Tag Archives: paranoid

Poli-tickle theory

If I had a nickel for every time I told someone that I have a degree in political economy and was met by the response, “Oh, maybe you can fix Pakistan’s politics and economy!”… I probably could fix everything. Truth be told, Pakistan’s politics and economy baffle me. The tangled web of bureaucracy, MPA’s, local politics, corruption, Shahbaz Sharif’s edicts, the suo moto’s sitting in the courts, the pear-shaped police, Altaf Hussain’s rambles… my reaction is to place my fingers on my forehead and stare at my palms. And then Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi keep scratching and chewing cricket balls.

Though I might be dazed by Pakistan’s politics, the good thing is that everyone else is not. Everybody has a theory, and is kind enough to share it, and keeps sharing it.

It is good that I get to hear so much theoretical analysis of Pakistani politics. As luck would have it, I teach politics to wildly clueless third year students, who most of the time cannot tell their political left from right. They regularly ask me to revise my Weber and Waltz… they’ve absolutely got it wrong, all wrong. And truth be told, which of our current news pundits and analysts have ever tried to apply political theory to the events of Pakistan? Their own theories are enough, who cares about Chomsky and Foucault. Foo-who? Never mind.

So there I was, in the faculty lounge, trying to make out the handwriting of one of my students, when I was interrupted by the new Chief-Administrative-Manager-Head (or some combination of these words).

“Who are you?” he inquired very politely, to which I replied I was a teacher. Hoping he would leave it at that and just assume I taught advanced econometric analysis, I went back to my big red crosses (with a side of student gibberish).

“What do you teach?” he inquired extremely politely, to which I sighed… “Politics.”

Achaaaannnn … then you can tell me what the problem is with Pakistan, ehhh?” I had shot myself in the foot again.

“I am really very busy sir, gotta check these quizzes, clock is ticking,” I responded curtly.

Achaaaannnnn … then we should talk about politics when you are free sometime. But if you have a minute, let me tell you what I think we should do.”

I put my pen down, and stared at him blankly. Nothing would stop him from blurting out THE THEORY. Might as well try to get this over with.

“So once a long time ago I was on a train to Karachi from Lahore. And we were talking about politics the way friends do. And believe you me, Believe. You. Me. We came up with the perfect solution.”

And then the build-up began.

“First, you have elections. Then you form a parliament from those who win. And then… you shoot everybody!”

The punch line was like a wet fish thrown in my face. He smiled, very pleased. I thought it was over, but it wasn’t…

“You see, some corrupt politicos who lost the last election will be left. Also the chamchas andchailas and brethren of those we shot will also be enraged and motivated to do something. Democracy after all is the best revenge. So then you have another election and form a parliament with them. And then…” oh dear, it was coming again, “You shoot everybody!”

Not over yet.

“Then… have another election! But let those people live; the first two shootings will have rid the system of corruption.”

He had just trampled all over that thin line between dull humour and insanity tossed with absolute seriousness. I nodded my head, “Excellent, ha ha, excellent… let’s continue this later,” and hid behind my quiz.

There are so many ideas like this floating around. From meta-theories that say that the US is the Dajjal , to the highly common, insensitive and mindless, “You know what God is punishing people in our north for, don’t you?!”

Another howler has been making the rounds very successfully, brought to my attention through a colleague at an Ivy League institution (and here I thought the best education in the world can cure silliness). Gather round and listen closely friends, the US has a secret weapon called HAARP. It has been using this to cause natural disasters. In fact Hugo Chavez has been quoted saying that the US testing of this ‘tectonic weapon’ led to the Haiti earthquake. The US also caused our 2005 earthquake, and now the floods. Time is nigh. A tsunami is coming. Believe you me.

HAARP, theHigh Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme is apparently an ionosphericresearch programme jointly funded by the US military and the University of Alaska. The purpose, allegedly, is to develop better technology for radio communications and surveillance purposes (such as missile detection) based on the testing of the ionosphere 85km above the earth’s surface as it influences radio waves and transmissions. But I’m no physicist.

You’ve heard them all before. 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy. Faisal Shahzad’s botched plan was a Zionist conspiracy. The US is a Zionist conspiracy. And Altaf Bhai is an alien.

And rest assured, the Indian Cricket Board was behind the spot-fixing scandal. It was all RAW. We were framed. Believe you me.

Saadia Gardezi is not part of any ideological mafia, and is open to your theories. Do write and send your views to TFT.

The Friday Times, October 15-21, 2010, Vol. XXII, No. 35

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Propaganda Sunday

Long being in love with the artwork of vintage propaganda posters, I wrote and article on them for the Friday Times. But here’s an interesting one from America.

US WW2 Poster
Artist: Glenn Grothe
Year: 1942
The poster was a part of the “Loose lips may sink ships” campaign, reflecting the paranoia of the Americans that German spies could be among them. People were encouraged to not talk to strangers, and keep to themselves in crowds. The person watching in the picture wears a German soldier’s helmet. German spies were put ashore along parts of Florida’s east coast and northern states coastlines to infiltrate US businesses and military. There are numerous papers on the sighting of German U-boats just off US coastlines from Florida to Maine during WW2. US Merchant Marines engaged a number of these subs just off American shores even sinking some.

To shrug or to frown?

Saadia is sick of the trash on TV

The Friday Times, 18th June

We live in exciting times. Trying times, but exciting (not that I’m a big fan of the Pakistani brand of excitement). After my rant last week on Lahore setting itself on fire with the May 28 attacks, Karachi and its cousins began to drown. Yes, even the burgers at Clifton and Defence! My beautiful cities, this is not a competition, stop trying to one-up each other!

For the last few weeks, my father’s hair has gone from grey to white, my mother has elongated her prayers, and I have become a compulsive frowner. Pakistani media, I am frowning in your general direction. Thought I don’t know yet if it’s an angry frown or a bemused one.

I couldn’t fix Pakistan’s troubles but I could turn off my brain for a bit (selfish, I know). So from Tuesday to Thursday, I subjected myself to an anti-social experiment to try and prove the “no news is good news” maxim. I would block out the media from my life and see if my frown lines ease up; maybe my outrage would drop from clinically-insane to only shouting-at-the-TV-nuts. This sloppy experiment was quite oxymoronic to begin with, seeing that I wrote for a weekly newspaper.

Day one and I was already missing City 42 reports of Lahori sheep getting kidnapped by Lahori police in sheep’s clothing who were in cahoots with some mafia don of Samnabad. I decided to catch up with the latest Punjabi soaps. For the next two hours I soaked in daughters running away with men from the enemy tribe, sons running away to the city, mothers running to the hospital weeping over shot husbands, and husbands just sitting on their charpoys demanding chaa. Inspired, I tortured my mother with broken Punjabi all day and bought myself a canary yellow kameez like the female protagonist of the drama, and a pair of sunglasses to be able to look at myself in the mirror when I wore it.

Of course my friends shook their heads just like they do at my other less successful suggestions of social experiments including; writing a book about their food filled Lahori lives, driving around Lahore with Pahsto music blaring through open windows, and a sit-in protest against government tyranny where we sit in the nearest McDonalds. No one was allowed to say a word about the news to me. Thus without being able to throw around words like Rana Sanaullah, Phet, Zionist conspiracy, and nail color (Express News did a report on this; true story), company quickly dispersed after a fifteen minute discussion on whether my yellow shirt was radioactive or installed with an LED light source.

By Thursday, I was really bored.  I found that national disasters kept me on my toes. I was tired, and blank. From being a compulsive frowner I had become a compulsive shrugger. The morning paper lay a foot away in my office; I couldn’t have reached it if I wanted to. I just shrugged at it. Finally my boss hit me on the head with a rolled up Friday Times (from last week), blurted out the day’s headlines as I clutched at my ears in agony, and told me get back to work. I obsessed over Talat Hussain and the flotilla for the next ten minutes, frowned, and then wrote this frivolous article. A colleague looked this article and frowned very very hard.

This is contagious.

Tomorrow’s news is going to clog my arteries. How is your cholesterol?

Paranoid Press

A Pakistani editor elaborates on how to handle the situation, and says that at the very least “shouldn’t the Pakistan government suspend cooperation with the US, at least temporarily?” The stopping of NATO supplies and “the downing of a drone” will send a clear message

Saadia Gardezi

No one really knows why Faisal Shahzad decided to try to drive a car, containing alarm clocks connected to fireworks and petrol tanks, into Times Square? The Pakistani press is getting a lot of mileage out of this one; every TV anchor has his conspiracy theory dialogue rehearsed. The facts are strange, and the audience is emotional and attentive; nothing better than that to start off with that ambrosial phrase, “You know what I think…”

This time, it’s not the Taliban. The TTP has claimed that the groups have fighters on American soil who are poised to attack, but deny responsibility for the fizzled car bomb in Times Square. Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas, on May 5, questioned the ability of the group to reach US soil. “Anybody can claim anything,” he said.

It’s not his failed attempt that has shocked the world; it was who he was that has surprised us all. The script of our media on terrorist activities linked to outfits like the TTP is well rehearsed, but Faisal’s profile does not fit plots that we have seen before. This may have added to the media concocting speculative theories about why he did it, and who was behind it.
Continue reading Paranoid Press