Let’s not make the ‘gora’ our benchmark

Published: July 27, 2012
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Goras are like any of us; they will follow rules only when they are heavily imposed upon them. DESIGN: IMAAN SHEIKH

Growing up, I was taught that goras could do no wrong. Whether this was preached in talk shows on our TV channels; in the columns in leading newspapers; in the examples given by professors in educational institutions; one is bound to notice an increasing defeatist mentality gripping the minds of opinion makers regarding their very own nation.

Any problem is presented and our society is automatically compared to the Western society; the former is depicted as the worst nation ever to exist on planet earth and the latter is presented as the pinnacle of human dignity, professional excellence and moral height.

I was deputed on a seven-month international assignment with an American oil and gas company and during my trip, I shared accommodation with mostly Americans.

“Why are you guys (Muslims in Pakistan) either named Muhammad or Ahmad?”

The above question was thrown at me during dinner one day. There were about 20 people at the table and if I remember correctly, a couple of them, including myself, were Muslims. I will get back to this question soon but first let me share a little more about my experience with you.

This official stay was my first exposure to living with Americans. It remodelled my mindset towards Caucasians completely and this is probably the best thing to have happened to me on this trip.

I am from middle class family and have no immediate family members abroad. Like many others, I thought of goras as the most mannered and civilised people in the world. This opinion was built upon columns from people like Hasan Nisar and Javed Chaudhry, who present an impeccable image of goras. I also recall a number of lectures from my university professors, cursing their own students and depicting the society of goras as the apex of morals and ethics.

In fact, if I remember correctly, some of my  friends who had visited US , upon their return praised the goras for all the good qualities the human race could possibly adopt.

However, living with Americans for seven months was an eye opener for me. It humanised them and made me realise that their image of being professionally impeccable and morally superior is completely untrue. All those comparisons made between Pakistanis and goras that I once read in newspaper columns evaporated in thin air as I received this hands-on experience on living with them.

As per my experience, there wasn’t a single bad habit, both professionally and personally, that Pakistanis and goras didn’t share. Every night, there was an elaborate session of back-biting where all the goras would sit and complain about the incompetence and unprofessionalism of their seniors – and not very kindly or in perfect English, mind you.

Most goras were habitual in their late arrival at the office. Usage of official phones for personal reasons (mostly never ending calls to girl friends) was also frequent. In fact, a cultured and civilised Caucasian in his mid-forties, who lived his life in a law abiding society, was also caught stealing meat from the office fridge!

On one of the days, the facility head made a surprise visit to the office only to see that even after twenty minutes into the official reporting time, his employees had not shown up. Reasonably annoyed at this behaviour, he told them off and the very next day, just like us Pakistanis, they were all in on time!

It wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that Americans are just like any Ahsan, Nasir or Abdul of Pakistan. They will follow all rules and regulations only when imposed on them with some sort warning or penalty.

The point I want to make is regarding the defeatist mentality that pushes our opinion makers to present goras as superior beings. They praise them in all ways possible and insult us Pakistanis whilst comparing us to them. Why do we make these people the benchmark when they are clearly just as human as we are?

I do not wish to generalise here, but it upsets me that other societies and their morals are glorified when in actuality, they don’t deserve such praise.

Let’s set our own benchmark; let’s make Abdul Sattar Edhi our role model; let’s highlight the morals and values of people like Salman Taseer; Let’s live like Dr Ruth Pfau.

We have enough Pakistanis who can make great role models; why do we need to worship American society then?

Finally, to answer the question that was initially posed to me:

“Why are you guys (Muslims in Pakistan) either named Muhammad or Ahmad?”

I replied,

“The same reason why you guys are either named John or David.”

Do you think Pakistanis consider Americans to be the benchmark for perfection?

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Abdullah Ansari

Abdullah Ansari

An electrical engineer by profession, Abdullah works in the oil and gas industry. His interests include international relations, global politics and debating. He tweets @ChangingTrendz (twitter.com/ChangingTrendz)

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