For all the wrong reasons!

Feisal was making two points regarding Toru; privileged class protesting, and inappropriate behavior of the police.

Ejaz Haider March 27, 2011

Feisal Naqvi has penned a beauty. I would happily byline it. The comments under his article, most though not all, however, made me think if, between Zohair Toru’s ahistorical innocence and our remarkable inability to understand subtleties, we are ready for anything that could break us free of our current dilemmas. Consider.

Feisal was making two points, simple but subtle. In Mr Toru we saw a young man whose entire conditioning would have belied the possibility of his being out on a street and protesting and that he genuinely, even if fantastically naively, felt that it was inappropriate for the police to push around nonviolent protestors.

These two points were the peg of Feisal’s piece but in them he thought, and I largely agree, lay exciting possibilities for our future. There can be no doubt that if those in this society who have no ostensible reason to take to the street — because their circumstances shield them from the daily grind that is the fate of millions — decide to do exactly that, take to the street and protest, it manifests a positive that has long been missing.

And if the same privileged realise, through an empirical test, what the police does to the millions and find that abominable, that too is a happy development even when, as Feisal noted, it may be “so beautifully innocent, so perfectly divorced from all prior history and past experiences that one feels much like the fabled Grinch in taking a contrary view”.

The article should have kicked off an informed debate; instead, we have ad hominem comments, some readers wanting to know why the writer would denigrate Mr Toru by making fun of his hairstyle or the manner in which he spoke or describe him as a burger-baby, etc. What these geniuses missed out on was that Feisal was making his two important points in sharp contrast to what the boy stood for, both in his conditioning and in his demeanour. That was what made the observations carry the weight they did.

Beyond this lies the issue of Feisal’s reasoning: Whether what he observed can lead to what he thinks it can or will. That is a different domain and one can raise other questions. Yet, raising those other questions does not take away from the nuances Feisal picked up in the entire Mr Toru episode. In any case, Feisal is quite clear that “any revolution is going to be a long time a coming if it is dependent on people like” Mr Toru.

But other questions are important too and that is the essence of the process that begins with some fine observations. For instance, one question can be whether it is Mr Toru’s remarkably ahistorical innocence that would lead to the police reconsidering its methods, and if so, how? One can even talk about it in terms of Einstein’s quote of simplicity and complexity — the difference between this side of the complexity for which someone wouldn’t give a nickel and the other for which someone would give his life.

So the simple can be, and usually is, complex.

Finally, dear reader, in terms of making observations and developing a thought or a theory, one often relies on parsimony, the use of the simplest method of explanation which rules that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”. In 700 words or less, the exercise of frugality becomes even more important. But the fact is that the method is used in multiple disciplines, ranging from pure sciences to social sciences and, quite often, as a heuristic device, what we call a rule of thumb.

Parsimony is not without its downside. The demand that one should accept the simplest possible theoretical explanation for existing data is tricky because new data becomes available which forces us to reconsider the original explanation; or, as also happens, people can arrive at different explanations even on the basis of the same set(s) of existing data.

But that is the challenge. That is what constitutes debate. That is what helps us untangle the equation between simplicity and complexity. What was required here was to carry the debate forward; challenge if you must what Feisal said but for the right reasons.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2011.


Viqar ul Haq | 10 years ago | Reply The views of a majority of the commentators do not buy the argument that we have to move from an illiterate rural feudal leadership to a more forward literate urban political class. Maybe our Toru was just trying to air his feelings of the chaos and corruption that mars our leadership. Every day we read of one scam followed by another, one corrupt politician followed by another, one bust after another, one lie highlighting another lie, one irregular appointment followed by an even more irregular appointment, and to top it all, we find our leadership playing topsy turvy games with the judiciary. It is a long time since we saw the rulers taking any judicial decision in its merit or executing the orders of our supreme judicial body, whether they like it or not. So, Mr. Toru must be jinxed with all this rotten state of the is just beyond belief that the state institutions work with such mockery of law. The TV screens , the anchors, the commentators, the analysts, and the bigwigs of constitutional law advocate the low esteem we have for what is happening all around. Someone has to come forward and show us the way forward. We are taught in our text books to follow the path of truth, to shun vice, to follow the path of righteousness, and all those stories of our great leaders who made it possible for us to have a country of our own. We pay annual tributes to our long dead leaders and resolve to follow the guidelines given by them, but never practice. It is high time our youth from the educated urban classes took it on themselves to find the solution to all our ills. Why do we want to vote back the same old lotas to the assemblies with their myopic minds and ways.For how long will we be ridiculed by these self proclaimed puritans and dynastic feudal class. We have a better education base to provide a new life to the national ruling regimes. Enough is enough. Let the new generation take over.
observer | 10 years ago | Reply @Ejaz Haider In Mr Toru we saw a young man whose entire conditioning would have belied the possibility of his being out on a street and protesting and that he genuinely, even if fantastically naively, felt that it was inappropriate for the police to push around nonviolent protestors. The framing of the issues is rather simplistic. Mr Toru is still far removed from 'protesting', he has in fact come out to assert his conformity. Look at it this way.He is a 'good Muslim' from a 'good Pardanasheen' household. And if there is a good 'Muslim/Islamic' demo, castigating the 'Christian Devil Davis' and praising 'Dukhtaran-e-Quom' Dr Aafia there is no reason why he should not add his two bit. After all they do make the mandatory donations to the JuDs and the Tablighis. Of course you would not find Mr Toru out in the streets protesting the fate of Taseer, Aasia or Bhatti in the best of weather, with little possibility of any one becoming 'karab' in the heat and dust. So the stepping out is not a departure from the 'conditioning' but a reinforcement of the same. Coming to his naivety about the Police atrocity bit. Let us remember this guy is studying 'Law', and is informed enough to come out on the streets.So the gentleman being unaware of how 'protesters' are being treated in Balochistan or how they have been treated elsewhere in Pakistan does not cut any ice. So where does the 'innocent hurt' come from? Consider a nice boy from a good 'deeni' family, carrying out a 'deeni' protest, in a 'deeni' country has every right to feel indignant at the 'la-deeni' conduct of the police. Whether the budding lawyer believes that Pakistan police should behave well with all protesters, just ask him if he will come out to protest FCs handiwork in Balochistan.
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