This is not about the film…

At the time of writing this post, fourteen people have already been killed in Karachi after the protests turned violent today.  The reports of violent protests have been pouring in from Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar as well.  I say this can’t just be about the anti Islamic film.  Its much more than that.

Its much more than that? Can’t you see the wretched of the earth on our TV screens? This is not the comfortable, and therefore also moderate, Pakistani elite? In fact it should be a matter of great relief for the political elite that this anger, which could very well have been directed at them, has been effectively deflected.

Not too long ago, there was some policy talk about a certain Youth Dividend in the case of Pakistan. Population projections estimated the number of young people as rising to about 57.9 million by 2018.  Age group 15-29 was increasing in numbers, while the proportion for the population below 15 years declining. Pakistan would have a “demographic dividend,” they argued, which could be converted into economic dividend only if this bulging young population could be skilled, tamed, and put to work.

Yet, whenever such estimates were made over the last decade or so, over 7 million of children were always estimated to be out of schools in any given year. So we have millions of children entering the age 15-29 group each year since, say, 2006. If not all, most of the rioters will be from this age group and are almost certainly those who were excluded from the education and deprived of the capabilities that come with it when they were children.  If they had been given a good run up to the society in schools, they would have been surely conducting their conduct differently.

Many of these rioters are those children that this state and its elite has failed miserably.  None of these young men come from that small group of children who went to one of those several elite private school chains in Pakistan. No, you won’t find any rioters from those schools except a small number of adventurers. They have far too much to lose in this world by participating in the riots than what they have to gain in the hereafter. They are the ones who are most likely to have seen the film as they are the one’s with access to high-speed Internet. Being the good Muslims that they are, they must be registering their protest on the social media.

Look at the streets on your TV screens, and you will see waves after waves of socio-economic disadvantage and failed school system. For those who know what I am talking about, just one look at the rioters will tell you a lot about their socio-economic and educational deprivation.

In a highly unequal society, these riots are the rewards reaped by a pathetic Pakistani political and civil elite. But the elite has been so successful in displacing the anger, which should actually have been directed at them, elsewhere.   What a miraculous escape this film represents for an inept political elite inasmuch as it has taken the eyes of the people off every other problem created by the bad governance in Pakistan.

The anger being spewed out in the riots today is NOT just about the film.

About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

6 Responses to “This is not about the film…”

  1. brilliantly put irfan. i don’t think such a complex situation could have been described in such concise words.

  2. Baela Raza Jamil Reply 22/09/2012 at 4:06 am

    Irfan truly a system gone horribly wrong and yes we are in a big stuck………… nothing short of rewriting the script on society and education will do the needful here.. what a mess we are all in .. we sowed these seeds and now we are reaping a bitter harvest Contrast with this the Children’s Literature Festivals (CLF) a story of order, positive /creative energy and tolerance.. so obviously the template needs a fundamental rethink .. very fundamental redesign . Can we DO IT? what needs to be done?


    • Hi Baela, can’t agree more!
      Yes, it went horribly wrong and true that we are in a big stuck.
      Unpacking this stuck would obviously be so important, more important than anything else I would say. But it would be just as hard as it is obvious.

      What we are seeing now is a full blown disease, whose minor and less threatening symptoms have been there all along. We have only not attended to them.

      Presumably, there are millions of young people out there, who have either not been to schools, or dropped out earlier. All of them are in that youth zone where they could have been part of that elusive ‘youth dividend’ in an alternative universe.

      What is the self perception of these young people? What do they think about where they are heading in their lives? They clearly do not have much of an opportunity as the size of the economic pie in Pakistan is not large enough anyways. How do they process what they see and experience, the burning factories, their dark abodes, disease, and humiliation on a daily basis from home to work? What do we expect from this humiliated and debased humanity.

      I was keenly following the Facebook statuses from my friends. Most of the comments were obviously made from the subject position of those who are not out there, and do not experience the same levels of humiliation and deprivation. When they try to ‘see’, they see violent beardos with topis who are ransacking property. Their lens are not cut out to see those deprived children of the yesteryears who are now taking it out on the streets, and those wretched of the earth out there right now, who will be forced out even more violent. Extreme deprivation and humiliation go together, and humiliation is fountainhead of violence.

  3. Great analysis Irfan!

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