Invitation to Trialogue on Reality

To: [Dr. Asarulislam Syed, M.D., Neurologist and Psychiatrist, Pakistani-American in California]
Cc: [Dr. Khalid Sohail, MBBS, FRCP (C), Creative Psychotherapist, Pakistani-Canadian in Canada]
From: [Zahir Ebrahim, an ordinary Pakistani Techie in California]
Subject: Invitation to Trialogue
Date: Saturday, March 10, 2018, 11:00 pm.
Dear Dr. Asarulislam Syed, Assalamu' alekum.
I would like to introduce myself by way of the recent Open Letter that I wrote to the Hon. Chief Justice of Pakistan, and my Letter to the DG ISPR to forward to Pakistan's COAS, General Bajwa (both letters linked below). I heard a couple of your recorded youtube videos and found that you and I have much in common, and also as much in common as not. I found myself as much in agreement with you as in disagreement. But what attracted me to write to you is your courage and your boldness. And what appears to be the courage of your convictions. Thank you for that. It is rare to find people who display moral courage against their own kind, kith and kin, even if from 20,000 miles away. This class of people often never touch the tyrants and tyranny that can reach them. They almost always ignore the tyrants at home. And such psyche interests me greatly as an 'amateur social scientist' ('amateur' meaning: I don't make my living from it, it's only my hobby; I made my living as a Silicon Valley engineer-craftsman, my pertinent bio is on my website and may also be gleaned from my unpublished online books).
Dr. Asar, If you are so inclined, I would like to enter into intellectual conversations with you on the subject of reality – what is it, how do we uncover it, how do we deal with epistemological corruption, and lastly, how do we deal with our own self-interests, our inclination towards self-preservation which colors our judgments, our biases, our preconceptions, and our natural talents and natural dispositions all of which lead to epistemological distortions in our worldviews. We all have different capacities, are gifted with different talents by our Creator (or by nature for the atheist), and in this short span of life, all of us try to do our best given our circumstances. And that directly impacts our worldviews, and thus our understanding of reality, and consequently how we engage with it. Your engagement with reality interests me, and I hope that you will entertain the invitation contained in this letter. And I wish to invite to this conversation another psychiatrist, Dr. Sohail, the man cc'ed on this letter, to construct a deep three-way dialogue, a trialogue.
I am most impressed by your mental health / mind-brain interface medical background just as I am with your courage to speak boldly against your own when called for. The fact that you chose neurology with psychiatry to practice the healing arts of mental health shows your farsightedness. Your understanding of, and healing thereof of abnormal psyche and behavior at the individual psyche and cellular levels must surely be most rewarding in furthering your understanding of why humans behave the way we do. I wonder though, if you have taken the next natural step: seeking understanding and healing thereof of the abnormal collective psyche and collective behavior. I.e., understanding sociopathy and primacy. Not just psychopathic primacy as exercised by the likes of Charles Manson who look evil and whose behavior I am sure all psychiatrists just love to dissect to study abnormal psychology that kills in rather small numbers and attracts the most public attention, but primacy exercised by tribes and nations that kills in large numbers to the sound of trumpets, and the rulers and leaders who look respectable who exercise that primacy as their god given imperative while their public applauds and “united we stand” with them!
Understanding that sociopathy Dr. Asar, that collective mental illness of those wearing suits and ties rather than those who look barbarian, and doing something about it, became my field of endeavor ever since 9-11.
But I had been exposed to its academic foundations since my undergraduate days when I studied behavior control and societal dysfunction at the macro social level while majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. I had also chosen to study the unseen political motivations and psycho-social forces that make events happen, and to map to the present time. I even spent one evening at the Walpole state prison in Massachusetts with my college classmates and professor who did one over us: he did not tell us that we were to meet murderers, all for crimes of passion, and all convicted in the third degree for un-premeditated murder. These people appeared most normal and we as students had 'wholesome conversations' with them about everything under the sun. They were most charming, and most disarming. Imagine our shock when the professor informed us the next day that every single one of them was a convicted murderer! Murderers who looked normal, like you and me, but had momentarily lost control with dire consequences. And we had then moved on to study the premeditated mass murderers in the Third Reich who also looked normal like you and me, but killed in large numbers to the sound of trumpet, and often to the accompaniment of accolades and medals. Until defeated that is. Sound familiar to you? Remind you of any present? Surely it does. But what I see is that it reminds you selectively!
I have seen your websites (including and noted all your persuasions, your inclination towards the Holy Qur'an, your advocacy of 'secular' Islam, your love of the Ummayads, etc. It is among the topics we shall discuss, InshaAllah, if you accept this invitation. To me, it appears that you are surrounded by your choir. But your invitation to debate with different views is heartening. I much rather dialogue, or trialogue as the invitation here, than try to convince you of my views. I understand 'metanoia', am a student of metanoia, by continually studying history and psychology and its instances in people who changed their mind with gestalt shifts, and rather than prevail upon others with my myopia, I much rather continually (re)discover the world and its reality by engaging with intellects and experiences far richer than mine.
I am somewhat like the character in the novel 'Kim' by Rudyard Kippling, forever in search of the 'river of the arrow', and always doing something with whatever I have discovered, understood and assimilated --- crucial ideas that I found so heartening to see reflected in your own statements. Mastery of a thousand books, and living a thousand lifetimes, is meaningless without being men and women of understanding, 'ulul-albab' ( أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ ) as the Holy Qur'an refers to them. Without some sha'oor, ma'arifat, wherewithal, entering between our ears to transcend our narrow self-interests and our respective myopia, we remain 'likkha parrha jahils' despite our many academic degrees and lofty accolades that usually accompany the glorified educated morons du jour. We principally die the death of jahiliya just as we lived the age of jahiliya under the self-delusion of 'high civilization'!
Today, we live in the age of universal deceit, and to uncover reality the way it actually is in such an age, minimally takes a nonconformist 'revolutionary' mind. Your wearing the Che Guevara cap in your background banners and in your talks Dr. Asar, at least hints of a 'revolutionary mind'. I like the sound of it. But there have been many pretenders to that station of self-delusion in all eras who have led themselves and others astray --- another idea that I found heartening in your advocacy of avoiding such pitfalls, which, I might add, you have rightly termed as 'mental illness', and which Surah al-Fatiha advocates as 'not following in the path of those who were led astray' that you also pointed out. All these aspects are the many foundational points of agreement I have with you. For who can sensibly disagree on truisms!
I also found your interest in justice, and your quoting Malcolm X very interesting. Revealingly for me, you seemed to have conveniently ignored your own adopted nation's shibboleths in the best example of what Malcolm X described as the 'House nigger'. In that vernacular, like Malcolm X proclaimed for himself, I am a 'Field Negro'; just FYI. Your reference to these matters, and your almost classic omissions, presents you as a rather 'selective' humanitarian.
And I would like to introduce you to another 'selective' humanitarian par excellence internet friend of mine who shares your profession and your passion for healing humanity, Dr. Sohail. He is a creative psychotherapist and practices his healing craft in Canada just as you do in California.
What would be wonderful Dr. Asar, and Dr. Sohail who is cc'ed and often hates my guts but is also most generous and forgiving of my transgressions like the true and genuine humanitarian that I believe he is, is if the three of us, trailogue. A three way deep conversation, with respect for each other and each others' views, that we principally try to learn from and explore rather than principally try to refute.
I think all human beings have a natural tendency towards primacy, in this case intellectual primacy, meaning, we hold our opinions superior to all others and would like it to always prevail. But what I think surely begets a more useful outcome is when we contain those primordial instincts and try to learn from each other in such a way that the whole comes out greater than the sum of its parts.
All benefit, and all are richer for having a rich class of intellectual friends who influence each other not by the hammer hitting the anvil, but by forces that are neither easily quantifiable nor easily identifiable.
Why do people change their minds? What makes metanoia? Surely not logic, not truth, not love, nor religion (faith) alone --- for were these principally the driving forces, legatees of ancient thousands of Prophets of wisdom, and Mr. Spocks and mother Teresas would have been ruling the world and there'd have been peace and justice from time immemorial. But we have had the Ten Commandments for at least three thousand years...
So what leads to metanoia is a keen interest of mine, and intelligent conversations that is both self-aware of one's own limitations, and keen on exploring others' minds for what they have uncovered, is at least one of the ways to better oneself that I have discovered. My intellectual friends whom I met on the internet over the past two decades have made me a lot wiser. But I discovered that in matters that tickle intellectual as well as emotional instincts, one can only help one's own self and no one else. I have learnt that the hard way, in the experience of 17 continuous years of strident justice activism that kicked off the very day of 9-11, and still continues, despite the bed of thorns of intransigence that it continually crosses over. I have little to show for my work, except in my own growth and understanding, my own assimilation of reality the way it actually is.
We have a lot in common Dr. Asar: all three of us, You, Dr. Sohail, and me are expats. living in the West, all three of us appear to be genuinely concerned with the fate of humanity and its discontents, all three of us appear to be attached to our native homelands whose streets we once roamed and whose memories still tickle our nostalgia, and all three of us are voicing our concerns, and our passions, and practicing our crafts publicly to the extent that is only limited by our 'zarf', our natural capacity, our understanding of the world, and obviously, at least to the first order, our 'self-interest', be it only subconscious.
For me, that 'self-interest', of not being conformist 'united we stand' and staying silent before the contemporary discontents and disaffections of our age, at least at the conscious level, is to prevent myself from going insane; and from having the charge of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity put upon my head by my conscience and by posterity and by the victims who die screaming for help in the pains of aerial and terrestrial bombardments that destroy the tabula rasa of entire nations and civilizations; for, indeed, one of the key observations of modern sociology, and explained by all religious wisdoms throughout the ages as the categorical imperative of man (in the Kantian sense), is: tyranny only flourishes when good men (and women) remain silent. That diction is borrowed from Edmund Burke, but the teachings of the Holy Qur'an is replete with that theme of conquering the 'banality of evil' first with jihad-un-nafs without which the heart never opens, the mouth never speaks, the eyes never see, and the ears never hear. As a Qur'anic scholar, you more than I are surely more familiar with “Summun, Bukmun, Umyun” and understand the diseases of the heart upon which the Holy Qur'an has spent so many verses. Atheistic Secular humanism that borrows its principal theology from Nietzsche's ubermensch, also lays claim to that theme of putting human misery and human salvation first (arguably rather unnaturally, as it generally believes in the axiom of law of nature applied to human beings, and presupposes social Darwinianism as necessary for social evolution; but, as in the case of Dr. Sohail, the built-in moral compass that is evidently the lot of all human beings not suffering from sociopathy and other misanthropic mental illnesses, can guide good natured people in exhibiting altruistic moral behavior patterns, often at great risks to themselves, regardless of their individual theology or its misanthropy. However, such people have become rare finds in our modernity and they are to be cherished, to the extent cherishable --- for none I have found to be angels and prophets; all labor with some degree of self-interest, and with instincts for self-preservation that easily co-opts them. Who among these gallant humanitarians should I choose as my leader? The one who sells out the least?).
And that's another thing that makes this invitation for trialogue among You, me, and Dr. Sohail interesting, at least to me to the point that it motivated this lengthy introduction letter: all three of us, evidently, are non-conformists in our respective persuasions, beliefs, and attitudes. Dr. Sohail is a self-avowed 'atheist secular humanist'; you appear to be a 'theist secular humanist' (whatever that means, and it should be revealing to explore that rather unusual idea with you from first principles); and I, just an ordinary theist plebeian who founded the little 'Project' from where you may glean my general disposition if that topic should ever interest you.
I believe I would make a most interesting third vertex of the non conformist triangle for this trailogue invitation which I hope would interest both you and Dr. Sohail. The reason being, that unlike both of you who offered your allegiance to the white man's flag and to his Queen respectively, I did not take an oath of allegiance to any flag or to any royalty. I am a Pakistani citizen living in the United States legally for nearly four decades as its permanent resident. I have a 'green card' for nearly that long. I came here for my undergraduate education, studied on both its coasts, piled up a couple of dozen of engineering patents while working, and both spiritually as well as intellectually grew up in the opportunities and freedoms that this country afforded me to think freely. This happened by the sheer luck of being born on the right side of the railroad tracks: me getting an opportunity to be admitted to one of its finest universities, M.I.T. Strangely, while it graduates super learned technocrats to uniformly fit into America's and its Allies' vast military-industrial-academe complex worldwide as economic widgets who stand united with her primacy imperatives, it failed to leave that imprint upon me. That, is luck! The luck of DNA, the luck of biochemistry, the luck of psyche, the luck of a concatenation of good fortunes that we often don't think about.
All of us have been bestowed with some such good luck which has made life easy and pleasurable. And thus, it also leaves a great burden of debt upon our shoulders for the good fortune that chose to smile upon us from the vast selection of humanity living in abject suffering, want, deprivation, and subjugation just because they were either born on the wrong side of history, or the wrong side of the railroad tracks.
It is evident that you too share in the same debt-burden to society by your proclamation of universal justice Dr. Asar. As does Dr. Sohail towards which he contributes compassionately by his 'lafzoon ki messihai' (title of his book in Urdu), and in his other books: Freedom of Religion-Freedom from Religion, and The Next Stage of Human Evolution. Dr. Sohail believes that every individual has his own 'truth' that he is comfortable with, and that's just fine. In his own small way, Dr. Sohail tries to give space to all to grow and to nurture their full potential; and professionally, to heal themselves by working out their angsts. You appear to want the same for all human beings Dr. Asar, if I have understood the thrust of your message of universal justice and the naming of your 'Pakistan Jannat Party' as such. And I, of course believe that any system that gives justice to human beings, that does not usurp and plunder, and permits people to grow on their individual and collective journeys from 'as-falah sa-faleen' to 'ashraf-ul-maklooqat', would make 'jannat' on earth for all mankind. I have no preference for any system except that it cater to the needs of all who live within its ambit, and live amicably with other nations who may have a different system that does the same.
That lofty aspiration of course presupposes that all tyrants have been dethroned, and the primacy instincts in man have been tamed. I haven't seen that happen yet, at any time in history, and therefore, unlike both of you, as an engineer by training and thinking, I tend to focus on the highest order most consequential bit first: how to dethrone the tyrants and how to defang man of his capacity for primacy. While both of you appear to have been somewhat successful at your lower order bits and surely bask in the glory of self-satisfaction (if your respective websites are any indication), I have only a string of failures to show for my little labors. The trees I am planting are all coming out lifeless in my own lifetime. Perhaps they will sprout at a later date?
Yes, I benefited from living and thriving in Rome during the Roman Empire's heyday, so to speak, just as you both did, while the Roman empire robbed, pillaged and plundered the wealth of the rest of the world! When we fail to recognize that latter fact, we are either Uncle or Aunty Thomas, or a hypocrite. The former is mental illness, if mental colonization can be called that, and I do choose to call it that. The latter is spiritual illness, and that has been the focus of all Divine as well as wisdom teachings from time immemorial.
Like both of you, the North American continent is where I too blossomed not just in my profession, but more importantly, in acquiring my tiny tiny share of sha'oor in the greater scheme of things. This despite my elitist academic education on both of its coasts, and my high-tech experiences, all of which tried to keep me happy as an economic widget in the service of capitalism. But perhaps because I was exposed to all this intellectual capital, that unlike my compatriots back home in Pakistan, it made me a strident 'malcontent' (in MLK Jr.'s sense of this term) and led me to rebel against the marginalization and 'Westoxification' of the East!
As Malcolm X learnt by reading the white man's books and in observing his behavior with the detachment of prison bars, I too read the white man's books and observed his behavior with self-imposed detachment. They raped and pilloried us easily because we inherited a slave mentality from our own rulers throughout our imperial history. Our case is not all that different from the American Negro, except that the black man saw his chains and we never did! We merely changed rulers, and chains, substituting the Arabian version of imperial Islam dominating our lands, with the white man's imperial theology dominating our lands. It still lingers on in this supposed post colonial era in the name of Western style democracy. This modern method of neo colonization loots and plunders our wealth at will no differently, except that now the people look forward to selecting the best among the worst presented to us every few years as our leaders to be. The methods of looting have become more and more sophisticated and beyond the ken of our national genius to comprehend.
And like yourself Dr. Asar, I too tend to think that the establishment of Pakistan, its military, along with its judiciary, has the natural power to right the wrongs of the past. To lead the charge to throw the tea overboard, just as the United States did to seek its freedom from the chains of servitude of its oppressors not too long ago. Surely, they cannot object to other nations adopting their example --- except, to the British empire, the American colonists were the terrorists and they had burnt down the White House!
I learnt to add two plus two to make four in the age of universal deceit right here in the superpower state, when all its scholars, all its statesmen, all its demagogues of all stripes, and all its wali-ullahs of all faiths, and in fact throughout the world, contemporarily and in history, have been offering five.
The people of both countries, United States of America and Pakistan, and all nations, are important to me, just as they are, evidently, to both of you. As you will surely agree, countries are ephemeral, synthetic, man-made abstractions. People are natural and real. When the welfare of the people is subsumed by that of state, when “we the people” is subsumed by statism, then nations cease to serve their people and instead people are required to serve the nation.
We live under statism today just as we did throughout history and during its long running empires. The United States of America was unique in that it began by “we the people”, but quickly thrust into statist rule keeping the lip-service to “we the people” intact. To understand this we have to revisit history that is not taught in America's two thousand schools but can still be found in its public libraries. That slogan is still quite intact, but there is no “we the people” in reality, there never was, except on that piece of parchment, where it sits comfortably even today, waiting, waiting, waiting...
That understanding is missing in your articulated perception of the United States and its civil rights leaders who had to struggle even two hundred years into that Declaration of “we the people” to get their civil rights granted to them. You and I are both beneficiaries of their sacrifices. And we must ask: what trees have we planted under whose shades our posterity shall sit?
During that long wait, until “we the people” actually comes to pass, I have no love lost for rulers of any nation, any empire, any tribe and any collective by whatever its name, both past and present, that are unjust, barbaric, gratuitously war-making, deceitful, arrogant, cunning, exploitive, and 'mather-chods' to their own peoples domestically, or to other nations internationally.
It seems to me that this no love lost for oppressive power should be the first order truism for all genuine humanitarians regardless of their persuasion. One can feed a thousand hungry people and the next day they are still hungry. Remove one tyrant or usurper from power and institute justice and all can feed themselves every day! But humanitarians today prefer to pursue the former --- there are also prizes and awards and social standings to be had from the tyrant for such 'humanitarianism'.
That is a crucial difference that the third vertex of the trialogue will surely pose as the un daunting challenge to both of you. Where you are visibly silent, or speak circumspectly so as not to jeopardize your status and self-interests, I speak as a 'field Negro'. But I speak with the courage of my convictions only to the degree I am capable, and since all three of us make that claim, at least in our own minds if not always in our acts, InshaAllah, we will learn a lot from our no holds barred but surely respectful trailogue if you accept this invitation --- far more than in well-controlled meaningless public debates whose primary intent is to convince the spectating sheep that every protagonist is their most trustworthy shepherd. And I expect that we will certainly learn far more than we do speaking to ourselves, which is, in effect, what we do when we speak before the choir and to those who generally tend to agree with us.
For me, it is rare to find courageous non conformists worthy of candid conversations without some guarded circumspection, and both of you are surely in that rare breed where honesty of purpose and having the courage of one's convictions may carry much weight even when we may agree to disagree. Experience will of course tell. I invite both you Dr. Asar, and Dr. Sohail, to be part of a whole that will, InshaAllah, be greater than the sum of its parts.
Come join me in a trailogue. Write to me, both of you, if this letter, and the open letter to the CJP and DG ISPR linked below interests you, on how we might fashion such a self learning trialogue.
All the best,
Zahir Ebrahim
Letter to Pakistan Military DG ISPR, Major General Asif Ghafoor, From Zahir Ebrahim :

Invitation to two Pakistani American-Canadian Psychiatrist-Humanitarian Doctors to Trialogue 10/10