Virtual activism

Youth, the gears of a countries machine, the lifeblood of a nation’s body, the essence of which all great movements have been made of simply because youth means enthusiasm and energy- not even the sagacity of experience can replace that. However energy and enthusiasm are forces of nature which, when misplaced, can wreak as much havoc as they can do good.

We often discuss our nation’s youth in drawing rooms and talk shows, in classrooms and in the park. We deem it upon them to be the harbingers of change – they are to carry the flag forward. Just a small problem though, the flag that we often extol in these fist-pumping discussions means as much to our nation’s youth today as Ghalib to someone who cannot read Urdu.

Let’s just put it down squarely: our youth does not identify with the ideal that this country has been made on. They cannot relate to it. Kashmir is not their “atoot ang”. I know I know, it sounds horrible, does it not? It seems like I am the doomsayer eternal, but think for a moment: what sort of Pakistan has its youth inherited?

We all grew up listening to tales of wars and stories of valor against impossible odds, of farishtas wearing green cloaks coming to rescue our tank divisions in the ‘67 war and real life epics shown on the solitary channel that was PTV at that time. Remember Rashid Minhas? Remember Captain Sarwar Shaheed? Well yes I do not remember them completely either but what I do remember is the look in their eyes, the pride of being a Pakistani and believing in their country no matter where they stood.

When we stepped into practical life though we saw a country ravaged by politicians, burdened by economic woes and so morally bankrupt it’s almost unbelievable. Gone are the times of the chador and char di wari – we have learnt new ways to let go, to blend in and to switch off.  So the task before us poor souls is gargantuan at best. Our elders tell us its got to be done. Our brains are so full of information overload that we speak in sound bytes. On the phone we promise change, on Facebook we do our activism, and when questioned we plead: “we are making people aware.”

Someone please clue me in as to who we are all hell-bent on making aware through dozens of patriotic status updates and twitter reports in our digital feel-good world. News flash people: Pakistan’s literacy rate isn’t exactly in the high nineties, and contrary to what the news reports say, the internet revolution has not reached all yet- seriously!

True all of these fancy communication gadgets are making perhaps the literate among us aware, that too if they have an ISP but not much else. This is precisely why you can get 800 people to sign up to the “Bring the Chief Justice Back Group” on Facebook and fail at gathering even a 100 people outside press club to demonstrate for any cause. Even when our good general declared an emergency on Nov 3rd last year basically suspending our “much abused” constitution and shutting down almost all sources of our info we the youth were visibly silent. Those that were gathering and shouting themselves hoarse were either the lawyers themselves or political activists. What we need to understand is that activism does not happen at the push of a button from the confines of our air-conditioned homes. It’s earned in sweat and tears out there where the real stuff happens, where you will get arrested and even pushed around because you are actually fighting, striving to make something happen.

We need to be proactive, instead of just digitally active. If we feel the pain of the poor we need to go out there find someone worthy and try to bring a change into their lives. If we want to make a point we need to gather physically and scream till someone hears us.

If we want to emancipate women then we need to go to the female masses and understand their problems. If we want to go on a cleanliness drive we need to roll up our damn pants and collect the neighborhoods trash first. What we are doing right now, I am sorry to say, is just shrouding each other in the cloak of “imaginary activism” and then feeling good about ourselves strutting around in our own spaces.

How long will that last? Someday my friends we will need to take matters into our own hands, to actually feel the pain of those we preach to, to bend our own backs with the workers of this nation. I wonder who will start the real revolution, for that is what the youth of Pakistan must do, if we want to have a country to belong to in the near future at least.

As published in TGK on Dec 14 2008

  1. i agree with the idea of taking htings into our own hands… but it took me quite a bit to digest that idea because i felt a bit nauseated by what your ideas of patriotism were supposed to mean.

    the only heros you could mention were soldiers? fine those guys were great and all. but today is the 37th anniversary of the genocide our army committed on our own people. women raped, children burnt, intellectuals buried in mass graves.

    what about manto? or sadequain? or even fazal mahmood? why the soldiers? i’m really sorry to distract from your point, which was really good. but i had to say this since i think that with love, you can not base it on false premises.

    perhaps when we the youth realise the messed up past of our country, and learn to love it INSPITE of all of that, we would be more motivated to make a change. of course, we could just start doing and prove my ideas wrong.

    great post though 🙂

  2. Thanks kk, i mentioned the soldiers because those are the only heros i remember during my growing up which got any kind of patronage from our state and media, I hope that clears up things a bit more. When i became conscious obviously i did realize that hero’s do not come with guns blazing only, to me Sadequain, Gulgee Faiz, Ahmed Faraz and many more did a lot for our country as well, they deserved a hell of a lot more than we gave them but we sadly cannot make up for our past. We must however be responsible for our future.

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