Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sitting on a flame

All right. They say when you have written a particularly angry email (Flame), sit on it. Sleep on it. Mull over it.


Just write it, and erase/delete it. Re-write it, and mull again. Just don't send it as soon as you write it, for you will surely regret it.

So, I am sitting on what doesn't exactly qualify as a flame, but burns just as much. Actually, I slept on it (not too well) but it was no bed of roses. Have to "give it" to someone for whom I sincerely made several undue provisions - and they kept pushing as if just to check where will I break? I didn't, and as if often happens in the case of such sad persons, they did - and it was rather awful. I have received a particularly ingrateful message from a person who was almost cracking with guilt. (Darn, I've seen it before. In real life, and in the movie Shattered Glass.) - ((Oh by the way you've all GOT to see Shattered Glass if you want a crash course in identifying guilt-ridden psychos who blame you and the world for all their issues and actions!))

Specifics of the story will, of course, be withheld. However, the general public is advised that it's best to unload one's "opinion" as soon as they have it and NOT sympathize with someone who's banking on our tender nature. Now that I have written the long, fact-filled email in response to a very rude missive sent to me by the person-in-question, I am wonder where my opinion has been all this while?

It was, of course, shrouded in misguided sympathy. I am considering this a seminar in real-life learning about how not to mix sympathy and work - and tell people exactly what you think about them.

Time to hit SEND! Oh, I feel good!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shane Leavy's "Orkut Experience" not perfect

A lot of what I write everyday happens to be interactive, and I have decided to bring together much of my writing on my blogs.

Shane Leavy, 23, of Dublin, Ireland and member (moderator? I can't access the community page) of Orkut community International Relations wrote The Orkut Experience in DAWN's Magazine on November 19, 2006. (No permalink.) The article intro states:

Gaining notoriety recently when an Indian court served them notice over a hate campaign against India that featured on the social network service, the virtual community on the internet has hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis taking part in a vast array of discussions with people from around the world. Some of them though seem to be conveying the kind of image that may not be representative of the nation at large.

Shane worries about the violent interactions of Pakistanis with Indians, and Pakistanis with the West - and wonders if it is representative of the society at large? It is an outsider's comment and though it touches a raw nerve, I respect Shane for taking interest in what he observed in the community and on Orkut at large. Shane's guide on "How to manipulate people" is reflective of his solution-seeking nature. His article is a case of a commentary by a well-intentioned person trying to understand a baffling phenomenon.

There is a deeper layer to the behavior of the Pakistani and Indians, especially the youth. I have shared these views with Shane through his scrapbook:

Consider this: many people who you fear will act upon their violent fantasy, won't. Often, many are simply looking for a "reference to authority." What is disturbing is that by validating this behavior, the youth are gradually being led to believe that they are actually violent.

I have worked with youth as a trainer; talent manager; teacher - and this "verbal aggression" is a subject I have given some thought to. My observations are:

1. Consider the fact that many Pakistani youth are not empowered to speak up in school or in homes. They don't have an opinion vis-a-vis authority that comes in the form of the Parents, teachers, school, etc. Many youth who are plaguing the Orkut circuit have otherwise not spoken anywhere. Untrained to think or speak, they become irrational, exaggerated, and hyper.

Most, not all, Pakistani youth are the product of this system where they have never expressed their personal feelings. In some ways, even those of us who were "privileged" to have a better education still have no opinion that matters, because the system does not take us into account.

That is why, places like Orkut where most Pakistanis are exposed to the world for the first time, having NOT travelled globally, and having no access to an education, become a small aperture of too much withheld expression. Result? Uncontrolled ideas and passions. Minds untrained to think and unaccustomed to expressing opinion going amok.

2. If you want to research your/my hypotheses further, simply take a look at the school curriculum and the exams of the Pakistani youth in particular - I do not know about India but in many ways they are the same.

I did A-level as external candidate of Cambridge Uni via British Council. Our exams contained open-ended questions on the lines of: "In what ways do you think the life of a celebrity is in public domain, and should there be a limit to public access to a celebrity's life? (Recollection of q' from General paper, 1998. Q' obviously reflecting upon Lady Diana's death.)" Compare that with the home-grown educational systems exams at the same school level: "Write an essay on 'Pakistan Revolution.'" Outdated. Not inviting thinking or opinion. Not current.

This is the system of which some very fertile minds are the products. In observing and analysing the behavior of youth from this region, these cultural facts make the context.

I am from Pakistan and don't pretend to fully understand the very multi-layered Indian society. But <a href=" ">this motorbike ad for Bajaj Avenger</a> is very telling. A must watch for a great concept, and a beautifully executed ad!

It is based upon a deep insight of what the middle/lower-middle class (and likely other classes) youth of South Asia suffer from: beatings from fathers, careless government, poor service by businesses - a world of unfairness to which we could not respond.

This ad is hopeful, but for many, the only expression comes in less savorable ways. Such as Orkut babbling.

This is one view of the situation. Yet the bottomline is that this situation is not healthy. Words ultimately turn into actions. Here, Shane's concerns are very relevant. What are we doing for the youth to empower them in positive ways?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am the crow.

Once I was walking in the park nearby. The crows - the infamous, politically-opinionated, self-absorbed Karachi ravens - had arranged a cacophonous opera. As I walked under a particularly noisy assembly of these black artists perched on a naked tree, I realized: for all the sound that they are creating, it is only because I have ears that I can hear.

No ears. No sound.

All that we see, hear, sense depends upon our own faculty of reception. All that we absorb from the environment depends upon us. That means at least two things: first, what we are largely depends upon us, since we chose our learning by letting certain things in, and blocking other things out. The second thing is that, in a way, the sound of the crow is in us.

No ears, no sound. My ears are therefore part of the whole orchestration. No audience, no opera. This is what I learnt in theater studies: the audience is as much a part of the play as the actors and directors. If the audience refuse to suspend their disbelief (and instead enter the story, the act, the play), you have no play. For the play to be successful, the actors and the audience both have to enter the make-belief world together.

And this means so, so many things. Any mindful awareness, any moment of truth, any reality - means so many things. It's like getting to know Oxygen and all that it means...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Excuse me sir, but you're naked.

Honestly. We need more child-like people. Who can tell the emperor that he's wearing no clothes. Who can tell the truth like it is. Whose minds are not goaded by media and peer-pressure.

What's up with the youth of this country Pakistan? What on earth happened to the eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, life-changing moment that was October 8th the previous? What did we learn? What have we forgotten?

Is there anyone out there whose not given their mind on rent!?



You need Halloween in Pakistan!?

Sometimes, I get plain angry. Reading a blog about celebrating Halloween in Lahore a few moments ago, it was one of those times.

Here's my response on the thread:

What a complete waste, and completely beyond the point too.


It is appalling how on the one hand, the economic and social situation is worsening in Pakistan and a society still deficient in primary and secondary production is being pushed to consumerism/media and on the other hand, the privileged of the society are maddening at an increasing speed.

There are serious economic implications in that a good part of our GNP will now represent pointless, wasteful economic activity. Which is becoming the basis of government's falsified statistics, leading to conclusions such as: poverty is decreasing.

Ever heard of the butter/gun argument in economics? You can fill the economy with guns and balloons, and it will still register a healthy GNP. But does that feed stomachs?

More nonsense in the name of: "It will create jobs/ People need fun." People need to accept the reality of the country that is Pakistan, and the privileged (i.e. those with access to EDUCATION, health, money, time) must realize they are not earning more and more to brun more and more, but to give back more and more. In the shape of schools. Hospitals. Meaningful businesses.

One used to get surprised at the ignorance and callousness of Nero and Marie Antoinette who frolicked in dire times. Now one realizes we are always living in times where on the one hand people are dying, and on the other hand, people can't have enough silly fun!

I don't have a personal problem with any festivals, and I believe we genuinely need to create more avenues of creative, positive, constructive fun for the children and the young. In fact, that's been my battle #1 for a long time. But actions are judged by intention. The import of all sorts of festivals in Pakistan is more to do with a mentality that fails to contribute to the development of the country, and instead diverts resources elsewhere.

In other countries, where we import these cultural festivals from, they at least do their work before they start dancing. In Pakistan, we have a different case. There is utter poverty and hopelessness right outside and even within the urban centers. I am sitting in Karachi, a city that is fast decaying and marred by terrible planning. Where are the brains that are needed to dream and construct and build? They are busy with utter nonsense - with image and status and what-nots. Many of our young have the emotional and intelligence quotient of a misguided child. The only time most show a spark of purpose is when they are speaking of flying out of the country.

There is yet another group of young, who are running on the fuel called media. The concept of "life," to them, is "the happening scene." This is one group that I most often encounter... and bless their souls! but I don't see how are they any more productive or useful or conscious as citizen than many of the villagers I have met. The villagers, instead, tend to be better at times.

This society is delusional!