I find it difficult to come up with a truthful answer to the question “How is life in Pakistan these days?” A simple “It’s complicated” does not even begin to describe the complexities of everyday life in this country.
Pakistan is a difficult country; difficult like dealing with a child who has started screaming and crying in a crowded market, a child that cannot be pacified by meeting its unreasonable demands. Sheer patience is required to face the unending drama we create and encounter in this country every day. However, patience is not a virtue known to prosper in the oppressive Pakistani summer. Thus, the ease with which things deteriorate into something wholly unmanageable is simply astounding.
Is life miserable in Pakistan? There are millions who live below the poverty line, suffer from malnutrition, lack access to clean drinking water and health facilities. There is an almost apartheid-like state of income distribution and gender inequality that exists in our society. Perhaps, the only thing that comes close to uniting its citizens is their shared misery over the daily power cuts.
Is life unsafe here? Over the past two weeks, students, officials, foreign tourists and locals have been attacked and killed across the country. In Karachi, luckily a judge escaped an attack on his life but 377 others were murdered over a 42-day period.
Hope is a dangerous thing, dear reader, and I don’t believe in it. I’d rather empathise with themarginalised communities around us than believe in some fictitious, imaginary future or an ultimate reward. Why would we do that, if there is no hope? Because our triumph is in the struggle to improve the human situation in the here and now while being fully conscious of the limitations of our fate.
And yet, I am scared of the callous indifference lurking beneath the surface of my personality, an indifference that I cannot say is my own fault or a product of things I have been exposed to in my society, the Pakistani society. Perhaps, it is both.
I once read a book on ethics, which suggested that when faced with an ethical decision making situation, a good question to ask yourself is how would your moral heroes — Socrates, Camus, your mother — act in such a situation?
It would not be unwise to apply the same technique to our social problems.
Two great men of our times, Nelson Mandela and Abdul Sattar Edhi, are unwell. However, in sickness and in health, they continue to remain great role models for our generation, their lives and their struggles are great places for us to start learning about empathy and humanity.