The wrath of a nation

  • What makes Pakistanis so angry?


Breath fuming, mouth swearing, eyes bulging– that’s the impression an average Pakistani has made on the world. And thanks to the image, we have made it to the top ten global ranking of angry men and women. Definitely not a positive development, it is not a surprising one either.

On the streets, in the homes, in offices and gatherings, the demon of anger is often witnessed terrorising the scene. From abusive language to pointing fingers and clenched fists, all manifestations of violent temper are visible in Pakistan– on a daily basis. What makes us Pakistanis so angry?

Before I decide to delve into the determinants which were considered to rank each country on a scale of anger, I can look around at our society and easily jot down the contributing factors which add up to the wrath of the nation.

Unemployment and poverty, the crippling characteristics for a household, are rampant. It’s not that Pakistan was once a rich nation. But the vicious cycle of each generation inheriting an empty legacy is repeated in too many families. And since the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, the increasing poverty gap is pinching more. A rich lad gets admission in a college using merely his parents’ contacts and reach and possibly a generous dose of ‘donations’, while the poor man stays behind despite qualifying the merit. A worthy candidate for an employment position stays rejected, while a not-so-worthy-rich-or-influential person claims the seat.

news was delivered to us earlier this year that Pakistan was among the top 20 gainers on the World Happiness index and now that it is ranked among the top 10 furious nations

And with little or no money to spend, many households in the country are barely able to get morsels of a meal, while in the houses they are employed or in front of posh restaurants they come across, they see piles of food scooped in and dumped out. As they make tough decisions whether to buy an extra pair of clothes for a family member or few more grains of food, the vague possibility of educating the future generation remains hanging in the middle.

For some, by the time the backbone of their family is almost broken after paying back loans and advances for securing a home, completing the cost of higher education or merely managing monthly budgets, the Herculean task of costly marriages looms. There also, the fanciful wishes of in-laws to-be and the innocent desires of a child bicker with each other, until one claims victory at the expense of an ageing, weather-beaten guardian.

Somewhere between poverty and luxury, lies tradition. Middle-class households in Pakistan, in particular, are known to hold dear customs, beliefs and taboos. ‘What will the neighbour say if she learns about your love interest’, ‘how can you think of wearing such a dress in a family gathering’, ‘spend sparingly, we have an image to maintain’– are a few of the statements parents often make to their children. Trapped between cravings for self and promises to keep, the present generation is often seen struggling between a persona displayed and an identity suppressed. The result is either a simmering lava of emotions, ready to burst at a crevice or outrageous antics, clearly a rebellion against conventions.

Anger is also liberally displayed when there is a lack of order or discipline. Some express their fury over the refusal of a nation to stand in queue or wait for one’s turn, others feign heightened emotion to take advantage of a situation and quickly get away with what they want. Thus, we hear horns honking when there is absolutely no passage for vehicles to move in traffic jams, with the mess a result of non-operating traffic signals, missing traffic police officers or impatient drivers. We see people bickering in banks and food outlets over petty issues like delay in service or displeasure over quality or supposed preference over another.

And if one thinks that the lack of civility is an outcome of high illiteracy rates, one may be wrong. It has simply become the culture of our society to speak loudly, create a ruckus and exhibit a hefty personality, just to get your work done, and that too quickly. The tradition has been easily embraced by all classes and all age groups of the population.

For many, time is running out or patience has been lost. The masses are angry at why feudalism and family politics still dominate the legislative structure of the country. The poor are angry about why they remain poor and when will they get their basic rights. Men are angry about the rising costs and them having to meet endless expenditures. Women are angry over stubborn patriarchy and the restraints they have to put on themselves. Even the children are angry why they can’t spend more time on technology and why they can’t make their own choices!

We are doing a lot more than what our forefathers did at our age. We work harder and sleep less. We are constantly on the run and are putting our bodies through an enormous amount of stress on a daily basis. We are very rapidly reaching a stage where 24 hours in a day won’t be enough – and this can also be considered one of the major reasons behind our impatience and the anger that follows.

And here may be a comforting thought, that we are ultimately not so different from the rest of the world, is the research that increasing use and dependence on technology is making humans more impatient, and hence more angry. The speed of completing daily tasks and doing one’s job is diminishing. The pace of news disseminating is increasing and in turn, we want more. We want yet more speed, yet more efficiency. And when that doesn’t happen, we get angry.

And it is with this astonishing speed that news was delivered to us earlier this year that Pakistan was among the top 20 gainers on the World Happiness index and now that it is ranked among the top 10 furious nations. What an irony!

So call it being part of a global trend or having to carry on shouldering the heavy burdens of economy, history and society, we have come out so far that we have left many patient nations behind. Irate, annoyed, cross, vexed, irritated, exasperated, irked, piqued– you name a synonym of angry, and that we are. That’s the definition of an average Pakistani today. Of tomorrow, one cannot say.