Terrorism and the resilience of our minds

For a society to continue functioning, it must continue to persevere no matter what the odds


Zushan Hashmi March 01, 2017
The writer is a Policy & Research Coordinator for the South Asia Study Group, at the University of Sydney, Australia

As attacks on Pakistan continue, citizens continue to show resilience in the face of dangers that would put most other nations to a complete standstill. However, it is inevitable that with such resilience, a lot of people are increasingly becoming immune to the idea of others dying around them. After all, for a society to continue functioning (in whatever so capacity that may be), it must continue to persevere no matter what the odds. Yet, one cannot help but wonder, is our immunity (manifesting from this resilience) towards these atrocities truly as beneficial as we believe it to be?

Currently, it seems that our immunity towards this violence has increased so much that the very first thought springing to our minds, isn’t that of people dying or what the solution behind, and reasons for, these attacks are, rather it has to do with whether or not the Pakistan Super League final will be taking place in Lahore. Yes, we have received confirmation of this, but when it comes to such a poor security situation, we inherently rethink the scenario, and make assumptions on what the outcome will be. However leaving aside the matter of where the final will be played, when hundreds are dying and our thoughts are directed towards minuscule matters, what exactly does this say about our psyche, as a society and as a nation? Have we become so immune to terrorism that PSL is prioritised in our heads, albeit unintentionally, over the murders of innocent lives, and the lack of human security in Pakistan, while considering the repercussions of these attacks?

This, of course, is not to say that our society is not devastated. After all, no one in their right mind can truly ignore and disregard violent attacks on civilians, particularly in places that they hold dear. However, when this subliminally becomes a normality within our minds, society has no choice but to accept its reality for what it is, and in this case it is that Pakistan is still very much ravaged by terrorism that can demoralise and shock places as well protected and ‘secure’ as Lahore, conversely leaving us completely rattled and awestruck.

Moreover, perhaps, it is the day and age that we live in, which further impacts this idea of immunity towards the aforementioned atrocities. It is unanimously agreed amongst scholars studying social media and its uses, that people are satisfied or at least gratified, when they post statements on social media, and in exchange, receive responses. In this case, is this need of ours to share our thoughts on violent attacks and terrorism enough though?

On first glance, any ordinary person would likely say no, but it is once again the subconscious means of our mind to attempt in satisfying our rage through social media outlets, as it enables us to feel as if we have ‘done enough’, when it comes to speaking out against such injustices and taking a stand against terrorism. And to see that most of our social media discussions on this topic deal with why no Pakistani flag-themed profile picture was issued by Facebook, or what the outcome, as abovementioned, of the PSL final will be, only furthers the narrative around immunity towards this violence.

Therefore, the only reason that these issues are being discussed in the first place, is because most of us have become immune to the fact that terrorism is alive and continues to strike Pakistan hard. And although this is mostly unintentional, until it does not change, it is likely that our politicians will continue doing what they do best. Which includes mass corruption, playing petty politics as if it were simply a game of wits, fighting in factions over whom the rightful heir to their nepotistic political party is, and calling for the heads of their opposition leaders, rather than doing what needs to be done, in this case putting an end to the country’s horrid security situation.

Hence, until and unless we do not rethink our own conceptualisations of justice, and re-evaluate how this narrative around resilience in the wake of terrorism supposedly makes us stronger and braver, we cannot objectively view the gruesomeness and destruction that has befallen Pakistan, while trying to hold our politicians accountable for what we now consider to be a normal part of life in the Land of the Pure — terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2017.

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