The talent gap

Our society’s prejudices, manifest themselves in all walks of life. Some of them have cost us dearly, frustrating our social, economic and political progress. Our prejudice for caste has stifled merit, our sectarian intolerance has polarized the society, our gender bias has confined half of our population to domesticity and our preferences for some professions, have left pivotal sectors devoid of talent and dynamism, making these cesspool of stagnation.
Every Pakistani parent has a dream for his or her child to be a doctor, engineer or a civil servant. Other professions are held in less esteem. In the matter of career choice, public image and market value takes a precedence over the natural disposition of the child. Because of our predilection towards some professions, we have left many important fields to mediocrity, creating a talent gap that is generating disastrous consequences for the whole society.
Nowhere has this behavior has proved more malignant than in the religious realm. We might make tall claims of our religious devotion but none of us would like our kids to be clerics. We have given up our mosques, religious rituals and rhetoric to unqualified and bigoted mullahs, who without any proper oversight and education, foster hate and intolerance in the society.
Hundred thousands of poor families, have no other option but to enroll their children in religious seminaries, where they are fed with bigotry, hatred and intolerance. These students will eventually take over mosques in villages, towns and cities, distorting the religious edicts and using religious doctrines for nefarious ends.
Politics have fared no better in our society. In advanced democratic systems, middle-class plays a leading role in politics, steering the country away from fringes. In our society, politics is considered a foul game and indecent. Today, all political parties are infested with criminals having direct links with terrorists organizations or land mafia. We have forfeited the political chessboard in favour of those who accept no rule, abuse power, use public trust for personal gain, and employ criminal means to consolidate power.
Cultural inhibition and misguided Islamisation has placed locks on our thought, expression and creativity. As we become better Muslims, we began disparaging arts. Even today, when a child shows an inclination for an artistic pursuit, we discourage him. This mindset has undermined performing arts, especially damaging our film industry and theater. Our movie industry produced masterpieces in early years of partition, but has gradually fallen victim to social and political neglect. Theater also suffered the same fate. Considered a nursery of performing arts, today our theaters have been transformed into hubs of vulgar dances, obscene pranks and cheap artists.
Vocational prejudices have also jeopardized our professional sports. Many of our schools lack sporting facilities. Physical education is not a priority in an average Pakistani home. A sporting career is considered a bad choice because of bad economics, resulting in marginalization of our sporting talent, leaving professional sports open to few mediocre athletes.
Agriculture is another field that became a victim of such prejudices. Despite being the bread and butter of half of country’s population, agriculture has grossly been neglected by being the last career of choice. It is a well known, that in an agrarian household, parents delegate farming responsibilities to the least fit and worthy. As a result, majority of the growers are uneducated, ignorant and wary of new technologies. This dearth of talent has devoid agricultural sector of dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship, essential for the growth of any sector.
Society needs scientists, doctors, engineers, mathematicians and physicists. These professions will always remain at the cutting edge, commanding respect and awe. This doesn’t mean that society stop producing actors, entrepreneurs, sportsmen, philosophers, religious scholars, administrators, politicians, artists and good farmers. If technicians and scientists are the winds driving the ship of society, then administrators and leaders act as a rudder setting society’s direction, whereas artists help society to take a peek into it’s soul.
Every human being is endowed with a peculiar set of talents, to carve his own role in the world. This individuality should be encouraged for a well rounded and balanced development of society. Otherwise we will leave some important societal functions in the hands of those who contribute the least at the most cost. American novelist Edward Abbey aptly said, “Society is like a stew. If you don’t keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top.”

Adnan Falak

The writer is a freelance columnist and has worked as a broadcast journalist. Email:

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