Did you see the news today? Tell me you heard about the fires in Lahore. The killings in Pindi? Surely you must have heard about the beatings in Quetta? I know you must have at least read up on the shootings in Karachi? I see. You did. All of them did you? Wow, I’m very impressed. How incredibly up to speed you are?! What’s that you say? Oh, I see, the news is on your television set the entire time it is on. Well I am in the company of a seriously well informed individual. To be educated is one thing, but to be up to speed with the news is a different cookie all together. By any chance, did you also hear about the latest archaeological discovery just outside of Cairo? Or, how about that new art exhibition at The Canvas Gallery in Karachi? I hear that pianos are making a big comeback with the youth, and stores selling them are popping up all over Lahore? Oh, you didn’t hear any of those things? No worries. That’s just trivial stuff anyways. You got the important news down, and that’s all that matters. What happens beyond the corridors of the Breaking News section matters only to those who can’t play in the big boy’s league. I wouldn’t dare take you for someone foolish enough to focus your precious time on such insignificant matters of life. No sir, you carry the honorable characteristics of someone who can recite the entire news bulletin back to me from memory. Congratulations on your merit. Now, there only remains the small task of attaining one more thing: getting a life.
If you have thick skin, you will hopefully understand what I mean. If you have soft skin, go and eat a samosa or something. My friends, you and I are the subjects of possibly the largest propaganda output since the time of Hitler and the might of the German press. The sad part of it is, however, we are doing it to ourselves with no goal in sight. I have gone through an unplanned exercise in analyzing media in Pakistan compared to that of all the places I have travelled in this great world. This wasn’t any huge goal of mine or a difficult task. It just involved flicking on the news wherever I went. The results are shockingly scary. It has disturbed me since the day I set foot in Pakistan, and still haunts me every time I see people in front of the news. What are we doing to ourselves? Please. Do you understand what I am saying?
Most recently, on a trip to Jordan for a week, I was blown away by the incredible amount of knowledge I took away from just reading the paper or watching the local television. I learnt about the growing trend of Jordanian fashion designers making their entry into the international market. I watched a documentary on following the lives and culture of the Bedouins of the desert region of the country. I saw art inspired by the sunsets of the glorious Wadi Ram valley in south Jordan. I read up on a festival of poetry and song that was to happen the following week which was coupling new artists together with established artists. In short, I felt like Jordan introduced herself to me, took me into her garden, showed me her beautiful flowers, and offered me an iced tea under the beautiful afternoon sun. I left taking a piece of it with me, and knowing that I had just become a little bit more knowledgeable about life. Mind you, this is Jordan I’m talking about. Jordan: a heavily aid dependant country that has little to no exports, an entire population that equates to less than the population of Karachi, a people whom which the majority of hail from Palestine, a country which neighbors Israel with whom they have a fragile diplomatic relationship, and a government that has never seen democracy. This is no Utopia itself. I also managed to catch all the political and social news in the process. Now, enter Pakistan.
Bombs, talibanization, terror, murder, corruption, dirty games, fraud, bombs, suicide attacks, bombs, proxy wars, terror, religious wars, bombs, etc, etc. 50 channels of news all reporting the same exhausting stories of doom and gloom with death literally showing her face, newscasters all trying to outdo each other with venomous attacks of horror and disbelief, news studios editing segments with full accompanying soundtracks of people decaying away and politicians lying to the masses, clips of masses striking and protesting on a daily basis: OKAY, OKAY!! WE GET THE DAMN PICTURE! How about a little relief? How about some fresh air? What about a little clip of an artist at a show? A little story of hope? How about a fricking story on something we can actually gain some knowledge from? It’s not there. You can search for it. I have. It’s not there. It’s just not there. This is probably one of the only countries in the world where the highest costing advertising slots are during political news shows. Prime Time television is ALL news and nothing else. Had it not been for the miracles of development in the world of technology, I would say that we would eventually succumb to this soul grinding machine of deafening media. But alas, all is not lost.
We have the world at our fingertips. If you are reading this, than you already have more windows to look out from than the entire worlds’ population did not even 20 years ago. You can be in Karachi and Sarajevo at the same time. You can be at a Depeche Mode and Aziz Mian concert at the same time, even if one of them is dead. You can put up a piece of art sitting in Gujranwala, and get instant critique from a Norwegian art collector sitting in Oslo. You can write your own personal ode to your hero Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and get tears of agreement from other fans around the world. You can do all of this. And you can learn so much more.
We are being herded like sheep into a police governed, panic driven, doom accepting, failure assuming bunch of people and are not expanding our minds the way the rest of the world is. We have to look beyond this. We are NONE of these things. We are a nation filled with all the attributes of a successful society of people, including poets, artists, politicians, journalists, musicians, architects, photographers, actors, activists, doctors, humanitarians, animal keepers, mathematicians, engineers, athletes, etc. Where is our outlet? Where can we learn about each other? Where can we share our stories with each other? We must not drink this kool aid that is being shoved down our throats. It is very simple. The media is using shock and awe to get our attention so they can make money. Money. That is it. The collateral damage of that however, is that we are getting dumber by the day. We have to see through this. We have to fight back with a vengeance. The best way to fight is simply by learning something new and sharing it with others. Pick up a book and read it. Rent a foreign movie from a country you know very little about and watch it. Pick up an instrument and learn to play it. Make a new friend and learn about each other. Travel the world, if not physically, than through the Internet. Dare to radiate something unique to those around you. If we want to change what is projected on us, we have to change what we project back on to others. The world is asking us where our moderate voice is. The best way to respond is by enjoying our life. Enjoy it. Stop taking life so seriously. Enjoy, learn, and share, enjoy, learn, and share. Enjoy the hell out of your life, because it is the only one you will ever have in this world. It is only when we radiate how much color we bring to life that others will actually start to feel the glow.