Educating bigots

With time, in time, we will learn. Or, so insist the optimistic. My solution is more realistic: an overhaul. Nothing is to become of the current generation. Or, let me rephrase myself, nothing is to become of Pakistan with the current generation. The country begs a few generations. It needs an overhaul, a restart of sorts. Then, it will work.

Education has been the one thing I have held to when I’ve insisted solutions for this country. But, with time, I doubt that as well. First and foremost, we are to understand that education has different definitions. For Pakistan, an education is unanimous to holding a degree. For me, education is having the ability and courage to think.

Education needs to be more liberal in respect to our fixation towards customs, religion and social norms. Education has always been an objective exercise, a glancing of sorts while standing away from the scene. However, we have a different way to educate people. We educate bigots to be better bigots. We teach biases. We teach inequality. We teach hatred. And then, we wonder why the country continues to punch itself in the face.

Nothing is scarier than the followers of the populist Kaptaan. These people come from elite, educated families; educated in elite private universities. And yet, all this has given them nothing more than being extremely superficial in thinking processes. They are like the rats in the Pied Piper story, following their leader aimlessly. None reads, none thinks. They debate by quoting what their Kaptaan said, what they heard their Kaptaan said or what they got to know from someone who had heard the Kaptaan say something. Their encyclopedia is limited to Kaptaan and his media presence. It’s not just that it nothing else makes sense to them, it is just that nothing else is needed. 

I digress for this writeup was not supposed to ridicule the Kaptaan or his following. But, it does shed light on how bad the situation is. Kaptaan’s followers are elite and young. They are to lead the nation of tomorrow. Seeing them, I see a very dark tomorrow for Pakistan.

And then, we wonder why systems don’t work. It is as simple as this: you see, we are obsessed with an up to down approach on critiquing policies. It is always a corrupt leader, a fractured system or a greedy patwari. We, however, shy away from blaming the main culprits: us. It is the populace at large that breaks the system. It allows corruption in their tiny, meagre, and as protested, harmless ways, only to cumulate its spread all over the system. Breaking lines at passport controls, over speeding, being inefficient at jobs and harassing people on the road, such is common happenings of a daily life of a Pakistani. Silently but effectively, they contribute to destroying this nation, only to spend countless hours sipping warm tea as they abuse the political leaders on the TV. The leaders, on their part, exploit the corrupt populace. At the end of the day, it is a brilliant lose-lose situation that we, the Pakistani populace, is contended to live through.

So, is education the key? Well, it should be, that is, when seen as the ability to think. The ability must be a result of grounded, well-rounded, in-depth understanding of literature. Everyone must learn to read not for the sake of reading but to read to improve. Reading gives perspective. More importantly, it shuns away the emotionalism obvious in the deplorable televised media of Pakistan. It also gives an opportunity to be taught by history. To see what went wrong after the curtains of hysteria are pulled away. Then, the true picture appears. Then, we learn.

But, that is too much to ask for such an education can only come out of a liberal arts course. And yet, maybe that is the only answer. We need guitar strings to cut off the noise of the mullahs. We need artists to paint us the picture we fail to see with our bigoted lens. We need dancers to dance away our habits as we obsess over liking getting stuck in the quicksand of our misery. And, at the end of the day, we need story tellers to tell us stories for the stories we hear in reality only hurt us.

As always, this too is too much to ask for unless we reach the point of overhaul. Then, things will change. People will change. Then Pakistan will have its rebirth. It is then when I want to be woken up. For now, I shall go to sleep.


The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based in Islamabad.


The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

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