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Can Pakistanis afford to be politically indifferent? – Column in Pak Tea House


The gentler perspective

Political apathy

By Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam

Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for writing. Her focus is human rights, gender issues and reproductive health. She loves blogging, traveling, is a chaai person and a wannabe photographer. Her pet peeve is marginalization on any grounds. She lives in Karachi & blogs here.

 

Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony – the 7 Deadly Sins, all found in abundance in the land of the Pure. But while the other six get due, or often undue, attention in our conversations, it is poor little SLOTH that is ignored.

So what is this “Sloth” all about?  Laziness and indifference is basically what sloth is all about. Neglect. Apathy. Listlessness. It is closely related to despair….loss of hope, giving up, and disillusionment to the point of indifference. It is about not utilizing one’s talents and true potential. Dante, in his Purgatorio, gives the suggestive portrayal of the penance for sloth (or acedia) as running continuously at top speed. And when a nation plummets into social or political sloth, then the laws of the universe make them run at top speed in any case, but by then it is too late.

Pakistanis are disappointed, rightly so, in the leadership. Corruption, power hungry and selfish leadership, and dishonesty has made us disillusioned. But over time, this disappointment slowly turned into sloth – complacency, which is coupled with futile criticisms but a refusal to do anything about it.

The “Thinkers” in particular have the “abb kuch naheen ho sakta” attitude. We are so disappointed and are so sad about politics being such a dirty game (and there is no denying that it is) that we decide it is better to sit at the sidelines and pass disgruntled statements and patronizing comments about those who still dare to have political leanings.

The easiest thing to do, therefore, is to put EVERYBODY who is into politics under the umbrella term of “corrupt politician” and feel a strange judgmental piety for not being involved with politics ourselves.

It is also connected to being skeptical and being a cynic. But while caution is an intelligent attitude, it amounts to stupidity when we stop believing in anything and anyone at all; worst of all, even in ourselves and the difference we can and should make.

What is dangerous about this attitude is that it does not remain restricted to the people who are in a state of sloth themselves…..it is a contagious illness, and in Pakistan political sloth especially amongst the educated and the intelligentsia has assumed almost epidemic proportions. And those with a still-alive willingness to struggle are made to feel like hopeless idealists who have no connection with reality. The “good luck to you all” is so undermining and dismissive that hope and political leaning seems like the 8th deadly sin!

The irony of it all is that the most downtrodden sufferers at the hands of political corruption in this country are the masses. Yet, they still go and vote. It is us who are too indifferent to do so. Or maybe too lazy?

If Pakistan’s collective political attitude continues to be punctuated by indifference and laziness, we will become a nation of perpetual complainers. While the elite enjoy hors d’oeuvres and declare at every get together that “this country can never change for the better”, this attitude WILL eventually trickle down from the top of the social pyramid downwards. The educated, the bold and the beautiful from among us can still afford to be apathetic and hopeless, because if not us, then at least our kids can leave this Godforsaken country, right?

But while we sit and ridicule the dumb-witted stupid masses for voting for the same faces each time, give them the credit that so much poverty and suffering has still not made them completely dead and complacent. They still want to and choose to hope. They still do go and cast their vote. We don’t even do that!

If we must do something, then maybe we should help the political process that will give them better choices, then. Be part of a political change and help them make better choices. But don’t just sit on the sidelines and crib about how bleak Pakistan’s future is.

US educational philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins aptly said that the “death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.”

Whatever your political leaning is and whichever leader you vote for, whether it is a rightist or a leftist or a moderate, make a choice. For in making that choice, you would have thought. And you would have argued. And you would have disagreed. Disagreement, argument and thinking – these are signs that something is alive and worth salvaging, whether in a relationship or a country. And Pakistan is so definitely worth salvaging.

http://pakteahouse.net/2011/10/31/the-gentler-perspective-3/
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About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, blogger & activist. Currently working for The Express Tribune. Focus on human rights, health, gender, peace & Islam. Idealist. Wannabe photographer. Chaai, traveling, reading, friends and motherhood.

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