Dignity, Integrity & Self Respect

In a debate on Twitter recently, Dr Awab Alvi wrote that “Pakistan needs a position of dignity, integrity & self respect vs being run by Foreign nations”. I agree completely. Actually, I suspect Dr Awab and I would agree on a lot of things. Where we diverge, though, is on the path to get there. Some in Pakistan who are jokingly called as the Ghairat Brigade (they call themselves PTI among other things) believe that these traits of dignity, integrity & self respect are found through intransigence, deception and denial.

Intransigence vs Integrity

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. But having strong moral principles does not mean refusing to admit when you are wrong. Anytime some criticism is made of Pakistan, we immediately point fingers in the face of our critics. This is especially the case when any criticism is made of the military. But our military is made of men, not angels, and like all men they make mistakes. This is only natural, and not a humiliation. Even the mightiest armies of history are known to make miscalculations. Oh how Napoleon would take back his invasion of Russia! The Japanese their attack on Pearl Harbor! The Americans their Vietnam! It is the true friend who warns you when you are taking the wrong path. It is your enemy who quietly lets you go astray. Integrity is gained by honesty and responsibility, not stubborn refusal to admit mistakes.

Self Respect vs Deception

To listen to the Ghairat Brigade, we can never have self respect so long as we accept foreign aid. We must stand on our own feet. But standing on your own feet doesn’t meant that you refuse help. Should students refuse scholarships? Should the poor refuse zakat? Actually, the student who humbly accepts his scholarship, just as the poor man who humbly accepts zakat to feed his family are able to stand tall with self respect even though they are accepting help because they are using it to improve their opportunities, to make something of themselves. They are taking responsibility for improving their lives and not blaming others as their excuse to not improve.

The Ghairat Brigades say that all our problems are caused by someone else. If we just cut ties with the Americans, there will be no poverty, no corruption, no violence. Just this week LeJ killed dozens of innocent Pakistanis, and the same day I saw the Keyboard Commandoes of Lashkar-e-Ghairat telling people that there is no such thing as LeJ – it is a RAW conspiracy! As long as we are lying to ourselves, how can we ever hope to respect ourselves?

Dignity vs Denial

In his latest piece for Express Tribune Raza Rumi makes clear the problem with denial.

The anti-Americanism paranoia about India, imagined plots to steal our nuclear weapons and the ultimate ‘terrorists-cannot-be-Muslims’ mantra have entered the popular imagination of Pakistanis. These days, there is an overt attempt by several analysts, opinion-makers and even academics to rationalise conspiracy theories. Reportedly, a UK-based Pakistani academic delivered a talk at a Karachi seminar, rationalising the conspiracy theory that the infamous Blackwater (a US contractor) was responsible for attacks on mosques and shrines in Pakistan.

This is no longer a laughing matter. It is a serious state of collective denial that needs to be unpacked and rectified for our long-term stability and survival. This will lead us nowhere: we deny that there is violence against women, we deny that there is rampant child abuse; and we reject that we have allowed for a large section of society to get radicalised in the recent decades. We deny that our textbooks are poisonous for young minds, for the hate they spread, and we refute that sermons given in the name of a peaceful religion actually talk about killing non-Muslims. Above all, there is a widespread denial that minorities of Pakistan are increasingly under attack, including the Shias, Ahmadis, Zikris, and not just non-Muslims.

Denying our problems doesn’t give us dignity, it gives us problems. Dignity is something you get when you admit your mistakes, admit your problems, and work sincerely towards solving them. When you refuse to admit reality, even in the face of all evidence, you cannot have dignity. Rather you become a laughing stock to the world. Every nation has problems. It is those who admit them and face them that hold their heads high on the world stage. It is tyrants and dictators who try to hide in the shadows so that people can’t see their true face.

The Right Path

Pakistan needs a position of dignity, integrity & self respect, but it’s not going to get this via a programme of intransigence, deception and denial. Dignity, integrity and self respect are the products of honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Most of my friends can recite a hundred year’s worth of mistakes and misdeeds by the Americans. But if asked about certain black marks in our own history, they look totally confused and say that they’ve never heard this before. And why? Because for generations the Ghairat Brigades have been editing history books, inventing conspiracies, and blaming everyone in the world for all of our problems. They have tried for decades to improve the nation by intransigence, deception and denial, and look where it has taken us. Enough.

If we truly want to try the ‘untested’, we should not repeat the same mistakes of the past by basing our hopes in intransigence, deception and denial. We need to take the path of honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Only then we will find ourselves in a position of dignity, integrity & self respect.

We Don’t Need To Import Other People’s Crazies

Robert Anderson is a professor at an American Community College, and was in the US Air Force 44 years ago. He claims that, while he was in Vietnam, he was ‘loaned’ to the CIA for covert work. He also says quite explicitly that he was “was not an official of the CIA”. Nevermind that small detail, his story is presented as if he were the head of CIA himself. Also, nevermind the fact that the only proof that Mr Robert Anderson was a covert agent of CIA in Vietnam was his own word.

I learned about Mr Robert Anderson from an interview published by Dr Awab’s blog. I read the interview and found myself laughing out loud. It was so silly I could not believe my eyes. It seemed to be published with no critical thinking perhaps because Dr Awab liked what he had to say. So what if he is a liar? Can you prove that he what he is saying isn’t true? Too many people seem to be willing to set aside all of their critical thinking and accept anything anyone tells us as long as it is what we want to hear.

What is funny is that Dr Awab also presents this interview  which was conducted by the blog Talkhaaba which has accused Pakistani bloggers of being “seized by the Ahmedis/athiests” and having the goal “to throw each and every true Muslim out of this state of Pakistan”. The blog even accuses Dr Awab specificially by name! This same blog has been a promoter of anti-American conspiracy theories for years now. So what should we expect from such a source?

Actually calling this an “interview” is a stretch of the imagination. What sort of interviewer asks a question like this:

Given the capability of Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan, some defense analysts assert that terrorist attacks in Pakistan can’t be carried out by Taliban; instead these are planned and perpetrated by CIA? In the light of your experience in Laos, can you endorse and substantiate this assertion?

Of course, Mr Robert Anderson answers that “It is possible but I don’t know any details”. Nevermind that this man admits he was never a CIA official and has never stepped one foot in Pakistan and admits that he doesn’t know any details. IT’S GOOD ENOUGH! An American who was in the military and claims to have been secretly loaned to the CIA almost half a century ago says it is possible!

Mr Robert Anderson also points people to another American named John Perkins. Mr Perkins wrote a famous book with the title, ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’. A friend loaned me a battered copy several years ago and told me that if I read this book I would learn the truth. I did read it, and it had a big effect on me. How could it not? An exciting story about secret plots to create chaos, control weak government, and take over the world through economic sabotage! Exciting stuff!

But once you set aside the drama and look at what Mr Perkins actually claims, there’s not much there. And what is there doesn’t make any sense. Don’t take my word for it, either. Sebastian Mallaby who is an expert in global economics termed Mr Perkins “a frothing conspiracy theorist, a vainglorious peddler of nonsense” and thoroughly debunked his ‘confessions’ back in 2006.

Also, this isn’t the only book that John Perkins has written. He has also written a book called ‘Shape Shifting’ that examines “the actual transformation of a human being into another living creature”. That’s right, this man who was supposedly a top secret agent of the US wrote a book about humans transforming themselves into plants and animals. Really.

This is what makes me so mad that my head hurts. Dr Awab and a lot of other people who buy the non sense being peddled by these conspiracy nuts are TOO SMART FOR THIS. But time after time I see people ignoring their basic common sense and believing any lunatic who says something that they want to hear – NO PROOFS REQUIRED!

I’m not asking you to believe one way or the other about America or Raymond Davis or drones or anything else. I’m just asking you to THINK FOR YOURSELF. Just because someone is an American, it doesn’t mean they are an authority on anything. People in American build careers from cheap conspiracy theories just like people do here. For every Zaid Hamid or Ahmed Quraishi, the Americans have their own guy just like him. We have plenty of our own crazies, we don’t need to import other people’s, too.