Meaningful introspection: A concept lost on us

The only hope of reformation and betterment lies within this noble habit of accepting our faults.


Sarah Khan July 12, 2013
The writer is a senior at LUMS studying Economics and Politics and tweets @SarahKhan50

The Abbottabad Commission Report recently leaked by Al Jazeera has put Pakistan’s state machinery in an embarrassing position and for all the right reasons. It is increasingly distressing to watch the blame-games and finger-pointing theatricals being broadcast on television. The civilian leadership is insistent upon hurling all sorts of accusations; while the representatives of the military, euphemistically known as the defence analysts, appear eager to elucidate that the civilian authorities are equally responsible for the colossal debacle.

It is a very simple principle to understand that the act of not owning one’s mistakes is equivalent to a gravely stubborn impasse which defeats the purpose of a thorough inquiry in the first place. In order to redress a failure, improve a system, and avoid similar disasters in future, it is absolutely imperative as the first step to own the fault. How can a mistake be corrected if no one is even willing to accept that they have made it?

Future stability at the cost of temporary humiliation is not an irrational trade-off at all, if larger national interests are as sincerely considered as fervently as patriotic sentiments are brandished. In order to break the pattern of national humiliations, there must be a consensus upon placing the future above the past, and national prestige above personal egos.

I have always found finger-pointing habits ingrained deep in our culture and character. There are numerous instances when we have absolved ourselves from our self-committed faults and allocated all energies towards external conspiracy-laden explanations. To note two recent examples: nine foreign tourists were brutally massacred near Nanga Parbat, and some of our well-known anchorpersons and analysts began to say that perhaps India may be involved in this. Similarly, in the case of the bombing of the Ziarat Residency, there was an almost immediate uproar about a foreign hand.

Surely with evidence, a foreign hand in any of the incidents can be proven, or disproven. But the point is that it is far more important for us and our state to own up to the blame that were incompetent in the case of the May 2 raid. Even in the case of the Ziarat Residency, the incident should, more than anything else, prod us to reflect upon how our own stubborn negligence bore separatist movements in the first place. But unfortunately, meaningful introspection is a concept lost on us as a nation.

For our pathological selective blindness, the diagnosis of the root-cause is not as elusive as the remedy. Most of us have been brought up, educated, and socialised to believe that we can do no wrong. Take for instance, Pakistan Studies which indoctrinates us with a conflict model of history through which we choose to portray ourselves as the innocent victim while the ‘wicked bloodthirsty Hindus’ incessantly ravaged our existence. Similarly, government textbooks emphasise the villainous role of the Indian army that led to the creation of Bangladesh, instead of displaying even a shred of regret at the way West Pakistan treated its eastern counterpart.

Our history lessons tell us that our country, our nation, has never been the aggressor in any war or conflict. That the provocative attack has always been launched first by the evil ‘Other’, is an idea embedded so deep in our minds that we fail to accept the objective view of history that might tell us a very different tale. My point is that, we as individuals and as a nation, find it practically unthinkable to see ourselves at fault, as a result of such indoctrination during formative years.

And therein lies the problem. Patriotism or loyalty to institutions should not mean blindfolding ourselves to our glaring failures, and to our history’s fiascoes. Love for one’s country must go beyond hollow sloganeering. A crumbling society cannot afford the luxury of blame games. Let us encourage among ourselves and also invite our rulers to develop the positive culture of introspection. The only hope of reformation and betterment lies within this noble habit of accepting our faults.

Let it be known that there is no treason in speaking up the truth.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.

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COMMENTS (16)

Shams Zaman | 8 years ago | Reply

Introspection alone wouldn't make a difference. There has to have a clear and transparent system of accountability as well. But the big question haunts us. Who would do it?? They all are one!

Babloo | 8 years ago | Reply When Pakistanis do introspection , i feel no need to list their flaws.
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