#WeWillNeverForgetToForget — our #Fail

*Article originally appeared in DAWN

It is a defense mechanism at this point: turn every issue, every incident into a dichotomy; an either/or, a good side/bad side, and then argue over who is right and who is wrong.

That is the only way Pakistan is dealing with issues right now. It is the #TeriTeamMeriTeam way of doing things.

And while, #TeriTeamMeriTeam may make complex subjects easier to grasp for people, it takes needed attention away from the real conflict at heart.

Undermining just how severe, intense and deeply ingrained the problem is, this tactic dehumanises everything to a point-scoring game.

It is a cycle that has been expedited by social media and double digit IQs that appear on national TV regularly.

What we have now is an incessant, headache-inducing ceaseless arguing over minor details of incidents, and never a discussion on the many facets or the gravity of the situation itself.

We have desensitised ourselves to a point where national tragedies are followed with quibbling games, where we can vent against an opposition and feel good about ourselves. That means that every new incident of terrorism or violence is not contributing to a new, progressive discourse.

Pakistan is not moving forward. It is going around in circles.

Read the editorial: Attack on churches

Take, for instance, the latest series of unfortunate incidents. Two churches in Lahore were ruthlessly bombed. Minorities have been under attack in Pakistan for quite a while now.

The state has chosen to turn a blind eye to it because it does not have the capacity to deliver what is needed, which is neither an underpass nor an overhead bridge but the rule of law.

Also read: Lynched by the system

Regardless of whether it was a frustrated mob reacting to years of oppression or a few bad eggs deliberately inciting violence, the lynching that followed demonstrates just how much the state has failed. Two people were being burnt alive on camera, while law enforcement groups were busy avoiding trouble and catching the cricket match!

The worst part of all is the memory this tragedy left behind in the national conscience. All that is remembered of the event is that the Taliban blew up a couple of churches and Pakistani Christian protesters burned two people.

The #TeriTeamMeriTeam approach further broke it down, as usual, into binary groups screaming at each other out of frustration over long-held, complex and overlapping reasons no longer familiar but vaguely associated with injustice and ineptitude.

This continued for 36 hours and then the story died out.

Also read: Killing outside churches, lynching in the streets

The real, crux of the matter was barely debated upon: the fact that security forces failed not once but twice in one day, in establishing rule of law in a city of 10 million people supposed to be run by the most efficient government in the country. They allowed for a bombing to happen, and then allowed a mob to rule the roost on the streets.

Losing human life once was not enough, Lahore lost its citizens twice.

The state failed not once but twice; reacting to failure with even more failure.

The crisis is far bigger than any of the petty I’ll expose you – not if I expose you first battles fought on TV. Someone needs to bring some perspective to these matters.

Read on: The madressa mix: Genesis and growth

But no one will, and that right there is why we are not likely to be getting anywhere any time soon.

After every new catastrophe, we will end up with the self-righteous lot going at it with each other over media and social media, while the state glides by doing what it does best: nothing.

We want to say #WeWillNeverForget and that #AllLivesMatter, but the truth is, this is all just reality-based television for us.

#WeWillNeverForgetToForget is where we really are.

Our discussions and discourse are little more than feel-good mechanisms and tools for breaking down complex, ugly realities into tiny non-issues so the public can digest them.

The only reason the majority even bothers to participate in this perverted activity is that this day and age requires participation, and if so, then better to be on some side instead of operating in shades of grey i.e. the factual reality. Their daily to-do list goes like this:

  • Post a feel-good status.
  • Froth at the mouth over some insignificant issue.
  • Play some #TeriTeamMeriTeam.
  • Bash the cricket team or celebrate them (depending on conditions).
  • Avoid ground realities at all costs.
  • Go to sleep.

So never forget all you want and stand with this or that as much as you please. The bottom line is that all of this is a #NationalFail.

Podcast 2 – Lost in Translation: Pakistan’s Middle Class’ Concerns

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These are some of the questions I get asked almost on a daily basis now. My colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers seem to be getting more interested in finally building a proper online presence. Especially in the world of academia, getting your name out is crucial. It can not only land you a job eventually but it can help build a public persona that is more valuable than a permanent position at times (think positions like adviser to think tanks and media houses, both of which pay significantly better than an academic position). Based on this growing interest in building a brand name for ourselves, I thought I would do a special post starting with a quick guide to building an online presence. (more…)

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* The book is available online at Princeton University Press and at Amazon*

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4 Pieces of Advice for Every Political Scientist

@StateAs part of the 6th Annual Graduate Conference at my department, we had Dr. Irfan Nooruddin give a key note address. Dr. Irfan Nooruddin is one of the most sought after and respected comparativists in political science academia. So it is little wonder that he is leaving Ohio State this fall to take up the role of endowed chair of Indian Studies at Georgetown in Washington, DC.

His keynote was essentially the most honest summary of what we all attempt to do and what we need to learn to do it better. It made such a profound impact on me that I decided to share his words with all of you. (more…)

6th Annual Graduate Conference – Dept of Political Science – GSU

If you are in Atlanta, do drop by the Graduate Conference at Georgia State University. The annual conference is organized by the Dept of Political Science

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