Ban or ignore


That Iran has banned the printing and production of material relating to Valentines Day made me laugh. Say hello to a boom in Valentine Day merchandise, Iran, just as the sudden flooding of the markets with red heart shaped merchandise in Pakistan, come February. Not that Valentines Day is banned here, but the disapproval on some faces is almost as effective.

We have to realise that banning things only makes them infinitely more alluring. Remember the Satanic Verses? Even those who did not read much managed to obtain a copy, and no person with any intellectual aspirations admitted to anything but finding it most interesting, my dear.

The West makes Hallmark productions out of things: This day, that day, Secretarys Day, and now the hype around the eight legged Psychic, Paul. Apparently theyre going to erect a statue to the octopod, and display his ashes too. Thats the 21st century, they eat curry, we do red stuff on Valentines Day.

Are there not issues enough to be dealt with in Pakistan that we must raise brouhaha about this book, or that website, or even (which is not trivial at all) kill people because of their beliefs or statements? Surely living up to a certain set of values or principles in oneself makes them more respect worthy by example, than trying to bludgeon them into others by means of force or violence?

Its bizarre mentioning the ultimate price paid by Salmaan Taseer in the same story as Paul the octopus, only I think it is something he would have greatly appreciated himself…but, killing Salmaan Taseer has only served to make his worst critics sympathise with him, and appreciate his bravery in the face of threats to his life. Similarly, the other Salman, Mr Rushdie, would not have had such a runway best seller on his hands, including film appearances and interviews, had not his book been shot at as well.

There are ways to deal with distasteful issues. One is to ban them, which rarely works. When websites were shut down during the Danish cartoon fiasco, every man and his grandmother had ways of accessing them. The other is to discuss and argue for/against the issue, and allow the matter to be settled on the basis of may the best argument win. The third is the method were good at, ignoring the issue, other than banning it of course.

And thus, the majority of the population of Pakistan, poverty, illiteracy et al, since it cannot be banned, is ignored, possibly in the hope that it will go away.

The people of Pakistan require schools. A news item in a newspaper a month ago reports that the government of Sindh has decided to close down 1,100 government schools in the province because they have proved to be non viable and to use their buildings for some better purpose. What better purpose? Dividing them into plots to be distributed among the provincial assembly?

The people of Pakistan need to be fed. So on the 8th of January 2011 there is another news item in an English daily about how food prices have soared by approximately 100 percent. With the common man in Pakistan unable to afford food, onions and potatoes are being exported. What else would you have them do? Allow the food to rot if no one buys it here?

Its also interesting to see how the government uses its (non-existent) funds. They dole out Rs 330 million in development funds to eleven independent MNAs from FATA, and then asks them to identify and work out details of public welfare projects. Has it been that hard to identify what to do for the welfare of this public? Or is the public maybe invisible?

Meantime, what does the PM Mr Gilani, and I quote from a story on the 4th of January, Pakistan Today: Saving his government PM running from pillar to post which goes on to say that …. the prime minister could not touch any other issue except seeking the PML(N)s support for the survival of his government.

Vachel Lindsay was a poet who said, You cant crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them.

Unfortunately the same applies to people, unless of course they crush you first.