The Real World Project

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Are you cheating the system, or are your parents cheating you?

leave a comment »

 

I’ve grown up with a very multi-farious education, being shipped from place to place. From my first grade till graduation, I spent an equal amount of time in four schools across two nations of not just differing standards but also completely varying social stratification. My first school was Habib Public School (only reason I was there was because of Ammi’s brothers), where I got my first taste of the Shiite-Sunni schism – where children as young as six years old were more worried about what caste I was than who I was. I didn’t care.

 

Before I reached class three, my brother was shipped off to St. Pauls and obviously I had to follow. I went from a highly fragmented and disjointed school to a much more organized and formalized one. This was where I first realized that being a Muslim meant that I was in the majority and that it was uncool to talk to Catholics. So naturally the first thing I did was befriend a catholic. My only friend was a catholic.

 

By the time my primary schooling was over, studies and education were the last things on my mind. Since they came so naturally to me, I couldn’t care less about what I was studying, or even what learning meant. I was far more interested in finding out more and more about my Catholic friend, hanging out with him and learning about his culture. I did like my singing classes which popped up from time to time without any set routine. It’s all too hazy now. Only thing I took away from my St. Paul’s experience was that my brother was some sort of Paulian hotshot (smart, popular, head boy and all that jazz) and that I was pretty much a loner who was happy in his own little world. At the same time, there was that inherent passion for music.

 

Immediately after primary school came the first realization that there is such a thing as studies and they actually mean something. I was taken out of Paul’s and put in Pat’s. But I didn’t care then. I went through the motions like I was meant to. At least however, by the end of my 6th year, I had friends and a decent social and scholastic life. But then I was in for one of the biggest shocks of my life. My mother brought home some stupid dingbat who could barely speak to tutor me in a couple subjects because I was not doing as well as she thought I should be. But I thought I was doing fine. And I always got my way, so I underperformed on purpose (sorry mom) so that I could get rid of the stupid dingbat who thought he could teach me. Instinctively I knew that getting tutored was wrong. The very same parents who had preached the sanctity of education within a school were now bowing down to the pressures of society simply because it seemed like I wasn’t a super-intelligent inhumanly talented kid. Wait I did have a strong talent for music and my parents did everything in their power to support it. However, knowing that music could not be a career choice, I continued to drag on with my education, instead of adequately pursuing my creative talent.

 

Well, as soon as I got rid of the stupid dingbat, I decided to show my mom my smarts and actually studied for once. I told everyone in my class that, don’t worry I’m coming first the next time. I got laughed at and ridiculed. But shut everyone up when I actually did.

 

That was the last time my mother bothered with my studies, or worried about them. And that was when my talent and interest in music peaked. But a slight hesitancy on my part stemmed out of years of confusions over the true prospects of a career in music led me to keep it aside as merely a hobby.

 

Private tuition is one of the worst things parents do to their children. I have always believed it and my mind cannot be changed. Additional help is great but only when required in extreme cases of obvious psychological impairments. However, there is no substitution for the right choices in the early years of childhood. There is no substitute for good parenting. And some would argue that assigning tutors and spending thousands of extra rupees on private tuition is part of good parenting. However, I beg to differ. It’s a fairly modern sociological phenomena which does nothing but create a circle of failures.

 

First, private tuition is negative re-enforcement for a child that they are not academically gifted enough to achieve success on their own. In some extreme cases, children forget that they have their own learning capabilities and can learn without being spoon-fed. The concept of self-achievement dies the moment the child becomes dependent on someone else for good grades. Second, it gives a nod of approval to a failing school system where teachers become part of the vicious cycle themselves. Since they already know that the children they are supposed to be teaching are getting tuitions, they no longer have to strive to fulfill their end of the bargain. This leads to the schooling system becoming farcical and superficial as we have parents who, by virtue of buying good grades for their children through private tuition, are also giving teachers adequate freedom to under-perform.

 

The primary goal of education, it seems, at least as far the middle class and upper class is concerned, is no longer one of learning but of pushing children to become assimilated in the highly competitive workforce (as discussed in my last article). Instead of education remaining an independent superstructure capable of instilling human minds with ideas, it has become a significant and highly controlled sub-structure of the all encompassing capitalist economic system. Instead of creating children capable of free thought and critical thinking about the social structures of the world, we have masses of skill-less, talentless drones designed to fit into missing clogs of the immortal corporate superstructure.

 

Since the goal of any parent is no longer to nurture and nourish their children’s latent talents, but to convert them into mechanical pieces of the corporate machine, they take the easy way out. They allow the sub-standard education system to thrive and succeed by giving their children the tools they need to succeed at the schooling level – without needing to instill the value of creativity. Art (includes all forms), social science, philosophy and literature – subjects that require creativity and critical thinking – are nearly dead, or dying as a direct result of the parento-corporate agenda. Parents, armed with the knowledge that Art, social science and literature result in poor pay (because the corporation keeps it that way), prepare children to become part of the corporate set up where they can maximize their gain. Hence, any child that exhibits creative talent is encouraged to maintain that as a hobby rather than convert it into source of primary income.

 

It may have been a fad of the past to condemn the corporation for the bastardization of child-nurture, but in this case, some of the blame has to lie with the parents who have been thoroughly convinced into accepting the corporate dream and work day and night on their children to prepare them for a life of corporate slavery. Now don’t think that just because corporate life is a form of slavery that it leads to unhappiness and discontent. Those who have made this corporate dream a life long aspiration, are very happy because that is the only life they know. Since it was instilled into them since childhood that happiness stems from materialism, they grow up unaware of the existence of other possibilities.

 

As children, we are fervently taught that “You don’t have to enjoy your work, you just have to do it.” and “What, do you think that I enjoyed my work?” and “Work is not supposed to be fun.” Name a parent who has not said that to their child at least once and I will re-tract all my statements. We grow up with these messages because that’s what the corporate superstructure wants us to believe. And parents who teach their children to stop anticipating a future of happy work and family life make the biggest mistake of humankind. Because eventually, these children will become parents themselves and they will continue to mindlessly preach what they have learnt till eventually a time will come when we will be born incapable of creativity and critical thought.

 

Written by jawwadriaz

December 29, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Does your work say anything about you anymore?

leave a comment »

What does your work say about you?

Waiting to re-insert myself into the job market, having rejected the temptations and un-unionized thanklessness of the corporate world, I decided to do some “networking” on Linkedin. If you don’t know what Linkedin is, then you’re either somebody’s Grandparent, or have been living under a rock for the past 5 years. In any case, Linkedin is a professional networking site, just like facebook, but with a more “professional” twist – no pun intended.

Growing up, I learnt that it was just not a socially acceptable thing for one man to ask another about what he did for a living. I remember my father’s curt message, “Never ask a woman her age, and a man his salary!”. I grew with up that. But with time, things have changed. They’ve gone from simply telling people that “Yeah, I’ve got a good job.” to over-blown job titles and company histories, elaborate unnecessary details about the careers and over-exaggerated half-truths about wages and the job importance – elaborate stories that seem like they’ve been rehearsed and repeated to convince the speaker more than the listener.To top it off, if someone isn’t being pompous and obnoxious about his job, then he has to deal with coming across as jobless, in-between jobs or working for poor pay. If a person doesn’t speak about his job or business, but still has all the amenities of a highly successful individual, then he’s austrasized as either being corrupt, or into some “shady” business.

In direct opposition to the disciplined corporate worker is the entrepreneur. The world has a whole slew of entrepreneurs who may be running mildly successful ventures. But unfortunately receive no respect from the Corporate denizen. “CEO” of “Akram and Sons” will generate many laughs amongst business school graduates and Marketing Managers. Simply because of the perceived notion that in Pakistan, everybody is a CEO. It doesn’t matter if Akram and his Sons may be earning more than say “CEO” of “Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan Limited”. And that is the real truth. “Akram and Sons” is more likely to be more successful, more quickly, and for longer than a business graduate strung up on a corporate ladder.

The case of the self-enterprise versus the attachment to an organization is part of the selling of the “Corporate Dream”.  This corporate dream is planted within us (us of the Middle Class origin i.e.) at a very young age. Notions of “status”, “job security” and “wealth” are used to replace our childhood desires of being “creative”, “educated” and “inspired”. Skill-less individuals are churned out from the school systems by the millions and are assimilated in an increasingly competitive environment. But, any corporate worker will tell you that his/her education was useless because the real learning happened in the job environment. So then why spend years if a system is so useless? First we create our own perceptions of what our status should be and then we spend more than half our lives trying to fulfill our own perceptions. In essence we trap ourselves in our own web. So, the only way left of distinguishing ourselves is by languishing elaborate stories of self-importance through titles, work environment, employer standing and wages.

As I went through searching for friends and colleagues, I couldn’t help but feel a little voyeuristic even more so than facebook. On facebook, you can choose to ignore certain details about people. But on Linkedin, they’re right there in your face. The “Headline”, the current job position and company, past companies, past education etc etc. What I found common amongst all the people I searched for were their job titles. Each and every job title seemed less like a real job and more like a few words strung together to fulfill a person’s own expectations of his status. In effect just one of the strings of the spider’s web. I’ve been guilty of the same. And I will continue to remain trapped in this web, because I choose to. I want to feel trapped, because being trapped gives me the security I need. I call it a spider’s web. You may call it job security.

In the end, the work we do no longer defines us as people. Just as Marx predicted in his brilliant works on worker estrangement / alienation. The worker is no longer associated with what he produces, but rather the menial under-pinnings of various functions required to produce. In most cases the worker no longer even knows where production occurs let alone understand the whole system of production. The financial worker can no longer even define the word money, let alone define its value.

Perhaps there are still a few enterprises and professions left that we can be proud of. And interestingly, as pointed out by Marx, those are jobs that requirecreativity. However, the corporate world pisses on the artist, steals from the musician (or creates carbon copies and mass produces him/her till he/she again becomes worthless). I just hope that one day people will wake up and remember that it’s not where you work that defines you, it’s what you create that defines you.

Written by jawwadriaz

November 22, 2010 at 7:44 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Real World Project – Pictorial

leave a comment »

Written by jawwadriaz

February 16, 2009 at 7:04 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

The idea of being Patriots …

leave a comment »

What is a patriot? Man has always ruled and been ruled.  In the old times, the enlightenment period being a patriot was to favour the people of the country rather than the country’s rulers. Patriotism was the resistance to invasions from the rulers into the lives of the ruled. It meant that a person would feel a patriotic desire to fight for his people if an oppressor and place limits on the power of ruling party, on warfare, taxation, and restrict their power to interfere in the practice of religion. In simple terms, the legendary personality of Robin Hood is our the classic example of a true Patriot.

Well, we all know what is a patriot today, don’t we? In a highly nationalised world, with crystal clear borders (only on paper though) we have people who are fed this word from the day they are born till the day they die. In the context of “This is my country, and whatever happens in it, I support it because I am a patriot!” The word is no longer used to define someone who seeks freedom from tyrants, but to rouse feelings of passion for our own chalked out borders and fight against those who seek to circumvent these borders. And honestly, given the warring ways of the world today, I don’t disagree with this definition of the word. I am just afraid that Nazis also called themselves patriots when they were killing jews. And therefore we need to exert a great deal of caution when using this term.

We spout the word Patriot freely. Maybe too freely and without any thought to what we actually are calling ourselves. There are many of us, especially in Pakistan who love the idea of being patriots, rather than actually being patriots. As defined above, a patriot was someone who watched out for others and resisted governmental oppression and tyranny. Today, we feel that if we say “We are proud Pakistanis, and we love Pakistan” we are being patriots. No, we are actually loving the idea of being a patior when we say that. There’s very little we are actually doing that would make us patriots. Even if we take the modern meaning of the word Patriot and apply it to ourselves, we are still not patriots. We bow in front of international oppression. We consume nothing but foreign goods claiming that they are of better quality. When, in fact, more than half the time we are actually consuming goods produced in Pakistan, exported abraod and returned in a finished form to us at ridiculously high prices. We will use Pelican before we use Dollar. We will buy Goldfish pencils and believe they are imported. A pathan sells us a “latest print imported from China”. People wake up. If the pathan had the resources to import from China, he would not be selling textile at Sunday Bazar. The point is that we love to believe that everything we consume is foreign made, imported. Ultimately better than Pakistan. Does that make us patriots? I’m not saying it doesn’t. But the fact that we can make such choices and claim that we are patriots does support the idea that we only love the idea of being patriots.

A pathan sells us a “latest print imported from China“. People wake up. If the pathan had the resources to import from China, he would not be selling it at Sunday Bazar.

cartoondog1

Cartoon Published orginally in the Washington Times

How often have you heard someone say, “If I could .. I would do whatever I could do improve my country..”It usually means that “I won’t because I don’t want to, I have better things to do”. Pakistanis remain the single most downtrodden nation in the world. It’s bad enough that everyone around the world is oppressing us, placing unfair sanctions, increasing their demands when dishing out loans and pulling out their investments. Like good little pets, we humbly accept our humiliation and chide ourselves for our own misfortunes.

The cartoon on the left was originally published in the Washington Times. Believe me I lived in Canada for 6 years and I never saw any other nation being publicized in the same light. We accepted their response “Oh, a dog is a man’s best friend!” Bull-shit. The idea that the Americans who claim themselves to be the international beacon of multi-cultural diversity would make such a obivous “culture gap” mistake is ridiculous. The reaction in Pakistan should have been stronger. The only reason why our response was so weak was because we lack the intelligentsia to recognize injustice when it happens and the political, judicial and international strength to seek justice.

Well, I’ve been using we quite a bit in this article. We are self-sufficient Pakistanis with the means to sustain ourselves, our growing families, provide for a decent education, move around in sedans, or hatchbacks. We are the least patriotic of all patriots. We are the middle class. A selfish group of people. What motivates our selfish nature is beyond me. There are so many factors, or there could be one simple one: Money.

But are we patriots? No we’re not. We are self proclaimed idealists who like to believe we are patriots.

Written by jawwadriaz

December 14, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Real World Project

leave a comment »

Death by Economics

Free Market Dictators

Written by jawwadriaz

December 13, 2008 at 9:52 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

To answer the question of Pakistan’s economic crisis …

leave a comment »

Economic Vertigo

I was asked today to explain why I felt that Pakistan was going into financial crisis and how it was related to the global economic crisis. My answer was simple:  This is the consequence of Free Market Capitalism. It happened in 1929, and it’s partially happening again. But, nobody wants to acknowledge it because nobody wants to admit that financial crisis can be brought about by capitalism. The myths of Free Market Capitalism will never disappear till there are people in the world benefiting from Free Market Capitalism. 

Well, the person who asked me the question was pretty baffled by this point and wanted me to explain what I meant by Free Market Capitalism. There are many ways to explain that, I said. But first I needed to start him off with a definition of “Free Market Capitalism”. According to Rothbard Murray in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

“A free market is a market in which property rights are voluntarily exchanged at a price arranged completely by the mutual consent of sellers and buyers. By definition, buyers and sellers do not coerce each other, in the sense that they obtain each others property without the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or fraud, nor is the transfer coerced by a third party.”

Obviously, I did not know that definition by heart, but I did know the jist of it and the keywords: Supply Demand Equilibrium, Buyer Seller Relationship, Lack of external influences (more specifically Government) and a great deal about the flushing out of coercian from any of these relationships. A free market economy is one which is de-regulated, and left to roam free under the guiding Hand of God, which has now been replaced by a more politically correct, yet similarly wague and meaningless phrase like market dynamics.

Then, I had to explain what Capitalism was. The first time I was ever introduced to the word, it took me the better half of two years to fully grasp the concept. Seven years after completing my degree, I have realised that what I understood of Capitalism as taught by my professors was mostly wrong. Of course they gave me the right definitions and laid the foundations of my attitudes towards capitalism; but they never got around to explaining the fact that Capitalism is an entity that is ever-changing – mostly to suit the needs of those defining it. Marx said it was a mode of production. Weber said that it was a calling from God. Keynes knew that the holding power of money will force the economy to stay in an equilibrium without affecting high levels of unemployment. And finally, Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys gave us the ultimate free market model of capitalism which gave the Governments scholastic and moral ground to stand back and watch laissez-faire in action.

Today, for the first time in 50 years, it has become very easy to see just how the very principles of Capitalism are changed to suit the needs of the capitalists. A government reduction in taxes, or a tax-free zone is a celebration of laissez-faire. On the other hand, unionization is taboo and un-capitalistic. A government subsidy to bail-out an organization in financial trouble, (even if that trouble is a consequence of their own poor management, or should I say, poor capitalism)  is by no means un-capitalistic. But if that money were to be driven into the health or educational systems, the capitalists would call the government communistic.

Pakistan is by choice, or by force, or even both, following the exact same model that the world is. Laissez-faire. And that too within a corrupt bureaucracy. There’s no point talking about the fact that there are ex-convicts running our government, because they weren’t the ones entirely responsible for the mess we are in today. This is a culmination of 60 years of inadequacy, unethical business practices, blatant organizational theivery and governance through mafia law. The fact remains that Pakistan has been blindly copying the rest of the world as far as its organizational and governmental alignments go.

In 61 years, we have not been able to explain to our people what a republic is. A republic is a country which is not led by hereditary monarch! In 60 years, Pakistan has had 32 years of Military Dictatorships, 15 years of monarchical rule (The Bhutto Dynasty) and only 24 years of Democratic rule. In this latest development, we now see Zardari has Head of State (of a nation which used to have a system of a Prime Minister being in power) and his son Bilawal being prepped to become the current leader of PPP (as Chairman) and then eventually Prime Minister / President. The US also finally saw the end of a father / son rule and see where it left them. In 61 years, we have not been able to define who we are other than with bumper sticker ideologies. And even our bumper sticker ideologies are without identity. We call ourselves “Proud Pakistanis”; and have brain farts when asked to do the same in urdu. We are not a republic as proven by our preferred modes of Government over the years.

We are not a democratic people and we may never be because we are socialized from day one to follow blindly, ask no questions, and never think for ourselves.  Our diversity, which could have been our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. We are brought up with hundreds of prejudices, beliefs and mythical ideologies about others which should be recognized and eliminated. Sadly, right now we are not even at the stage of recognition of racism in Pakistan let alone take measures to fix it. And right now, I’ll bet that someone out there is thinking while reading this that there are bigger problems in Pakistan than racism. And you’re right. The biggest being the problem that people like you continue to think about the bigger problems and therefore don’t do anything about the small because it’s easiest to say, “There’s a problem, and there’s no way to fix it, because it’s too big and way out of my hand.” Every argument I’ve ever had in Pakistan has ended in a battle of wits of who can come up with the biggest Pakistani problem. And I always have to give up because the point I was about to make about a relatively small problem just got blown out of the water by a much bigger problem.

So about the issue of the economic crisis in Pakistan. It all started 3 generations ago when for some unexplainable reason, every parent in Pakistan decided to make his or her son a Doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. An epidemic of plague proportions, our great grandparents (I have the utmost respect for them still) helped deprive this nation of a generation of artists, musicians, painters, writers, poets, philosophers, human scientists, archaeologists, geologists, actors, producers, chemists, physicists. Unfortunately, they could not realise that had they allowed their children to follow their talents, eventually the society would develop into a mature whole with each industry supporting its related artisans. Their own children would have developed their respective fields instead of saturating existing ones. When all these doctors and lawyers and engineers went looking for jobs, they realized that there were too many of them and therefore willingly came up with uniqueways of making money. Mostly unethically. For the past 2 generations, more and more of the same professionals are coming out, the only new additions being the MBA’s and the CA’s, both of whom are mostly servicing a fledgling banking industry and over-exaggerated stock market We wiped out our own intelligentsia before it was even born. And then, they brought us up without paying any attention to any of the ailing systems of the country ranging from politics to infrastructure development.

We need to give up on improving the country’s economic crisis and stop looking for the quick fix. We need to set ourselves a target of 20-30 years down the road. We need to throw money by the billions into our dying systems, especially the education and health systems. We need to rationalize our education system. We don’t need a 100 million rupee surveillance system that doesn’t even work. We need to convince ourselves that our country needs more than a specific few professions to succeed. We need to read philosophers like Marx, Weber, Keynes and come up with our own practical applications of these theories as applied to our population requirements. We need to convince ourselves that securing 11 odd A’s in a meaningless O’ Level system is not the be all and end all of academic success – that academics don’t end after a graduate degree, which the rest of the world calls an under-graduate degree. Education is a life-long committment and not just a means-to-an-end as seen by our people.

We need to save our children. And that is the only way we can come out of our current economic crisis.

Written by jawwadriaz

December 12, 2008 at 7:58 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

The Real World Project

leave a comment »

Having been brought up in Canada, I decided, rather uncermoniously in 2002, to return to my roots and start up a new life here. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t realise I was jumping into a black hole which had very little chances of escape. I did get an MBA here, and I’ve worked a couple of places since. But honestly, nothing here appeals to me. I’m not saying I don’t like Pakistan. It’s my home, so I have to like it. In any case, several years have passed since my immigration to Pakistan and in these years, I have learnt far more about The Real World then I sought out to.

The Real World Project is a side project of mine based on my observations of the world we live in. The concept is that by dividing ourselves into various disciplines, we have created a situation for ourselves where we have a great understanding of everything that relates to our own discipline, but very little ability to put it into the context of the greater world we live in. The Real World Project is a thought process, not unlike the Butterfly Effect, but not based on chaos. The Real World Project is the desire to think about and post about the broader implications of supposedly insignificant things. Insignificant like the under-lying racism in something like taking pictures of a rickshaw driver and calling it exotic.

Hopefully over time this blog will grow and will become a part of not just mine, but other people’s lives as well.

Thank You for reading.

Moderator,

Jawwad Riaz

Written by jawwadriaz

December 12, 2008 at 1:33 PM

Posted in Uncategorized