No, this is not about the non-memogeist, though it was funny, and deeply ironic, how Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Mansoor Ijaz, lamented that neither the army nor Mian Nawaz Sharif seemed much interested in it any more. Did he imply that the army should have remained seized of the matter even if it meant deepening the crisis and seizing the reins of the government in collaboration with the judiciary and supported by the political opposition? Seemed thus to me.
Neither is this about the selective application of NRO and the President’s immunity, though it was equally amusing to see Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan demolish Justice (retd) Khalil Ramday’s argument on immunity.
All of this and much more, being routine and interminable we shall have time to write about. So, this week it is about the media and the do-gooders.
We now have, Allah be praised, one Maya Khan, whose secret desire in life is to take the camera to the parks in Karachi and catch dating “couples”. She has taken it upon herself to rid the society of this menace, boys and girls responding to their hormones in this repressed society being the number one problem of this country.
Reminds me of this 2009 episode at LUMS when one student, a woman again, decided to videotape “couples” on the LUMS premises. Under the caption [email protected], this is what I wrote:
“Far from the usual misconception that totalitarian mindsets are always bloody, they are often grounded in a deep desire to do something good. In fact, so deeply ingrained can be the desire to do good that it can convince someone that he/she alone knows what is good for others.
“And doing good, or getting others to do good and by implication preventing them from doing what is not good and therefore harming themselves and others must always be good…no? At the level of the primer, yes.
“Beyond the primary level, however, someone hell-bent on doing good is as much a social nuisance as a misanthropist. Indeed, while one doesn’t often see ‘bad’ people hawking their wares, the do-gooders strut around like cocks (yes, there was a time cocks were just called that!) and wear their do-goodness on their puffed up chests and colourful plumes.
“The history of ideas is interesting in this regard and one sees how a person moves from accepting an ideology of goodness to wanting to spread it around to realising that doing good demands that others, if necessary, be subjected to the ideology, too bad if the process involves some violence and the killing of a few million here and a few million there. The end, after all, is all – or, as Albert Camus said, even to achieve innocence we have to wade through bloodshed.
“If goodness is the end-result, and if it demands that a few be put to the sword, the benefit of recreating Eden far outweighs the cost of condemning some because those who are thus condemned are the ones standing between the utopia and its realisation anyway.
“The journey from conceptualising, doing, and spreading good, to a violent realisation of the perceived Eden is one of the most important lessons of the history of ideas and the strand that runs through it is the paradox.”
Of course it would be optimistic to think that Ms Khan is privy to the history of ideas or would even know such an animal exists. From the way she conducted the programme it is clear that she is even ignorant of the technical and professional requirements of the medium she is using to earn a hefty salary package. She typifies what TV has come to in this country; not only that but also how people with no ideas and brains the size of peanuts have actually come to define the genre and become powerful and, yes, dangerous.
Any decent editor/director would have fired her. But I am wrong. No decent editor/director would have hired her in the first place. The problem with engaging such small and vulgar minds is that one can’t rely on the strength of ideas because appreciating ideas requires sophistication that normally eludes such people. There’s an adage in Punjabi, chirriaan di maut tay ganvaraan da haasa. Ms Khan is not someone who could appreciate Faberge eggs because she won’t be able to eat them. She is boorish and uncouth, as was her smirking, self-righteous posse who felt happy at chasing boys and girls in the parks of Karachi.
Inquisitiveness and doubt are two basic ingredients of knowledge which requires connecting dots, finding affinities, to quote Wordsworth’s line, in objects where no brotherhood exists to common minds. There are many aspects to this debate at the individual and collective levels. I would be the first to acknowledge that it is difficult to draw lines and even determine hard cases. What should be allowed, where, how, when and to what extent? What is the dialectic between tradition and the change that comes in many ways and puts its own burdens on the known and the accepted.
I’d also acknowledge that there is no rule of thumb. There never can be in human affairs which is why righteous, linear approaches fail so badly. But when we insist on ethics and norms, we ignore, wittingly or unwittingly, the fact that ethics is a veritable minefield. One just has to read the trolley experiments to see the inability of linear thinking to grapple with choices.
My problem then is: how can we allow a woman as dumb as this television anchor to wield so much power through the camera? Are we, in the media, prepared to look at these issues beyond TRPs? Perhaps not. We now take the camera even to people lying in coma, Arfa Karim, God bless her, being a case in point, with channels vying to get breaking news on her. From the terrible scarcity of information we now have a nauseating excess of it.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2012.