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#Pakistan: A hashtag nation

Updated January 15, 2015


Most of our nation remains MIA until something drastic happens.
Most of our nation remains MIA until something drastic happens.

It's true: we are a hashtag nation. It means our attention span is only as long as the time a hashtag survives on Twitter’s trending list.

We do not have serious discussions or educated discourse on issues. Instead, we have cycles of rage that fuel up masses with that feel-good hormone to help them power them through whatever tragedy is at hand.

Be it #StaySafe, #WeShallSurvive, #DownWith ____ or #EverythingIsAwesome, our communal capacity to deal with issues has boiled down to trending hashtags.

Also read: #PeshawarAttack: 10 ways we should not have reacted

Now, this would be great if Pakistan were a nation on Twitter or Facebook. Unfortunately for us, virtual activists though, there is a Pakistan that exists in physical reality, and has very real issues and problems for which all we are doing is spewing reactionary rhetorical nonsense.

Take, for instance, the Peshawar Massacre.

First came the grief and rage. Then came the politicalisation of a tragedy. In response to that happened military courts. And that is it.

The outcome of a massacre of 132 children was a bunch of press conferences, candlelight vigils, social media rhetoric and the creation of military courts.

Who is at fault here?

Well, everyone is.

The politicians are at a fault because they could not get a handle on the situation for even a second. When the nation needed a leader and direction, our politicians chose to call an All Parties Conference, which indicates that they would all rather sit down and break bread then stand in front of the nation and explain how they plan to extract revenge for our children.

Take a look: Rage and grief

The media messed up as it always does too. Instead of charting the magnitude of the problem we face, they chose to milk the tragedy and bring to the fore those who somehow saw nothing wrong with it. Instead of searching for the truth and painting the reality, our media chose to mint money off the deaths of children.

At no point did they raise questions on how could this happen in such a fortified area.

At no point did they hold the authorities responsible for local security and more importantly, at no point did they have the decency to even go with a 40-day mourning for the victims. True to custom, the milking continued until they acquired a new topic to milk – the wedding.

Read on: Imran Khan's wedding: How the media failed

The civil society messed up. I realise the civil society have a holier-than-thou approach to things and it normally works out for them but the truth is, they messed this up royally.

The issue was 141 people getting slaughtered by the Taliban. They turned that into a these-right-wing-religious-people-are-dangerous issue instead of going after the Taliban. Instead of building a narrative that would unify the nation in the time of need against an enemy after our very lives, they chose to go after radical clerics.

Here is the thing: radical clerics are an issue but they are not the number one issue.

Know more: Civil society to restart anti-Lal Masjid campaign

By diverting attention from the subject, we ended up neither here nor there.

Lal Masjid is there as it always was and will remain until their actual overlords decide otherwise. The Taliban are still maiming and killing our people. We are exactly where we were because our civil society chose to work with a very narrow perspective and completely misunderstood the priorities of the masses.

Lastly, the general masses are at fault. The fact that our masses would move past a tragedy as debilitating as this in under three weeks to take the time to sit back and enjoy the wedding of our resident old-age pensioner just shows the level of moral decay our society has gone through.

Gone is the rage that happened from December 17 to December 21.

See: Walk the talk

I would like to take a moment out to say that we, as a nation, need to now make peace with the fact that each one of us is like our president – #WeAreAllMamnoonHussain.

We remain MIA till something drastic happens, at which point, we have to be dragged out of our comfy beds to make a statement and show some rage. As soon as the cameras and lights turn off, we turn back and walk in to our presidential palaces.

The next time a tragedy occurs, spare the rhetorical hashtag wars and emo rage and just jump straight to the next hashtag, because whatever you have to say is not going to make any difference.

You see, hashtag nations do not trend long enough to truly make a difference.

We are not Aitzaz Hasan or the families of those 132 kids who lost their lives.

We are not the 50,000-plus people who have lost lives to terrorism in the last decade.

We are apathetic, momentarily conscious walking-dead beings that can live only inside our own bubbles.

The only thing that matters to us is, how long our current hashtag will keep trending for.

Correction: The article previously misspelt Hasan as Ahsan. The error is regretted and has been fixed.