Goodbye ghairat

March 18, 2011

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Ghairat’ (pride or honour), is a term that is often heard and used in the Pakistani media these days.

This is a term usually associated with TV news anchors, talk-show hosts, analysts and members of political parties who are verbose and smug, who get more space on TV news channels than votes.

It is a term that reflects images and sounds related to the muscle-flexing, big-talking and huff-puffing ways of ultra-patriots, or in case of Pakistan’s electronic media – free-wheeling loud-mouthed charlatans playing the role of fiery dyed-in-wool patriots.

So who comprises the ‘ghairat brigade’? It is a wide spectrum: from the usual bearded and hijab-wearing kind who are rather apt at expressing nationalism with the jingoism of ‘political Islam’, to the suit-and-tie wearing man and designer-brand-carrying ladies who would have been nothing more than periodical cranks restricted on the fringes of journalism and politics had the electronic media not been so generously allowed into private (ratings-driven) hands.

The scary bit is that it is this ghairat brigade that has ironically found itself at the centre of a society in turmoil – actually answering and addressing the many political, spiritual and ideological inquiries emerging from within a highly disturbed, battered and confused society.

But I’m afraid, absolutely none of the many politicians, ‘analysts’ and media personnel who can be bracketed as being ‘ghairatmand’ have any clue whatsoever about what they are going on and on about.

Fed on various conspiracy theories and sheer political and historical myths cleverly created by intelligence agencies and pseudo-historians, most of the ghairatmand are no more informed than your average drawing-room punter – or worse, that young middle-class lad or lass who feels elated by thinking that he or she has covered all aspects of politics and religion with the help of a few lectures by a certified conspiracy crank or by watching a straight-to-YouTube ‘documentary’.

But alas, the state Pakistan’s society is in for these past few years, where hardly any positives come the way of the people (especially its youth), the concept of ghairat moulded with empty muscle-flexing and collective feel-good theories about our nationalistic and religious greatness, serves as a way for the people to pretend that all is not lost.

This attitude should not be taken as a positive. It can help people recover or heal from a fresh tragedy but when it becomes a habit, or worse, a way for the media, preachers and politicians to attract profitable attention, it begins to have a devastating effect.

After all, this lets-be-positive-through-ghairat outlook is largely delusional. It leaves most of us navel-gazing or passionately contemplating about manufactured issues but conveniently ignoring what we as a society really ought to be doing – making sure that Pakistan is able to compete with the rest of the world on all the vital economic, political and cultural levels.

Honourable sloganeering and going around pin-pointing ‘enemies’ and traitors, blasphemers and ‘agents’ will not achieve much. In fact, it will achieve nothing other than making us one of the laziest people who spend most of their energy complaining or being paranoid on the one hand, or sweating out bombastic and passionate patriotic chants and some more talk about ghairat.

Such bubbles when they burst, hurt. In fact, they then leave those who had lived in these bubbles feeling stupid if not downright insulted. And it is nobody’s fault but their own.

Just take a look at what has been going across the shocked faces of the ghairatmand media men and politicians who had started to construct their careers based on the Raymond Davis case.

What I mean is that these people had become the judge and jury, suggesting that their love for ghairat and patriotism (read anti-Americanism) gave them the right to conclude the Davis case in favour of their victimised country long before it actually went to court.

Of course, many of them were being taken for a ride by those who needed them to foment the kind of anti-Americanism that was required by these secretive shadows so they could use it to extract concessions from the CIA.

But really, the problem with jumpy and excitable right-wing exhibitionism and thought – especially when it expresses itself as a chauvinistic strain of patriotism – is that it removes any trace of rational thought and awareness from those indulging in it.

Thus, this expression of ghairat and patriotism is not only purely rhetorical and incapable of ever understanding the intricacies of realpolitik it also gives the loudest among the ghairatmand a narcissistic buzz, further alienating him or her from the reality around them.

But what happens when reality does come knocking? Look no further than the faces of the ghairat brigade in the media these days.

Always feeling cheated by the politicians, this time they felt cheated by even those whom they had praised of being equally ghairatmand (the shadowy ones).

The truth is it was these shadowy folks who actually began the ghairat spiel, feeding it into the public mindset through their willing mouthpieces in the shape of ‘security analysts,’ talk-show hosts, anchors and right-wing politicians with weak electoral prowess.

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The ghairat brigade treat the nation as children whom they can mould into becoming the ideal ghairatmand Pakistani Muslim.

On the other end, the shadowy ones that use the ghairat brigade treat the ghairatmand as blobs of ambition but with emotional levels usually found in hyperactive teenagers! A perception that is not that far from reality.

The shocking (but not surprising) verdict in the Raymond Davis case has once and for all exposed the utter fallacy and meaninglessness of what was the Pakistani media’s latest ideological hoax called ghairat.

This country has witnessed many such hoaxes, sometimes in the name of Islam, sometimes accountability and each time these hoaxes have fallen flat on their faces, making the nation look like a bunch of emotional fools incapable of handling any issue with reason, pragmatism and sense.

It is time we say goodbye to this hollow ghairat. We must find honour, dignity and respect through constructive work in the fields of economics, science and the arts, instead of looking for ghairat by crying out war chants, paranoid accusations and waving our skinny wrists and fists while pretending to ride our way to ghairatmand glory on our much cherished nuclear missiles.

It is time we finally grow up.

 

 

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.