Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sialkot Murders: We all have blood on our hands

We have failed humanity. We have exposed our demons to the public. We have lost the plot. I cannot think of a more helpless act then to actually write about this. I don’t know why I’m writing. I know it will mean nothing, nor will it have any impact. I’m not writing to hope for change. I’m not even writing to gather some common support from other fellow citizens in this hour. I’m merely writing because I cannot keep these words in my head anymore, and perhaps this is my only way of trying to push past this state I’m in. The last drop of blood I had for our country was beaten to death on the 15th of August in Sialkot. I was body slammed with the grotesque reality that I have been trying to ignore for so long now: we as a people, are really as disgustingly pathetic as we are portrayed in the global media. I cannot fight the odds against the critics of this country anymore. I don’t want to. I want to swim in this self realization of how low a people I come from. I want to get intoxicated by the stench of our debauchery because no other substance will ever help me to get past this. Our entire premise of life is wrong. Of course, the irony of the timing couldn’t be more perfect for such a spectacle to present itself. While facing the biggest calamity Pakistan, or possibly the world, as ever seen, all eyes, hands and mouths were pointing to the sky in hopes that heart over mind would allow for some relief from friend or foe. We are looking to the world to show its humanity, in spite of our less than current ideal global standing, and hope that they open their hearts and wallets to us. I have friends who I know for a fact are indifferent to Pakistan, for whatever reasons, yet have seen them open up their wallets because of their natural attitude to humanity prevailing over any political or religious position. Good people, Pakistani and non-Pakistani, have been going above the call of duty to help their fellow human beings in this time of need. I have seen my fellow Pakistani’s leave work and family to go and help their countrymen. Yet, I’m afraid the stains of our sins will destroy the collective purity of any of our good will. I cannot conjure up the strength anymore to justify the value of lives being helplessly lost by natural disaster, when lives are taken in this country in the most disgusting manner for things far more trivial. Two brothers. Two boys. Two fellow countrymen. That’s all it took for me to lose my faith in any of you. Including myself. They were beaten to death with such graphic detail that no Hollywood studio could ever match the display irrespective of what technology they use. That they were wrongly beaten to death because of a lack of evidence, or that they were beaten with such angry display, still did not push me over the edge of my own reasoning. That an entire crowd of people, however, including police, stood there without once stepping in to protect those two precious boys from the jaws of ignorant death is where I find utter and absolute disconnect from my own people. Even this would eventually have been palatable with a stable supply of vicadin, except for the fact that I include my own self in that disconnect.
That’s when the damndest thing dawned upon me: how DARE we raise a finger at Asif Zardari or the government? I am usually quite creative and explicit with my evaluation of the government in power. I systematically destroy every single one of their lives in my discussions and find comfort in the knowledge that the only thing I have in common with the government leaders is that I too have to eventually go to sleep. But those are conversations that I have with my privileged friends sitting in my privileged home, eating privileged food while enjoying privileged air conditioning. And that is sadly, where most of our destruction of the government ends. After promising anarchy, rushing out to the streets, leaving our comforts, threatening to change the system, nightfall eventually catches up to me and I find myself sitting on my amazing grade 4 Italian leather sofa, watching the latest episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. And my life goes on. I too am Zardari.
My countrymen, you are all Zardari. I came back last night from a restaurant in Karachi where I was amongst friends discussing everything from fashion to the arts and eventually to the government. After a healthy session of tearing the government a new one, we all left to go home. As I was on my way home, I found myself in the most interesting position of being one of ONLY two people stopped at a red light of a major intersection. All my very ‘nationally concerned’ friends just sped through the lights, and in fact, I was even honked at by one of them to get out of the way. I stood my ground. And so too did the old driver in a beaten up old Suzuki swift. He must have been in his mid seventies. I could see in his eyes why he stopped. It wasn’t because he thought he was going to change anyone around them, which is foolishly, my only sole reason of stopping. His eyes spoke way too loudly for that to be the reason. I concluded that he was staying put because he was around during the time a promise was made way back in 1947. He must have seen lives destroyed for that promise to be fulfilled. He must have seen his family get shattered for that promise to mature. As a result, he must have vowed to himself that he would never forget that promise, and that he would deliver his end of the deal. Fast forward to him sitting in his car next to me, and I knew that man had his foot on the brakes because he knew of too much blood that had spilled on the streets for him to be able to be in his car at that junction. I convinced myself there couldn’t be any other reason, because if he looked around, he would have seen just how foolish he was looking. He didn’t even look at me. I’m so grateful that he didn’t because I wouldn’t have known how to respond to his glare.
However, it led me to the conclusion that we as a people just don’t give a damn about law and order. We talk about accountability, and yet we laugh off whatever little infrastructure of law and order there is. How can any of us stare into the eyes of the mother whose two boys were ripped away from her because the most barbaric acts of violence were done without interruption in a crowd, and offer her any level of comfort, when we don’t even have the capacity to stop at a goddamn red light? How can we offer her any promise of accountability when we ignore whatever limited accountability has been set on us? We can’t. I can’t. It really behooves us to get a reality check. Can you blame Zardari for your running a red light? It is there, it works, and you have the full moral capacity to follow it. And yet, you don’t. It’s as simple as that. Zardari might be the reason there are so many poor people in the country having to live much lesser of a life then they should have to, yet he is not the reason for us stepping out of our moral boundary. That is one liberty no politician, no wealth or lack of, or no situation can deprive us of.
To most people, drawing a comparison of such violent ignorant brutality to ‘normal’ people innocently running red lights might seem bizarre and self indulgent. I’m sorry if you think so. I’m also very sorry to completely disagree. I find them disturbingly connected because both involve a lack of moral compass. One is only more atrocious then the other.
As I find myself bringing an end to these words, I’m also suddenly overcome with that most irritating of words: hope. I find myself bombarded with the faces of people who work tirelessly to make things better in this country. I remind myself of the thousands of Abdul Sattar Edhi’s there are all over the country who work with the full knowledge that they will never be rewarded for their efforts. As humanity would have it, I’m also finding new streams of blood, as I write this, to replace what was destroyed by those thugs. I have been thinking lately about what I would say if I was sitting in front of that helpless mother who lost her boys in such a disturbing manner. Elegant words of revenge, honor, and promises would certainly have been the theme of my conversation. I have romanticized promising blood for blood, and love for love. Yet, now that I put it all into perspective, I think I would only say one thing to her, whether or not it leaves her baffled: ‘I promise to never brake another traffic light’