A quarter century of opinion writing has taught me a few things in life. The first is frustrating. herd instinct. As opinion writers, most of us are obsessed with almost the same things. As we do this, many important stories clutter up. This increasing bending of the intellectual traditions of South Asia can be largely attributed to this.
The second thing that stands out is the politicization of everything. Economics, religion, family, entertainment, and even sports (especially cricket), all politics in the factories of South Asia.
The third relates to the danger of political tribalism. Tribalism may be making a number in the West now, but it tore every country in South Asia into a post-truth society ages ago. In Pakistan, controversies grew to such an extent that a section of society believed that killing oneself to kill others was a good idea. Shouldn’t a country that has suffered so much in such a short period of tribalism be more careful in dealing with and resolving differences?
Fourth and last: We rarely learn from mistakes and that’s why this piece and the one I wrote on April 19, 2018 titled “Dissenting Note” will always be unpopular because it doesn’t fit with the black and white interpretation. From reality. The truth for this writer is always chaotic. Gray, brown, yellow are often unremarkable.
In our long painful history of tribal wars, the nicest things always become the collateral damage. Creativity and culture are his biggest victims. The third is the idea of a real celebrity. And just see how they are all punished. Let’s start first with the most provocative examples. Especially because, most likely, you will not like what is being said. However, someone has to say it because you know it has to be said.
In recent political wrangling, one thing has suddenly become clear. The vast majority of Pakistani celebrities still support Imran Khan. In a country where multiple narrative arcs feed on your imagination and collide, it’s hard to fathom. Artists, artists, in short celebrities of all kinds occupy a cultural space where they benefit and promote the pluralism that religious intolerance seeks to eradicate. Time and time again, Mr. Khan has chosen to ally with groups distorted by religious intolerance. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Jamaat-e-Islami was his preferred ally. In the War on Terror, his advocacy against the crackdown on fanatics grew so much that the TTP nominated him to be part of the Pakistani state’s negotiations with them. Much earlier, he found a way to be called the Taliban Khan. Yet many celebrities still love him.
I don’t think anyone caused a stir like Mahira Khan when she tweeted a message in the name of Imran Khan followed by Pakistan flag emoji and hands raised in prayer. For a long time, it has suffered from hateful attacks by online troll armies. In the Pakistani political space, anti-liberal trolls are usually associated with PTI, and Mahira Khan, like most celebrities, is considered a liberal. Is it a biblical case of cognitive dissonance? Social media was too quick to judge.
Similarly, Samina Peerzada and Shan Shahid are also very candid. It seems only yesterday that the former faced controversy at the hands of the clergy when she and her real-life husband on a TV series had to star in a divorce scene. The clergy shouted that since it was a televised scene witnessed by countless witnesses, it amounted to a true divorce. Critics say those who are persecuted for religious intolerance should not stand with the well-known sedatives. Which is why their fondness for Imran Khan, PTI or their government didn’t make sense and had to either buy them or brainwash them.
This latest infamous image is nothing short of tragic as it robs the mind of humans from their agency. Thinking human beings who have already given us so much to be grateful for and to be proud of. Is it possible to disagree with them politically at the same time and respect them personally? definitely.
I can offer you a hundred heartbreaking explanations for why a celebrity who has faced misogynistic attacks throughout her career sympathized with a politician who ostensibly blamed rape victims’ clothing for their plight. Just as they love their country and their country naturally loves it, they end up sympathizing with this too, albeit at a personal expense. This decades of religious indoctrination makes them believe that their career choices are actually wrong which is why they atone for this as quickly as possible. Do you remember that I once shared with you one episode in which a famous singer told me that singing was wrong? Finally, as one Twitter critic put it, it all has to do with PBCDs (Pakistan Born in Confused Diss), and the cultural contradictions of the upper middle class in Pakistan. But none of these explanations mean anything. why? Because you will only do your best not to respect their individual choices. So are you better than all those fanatics who don’t care much about their career choices?
Damn politics. For a healthy society to grow, you need much more cultural products than power dynamics. Have you wondered why a nation of storytellers has stopped telling good stories? Why do some of our top platforms like Coke Studio spend more time recycling old content? Why does this happen when we talk about our entertainment industry most of the time, it is in the past tense? Because we left them all to their fate. Because there is no support system and no effective market for their talent. You’d be surprised how little or how little they get paid for their hard work.
Back in the ’90s when PTV was the only major network, I remember how many well-known drama actors would get off the number one bandwagon in exceptionally shabby condition. Ask yourself why so many comedians choose to be a mainstay on late-night variety shows on news channels instead of performing in their own space? Because there is job security and a guarantee of getting compensation on time.
I can’t believe that a nation of moderates and obsessed with politics criticizes its famous people for having a political opinion. The fact that our celebrities, artists, and performers survive despite these lousy circumstances should be enough to give them unconditional respect. The policy may have a shorter fuse but it also has a shorter shelf life. Culture and entertainment have a lasting effect.
Posted in The Express Tribune, April 30y2022.
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