The Confused Pakistani Liberal


As the claws of fanaticism have dug deeper in our skin during the last one decade, a parallel phenomenon has taken place among some sections of Pakistan’s urban youth – a shift towards liberalism.

In the simplest of terms, the components of liberalism fly the flag of equality and freedom. The whole concept revolves around civil liberties and rights. To a huge chunk sick of conservatism, liberals provide a platform that enables social change and political reform. Not a bad idea looking at the current state of bomb-wrapped, blood-spluttering affairs in Pakistan.

What is the problem then?

The problem is the foundation of liberalism, not only in Pakistan, but globally.

The Pakistani liberal carries a stupendously thin worldview of man and society. A proponent of free will and choice, he cries foul whenever someone brings an opposing view forward, however true it may be. This very thinness in this understanding of society is deemed to be the prime requirement of peaceful coexistence. Whoever attempts to thicken these assumptions is immediately disposed to the corner of authoritarianism. In short, the basic urge of the Pakistani liberal is to place himself on a higher echelon, just like his conservative counterparts, and attempt to play guardian of the free world.

But what’s most important is the prime focus of the Pakistan liberal in the belief of individual gratification and a society where every man is free to pursue this very individual gratification. It is a society which accepts the class difference as natural, a society where economic freewill runs through our veins in the form of unregulated capitalism and a society which will eventually burst at its seams and lead to anarchy.

It’s ironic that the liberal is a proponent of pluralism, yet makes sweeping judgements about the past, present and future. There is a massive tendency to be liberal for the sake of being liberal, without analysing and reading into matters. Positions of neutrality are most common with liberals, taken in the name of individual freedom and choice.

What about the rest of the society then?

There is always an effort, and a massive one at that, to showcase a deep rooted concern for the lower echelons of society. Corporate social responsibility is splashed across capitalist screens, the faded flags of equality and freedom soar high, but that’s the end of that. When all is said and done, a liberal is content when his personal space remains in order.

Another recent development among Pakistani liberals is to advocate their beliefs in the name of change, societal revamp, and most laughingly, left-wing politics. This is the classic portrait of liberalism across the globe – harp on about the left, but practice on the right.

Clichés about tolerance and freedom are found in abundance on liberal tongues. What is not found in abundance, however, is an understanding of how they attempt to achieve hollow missions of tolerance, freedom and change while using the same foundations that gave them the gift of intolerance, captivity and preservation. The fact that the free market is essentially the biggest hurdle in actual freedom is never discussed. The fact that delusions of nationalism and religion not only need to be separated from the state, but eliminated altogether, is never discussed. The fact that class conflict in Pakistan is so obvious to the naked eye that it would serve as economic pornography to the likes of Friedman, is never discussed. The fact that the working class is the actual proponent of social change is never discussed. The fact that the root of all that is wrong with us essentially boils down to neoliberalism, is again, never discussed.

What is discussed instead is the grotesque version of freedom without regard for the rest of society.

What is discussed is the individual – the mind numbing idiot in pursuit of solo contentment.

What is discussed is the status quo. Not change.

This post originally appeared on The Express Tribune Blog on December 6, 2014.

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