Are Pakistanis really getting dumber?

We prefer senseless protests and conspiracy theories to reason and logic any day. Here's to stupidity...

Maheen Usmani March 19, 2011
A friend told me how miffed he was on being told by his editor that his blog had not been shared online because it wasn’t “share friendly” or “reader friendly”.

He was told it was a great write up, but it wouldn’t appeal to the average reader because it was above his or her IQ level.

The incident made me think: is our society in danger of being a victim of stupidity?

Cyber warriors ahoy!

Reading comments posted by cyber warriors makes one realise how our society is being slowly and inexorably sucked into the vortex of stupidity. The polarization of views in the country is increasingly being reflected on social networks, blogs and links.

Most people tend to be abusive, contemptuous or plain rude. It’s far easier to resort to personal arguments when your argument is weak, and discourse is dragged down to truly cringe-worthy level.

Whatever happened to calm and enlightening dialogue? Instead of relying on objectivity and analysis, blogs and write ups are becoming more and more emotional and most people seem to take offense at the drop of a hat.

Whither education?

How can there be a solid foundation to anchor any debate when our learning has become shallow and fragile?

Hence, people clutch at straws like religion or patriotism to shore up their point of view, no matter how ludicrous it may be.

Our annual spending on education, which should be at least above four per cent, has gone down to 1.5 per cent of our GDP. This amount is less than the subsidy given to PIA alone!

Most of our graduates tend to be tongue tied when answering basic questions about the subject they have majored in and there is zero emphasis on research and development or science and technology.

Students prefer rote learning and are reluctant to question or analyse. Books are slowly losing their allure and people are turning to websites, videos and social networking. But it seems that we are not capable of harnessing the brave new world of technology which is at our fingertips. Why else would our minds be shrinking day by day along with our level of tolerance?

We don’t need no thought control

The youth of our country has been cast aside, floating on a sea of muck, looking desperately for an anchor.

Sadly, this refuge has been provided to them by charlatans and demagogues who have found their idle minds to be a devil’s workshop. Let’s cast a look at our “heroes” who command a mass following. It’s evident that the demagoguery and rhetoric of Zaid Hamid, Hameed Gul, Altaf Hussain, AQ Khan and Fareed Piracha et al sway public opinion and can even bring a teeming mass of humanity out on the streets.

Meanwhile, men of learning, reason, logic and common sense like Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr Ghamidi and Dr Farooq Khan are being silenced, exiled or subjected to ridicule and indifference.

A talk show aired in the aftermath of Salmaan Taseer’s murder featured Jamaat-e-Islami icons like Fareed Paracha facing Dr Hoodbhoy in front of an audience comprising of university students.

While Dr Hoodbhoy was being shouted down by the religious brigade, it was shocking to witness the applause from the students for the fire and brimstone speeches of Piracha et al. If our indoctrinated youth don’t listen to the voices of sanity brave enough to speak out, what hope is there for our coming generations?

Talking at each other

Are we even listening to each other? Conversation seems to be a lost art. It seems that we are talking at each other, instead of talking to each other. Why are we seeking to drown out others while insisting on our right to speak?

But we were not always like this.

I remember listening in fascination to my parents’ friends holding forth on topics ranging from art, literature, music, history, politics and religion. Couplets from favourite poets would be tossed in to further embellish anecdotes and critiques.

No furrowed brows, or raised voices or unpleasantness of any nature would mar those mellow evenings. Everyone had their say and any disagreements which cropped up would be tackled patiently.

As the evening drew to a close, people with opposing points of view would embrace and promise to continue the discussion elsewhere which would elicit smiles and groans from others.

Once upon a time we had riveting TV quiz programmes like Kasauti. It was a delight to witness the parry and thrust between renowned personalities Obaidullah Baig, Quraishpur and Ghazi Salahuddin.  Their finesse, clarity of vision, sagacity and courtesy were an education in itself.

Now we have nuggets of wisdom from the menacing Home Minister (also known as Minister on the loose) Zulfiqar Mirza, where he threatens guests and bureaucrats and proudly claims that he is a ‘badmaash’ (scoundrel) if it’s a badge of honour.

To top it off, there are colourful ‘lotas’ being spun on tables between shrieking anchors and shrill guests.

Raymond Davis vs Sialkot lynchers: spot the difference

Not a single soul is bothered about the travesty of justice in the Sialkot lynching case, where two young lives were lost to mob fury. But strangely enough, the lives of the two men gunned down by Raymond Davis hold more importance just because the killer happens to be an American.

Does this mean we can kill as many people as we wish, but woes betide any foreigner from doing the same?

Suddenly justice and Islam come into play for the very same mullahs who keep their mouths shut over sexual abuse, rape, extortion, murder and embezzlement.

Why are these religious banshees not incensed over the Hajj scam case? Our venerable Religious Affairs Minister Hameed Saeed Kazmi and his sidekicks have pocketed millions at the expense of Pakistani Hajjis, yet there is not a squeak out of these self righteous people patrolling the minds and hearts of the man on the street.

Why the noise over Raymond Davis’ release, with the Americans being blamed as well as our government?

Whither sovereignty when you refuse to pay taxes and take millions in aid from the very same USA? Wasn’t Davis set free according to the same Shariah the mullahs and the masses have been applauding for decades?

Earlier, people were desperate for justice for the victims, and shouting themselves hoarse over the plight of the poor widow who killed herself. But now that we know that the victims’ families have taken blood money and skipped the country, those very same people are agitating against the Diyat settlement.

It’s just another classic sign of stupidity. Why should the families look a gift horse in the mouth, that too an American thoroughbred one?

Pity the country where conspiracy theories thrive

Conspiracy theories are common in Pakistan. They specifically target the youth which accounts for a substantial per centage of our population. A recent example is the theory related to HAARP which is widely accepted in Pakistan to be behind earthquakes and all natural disasters all over the world.

Dr Attaur Rahman, a well-known Pakistani scientist, recently published a mind boggling article entitled HAARP. The article claims that a physics research project based in Alaska may have been used by the US to trigger earthquakes globally, and could also have caused the catastrophic floods in Pakistan.

HAARP stands for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme. Its website states it is a research program run by the University of Alaska in collaboration with various US colleges and universities. If HAARP is a secret military project conceived by evil and diabolical minds, it is hard to see why visitors, including foreign nationals, are said to be allowed on site. The website says that the last open house was on July 17, 2010.

I pity the country where leading intellectuals like Dr Atta are proposing conspiracy theories based on false research. The theories substantially contribute towards the backwardness of our society where people easily buy them because they provide the ‘feel-good’ element to the disenchanted youth where the blame is poured over other societies such as the ubiquitous “Zionists” or “Satanic Amreeka.”

Thus, it further creates an atmosphere where people fail to make a daunting effort for independent research. Isn’t it far easier to blame US for the floods, and ignore the fact that Pakistan lacks the infrastructure to deal with flood crisis?

Religion, the new feel good mantra

It is child’s play to mould the gullible masses - religion has become their opium. We are falling prey to sanctifying our crimes under the shroud of Quran, Sunnah and Shariah.

Start chanting Quranic verses whenever you wish to win any debate or accuse anyone of blasphemy who tries to present a differing point of view. Voila! There’s no need for any IQ or grey matter. Great thinkers and philosophers of the Muslim world like Ibne Sina, alBiruni, Umar Hayyam and alKhwarazimi must be turning in their graves to see the decline of intelligence and rational discourse in Pakistan.

We have turned into a herd of sheep prone to knee jerk reactions and short term memory, because we have given up our faculties of thought, reason and critical analysis. Bred on a diet of hate, vengeance and misguided patriotism, we refuse to look inwards or see our shortcomings and flaws.

As Ernest Newman put it so aptly:
The higher the voice, the smaller the intellect
Maheen Usmani A freelance writer who has covered subjects ranging from socio-political issues to women's rights to counter terrorism, sports, travel, culture and music. Maheen tweets @MaheenUsmani (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Anoop | 13 years ago | Reply @Nobody, Jinnah was wrong. A Sikh PM of India is the best example of this. Freedom Struggle had thrown up many capable leaders in every single part of the nation. But, nobody of worth decided to come to Pakistan. The greatest Muslim leader of the Freedom Struggle, Maulana Azad, declined to stay in Pakistan and even had predicted Bangladesh's creation. Jinnah convinced the Muslims of Northern India, alright, but he did not convince the intellectuals and the Freedom Fighters to join him. This going alone approach was a disaster from the start and it became evident when Jinnah died. There were no backups for him! India had scores of leaders and many of them from the minority communities. Everything about the creation of Pakistan was miscalculated. Either Jinnah was losing his marbles due to old age and couldn't predict the nightmare Pakistan will become or he knew it and still went on with it, which just proves his thirst for power. It can only be either one of the above 2 options.
Anoop | 13 years ago | Reply @Nobody: Buddy, I am not forcing you to read my comments. I dont say anything which is untrue and I am not afraid to express my opinion. If you think anything I have said is based on falsehood or you disagree, please share it with me and I'll offer my counter opinion. Not wanting nationals of other countries to comment is a little 'Talibanisque', dont you think? I think you are a reasonable guy, a kind of guy I would like. But, your resolve to push me off these blogs disappoint me. Talk sense and point out non-sense.
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