Email from Zahir Ebrahim, Islamabad, Pakistan
September 11, 2012
Dear friends and well-wishers.
AsSalaam Alekum. Greetings from Pakistan. On this eleventh anniversary of 9/11, I find myself pensively brooding over my own journey in life since that dastardly day in infamy. With my children now grown up and pursuing their professional lives in the United States, I have moved to Pakistan to once again re-attempt to re-start my life in Islamabad after a hiatus of more than three decades. My adult life mostly being spent in the Boston area studying engineering, and in Silicon Valley, California, building or contributing to America's great military-industrial and academic complex as an engineer, tax-payer, and finally as parent.
From that lofty perch of “Mr. Clean hands”, I imagine it is easy to opine the following commentary as an expat. returning home to pitiful surroundings, and for which one has contributed nothing towards its amelioration. Permit me to give it a try.
Life here in Islamabad is very humorous, to say the least. For, a sense of humor is surely what it takes to survive its daily travails: the daily 6 to 8 hours of load-shedding of electricity during the hot summer which has only now abated somewhat; no water in the taps unless one is willing to pay 1500 rupees (about US $15) for a private water tanker service which appears to be financially benefitting the same governmental agency staff responsible for officially supplying tap water and for which they also bill you quarterly whether or not any water trickles out of the faucet (the scam in fact appears to me to be a thinly veiled way to privatize all water supply by way of extortion and other pretexts of inefficiency, while drinking water has already been effectively privatized, my monthly bill being an additional 2000 rupees on the average, paid to Nestle); frequent armed police check-points on city streets as if Pakistan has moved to Palestine; long lines of taxis and small cars in front of gas stations which form every Wednesday evening because CNG (Compressed Natural Gas which is now priced almost at parity with petrol) is not available Thursday through Saturday; continuous demoralizing news and commentary floods the 500 news channels which make the plebeian want to long for the Messiah and the Mehdi; just to mention a few items off the top of my head which must induce a great deal of humor in daily existence in order to bear it. That humor naturally leads one to seeking refuge in religion, and consequently, what passes as spiritualism, meaning, a resignation to fate while waiting for Allah, is rapidly rising to its zenith here. The mosques are full, and there are several belonging to different sects, in almost every street. In my street alone, I have counted four, and another two or three in the next street over. I don't need an alarm clock here because I get five wake-up calls a day in quadraphonic surround sound.
And Yet, there are also petrol-guzzling Mercedes and BMWs roaming the streets of Islamabad without a care; fancy car dealerships, shops, boutiques, and restaurants which would make the upscale hangout of Santana Row in San Jose California in need of a face-lift; and the elite are living as if they have a special tunnel that daily takes them straight from their posh homes in the outskirts into Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, by-passing all the misery behind the Iron Wall and totally oblivious of it.
Most of my long-time friends are drawing handsome compensation packages as vaunted academics, or corporate widgets and CEOs selling cell-phones to field niggers or providing software services to the white man, or as poster-child of various governmental bodies suitably anointed with lofty titles. Higher education being the sassiest gravy-train in the civilian sector as it evidently requires the least amount of talent and scruples to really make a killing under the strong leadership of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission. I had previously written about it in the scandalous Plagiarism Case I had accidentally uncovered. It was evidently as dead on arrival at the supreme court of Pakistan as it was among the distinguished academics of Pakistan. Diploma mills abound in this country as if trying to compete with America's two thousand colleges and universities in sheer numbers – numbers evidently being the hallmark of both learnedness as well as piety here.
Sheer numbers, whether it be the number of servants employed in a house (often exceeding the number of family occupants in the elite homes of Islamabad by a factor of two or three), or the number of papers published (often exceeding the highest acclaimed Nobel laureate's in the respective field by a factor of at least ten), or the numbers of hajj performed (don't even ask), or the number of gun-totting security guards manning the front gate – all count for status here. Unfortunately, I too have one thin scare-crow sitting at my gate – but one is not a number that matters in the race to nowhere here. Some with their dual citizenship, and the white man's Passport of any color, and others eagerly trying to acquire theirs, a comfortable life-style is the carefree lot of a handful who seem to own most everything here. I am not even speaking of Military Inc., who evidently own most of the wealth and real-estate of Pakistan. I am only speaking of civvies I know of.
I seem to have sadly escaped all the lofty charactership which the Pakistani society evidently cultivates among the genius of our peoples, having contributed directly into the white man's military-industrial complex for the highest level of corruption which begets all others – intellectual corruption. Instead of working for the benefit of my own peoples in a labor of love as only a handful of my friends have endeavored, I have helped – like the millions of other Silicon Valley engineers – build up the white man's ability to destroy us. So I can hardly throw stones at others who are merely trying to do well for themselves – with the only means they know how.
The house niggers over here however, are a different species altogether. They are sadly funny in a way. They have taken over Pakistan across the full spectrum of social intercourse – from the military to the economy to the media to the elected to the bureaucrat to the mullah to the judge to the professor to the so called NGOs largely populated with ex-military and secular humanists with foreign degrees – in all their Hegelian Dialectic variations. I dare to think that the sex prostitutes working the streets and nearly ubiquitous, are probably the most honest and hardworking of all professionals here. I don't know any yet, but I suspect I may rather prefer their company.
The amount of bullshit which passes for great wisdom and profound knowledge over here is simply astounding. Everyone is a saint and a scholar. “Experts” abound. I am frequently informed how honest they each are, “not a haram morsel has been fed to my children” is the common refrain as the pious bow in prayer five times daily in their million dollar homes.
The trend of self-deception arguably tops the United States. The bullshit there at least stands on the giant foundations of a super-power who needs a compliant public. Here we don't even need foundations to build tall totem poles to get a compliant public. Hey, we are ahead of the US in something!
I feel I am living at the unbirthday party table with the Mad Hatter and Alice. I am sure I'll also get used to it all, eventually, like everyone else here enjoying their chains of servitude with frequent nods to high-minded morality.
At least, Pakistan has not become Syria, and Islamabad, Damascus. Not just yet anyway. Although, it is hard to imagine that our tribal-belt folks being bombed daily in imaginatively labeled operations don't know what it is like to be in Syria these days.
In any case, the unraveling of this new villainous modernity is in my new book, The Poor-Man's Guide to Modernity, now in its fifth edition. I hope you will be interested in downloading its PDF by clicking on the link below, and reading and sharing it with your family, friends, colleagues, students, congregation, and readership (if you have a web or newspaper presence). Rather than accept its premise and its analysis, critiquing it with your best effort to cogently refute its thesis might be more beneficial for you as the opening gambit. This book is perhaps the last of my efforts as a writer, as I transition into a new life in this nearly god forsaken country. I think perhaps as a school teacher. It is the right level of abstraction to begin addressing the problem-space that I have grappled with as a small-time activist ever since that wholly manufactured day in infamy whose eleventh anniversary is today, September 11, 2001.
Thank you for your time. While I am not a very religious person, this place makes me want to remember God frequently. No wonder the entire country is waiting for Allah. So, God Bless,
NB. The unusual terminology in italics (white man, house nigger, field nigger, waiting for Allah) is examined in the book for its pertinence to modernity.
Source URL for this Letter: http://print-humanbeingsfirst.blogspot.com/2012/09/remembering-911-in-pakistan-2012.html
Updated Link Rev. 5f October 22, 2012