‘They’ Or ‘Us’
By Shabnam Baloch
February 6, 2013
We kill Hazaras, Ahmadis, Shias, Christians; we blow up schools, shoot girls, and kill women in the name of honour
A typical definition of social transformation refers to a broader level societal change, values transformation and redefining, with cultural reformation in the social system. It asserts redefining the relative realities with mutual consensus and can be triggered by an external stimulus as well as internally. Social transformation occurs with vision, mindset and a system that has potential to not only critically question but also challenge the set of existing values, social beliefs, power dynamics, assumptions, patterns, habits and paradigms.
Globally, there are numerous examples of societies who have gone through a conscious transformation, have successfully revitalised themselves and sustained that change. On the contrary, societies who have resisted social transformation create nothing but isolation and backwardness for their social units. Historically, societies have transformed themselves from agricultural, industrial, service and knowledge-based workers. Any society that has its foundation on knowledge-based workers has more potential to transform itself than the traditional or cultural societies.
Universally, societies are embarked upon a journey towards enlightenment, social advancement and embracing liberal values. Gender roles are redefined and accepted worldwide, and societies strengthen their foundations laid on liberal-democratic principles for peaceful coexistence. On the contrary, our society is on the notion of reverse development and continues to uphold conservative values regarding the role and status of women and minorities in the name of religion and so-called cultural norms, with a rigid mindset towards pluralism and diversity. This denial of liberal values and individual freedom has resulted in aggressiveness, frustration and intolerance, with increasing violence against those who have different socio-cultural and religious orientations. We kill Hazaras, Ahmadis, Shias, Christians; we blow up schools, shoot girls, kill women in the name of honour, deny basic rights to women, force Christians and Hindus to migrate or convert, but still, ‘We are the best in world.’ What is this mindset? What change do we need?
Although the incidence of external triggering factors has been rampant in the case of Pakistan, the critical nature of internal factors that are resisting the liberal-social transformation and triggering the factors for reversing liberal development cannot be overlooked. The irony is that it is always ‘they’ who are to be blamed for all bad things that happen. ‘They’ are the ones who are responsible for all evils in our society. These non-tangible ones are not only behind militancy, terrorism, sectarian killings, failure of democracy and frequent takeovers by the armed forces, but also bad governance, corruption, heaps of garbage in the streets, stagnant rainwater even after a month, children dying of measles, people dying of substandard cough syrup, malnourished children, gender disparity, failure to rehabilitate flood-affected people, crumbling infrastructure, declining health indicators and the poor standard of education.
They are constantly conspiring against ‘us’ in order to demoralise and isolate us. And yes, it is actually they who are portraying us badly through their sponsored media since ‘we’ are the best. Peace is the only thing we always want and we respect women from the core of our hearts, and that is why we want to keep them in chadar (covering shawl) and chardeewari (the four walls of the home). Since ‘they’ are always on the mission to make our women step out as equal citizens and play their ‘productive’ role in society instead of only the ‘reproductive’ one, therefore we have to take extra measures to ensure their mission fails. We would do that even if we have to shoot a Malala or produce a Maya Khan, who was after all only showing the true faces of ‘bad’ women to society.
Now, what should we do to overcome this invisible, powerful and intangible force called ‘they’? This always remains a mystery. The better solution is that instead of wishing for them to change, we should focus on changing ourselves. To bring about real change, we need to focus more on ourselves instead of them. Believing that change always comes from within, and external factors always facilitate the process of change, we will be more able to focus on the ‘internal factors’. We can assert our authority to influence the internal factors to change in our favour but we might not get success in influencing ‘them’. As it is rightly said, “Be the change you want to see around.”
Peeping deep into the global fabric of society, there is a paradigm shift in social and moral values now. Societies are inclined to values that are more liberal, democratic, respecting diversity by viewing it as a natural phenomenon, and above all, valuing humanity. Embracing the global brotherhood of humanity irrespective of caste, creed, religion and socio-economic status is the one practical solution that we all should be practising. This should also be a global agenda for peace and harmony, to make this world a better living place. This is the right time to critically examine, understand and redefine our beliefs regarding ‘their’ role in our collective lives. Adopting and adjusting the new set of values with human brotherhood at the core to coexist peacefully should be the individual and collective agenda for now. We need to understand and emphasise the significance of a new war against all social evils and to save humanity. It is a war of mutual survival for all of us and we have to join hands in this war against poverty, social injustice, illiteracy and conservative values regarding women and others who are different from us in any way. We are all responsible for not allow the hijacking of liberal spaces in our society. It is actually we who can assert ourselves to reclaim the spaces that are being encroached on or polluted by non-democratic and conservative forces. It is only we who are practically responsible to facilitate the change in our own favour. It is us against us, instead of them against us.
Shabnam Baloch is the Provincial Manager at the Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), Sindh