Monday, December 31, 2007

It is time to learn from the mistakes that were made by those who came before us

Let there be no doubt, I love my country and all that it has to offer. My country being of course my adopted homeland, the United States of America. However, I am concerned and I want to warn my fellow citizens; look out. There lurks something unsavory amongst us and it is getting stronger.

I was not always an American; I was born in Pakistan. Same as with religion, the Pakistani nationality is something with which I was encumbered upon birth; without me having any choice in the matter. And just like I did with my religion after I came to an age of reason, I shunned my Pakistani citizenship. I became godless and homeless at the same time.

Now that I have established a wonderful life in the US and am no longer without a place to hang my proverbial hat, I have grown very protective of my adopted home. I want to protect it at all costs; I don’t want my fellow citizens to make the same mistakes that the once great people of the Sub-Continent made.

The years that I spent reciting prayers of my former religion and singing Pak Sur Zameen were not a complete waste. I learned a lot; as Joyce said “mistakes are portals of discovery”. I made a lot of mistakes and consequently discovered a lot; even discovered the meaning of life; yes I did. More on that later.

So, what did I learn and what is mistake which I see my fellow citizens making? What am I trying to preach against from my mound?

I love the Bayou country. The food, the people, the lazy atmosphere, the culture, the fantastic accent, the music, the spices, the tastes, the architecture, the everything. The houses by the river remind of flamingos; brightly colored and standing on stilts. All their bulk and feathers and beaks supported by tall, thin, strong, proud poles; poles that make sure that the bird is always above all the mud and muck and danger underneath. Societies are like that too.

In Pakistan, I learned that the tall, thin, strong, proud people always support the bulk and feathers of a chosen few. Why do they do it? Is it because the poles are not intelligent? Not at all. Then what motivates them to become the bulk carriers? That is the billion, trillion, zillion dollar question; the chosen few are always looking for new answers; you see, they like being propped up.

Historically, the bulk carries have been motivated by some combination of fear and reward. They have always carried the chosen few and protected them from the muck and mud and dangers that came along. They have been the expendable, the sacrificial, the fungible. Their rewards and fears have come in two flavors; divine and mortal.

Somewhere along the way, the bright, the chosen, the intelligent, the privileged discovered that the combination of divine and mortal fear, mixed with a little reward, makes for a particularly intoxicating combination to control the behavior and attitude of the poles of the society. The fear quenches any disgruntlement that arises when the burden gets too heavy; the occasional reward makes for a nice and inexpensive token of false appreciation; especially inexpensive as the burden bearers are the ones feeding the coffers from which the material rewards are dolled out. The big reward, salvation, of course is free to distribute.

A historical while later, the bright, chosen, the intelligent, the privileged found one more inebriating ingredient for the recipe of ultimate pole control; nationalism. So for those of you keeping count we now have fear of king, fear of god and love of country keeping the poles steady as they hold up the bulk and feathers and beaks of the society.

Thus the dynasties were born; and the religions and the countries. The tall, the thin, the strong, the proud have since carried the bulk, the feathers, the beaks for the fear of king, fear of god and love country.

The founding fathers of my adopted country were keenly aware of this intoxicating and inebriating cocktail of submission and control. Jefferson wrote “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes”.

So why am I on the mound today? I see this great county of mine making the same mistakes that the people of the Land of the Pure, Pakistan made; they are drinking the Kool-Aid dispensed by the religious leaders; their tongues are turning purple; they are seeking salvation and finding it through those who want to be propped up for personal and political gains.

The Talibaniasation of this great country of mine is accelerating. Everyday I meet people, educated people, people who have been judged to have analytical skills by colleges and universities, people who have the mental capacity to reason, people who should know better, and I see that they have tasted, enjoyed, loved and devoured the purple Kool-Aid from the god peddlers. They don’t believe in evolution of species; they feel that they are superior than other beasts; they believe that they are entitled to heaven and its rewards while the others who lack believes in toothfairies or Santa or Jesus or Moses or Mohammad are doomed to burn in hell. Why this horrible fate? Because the compassionate and merciful god said so.

Now I see presidential candidates tripping all over themselves trying to prove to the public that they are more religious than the other choices; that they worship the right god; that their heaven is not in Missouri but is in the sky; that their decisions are not guided by human reason and human compassions but by divine reason and divine compassion. The same divine compassion that will burn humans in hell in perpetuity if they fail to mumble the exact magic words that the merciful and compassionate god wants them to mumble.

This is the exact same phenomenon which I witnessed in Pakistan 22 years ago. Look at Pakistan now; broken; dysfunctional; marching proudly towards the dark ages. Praise the lord, his will is done; kids are dying; women are raped; men are killed; salvation is attained.

It is time to learn from the mistakes that were made by those who came before us.

People, my fellow citizens, learn from the mistakes of my former country and my forefathers. Don’t prop up the bulk, the feathers, the beaks of the elite even if they are asking you to do for the love of god. Bo proud that you are humans; be proud that you have intellect; be proud that you can reason; be proud that you are evolved; be proud that you live is a country where you don’t have to believe in the toothfairy or Santa or god.

You only have one life; live it for the betterment of your kids, your country and humanity. As for that elusive meaning of life, Homer said it long time ago, even before we invented most religions:

Insignificant mortals, who are as leaves are,
and now flourish and grow warm with life,
and feed on what the ground gives,
but then again fade away and are dead.

Remember, greatness comes from your deeds; it is not bestowed by toothfairies or Santa or god.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What should the future hold?

First, let me get my bias right in front of you: I am an Ex-Pakistani. I left Pakistan over 22 years ago and frankly, until recently, have not thought about the place at all. I sill crave the food and some friends but not much else. I left because after years of working for Jamaat-e-Islami / Jameeat Tulba ul Islam, (I am related to some “top dogs” in these organizations) I could no longer stand the exploitation of the poor, uneducated and deprived by the religious and political leaders. I could have stayed and built a future selling salvation like my relatives are doing up to this day, but I wanted to do more with my life. You see, unlike my relatives, I only have one life; no after life or eternal life for me; so I wanted to make the best of this one. So, now we all know my bias.

Now for the reasonable part:

How do we judge a theory? We do that by conducting careful experiments and by carefully and objectively evaluating the results. We let things percolate for a reasonable time and see if the derivative product or phenomenon supports the initial hypothesis.

So, after thousands of years of a very successful enterprise, when the people of the Sub-Continent for various reasons, succumbed to the abhorrent British Raj, some people, in order to unite the masses, floated a theory; the “two nation theory”; an artificial divide, based solely on religion; quick way to unite the poor and uneducated; sign up now and be rewarded in the eternal life.

Forget that there is no genetic or national or ancestral or cultural or biological or any other conceivable difference between the members of the two “nations”. Just that one’s god is better than the other’s god.

The people did bite on the idea, divided up the land; killed their neighbors and raped the little girls who grew up with them in the houses next door; marched on to salvation. They now had the Land of the Pure; they had a place where brothers and sisters from next door could not enter; they had a place where they could teach their young which hand to use to wipe themselves after going potty; they had a place where they could tell their pretty little daughters that they were napaak because they menstruated; they had a place where they could tell definitively how long a beard was required to get into heaven; their lord had truly blessed them. Which blessings of your lord will you deny? (Fa bay aayee aalaa ye rubbay kuma tokaazzi baan)

Fast forward to now; this “two nation” experiment has been percolating for over sixty years. Two parallel experiments: one religious and one secular; side by side. It is time to announce the results.

Let’s look at India: secular; with its problems; killed a lot of great leaders like Ghandi, et all; riots; religious calashes; but an overwhelming nationalistic attitude. The national focus is not salvation but betterment of human life in the here and now; one of the fastest growing economies; still has a lot of poverty but poised to lead the world as super power in 50 to 100 years.

Let’s look at Pakistan: founded on religion; losing industry; manufacturing in decline; not attracting foreign investments; under a dictatorship for majority of its existence. Which blessings of your lord will you deny?

From people perspective, there is no difference between India and Pakistan. They are the same people; they share common ancestry; they look the same; they share the same genes; they are brothers and sisters. The only difference is the artificial divide based upon the “two nation” theory.

Friends, the two nation theory has failed; it is time to take the land back from the molvis and mullahs. Let’s not quibble over which hand to use to wipe yourself after you poop or which prayer to say when you take a step or other religious trivialities. Do something to fix the here and now; look to fix the future on earth. Even major religious icons did not wait for the hoors in jannat; they took young wives in the here and now; there here and now was better than yours.

It is time that all reasonable people, after witnessing the failure of the two nation theory, which has divided artificially the brilliant and wonderful people of the great Sub-Continent, to rise and take the land and its people back to its glory days. The days before the artificial divide; the days when neighbors were neighbors who loved each other; the days when you played with the little boys and girls next door because you loved them for what they were, not because they used the same hand to wipe themselves as you did; the days when the focus was on making the Country and its people great and was not on seeking salvation;the days when the poor and the uneducated had a future that would take them out of poverty and misery and not throw them back in the abyss of hopelessness thereby driving them into perpetual despair leading them to strap bombs on themselves, killing the wonderful men, women and children people who could make this a great land.

It is time to end the artificial divide. Get up and do you part.