After traveling through Pakistan for twenty days during April 2002, I am struck by the generosity and good-will of most Pakistanis, who would not think twice about helping a foreigner, and yet ironically, I am also struck by the widespread presence of multi-nationals (selling soft drinks, cigarettes, fast-food etc.) which are slowly replacing the human, collective culture of Pakistan with the culture of capitalism. Multi-national advertisement in the form of billboard signs is ubiquitous in both Pakistan cities and major rural areas, while the seeds of culture destruction are evidenced by the western styled malls in major cities. Even the Pakistan national cricket team advertises for a multi-national (Pepsi), and Pakistani tea is dominated by a multi-national (Lipton). To make matters worse, Musharraf’s military government is a prime beneficiary of the multi-nationals, and has even been reported by local Pakistanis to be controlled by them. The current situation in Pakistan can be summed up distinctly by Dr. Mubarak Ali,
“Like always the local elite classes of the colonies immediately adopted the foreign culture and integrated themselves with the colonial power in order to retain their privileged status. Moreover, it is not in the interest of the colonial power to educate the masses but to patronize a class which could collaborate with them in maintaining law and orderé. Once the colonial culture became advantageous in acquiring social status, everybody tried to adopt it. The process of colonial globalization was checked by the national movements which emerged in the middle of the twentieth century and achieved independence from the colonial powers. But the colonial culture was retained by the elite classes of the newly independent countries in order to maintain their superiority and domination over the masses. Nationalism, initially, was used to fight against the colonial power, but now it is used to protect the privileges of the ruling classes. The condition of the people more or less remains the same. The elite classes, under the influence of western culture, work as collaborators in furtherance of their past colonial masters.” (From the book, “History on Trial”)
Clearly, the passage sums up the situation in Pakistan, with Musharraf’s government as the main collaborator with the past and [present] colonial masters. In my opinion, the key ideas from the passage are “to patronize a class [Musharraf’s military government and wealthy supporters] which could collaborate with them [western powers] in maintaining law and order”, and “work as collaborators [Musharraf’s government] in furtherance of their past [and present] colonial masters [and culture].”
Pakistan is at crossroads facing exploitation and sterilization of its culture by multi-nationals, or confrontation with the multi-nationals and thereby the military government to resurge its culture and independence. With the recent election of Musharraf and his military government via referendum for five years, the current situation is favouring the multi-nationals (capitalists). Fittingly, there was hardly a whimper of protest from the Western governments and media about the Musharraf’s referendum on his five year term, because most of the multi-national operating in Pakistan are Western-based, Musharraf’s government is collaborating with the multi-nationals, and the Western governments do not want to take a chance of upsetting the political stability in Pakistan in view of the situation in Afghanistan and the current relations between Pakistan and India.
As the situation in Pakistan develops, we can expect to see the re-application of the democratic model, which in my view would be another attempt to complete the colonization of Pakistan. Democracy associated with the myths of freedom and government by and from the people, and thereby with a false sense of legitimacy, is a decision-making method used by ruling elites to control the masses viz., democracy amounts to the quantification of opinion, and so by controlling the opinion of the masses through the media, the ruling elites retain their power. Therefore, with the re-application of democracy, we can first expect a clamp down on the media in Pakistan, and likely a consolidation of major media interests, in order to control the opinion of the Pakistan masses.
What can be done to offset this process?
Ideally the Pakistan military government needs to be replaced with a civilian government, and the multi-nationals need to be tightly regulated and restricted, especially the soft drink companies which are harming people’s teeth and digestive tracts through carbonated sugar water, cigarette companies which are promoting poor health and cancer, and fast-food companies which are promoting poor nutrition. Equally important, the notion of democracy needs to be countered to avoid the power residing with the ruling elites (collaborators), and thereby the multi-nationals. I have been working on a viable alternative, which focuses on the evaluation of reasons for decisions, rather than on the mere quantification of opinion. Ironically, Pakistan’s founding poet and philosopher, Allama Iqbal, was aware of the limitation of democracy back in the 1930s, when he wrote that the western democracies count the votes but they do not weigh them. My intention is to establish a system in which the reasons for decisions are weighed in terms of reasonableness viz., the evaluation of reasons to determine what is the more reasonable decision. (Fiction House from Lahore, Pakistan is publishing my work, “The Critique of Reasonableness”, which lays the groundwork for the alternative system.)
Mr. Stephen Garvey is a philosopher and writer, and publisher for Inexpressible Publications who resides in Canada.
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