Last week, a protest was taking place in Pakistan. The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaaf was staging a protest regarding Raymond Davis’ release under some very unclear and opaque court decisions. Among the protestors was a boy from Islamabad it seems, who in his desire to bring some sort of change to Pakistan, ended up sounding very ‘burger’ – a term loosely applicable to people who have it better than most, and can often sound pretentious and obnoxious. This particular fellow made statements that were rather pretentious without him trying to be, and also very off-putting for a political protest; as he ended up complaining about the heat, and patronizing the audience (again, inadvertently) by asking the cameraman he was giving an interview to- “Do we really look like we need to be here? But look we are” to prove a point that the need for change is not just something those from ‘lesser backgrounds’ have.
I found a lot of what he said hilarious, in the sense that he made himself look very, very juvenile as a political activist, and perhaps more dangerously- belittling of people who may ‘not be of such good backgrounds’. The video’s all over the web- and you can look at it on your own time. The reason I’m writing this is to share some realizations of my own- failure really.
This video went viral; as in people were sharing this guy’s PR gaffe left and right- and people began to spell the end of Imran Khan’s credibility through this one fellow. I too, joined the club. I thought it was hilarious, and I decided to put my own spin on it. I took a music track, and overlaid spliced audio from the video- a sort of satirical remix. The only trouble is- the best satire I realize, is satire without being blunt. I remixed the song with his audio clips, and it ended up being a complete mockery of the fellow’s gaffed interview. I threw in pictures of his from the interview, and pretty much made a medley of a song and some very silly-sounding quotes, and had a good laugh at it.
So then I shared my video with friends, who laughed hard enough to share it almost immediately with their friends. The video went up at something like 12pm. 20 hours later I took I deleted the video from YouTube, and it had already been watched over two hundred times. Now I know that’s not a really ‘viral video’, but for something I slapped together in 30 minutes, it got a lot more attention than I expected. But throughout the day, as funny as I’d found it- I felt like I was doing something wrong.
Yes, the kid made some very silly statements, and his video aired on TV and gave the Facebook and YouTube population of Pakistan a lot to laugh about for a few days, and probably will continue to do so. And yes, he is responsible for his own statements and how ‘daft’ he may have sounded- after all, he chose to speak to a national television channel. But that still doesnt justify the amount of mockery we’ve seen come together in just a few days.
I’m not trying to write from a high moral ground as a reformed abuser, I just realized that ok- people can have bad days. The trouble with YouTube and Facebook, are that their greatest strengths can be their greatest dangers as well- the power to share with millions of people, with one click. Once it’s out there, there’s no coming back. The internet cloud is really just that; you can look but you yourself, can’t touch- and what has been can’t be unseen. It can be deleted, removed, but it cannot be unseen.
What I started making was a funny, satirical video. What I ended up doing, was making a mockery of what was already seen as a mockery of public protest. Why do I feel so guilty about this? And why I am I even writing about this? I’m writing this because I wanted to make a very public, and very loud apology. The apology is to those who place trust in me- and it doesn’t matter that I’m not a politician or person of importance. What I am, are two things in particular.
First- I am indeed another member of civil society; a society that is extremely fragmented, and needs every ounce of glue it can garner, to hold it together. I feel that my video was in bad taste, and was helping the ridiculing of what is inherently a very necessary part of a healthy society- the right to protest, in whatever manner, form and accent you want to. As a citizen, I am guilty of arresting the very things that keep Pakistan different from a lot of other developing nations- the right to disagree, even if we think we are a police/ army/ fundoo/ failed state. Again, this is not me speaking from some higher moral ground- this is my realization of failure at a seemingly unimportant aspect- being a responsible member of society. Of course- we all define responsibility differently.
Second, I am supposedly educated, and play a daily role as an educator. My day revolves around not just the technicalities of teaching, but nurturing hope in youth, as well as finding ways to inspire someone when they’re least bothered to learn what I’m teaching them. I first have to believe in what I am teaching them, and then innovate and ask myself how I can show them the power of those ideas- so that they don’t forgo the opportunities they have in store. By mocking someone who was at the root of it all, trying to change things, and to do what he believed in (regardless of what flavor or manner he did it in- as ‘burger’ as most of us found it), I am just another guy partaking in the leg-pulling our country is most infamous for. And that, is not what educators do- they never, ever demoralize people. I know that if someone’s actually reading this- they might think I’m spiraling in this self-created, blown-out-of-proportion non-issue, but I feel that as someone who’s basic tenant of job role is encouragement, I failed.
Also, by mocking this fellow’s interview, I felt like I’d used two holy grails for me (music editing and video production- no matter how amateur), for the wrong reasons. I was putting down someone, who despite how he may have come across, was still doing something they believed in. It’s like telling a child to stop painting because they’re likely to spill something. Or telling them that their handwriting is bad, and scolding them for it.
I work with youth- not children, but here’s the crux. I find that in Pakistan, our societal expectations, more often inherited than developed through independent thought, squeeze the child out of children. We make it dangerous to slip up, and dangerous to make mistakes. All that does, is kill creativity- and it’s when you let creative juices run dry or not run in the first place- you remove that crucial thing that’s going extinct in Pakistan:
I saw a video. It was funny, but only at someone else’s expense. Then I made more fun of what was already being made fun of- and I had it publicized. Sure, it made others laugh harder- but inside, I felt that I was now a proponent of intolerance. Tomorrow is March 23rd- and the idea for Pakistan came in response to intolerance. I can’t be another person whittling away at how we accept each other- whether its sects, castes, backgrounds or even accents. We shouldn’t be this united in making fun of people just being themselves- my fear is that any nation united on such fronts, is quite the divided nation itself.
Pakistan cannot afford to make more Pakistans. Was it bipolar of me to one day, make a video ridiculing someone and take it down just 20 hours later in search of some higher moral conscience? Yes, probably. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes to nip intolerance (one aspect of it, as I see it) in the bud.
So, in all honesty, little by little, if we can just take each other for who we are and hold our tongues, Pakistan Zindabaad will be much more of a reality, than a nebulous and nervous hope in the back of our minds.