The new national pastime - Pakistan Today

The new national pastime

  • Political correctness gone overboard

Taking offence is the new national pastime. And desi liberals are every bit as nauseating as fundamentalists in this respect. In fact, the more one looks at the two groups, the more one sees similarities between them. Both take everything under the sun purely in the context of their respective religions, the religion of the liberal being political correctness taken to ridiculous levels. It seems that there’s nothing that one can say or do any more without offending anybody.

Political correctness taken to this extreme is a medical condition, which started in the West. A parody of that was recently doing the rounds on the social media in which a group of friends asks a random guy to take their photograph. The poor man obliges, but when he says ‘cheese’, one woman takes exception to it on the ‘grounds’ that she is Vegan. The guy, who appears to be the jovial kind, is reduced to tearing his hair out when one by one each member of the group objects to anything suggested as the cue for a smile. Finally, he decides that enough is enough, takes the photo, tosses the camera back in the general direction of the group and runs for dear sanity. Unfortunately, this malady is somewhat unavoidable for us too. Considering our culturally downstream location, any silliness that the West succumbs to is almost certain to afflict us too (sadly the same cannot be said about the saner developments of the Western civilization). Add our indigenous hang-ups and one is left staring at a bleak picture.

The wedding of teenagers Nimra and Asad was quite the rage some days ago all over social media. It was celebrated by the more religiously minded as the proper thing to do (as opposed to a clandestine affair) and therefore something to be emulated. The liberals loved it too, as they thought that the whole thing was rather cute. Well, there’s no law against believing something to be good for one’s religion or for considering something cute. Of course, there’s article 19 of the Constitution too, ensuring freedom of expression subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law and all that sort of thing.

So far so good. But freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. There will always be those who don’t agree with one another on any given issue. And they are equipped with article 19 as well. So it is that not everybody thought marrying young was particularly beneficial, or cute for that matter. Predictably, the most common response to any comments that couldn’t exactly be categorized as unqualified endorsement was ‘Their life, their choice’, which is quite true, provided one recognizes, by the same token, the right of the objectors to express their opinions as well. Unless of course somebody is looking forward only to positive feedback and isn’t interested in a debate at all.

But the Nimra-Asad wedding was anything but a private affair, where one could be accused of discussing somebody’s private life in public. The couple is obviously relishing all the limelight it is getting, giving interviews left right and center, enjoying their status as some sort of trend-setters; so the talk about privacy is neither here nor there.

The author of these lines is one of those who failed to live up to the exacting standards of correct behavior on the part of some. Being married, he naturally wishes all men to get married as soon as humanly possible, so far be it from him to criticize a couple in love to have tied the knot or the age when they decided to do so. He merely expressed his concern for the physical wellbeing of the groom, who looked rather frail in the photographs. Of course, what he had in mind (though he didn’t say so explicitly) was the immense levels of physical strength and energy needed to balance a baby on one arm and juggling diapers and formula milk on the other. Much to his horror however, post after post rebuked him for being insensitive, followed by comprehensive lectures on the absence of correlation between physical appearance and sexual prowess – something the author neither implied, nor entertained in the remotest regions of his consciousness. Considering the nation’s obsession with sex, it’s a safe bet that Hakeem Suleimans of the country aren’t going out of business any time soon. But I digress.

The author is all for privacy and people’s right to live their lives however they see fit. But the Nimra-Asad wedding was anything but a private affair, where one could be accused of discussing somebody’s private life in public. The couple is obviously relishing all the limelight it is getting, giving interviews left right and center, enjoying their status as some sort of trend-setters; so the talk about privacy is neither here nor there.

And finally, there’s the small matter of tastes. On another forum, the author was guilty of inadvertently fomenting a medium-sized riot by suggesting that the bridegroom’s decision of wearing formal shoes without socks wasn’t quite in good taste. He was informed by various people (in ascending order) that 1) socks were overrated; 2) that it was none of his business; 3) that the trends had changed while he was in the cave; 4) that he was an ignoramus for being unaware of the concepts of ankle- and toe-socks; 5) that he was jealous of the bridegroom (this one particularly tickled his funny bone), and 6) that he was a shameless bigot – responses from people obviously preoccupied with political correctness and blissfully oblivious to matters of tastes and judgment.

It’s a common error to categorize things merely as right or wrong, legitimate or illegitimate, and constitutional or extra-constitutional. Things can also be in good or bad taste. Wearing formal shoes on your wedding day with socks nowhere in sight is manifestly in bad taste. Dipping biscuits in tea is in bad taste. Trying to scoop out a broken biscuit with the help of another biscuit is in even worse taste. Men wearing dopattas (on mehndis or otherwise) is in bad taste. And while we are at it, can we, as a nation, try and grow a sense of humour?

Hasan Aftab Saeed

The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at www.facebook.com/hasanaftabsaeed



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