufficient to merely talk and feel that we didn’t live in oblivion, that we knew what was going on and offer our own set of interpretations of what turn the events were about to take.

This routine has been quite gratifying for a while. Perched comfortably in our cozy dwellings lamenting those who lose their lives in terror attacks, vehemently condemning corrupt governments, throwing fancy jargons in our conversations to reassure ourselves that all is not lost of what we were taught by the professors and dissecting the foreign policy have for quite some time now been our favourite ways of feeling worthy – of feeling that we are doing our part by being knowledgeable citizens engaged in healthy debates for our common land! Yes, this has all worked well for us – up until a few days ago when a voice deep inside, finally managed to tear its way through the snoring conscious to scream profanities.

A rude awakening

Profanities were certainly not needed but there is less that I can do about managing the affairs of my disgruntled inner self, much the same way as I cannot help to improve the functioning of a corrupt government or the plight of 20 million Pakistanis who are homeless and unfed or do much to stop crazy mobs that lynch innocent people. So really what can I do? For too long now I have allowed myself to believe that I am good for nothing and in all honesty it has worked for me. Without having to move as much as a muscle I have been able to keep myself reassured and happy and now suddenly I’m confronted with the urgency to want to break free from apathy! I’m not sure I remember how to do that anymore. Where do I shop for hope? Who sells faith? Which product rekindles the fire of yearning?

Perched once again comfortably in an air-conditioned room, I am doing what I have loved doing these past few years – talking. This time however, I am earnestly hoping that this conversation will be of a different nature and will lead to a new conclusion. I speak to confess. I am clueless, ashamed and once again scared. I talk to boast not about the information that I have accumulated but to find my way to the road less traveled. I am not here to shout a hollow ‘Long live Pakistan’ but to figure out just how Pakistan will live long? I am a Pakistani and I want my pride back!

The culprit in the me

As a teenager I used to advocate that a country in itself is a mere piece of land and that it is the people who make it what its worth. As an adult I must revisit my own forgotten ideals and rediscover my lost beliefs before the next thing I lose is my country.

Certainly, the government is still corrupt, the system flawed and the situation has set worse precedents every passing day. But from this point onwards, let us not blame others for what we’ve come to as a nation for if we truly want to identify the culprit, we need only look in the mirror.

We, the guilty

How do we switch roles from being the guilty to the torchbearers?

As a first step we must stop lamenting. Yes, there is death and destruction around us in ways that are more than one but our survivor’s guilt is really helping no one! If truly we want to help then it is our efforts our people need not our tears! Our to-do list must include everything from smiling and giving a helping hand to the hopeless child across the street collecting garbage to helping him/her in whatever way possible to be educated, to parting with our valuables – including our comfort – to make as much as one evening livable for the IDPs, to ranting on the internet to share with the government our ideas and demands for improving the situation.

Let’s not criticize the world for being heartless, let’s ensure that our contributions do not stop flowing. Next time one of us comes across information about child soldiers, let’s not read or hear and forget, let’s share and figure out a way to rehabilitate those children. We’re not satisfied with how the government is working?

Then let’s offer our plan for improving it. The politicians are corrupt? Let the discussion not die in our drawing-rooms, let us the citizens of Pakistan make enough noise everywhere and anywhere, may it be cyber space, through print and electronic media or through peaceful processions to get across the point that we are neither stupid nor apathetic.

Let’s not be silent spectators while insane mobs take lives – for these mobs originate from within us and they thrive when we, who are in majority remain silent. Let us always remember that every hopeful smile, every kind gesture, every penny placed in the donation box, every meaningful thought and every idea counts.

True, we are a nation confronted with many dilemmas, there seems to be little room to be hopeful and still less reason to celebrate nationalism but this piece of land – our piece of land is worth what we all collectively make it! As Captain Planet would say, ‘The power is yours!’

Areebah Shahid

Areebah Shahid

An ardent follower of global politics who works with an international development organization and tweets @AreebahShahid

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.