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Dogma, Taboo, and a dog named Sheru

Being Pakistani comes with its own set of socio cultural and religious taboos! Too many important issues, that need to be addressed head on, are either kept under lock and key or are promptly swept under the carpet for fear of being shamed and shunned. It is this fear of being rejected or shunned from certain social cliques that has hampered our intellectual and philosophical growth as a civilization. the recent contemptuous and prejudiced remarks made by Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman who insolently attacked the dignity of the Pakistani women present at the PTI sit-in, and Mr Saad Rafique’s derogatory remarks towards Imran Khan’s affectionate deportment towards his (late) pet dog Sheru, have sparked a new revolution with respect to cultural  and dogmatic introspection within the general public of Pakistan.  Regrettably some Pakistanis will find their reasoning to stand against the winds of change in this emotional rhetoric that uses cultural and religious norms to steer the minds of the people in favor of their own egocentric advantage irrespective of the burden of discredited shadows that they themselves carry.

We are a culture of cliques! We live in a society where we as individuals are defined by the socio political and religious philosophy of the groups that we choose to espouse, then we acclimatize ourselves accordingly to fit the philosophical dogma created and drilled by the founders of that group in order to keep each member happily content with his biased exclusions of others from his psychological, emotional or social spheres. Whether Pakistan was created on a separatist philosophy or not is debatable but the fact remains that most of Pakistan’s rulers after Muhammad Ali Jinnah (who, by the way, was also very fond of his dogs) have continued to adopt and implement a separatist system whereby the few political elites enjoy full control of all of our country’s resources with no effective opposition as the so called opposition parties are too opposed to each other to actually make any impact that would promote democracy.

In the absence of a state run education system, the country is plagued by a network of educational institutions, religious and secular, that are either operating to achieve their political agendas or plan to economically exploit the general public of Pakistan into believing that sending their children to a certain school will help their kids in achieving a certain status in society. This network of education systems has in the past fifteen years created a rift between the different strata of society and has facilitated in the establishment of a social caste system based on a hierarchy of intellectualism. If such a system continues Pakistan could suffer another blow that could be bigger than the separation of East Pakistan

Unfortunately this system is nurturing the separatist philosophy by constructing invisible walls of hate and contempt between the individuals coming out of these institutions who are drilled with a sense of pride in conforming to the ideology of the institution he or she chooses to be identified with. Without a unified identity we are doomed to disaster.

Having been through 16 years of formal education myself, I find it difficult at times not to be influenced by the cultural conformist ideas that have been drilled into my system. On the philosophy of thinking out of the box, I find that sometimes the question is not of thinking out of the box but actually trying to construct that box. It would be impossible to think out the box regarding issues where a formative conclusion has not yet been made by the mind. Simply put, if I don’t have a box how can I think out of it? Our ideas and opinions are formed through a long and complex progression of deliberation and is an evolutionary development that stems from an elaborate web of complex thought processes molded by our confirmation biases. Confirmation bias, also called my side bias, is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.

A series of experiments carried out in the 1960s suggested that people had a tendency to be biased in confirmation of their existing beliefs. In his essay “What is Art?” which was published in 1899, Leo Tolstoy makes an interesting inference to the subject of confirmation biases;

I know that most men—not only those considered clever, but even those who are very clever, and capable of understanding most difficult scientific, mathematical, or philosophic problems—can very seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as to oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty—conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

This is the reason why we, as a nation, find it so difficult to come together on matters of principal. The Dogma that we conform to wouldn’t allow for such advancement of philosophical thought as it would challenge the authority of our teachers, preachers and leaders. We are quick to rise in protests against social, political or religious issues with the full knowledge that our protests have never and will never bring about any positive change anywhere in the world, yet we remain complacent in matters of principle that devour our unity and pride as a nation.

In order to bring about a change, and create our Naya Pakistan, we will have to break these dogmatic chains that divide us and build bridges to fill the inhumane gaps within these forced intellectual and social hierarchical caste system that are plaguing our country. The true face of these politicians with all their magniloquence is becoming clearer as the movement against the status quo is gaining momentum. We need to rise and protest against those who have systematically created a system that enslaves the minds of the people. It is time to repudiate a political system that shrouds itself in a safe sanctity of prevalent cultural and religious Dogmas and Taboos to baptize themselves in the eyes of the people!

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