August 19, 2010

From We to Me

Map of districts affected by the floods
This is a first hand report. I went door to door, asking people to make a donation; anything at all that they would like to give and not just money. The results were astonishing. Out of 40 households, only one came forward with a charitable donation of Rs.100. This attitude forced me to ask myself: Why? Why are people so reluctant to give? Why are people not hospitable and charitable anymore?

There are several reasons to that. Several reasons that I can think of, and several of them I know are true. Having studied a little bit of sociology, I can think of sociological reasons to identify the reasons for this lack of helping attitude. I can associate political reasons to this lack of civic sense and yes, there are psychological reasons too.

Over the last few years, our national character has degenerated at an alarmingly fast rate. There are no studies to back up my claims, but if you are a Pakistani who dares to venture out of your house gate, you will understand what I am saying. It seems as if a general wave of rage, irritation, displeasure, irritability etc has engulfed Pakistan. People have stopped caring, and from US and WE, it has become ME and I.

This disintegration of the social fabric has had profound consequences on all the facets of an average Pakistani's life. He has been deprived of electricity, good food, jobs, justice, the whole nine yards, and he just doesn't give a rat's ass about anything anymore now. All he cares, or rather, all WE care about now is ourselves, our lives, our girlfriends, our wives, our families and that's it. Gone are the days when communities used to come together and have a fun filled evening. To quote a personal example, I don't even know the name of my next door neighbors.

The political aspects are also equally responsible for this utter mess that we find ourselves in. It appears that the general happiness of Pakistanis only peaks when dictators are abound in the Presidential Palace in Islamabad. And once again I am forced to ask the question why that is so? The general rule of thumb is that when generals are at the helm of affairs, some semblance of orderliness exists. There is some order in the way things are done and handled. The same cannot be said of the democratic forces of present in this country. Every time the PPP has ruled for instance, we have only suffered at the hands of massive corruption, IMF loans, and a general debilitating effect on the general morale of the country. The same is true for the PML-N, who's leader was about to declare himself a demigod before he was sent packing back home. In all this muddle, it is easy to see why the national calibre and the social level of responsiveness goes down dramatically.

But that's not the end of the story. In the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the government demonstrated a sense of urgency. That sense of emergency was reflected in everything; the news, the evacuation, the handling of the affair etc. This disaster on the other hand, despite being one of the greatest deluges in all of known history, witnessed sheer indifference on the part of the government till it was too late. And then, the government was more focused on PR building, and damage control exercises rather that doing what it should've done; help the people. Mr Zardari thundered across Europe, enjoyed lavish dinners and what not, and the Prime Minister busied himself with boat rides and visits to fake relief camps. The sentiment that rebounded almost unanimously through the masses was 'Why?' followed by sheer uncontrollable anger.

I don't claim to be right, but these are the reasons as I see and understand them of why people are not willing to come forward with help. And it's not just us Pakistanis, even the international community has failed to come up to expectations. They were too busy lambasting Zardari to pay any attention to the plight of the 20 million displaced people in this country.

But once again, why should they care when WE, US, OURSELVES, do not?