The week is finally over! What a crazy week. Its been one of those times when the city suddenly turns hostile on you. Every encounter seemed strained; every exchange involved me faint heartedly concealing my feelings and my politics. My inner voice wanting to say: "You are scum of the earth, you are scum of the earth," but my outer self nodding politely.
I met someone's father who was otherwise okay. I explained him some concepts of law, and he said he understood these well as he had to deal with labor problems in his company. I wanted to say to him that I am teaching his child about how to advocate for the rights of labor, and how to defend people accused of crimes. Then I thought to myself: stupid, stupid me. I am doing no such thing. These students have had sixteen years of intense immersion in corporate capitalist culture, and a social security net in shambles. There is a fierce structure of competition and mistrust, and children are programmed to work teachers to get a good grade and facilitate their ultimately acquiring wealth and status.
Today I tangentially mentioned the Bangla pronunciation of the name of a girl asserting her right to wear a jilbab in a UK school. One student outrightly asked how this (the Banlga thing) was relevant. I responded by asking her if she was from the department of "Not NICE!" and perhaps she should go back there.
And about the case -- normally my civil liberties self would respect the girl's right to manifest her belief any way without state infringement, but this time I cringed. The students also agreed that her right was absolute, but their sentiments were shrouded in that subtle, but palpable chauvinistic kind of religiosity.
Point of the matter is that people become the people they see around them. These people are repeatedly told that nobody's got your back; that NGOs are run by fraudsters, most people who advocate for human rights are two faced, and that its about getting ahead.
People are always looking for shortcuts, and ready to dismiss you as insignificant if you insist on higher standards. Inspired by Paulo Freire, I believe through education and the classroom, students should question the fairness of systems around them, and examine their own chains, and those of others. But students have no idea about how to occupy this class space. In fact, in an overt abuse of it, when they talk and they haven't ever read one case or one single assigned article. So with no new material going in, there is nothing to build on, All is fluff, and pretty much the tired old stereotypes of their Karachi existence, and a readiness to give uninformed answers, and stay consciously, self righteously underdeveloped.
Remember, these are not the oppressed; these are middle and upper middle class kids whose parents have somehow struggled through the doldrums of the 80s, through stock markets and businesses, through duppattas and namazes, and arrived. They can be intellectually honest; they can be sweet, but they choose not to be. The struggle is really quite useless in large parts of this society. Large segments have morally downgraded themselves; and are trading in spare parts.
(Which kind of ties in with the story of my sister who said that her computer salesman was using her warranty policy to order a string of spare parts, and sell them further in flagrant violation of ethics and morality.)
Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor as he was answerable to a higher morality, but he recognized that, according to the law of the propertied white men, what he was doing was wrong. But here, people steal from the poor and then sell to the rich to amass for themselves, and they have no recognition of any higher morality. And depending on their class position, they pay homage to laws, or bypass and evade them.
A man at the talk on debt cancellation insisted that what this society needs are large doses of charity and big capitalists should donate. Keeping me in a most unpleasant conversation, he insisted that a revolution was undesirable because there would be a lot of bloodshed. He gave me his card and when I asked him who his clients were, he said he could not disclose that. Note to self: when the revolution happens...
An activist ally was over a few hours ago and I found myself shrieking - we need a minimum wage campaign - we need a social security campaign - lets work and bring them out of their comfort zones. Just like in fairy tales only true love can save you, only true activism devoid of all careerism can save your soul. The moment it becomes about you, your visibility, your career, it falls apart. And you become more of the problem than you already were.
In Sajawal, several weeks ago, I asked a farmer how much land he owned. His fellow villager blurted out "4 acres." Now that is not so much, and this man's entire banana crop was destroyed and submerged in water; he and his sons jointly owned the land, and they live in a village with no sanitation, no hospitals and no schools beyond fifth grade. And this in a country where some people enjoy inordinate excesses of luxury, not limited to white sandy beach resorts.
He said in Sindhi to his friend; "Tell her I am a hari (landless)." I told him I understood what he said and that it really did not matter. Its going to take a long time to become a believer again. And to top it all, just hours ago, m announced she prefers Adam and Eve to evolution.
Such is existence in a society of distress and discord.