Of Perceptions & Reaction

Perception is widely defined as the visual representation of an object, entity or idea. What this definition does not include however, is the fact that perceptions often change when subjected to different circumstantial input or stimuli. I still remember quite clearly the perception of the general public in the U.S towards my country Pakistan while I was studying there in college.

It normally used to bounce between “that place next to India” or, for the more aware of them, a social and economic backwater lying in-between India and the sea. In fact so unaware were most people in the US of Pakistan in the 90s that when I won top marks in a presentation in an elective physical geography course, the teacher congratulated me and told me the people in my village”Karachi” would be ecstatic at how far I had come. He was even more baffled when I explained to him (“quite aggressively” I might add) that I came from a city with a population at least thrice that of New York’s.

Usually though an event of some magnitude does serve to enlighten the world of a country on the global map, the misfortune with us was that the event in question turned out to be a total disaster remembered now as 9/11. It was this very event which shook the world and reminded them of places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the current perception shaped by this and other such unfortunate events in the recent past, has now turned to “that place next to India, which is full of terrorists”.

To go into debate on this point would be silly as indeed Pakistan has become a haven for bad guys of all sorts, due to the general lawlessness and corruption which prevails here at a grass roots level. However, to just categorize a place as “No Good” or “Most Dangerous” seems to be an over reaction of sorts at least to us humble third worlders. After all many millions like us still live and are happy here, thank you very much!

Normally when this sort of a perception is displayed by the world, the people of Pakistan react in the only way they know. We as a nation tend to be more resilient than others as we face day to day problems which are quite unknown to the advanced nations in this day and age, such as lack of electricity, water, jobs, security, etc. Obviously it is not as if we were blinded by our pride at birth. That we do not know we are living in perhaps the worst of conditions available in this world to its many citizens. But we are still happy to be here, as we feel our roots here. Even when we are traveling to the advanced or first world, after some time we start missing the squalor, the load shedding. Everything seems so bright and shiny, we like it dark and grim.

Or at least that is what we like to believe. The actual perception of our nation as pertaining to the rest of the world is one, which ranges between total paranoia and confusion. We are confused because sometimes the richer nations call us a front line ally state (at least whenever we are needed to serve as cannon fodder), and then in the next breath, they refer to us as harbingers of the same evil we are doing our best to battle. Our leaders obviously do their utmost to propagate the manic notions of “Us against Them” and of a greater Christian crusader type conspiracy to eradicate us barbarians from the face of this earth. We are also constantly informed by our media of enthralling facts like the certainty of our nation fracturing into small states, or highlighting the daily negatives of our lives instead of encouraging hope by small positives. Not to forget the religious sword hanging over all of our heads that is the day of reckoning (which according to our eminent religious scholars is just around the virtual bend!) You ask why? Have you not seen the Masonic eye of the “Dajjal/AntiChrist” in the US dollar bill? (Pun intended). As if God only has this monetary way of letting us know that the end is near!!

We are also depressed because although it seems foolish to the rest of the world, some small part inside of us still love’s this godforsaken place to death. Thus it hurts us that our nation is seen in such a poor light. Some of us would not even depart to other shores, even if provided with a visa; call it patriotism or lunacy. So we humbly request that people just leave us alone! It may be a gutter we reside in, but its our gutter and perhaps in time we can clean it on our own!

(Published in the Saturday Post on Saturday 30 Dec 2007)

One comment
  1. It’s refreshing to find somebody who retains his optimism despite being surrounded by vast amounts of depressing realities! Optimism is infectious, they say…I certainly hope so, for the sake of the cynical and the hopeless among us.

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