Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Interpreter offspring of the brown ‘goras’

Pakistan is a country for extremism. We welcome all sorts of extremes. Religious, liberal, educated, uneducated, privileged, under-privileged, the list can go on forever, but of all, we are best suited for the privileged. People who have money and belong to the upper class, the ones who can afford to live in a bubble which is hardly affected by inflation, bad public health, foreign policies, power failures, water shortages, etc. This bubble is well protected, having been reinforced by continuing with the colonial system, yes colonial and not post-colonial. The only difference is that the white supremacists have been replaced by their interpreter class. Whether that interpreter class comes from the Pakistani elite schools or consists of a bunch of foreign educated kids, who chose to return to the land of the pure, is irrelevant for the not-or-under-privileged.

They are the ones in whose hands the ‘goras’ left Pakistan in 1947. These brown descendants of the goras aspire to be ‘goras’. They are an alienated hybrid of this confused society which lacks an identity, or as it is said in Urdu; are suffering from “Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka” syndrome. We have several words to identify them, including English medium, burger types, establishment, liberals, secular, etc, etc. It is our own hodgepodge of a feudal, capitalist, dash of Islamic socialist, colonial society.

"We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect," by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800–1859) a Victorian historian, essayist, and parliamentarian. He served as a member of the supreme council of the East India Company from 1834 to 1838, where he oversaw major educational and legal reforms. These lines might be from early 19th century, but they still ring true for Pakistan. We hardly see any significant changes in our education, health policies. Simply because, it isn't beneficial for the interpreter class that, as mentioned earlier lives in a bubble.

The most beneficial for the interpreter class is to let the system stay as is. Or perhaps make it worse, as making it worse only affects the under-privileged who are already dispensable and ‘oh so corrupt’. Their only utility is their voting capability. The privileged decry all that is under-privileged. They occupy higher ground and perhaps intentionally or unintentionally without realizing their own role in maintaining the status quo, blame it on the have-nots. In a way it is understandable. It is not a matter of good or bad, wrong or right, rather it is about retaining privilege with which comes power, a vicious circle, where policies are not made by people who are not in power. And power is not owned by people who are not privileged.

We are conditioned from our cradle to be adapted within one of these categories of privileged or under-privileged, depending on what class we come from. Our opportunities and lack thereof depend on who our parents are or were. We can even classify it as the privileged and ones that do everything in their power to become privileged. The earlier has all that it takes to stay privileged, including ‘interpreter offspring’, while the other tries its best to break this circle of privilege by hook or by crook.

These interpreter offspring are often foreign qualified or local elite school graduates, who have more market value compared to the local public university graduates. Some will argue it is because of what these graduates have to offer, but the million dollar question is should access to education be determined by the amount of money ones family possessed? Probably at this stage many readers would be squirming to say, but nobody stopped the other people from getting the same level of education. That if ‘one wants’ nothing is impossible, and 10 children of a Pakhtun laborer working in Karachi can have access to education at the Karachi Grammar School. The laborer will only have to work ‘really hard’ to achieve this. And only ‘lazy’ people complain.

God and state are all just and fair when it comes to equal opportunities. And there are plenty of opportunities to be had if one is born in the right place, at the right time. Being born as an offspring to the ‘interpreter class’ means, having access to better schools, better education and at the end of it all, a better job, better working environment and a higher position that pays well.

It is part and parcel of almost everybody’s professional and practical life. Be it architects, doctors, journalists, teachers, etc. In the field of architecture the pay scale depends on the school one graduated from. A graduate of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture will be offered a higher salary after graduation compared to the one who graduated from NED University, Karachi University or Mehran University. It is very easy to guess at this stage that the one to be offered the lowest salary would be from Mehran University. Hence, the never ending cycle based on privilege continues. Forcing many people to resort to unfair means to break this cycle and become more privileged, powerful, resourceful and ‘equal’ within the unjust system.

Let’s take the example of the media that is owned by people from political, industrial, banking sector and where most of the positions of power are held by people from elite backgrounds. Someone’s father owns a hospital, another’s is a bureaucrat, yet another is the nephew of a serving MNA, or is related to an industrialist. They all probably went to the Karachi Grammar School, later attended Oxford or some other foreign university privately or on scholarship is a whole new topic of debate, but they have a silent covenant to follow. These people are city editors, senior editors, if without a foreign degree sub-editors at desks, concessions are also made when a local university graduate proves his/her metal against the ones who belong to the higher echelons, especially if this ugly duckling did his or her O levels from City School, Beaconhouse, etc. However, reporting is majorly dominated by the ‘chhota mota’ background people; graduates of Peshawar University, Jamshoro University, Baluchistan University, etc.

How many of us realize that the mere use of internet and capability to write proper English is a product of our class based post-colonial society? Should good education be a choice dependent on money? How many of us actually step back and let a public graduate take lead instead of us, because oh we are so much for the equality of opportunities? The reason nothing changed in 65 years is that the blame ball is being tossed around among the privileged class, who are not separate but a single entity.

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