In his incisive and thought-provoking analysis, Aziz Ali Dad dissects and diagnoses the psychological pathologies afflicting the cultural mindset of GB society.
By Aziz Ali Dad
Culture is an interesting aspect of human society. Unlike the evolutionary processes, the changes in culture are quick not under the influence of nature but from the processes created by the society itself. With the passage of time, the very processes start to influence social psychology and behaviour. That is why society is called second nature. When the processes become part of cultural orthodoxy, it becomes very difficult to emancipate an individual from the cages collectively named as a culture. So the question that arises here is how to cure society of cultural psychopathologies? It is impossible to arrive at a possible answer to this question unless we diagnose the pathologies affecting cultural psychology and the social body.
This article aims at diagnosing psychological pathologies that are afflicting cultural mindset in Gilgit-Baltistan. I have tried to accommodate my observations as well as views provided by my readers and acquaintances personally and through social media.
The purpose of this analysis is not to provide a conclusive statement but to initiate a process to diagnose collective malaise, and enable every individual to identify or situate him or herself with the given categories. However, the given categories are not exhaustive, and more can be added to broaden the scope of coverage. The framework of analysis is two-pronged: it explores the external symptoms of psychopathology and then moves towards inside to analyze and diagnose the functioning of an individual’s cultural mindset. These pathological symptoms of culture appear in solid and virtual spaces.
Gilgit-Baltistan’s powerless society has given birth to quizzical [puzzled] psychological states and behaviour. Gilgit-Baltistan’s society has developed a malaise that is typical of its mindset. If a person is against you, you do not have to intimidate him or need to spend too much money to counter him. The maximum prize of a person is a picture with a person of pelf, power and position. Just give him a chance to have few pictures, he will do the rest of your job of image building by employing superlatives to eulogize you. We pine for getting just a handshake of power or to put our feet at the threshold of corridors of power. That is why we read statuses and claims along with pictures wherein we feel special to be with an officer of high rank.
Gilgit-Baltistan’s powerless society has given birth to quizzical [puzzled] psychological states and behaviour. The GB society has developed a malaise that is typical of its mindset.
Another malaise is flattery, adulation, and admiration by welcoming and congratulating new appointments as ‘game changers’ in Gilgit-Baltistan. It happened when members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) issued a statement of their full support to Asif Zardari on his becoming President of Pakistan. This was an odd act, as GBLA does not have any say in the election of the prime minister or president. Nevertheless, the people in the federal government find it quite amusing.
In Gilgit-Baltistan society, men claim to live a life of honour, but in reality, all the men spend their time and energies in the Secretariat and government offices to win some favour of power and contracts. For grabbing jobs, promotions, and transfers, they fill the wardrobes of people sitting at the helm of affairs with dry fruits of every sort. Not to mention the sub-culture that has been developed to become an adviser in the political setup.
Another malaise is patriarchy and male chauvinism afflicting the Gilgit-Baltistan society. The so-called honour (ghairat) is dishonoured by women’s claim for equality and independence. Husbands in Gilgit-Baltistan prefer to eat at hotels while keeping their wives and children hungry at home. Men proudly claim to be the sole custodian of women and children at home, but molest children and harass women in the streets. While we play polo to show-off as a star, dance madly to deafening music, we deem participation of women in cultural or sports activities, dancing and singing as obscene acts.
The fallacy of the educated middle class and the hypocrisy of old and new elites of GB reign supreme in society. There are people who work for social development with no engagement with society.
Another strange habit developed by our people is the tendency of saying “proud to represent Gilgit-Baltistan” when they have not been invited to represent. Similarly, we take pride in exhibiting culture by dancing to one’s tune while others laugh at us. At the same time, we feel angry when our womenfolk attend an important forum or event or showcase our cultural dress. We tend to give moral sermons without morals, claim to be a leader with no followers. We try to protect Islam when in reality we are the biggest threat to religion.
Paradoxical is our literature as we create beautiful poetry in Shina but indulge in sectarian violence. We boast to be literate (parha likha) without reading a single book on contemporary world issues or writing a single line.
Who says powers have not been devolved in Gilgit-Baltistan? We can easily see on roadshow much the drivers of bureaucracy are empowered as they have special powers to threaten you at the behest of their bosses. If one has a relative or acquaintance in police, army and intelligence agencies, then he has every right to intimidate all.
Under the influence of psychological imbalance, we are witnessing a contradiction and divide between ourselves and our vocation. For example, our scholar is away from books, a doctor does not want to touch his patients, and an engineer never touches his machinery or construction material. Educational institutions of higher learning have been turned into a graveyard of knowledge. We have poets without imagination, thinkers without thought and scholars without a scholarship. Some claim to be in exile despite the fact that he has gone abroad at his own will. There is no dearth of people who pose as media gurus and an adviser when he himself does not know the dynamics of media management. The split personality is visible in ethical norms as well. In our social context ethics for home is different from the public. So, men of Gilgit-Baltistan are angels for women folk in their home, but wolves for wives, sisters, and daughters of others outside.
We are under the illusion that we are in the game of game-changer initiatives. In reality, we are not even sweepers on the economic corridor. The fallacy of the educated middle class and the hypocrisy of old and new elites of GB reign supreme in society. There are people who work for social development with no engagement with society. People head government schools, but send their children to public and higher secondary schools. Strutting in NGO and government vehicle as if one owns the whole fleet of organisation or department. Our enlightened people think that we become modern by drinking alcohol. Those who go to religious places, compel us to respect them for their act of piety. There is another breed – the officials of religious bodies — that has assumed the charge of the guardians of religion without an iota of religious knowledge.
We have too much of a macho mentality of men in social and mental spaces.
People of Gilgit-Baltistan render their lives to prove their loyalty to the state when the state does not accept them as a citizen, their fundamental rights and failed to protect them. We exhibit the attitude of the colonial master to our own people when in power but kowtow to bureaucrats outside the region. We assert to be atheists when the home is ruled by theism. With every promotion, we need a new wife. We assert to be a pious society when toddlers are not safe in our streets, let alone women outside the home. Sodomy has become a source of pride in the sub-culture of youth. We love to like and comment on wives, daughters, and sisters of others on Facebook but prohibit our own sisters, daughters, and wives to open a Facebook account even.
As a society, we have developed novel ways of washing our guilt by making goats scapegoat for our corruption and misdeeds. We embezzle and misappropriate funds and indulge in all sorts of corruption but slaughter goats and oxen regularly as a bribe to God. We threaten and blackmail in the name of journalism and tarnish the characters of those who refuse to surrender to their demand. We pose rich when the heart is stingy. In the litany of poses, there is a popular one of posing ascetic Sufi while enjoying worldly amenities and wealth, etc. I have lost count of the malaise of the society of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The above-mentioned symptoms basically reveal an empty self that tries to hide emptiness within by adopting a mask among many that society has adopted. It is a kind of escape from the self in bad faith. Hence, we perpetually remain inauthentic throughout life and in society. The incidents of suicides among youth and womenfolk is not the death of individuals rather a pronouncement of the death of old suffocating patriarchal and tribal order. With exposure to modernity, we have failed to create new social and mental spaces. Instead, we cramped both spaces by excluding womenfolk and bringing in a male chauvinistic mentality.
We have too much of a macho mentality of men in social and mental spaces. It is the same macho mentality that has reduced conception of God into a macho mentality of violence in Gilgit-Baltistan. There is a need to make Gilgit-Baltistan man make more woman transform him into a human. Otherwise, this will corrupt every space and being in society.
Being a part and supporter of patriarchal society, men reject everything that is modern… because they do not have the courage to face the new world and identify scapegoat in the shape of women to hide their own weaknesses or impotency to tackle modernity.
From the analysis of the symptoms, it seems that women are not much afflicted by psychological malaise. Being a part and supporter of patriarchal society, men in the society of Gilgit-Baltistan reject everything that is modern. It is the men who have developed all the symptoms of psychological hypocrisy and ambivalence. It is happening because the patriarchal values and structures of traditional society are crumbling right before their eyes. Men fear everything novel because they do not have the courage to face a new world. In such a state, men identify scapegoat in the shape of women to hide their own weaknesses or impotency to tackle modernity. In the next article, I will try to shed light on possible cures for cultural psychopathologies in Gilgit-Baltistan and explore possibilities of new self and society.
The writer is a social researcher from Gilgit with a background in humanities and social sciences. Currently, he is a fellow of the Asia Leadership Fellow Program in Tokyo, Japan. He can be reached at: [email protected]