To ‘civilised’ Pakistanis: Learn to stand in line

Published: November 30, 2010
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When people do come across a line, they stand uncomfortably close

A four-way road-crossing magically functions in many Western cities, without a traffic policeman or a traffic signal. They call it the four-way ‘Stop’ sign; every car stops before the crossing, waits for other cars before it moves and then moves on its turn. Such discipline is a rare, if not impossible, sight when you live in a developing country. This unsupervised display of morally and socially correct actions speaks volumes about the citizens of any country.

No concept of standing in line

The concept of waiting in queue is missing in Pakistan. While it represents unruly, misguided and animal-like behaviour, it also highlights the basic thought process of people. Children are brought up by being told to fight for their rights and never taught about the rights of others.

A typical Pakistani parent takes pride in his child tactfully snatching the rights of other kids. People talk loudly on the phone while watching movies in cinemas or plays in theatres. They cut lines at the passport office because their relatives are “big shots” in the government. They find excuses to laugh at other people, even when someone falls down. They stare people walking past them in the eye without a pinch of modesty. I need not give an example for this one – it is universally accepted that Pakistanis love to stare and that should not be considered rude. It is rude. So when people do come across a line, they stand uncomfortably close to the person in front – close enough to smell his armpit. Otherwise, someone will conveniently break it and take your place.

This is socially disgusting behaviour, morally inept and religiously unacceptable. There is little being done to fix this problem because it is considered too trivial an issue. This micro-level training can take Pakistan a long way; standing in a line represents Jinnah’s much quoted ‘Unity, Faith, and Discipline’. Standing shoulder to shoulder as one, with faith in your people and country and displaying remarkable social behavior. These define the very fabric of the environment we were supposed to live in.

A media campaign to promote making lines at shops, bus stops, hospitals, eateries, banks and parks can help kill the germs of selfishness within individuals of the country. Other than the obvious benefit (that there will be lines!) it will change the way people think. This very basic level training will impact generations to come by inducing in them the civil behavior every god fearing nation should have intrinsically.

Standing in line essentially means that people will care about those around them. They will develop a better sense of obeying the law and understand the fruits of being organised at an individual and collective level. If a considerable percentage of the population gets this message through the media, the system will start developing itself. Such lessons are viral and tend to grow well if the campaign is effective.

These are small gestures that make a civilisation civilised. The inherent pride of being God’s “chosen creatures” according to Islam has done massive damage to the people of Pakistan and the Muslim world. So next time, try holding the door open for the person behind you, and while you’re at it, flash him a smile too.

samir.butt

Samir Butt

A former Youth Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Fulbright undergraduate scholar, freelance writer, public speaking trainer, IT consultant and marketing professional. He blogs at samiranwar.net.

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