1. The hairdos, the BlackBerrys/iPhones, the designer bags and shades, the ultra-hip T-shirts with slogans which no one but civil society can understand and the classy shoes and sandals which only civil society can afford.
2. Slacktivism i.e. all talk, no action. Civil society is fantastically effective at arranging get togethers, luncheons, sit-downs, sit-ins, tweet-ups, protest-Facebook-pages, protest-volleyball-matches and lets-clean-one-street-a-month day. They just suck at doing anything which really makes a difference.
3. Their goddamn “political correctness” about everything from gender and race to puppy stroking and pornography. Apparently civil society has been inspired by the thought police from Orwell’s “1984”.
4. The adulation of all things Pakistani, irrespective of the fact that they know squat all about Pakistan or the fact that almost everything they own is from abroad. Ever watched civil society swooning to Abida Parveen at late night Rs 1,000 concerts while having a barely passing knowledge of Urdu? “But it’s the in thing dude!”
5. How most civil society protests are less about the issue at hand and more about taking the right profile photo for Facebook.
6. Herd mentality. The way civil society always shows up en masse to protest whatever is popular and doing the rounds on TV channels, but will never show up to protest anything outside the idiot box.
7. Their vehement “Down with America, the EVIL EMPIRE!” chants hand-in-hand with religiopolitical parties at press club rallies, and their secret disdain and loathing for those very same religiopolitical parties with whom they would never never be caught dead sharing a cup of tea with (but would gladly share the same fanaticism on a Sunday afternoon).
8. How almost all those who fall under the civil society cadre live in abject denial of all the above.
9. How infinitesimally small and incestuous the group is. It takes two protests, one get together and a couple of ‘happening’ art gallery visits to get to know 90 per cent of civil society living in any of the major cities (and remember, civil society is always urban, because presumably rural society equals the uncivil ‘awaam’).
10. The ever constant worry that I may be mistaken for civil society, and worse, the deep, dark fear that I may be one of them.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 30th, 2010.
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