The truth will set you free

(Saadat Hasan, )

Lolita is a very famous novel by the Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov. It is quite scandalous and provocative according to the moral standards of most societies. But you have to admire the psychological depth provided by the novelist. He has explored deep dark corners of human psyche and subconscious. His characters creation is unique and close to life. His imagery is matchless. Once you start the novel you begin to see the world through the protagonist eyes. You only see what protagonist wanted you to see. Besides its great literary value Lolita remained to be the controversial novel. You can’t discuss Lolita openly. This constraint is most strongly felt by the Iranian novelist AzarNafisithe writer of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”.

Nafisi began to teach English literature in Tehran University around the time of revolution. She has narrated her experience of that time. How every western thing from clothes to literature was banned and people who use them were despised. She even couldn’t teach Classical literature to university students. Every person was under suspicion of being western agent, infidel or communist. High hopes of freedom and better life were shattered. In those troubled days she found her solace only in books. Literature transported her to another world, the world where there were no state or society imposed restrictions. Where no one is oppressed based on his/her personal beliefs and belongings. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the betterment of the society.

While reading her novel a new perspective about our society emerged in the mind. Apparently we are living in a society with a democratic system, but restrictions are everywhere. In our society adherence to the established norms, practices, and narratives is considered the highest intellectual achievement. You have to show compliance at every step. Anything besides established narrative is despised, frowned upon, and severely condemned. Take the example of state narrative about history of Pakistan. You don’t have the freedom of having any other narrative based on facts. Many prominent historians like DrMubarik Ali, Ayesha Jalal, and K.K Aziz have criticized the state narrative about history. In his famous book “Murder of history” K.K Aziz described history taught in course books as utter fiction and totally misleading. For keeping such opinions he was charged with treason. This tradition of labeling people as traitors has a long history. Anyone who had criticized establishment’s policies or demanded equal rights was immediately labeled as traitor. We labeled half the population as traitors in seventies and bore the brunt of separation. Sindhi’s, Muhajir, and Balcohi’s were labeled traitors at different times. Still we haven’t learnt our lesson.

Similarly religious and ethnic minorities are oppressed on different grounds. Constitutionally they have equal rights but reality is quite opposite. The stats of violence against religious minorities are staggering. After partition there was around 19% non-Muslim population and now it is 3%. The rest have fled the country to avoid oppression and discrimination. We have a habit of mourning over oppression in different parts of the world while and forgetting the state of affairs in own country.

Another issue is the state of sectarian and religious extremism. The reasons are diverse and deep rooted. Although frequent terrorist attacks perturb us but the most disturbing thing is the extremist attitude in common man. Due to lack of literacy dogmatism, superstitions, ignorance and extremism prevail in our society. Books are rarely read. In fact besides course books very few books are published. In last 5 years only 3000 books were published in Pakistan. These books include cooking, course books, and magazines etc. In comparison 90000 books were published last year in India. So why don’t we compete India in these fields that is a big question. Look at the cinema industry, less than 10 movies were produced last year. You would not see any healthy sport activities in our streets, schools and at national level. The level of intolerance is depicted by our attitude towards women. Almost 1000 women are killed annually for transgressing social norms. MalalaYousafzai and SharmeenObaidChinoyare the victim of our hatred.

We have to accept the fact that we are living in a close society, where intellectual and social freedom is just a dream. Everyone is oppressor and oppressed at the same time. In fact we have lost sense of oppression. History taught us that these kinds of societies never survive long. We must strive to change the situation. Older generation is too old to change our only hope is young generation. Enlighten, tolerant, knowledgeable youth is the solution of our problems. It is pertinent that youth must dissent from established norms and narratives for a better society. And first step is opening our minds to the knowledge. Remember the famous phrase “Seek the truth and the truth will set you free”.


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27 Nov, 2016 Views: 298


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