Archive for the ‘ Culture ’ Category

This Blog Post is Against Our Culture (and is sponsored by Jews)

The demonic child of Mr. Nail and Madame Chalkboard is a term used repeatedly in Pakistan to justify any kind of censorship and moral policing, however ludicrous.

The term, “against our culture” is a curious little brain-bugger. What precisely is “our” culture, and who among us has the privilege to define it? Is it at all possible that your culture may be different from mine, and that it’s unfair to use your government as a platform to promote one kind of culture as opposed to the others?

I’ve frequently been mocked as “excessively Westernized”, which is now a badge I wear with some pride. It’s not that I believe the Western cultures are without their faults, but I do concede that they’re better.

Pakistanis, and I fear this is true for most third world countries, are unable to differentiate between foreign cultures and socially-advanced cultures. The Western nations are often scowled at for their acceptance of gay rights, gender equality and many other concepts that we find outlandish. And an attempt to import these concepts into countries like Pakistan, generates an abundance of angry, full-caps tweets from around the world, hash-tagged with ‘racism’.

The thing is that there’s nothing “Western” about these ideas. These nations share a horrific history of  treating gay people as inglorious HIV-dispensers, and women as decorative commodities. These nations have suffered through a plague of socially-acceptable slut-shaming (not that the disease has been entirely eradicated yet). Traditional America has been a nightmare for transgender people, so has old Europe.

What I’m saying is that what the culture of today’s Pakistan is not too dissimilar to the culture of America in the 70’s. The difference is that they evolved past the hate, the exclusionism, racism, and while they still need to evolve much further, they deserve credit for what they’ve achieved.

Meanwhile, we haven’t evolved enough. Watching the bikini-wearing, gay-accepting, alcohol-chugging and even marijuana-smoking culture of the West is, for Pakistanis, like gazing into a crystal ball at our social future 30, 50 or 100 years from now on. That is, if we survive long enough to allow the transition, and not start devolving into a complete mullah state.

Most of what we see is not a foreign culture, but a ‘developed’ culture.

..which is a message for the people of the West too. I am hopelessly in love with Pakistan’s famous truck art; the Islamic architecture; Pakistani heritage sites; our musical tablas and sitars; countless colorful, wondrous things about various kinds of lifestyles that people live in Pakistan. Just as I admire mardi gras parades, American folk music, hamburgers, European films…

But never, for a minute, tolerate injustice, homophobia, or gender inequality in the name of multiculturalism. You too must be able to draw the distinction between a foreign culture and an outdated culture. Resist the shariah court, or any other kind of religious court that delivers verdicts based on archaic laws that are an insult to human dignity.


An atheist and his family: “Mom, I’m going to hell”

I’ve been doing this for a long time now..

Several years of swimming against the tide; wading through a constant stream of hate mail; switching blog addresses whenever things get too hot to handle.

I’ve been an outcast on multiple levels. I somewhat pride myself for being a Pakistani who is essentially the death of all stereotypes. I’m an atheist and a bisexual and a feminist and a far-leftist and an extremely  introverted personality. My complexion is significantly fairer than most of my fellow citizens. Even my BMI makes me an outlier (I literally do not “fit in”). If only I did not share the same race as most Pakistanis, I would’ve been Minority-Bot 4000. Continue reading

The 11-year old blasphemer

Apparently, the glory of Islam has been threatened by an 11-year old girl with Down’s Syndrome.

A Christian girl has been jailed by the police, under intense pressure from the locals, for allegedly burning pages of the Noorani Qaida. She was severely beaten up, along with her mother and sister. Some homes of local Christian residents were burned, and the Christian population has left the area.

You think this is just satire? No, this is a real report. This comes just a few weeks after a psychiatric patient was brutally tortured and burned alive by a mob in Bahawalpur for, guess what, blasphemy.

So here’s the situation. The Hindus are leaving Pakistan in droves. Christians are being jailed and killed. Ahmadis and Shias are being slaughtered. Women are being abused, raped and paraded around the streets naked. And atheists and agnostics..well, they don’t even exist (Shhh!).

We are a country made exclusively for circumcised dicks. Not penises, dicks. Which means that if you’re a non-Muslim or a woman, tough luck. Minorities who dare strive for equal rights are often shooed away with the retort, “This is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Only Islamic rules will apply here!”

Oh, our bad! We should’ve chosen to be born in a secular country instead. Silly us! Now we must shut up and pay the penalty for being the non-Islamic citizens inhabitants of an Islamic Republic.

Today, I’m more frightened and exhausted than I have ever been in years.

I’m tired of gambling with my life every time I speak up against the unending, and largely ignored, injustices against this country’s minorities. We’re not being threatened by a handful of fanatics. It’s never a single crazed person who attacks Pakistani Christians or shias or Ahmadis. It’s always mobs. Always well-funded organizations that seem to be invisible to the authorities, even when operating in broad daylight. The constitution itself is against us.

I simply do not have the energy to tie this post up in a funny or thought-provoking way.

“Stay Calm And Watch Porn”

In 2009, a group of researchers at the University of Montreal decided to figure out the effects of pornography on an adult male. They designed a case-control study which required:

a) A study group: men who watch porn
b) A control group: men who do not watch porn

They had to abandon the study because they were unable to find any men who could be placed in the control group.

Turns out, all guys watch porn. Including you, the one reading this article. Even if you’re a woman, I can still make a very safe bet that you watch it.

Yes, dear reader. I know the foul images you’ve seen on screen, and even filthier fantasies you generate in the depths of your mind – too politically explosive or socially unacceptable to be shared publicly. How do I know that? Because there’s an excellent chance that you’re a normal human who is not sexually repressed.

As a sex-positive feminist, a doctor, and a psychology enthusiast, I’m ashamed to admit that I do not shit a brick about pornography. My jaw does not drop to the floor at the mention of the word ‘sex’, and my eyebrows do not disappear into my hairline when somebody confesses to me that he or she enjoys porn.

I’ve touched upon this subject several times before, but I believe this needs to be discussed in greater detail. Every generation comes up with its own ludicrous hypothesis about how evil porn is. They used to say that porn causes brain damage. Turns out, there’s no conclusive evidence that it causes more brain damage than, say, eating chocolate or imbibing too many caffeine-based drinks.

Then somebody floated the idea that watching porn causes human trafficking and abuse of minors. That is true for the underground porn industry, in which case the culprit is the government that fails to legalize and regulate the industry. The legit porn industry rarely causes such problems. In California, for instance, they cannot even produce a porn film without the performers using a condom, let alone getting away using underaged girls.

Then they went ahead and claimed that porn helps normalize rape and misogyny. Those radical feminists who view porn defenders as rape apologists (which says “all men are rape-apologists” in the light to the fact I stated in the beginning), need to shake themselves out of their dogmatic position and start considering the facts. Turns out, internet porn actually prevents rape and objectification of women by providing people a healthy outlet for the sexual energy building up inside them.

The last part, in particular, is something the moral police at Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) should be made aware of. PTA is currently fighting a (losing) battle against internet porn. I’ve heard from a reliable source that they’re also trying to ban nitrogen in the atmosphere. Only, the latter seems more doable. Regardless, they’ve embarked on a holy quest to block up to 50 million porn sites, a move that requires the creation of an internet Great Wall.

Which brings to my eyes the tears of laughter and of sorrow, both at the same time. It seems that our proud country has run out of real issues to deal with – you know, the little things like poverty, hunger, illiteracy, abuse of women, oppression of minorities – all of them have been solved. Now we can sink back calmly in our seats and throw away money on sanctimonious bullshit like this.

Porn, nudity and “vulgarity” are not the problem. Pornstar Brianna Banks is not the one training suicide bombers in Waziristan. The nudists are not the ones preventing kids from getting vaccinated against polio. The uprising in Balochistan is not the result of the grand total of six dance parties that take place in this country annually. Bipasha’s boobs are not the cause of rising oil prices, no more than the exodus of Pakistani Hindus is being driven by the sight of Veena’s ass on television.

So get your priorities straight!

It’s a Breast, Not a Bomb

Gymnophobia is defined as an irrational fear of nudity.

It is what makes the Pakistani Twitter-sphere explode (and not in a good way) when Veena’s nude image appears on a magazine cover, or when she stars in a music video wearing a bra lit like a Christmas tree.  It is what causes angry Egyptians to assault Aliaa Mahdy for posting a naked picture of herself on her blog.  It is what makes the Iranian government ban Golshifteh Farahani from returning home because of her nude photoshoot for a French magazine.

It’s not just about conservative values, or religious laws. There’s just something so awfully disgusting, deplorable and distressing about the female anatomy that it makes us want to scratch our eyes out. It leaves us traumatized, ashamed. A world fraught with criminals, terrorists, embezzlers, swindlers and plain destructive assholes, all comes to a grinding halt at the sight of a woman’s nipple and says, “Whoa! Hold it right there!”

As a rationalist and a psychiatrist, such behaviour has always intrigued me. What is it about skin exposure that drives society up the wall? Here are some common concerns I’ve come across talking to different Pakistanis online. Continue reading

"Daaktars" and "Injineers"

Pakistani parents, it seems, are more concerned about owning kids, than raising them. Nearly all of them agree that their sons and daughters must never be forced into careers of their parents’ choice, but strictly in theory. “Let our kids decide their own paths” just seems like the right thing to say to people, but when it comes to following this rule, parents seldom take it seriously. Nearly all the parents I meet want to turn their sons and daughters into doctors and engineers. When I ask their children if that’s really what they want to be when they grow up, they just mumble a few words of agreement in distinctly apathetic tones.

Kids have their own dreams (surprise, parents!), their own ideas about how to make a living. They may not be the most lucrative of ideas, nor as promising as the ones you have in mind, but their lives belong to them alone and they’ll be far happier knowing that they followed their own dreams, rather than ending up with high-income jobs that they can’t stand.

Parents are obsessed with scores. It’s like the algebra test is a dry run for the child’s entire life, and should he fail that test or get anything less than a 90%, he’s a flawed human being who shall never prosper. Since when did it become a crime to not be an insufferable know-it-all? Are test marks the only measure of a child’s capabilities, or should we look for other things as well? Many of the greatest, most successful personalities in the world today were, at best, average students. Our schools have become veritable gas-chambers where individuality and dreams come to die, and be replaced with herd-mentality. Students are encouraged to think inside the box, instead of helping them explore their unique capabilities and refine them.

Pakistani parents are extremely possessive. In the past, they were known to directly impose their decisions upon their kids, but that technique is rapidly losing effect. Kids are becoming smarter, and when faced with threats from their parents, they’re likely to build up a wall of resistance and stand defiant in face of such fierce opposition.

Now the parents have come up with a more reliable weapon: emotional blackmail. Instead of browbeating their kids, they indoctrinate them their own ideas from the beginning. They set up an environment so emotionally charged that it makes the teenager feel incredibly guilty going against his/her parents’ wishes. They create an illusion of choice for their children while pressurizing them into choosing a specific path.

It’s much like a host offering her guests, “Tea or coffee? By the way, coffee’s poisoned”. Well, that’s not much of a choice, ma’am.

I’m not a parent myself, so I won’t claim to be an expert on parenting. But I went through this aforementioned process of indoctrination, ended up making a career choice I regret to this day, and for the longest time, was not even aware of the fact that I had been very subtly cajoled by my parents into studying medicine against my own will.

Parents, there comes a time when you must learn to let go of your kids, for they become more than your “kids”. They become individuals with their own dreams and aspirations that may not be in tune with yours, but you have to accept that anyway.

How to Kill a Culture

Perform a small experiment. Count the average number of words of English you speak in one sentence of what we arguably call Urdu.

During a family vacation in France, we went to a local cafe in Champ Elysee, Paris. We called the waiter and tried placing an order, but it was difficult because the man, seemingly, couldn’t comprehend a single word of English. After an agonizing struggle, we managed to get our message delivered. Fifteen minutes later when we paid the bill and got up to leave, the waiter called, “Learn some French!” Our only regret was that we had already given him a generous tip.

And it’s not just France. All around the world, people take great pride in speaking their language. For some of them (as is painfully clear from the example I presented), that pride soars to a point of arrogance.

In Pakistan (and India) however, this is not the case. We are rapidly replacing Urdu (or Hindi) with English. In fact, the more words of English one can stuff into his sentence, the more modern he/she is considered.

Which brings me to my question: Why is it that we are participating in the active adulteration of our own mother tongue? Are we culturally confused or simply ashamed of our heritage?

A language is more than a mode of communication. It’s an identity. When I land at Narita Airport, Tokyo, I can immediately tell that I’ve arrived in Japan because all the signs are in Japanese and people around me are talking in fluent Japanese. When a foreigner arrives at the Benazir Bhutto airport, all he/she can find are people so colourless that they’ve come down to borrowing identities from outsider, too lazy to build one of their own.

I’s time that we, Pakistanis, realize that there’s a difference between “modernization” and “westernization”. We have people who strongly adhere to dumb, vile traditions that were started centuries ago…but only because we are able to articulate four words of English together, we believe that they’ve become maadran!

Is that how things are supposed to be?