Taking Sides on Pakistan

Your daily dose of over-the-top sarcasm —

At the outset let me [clarify] that this is not [a] piece in defence of the President nor a piece attacking those amongst us who constitute the intellectual cream of the nation and are now residing in greener pastures abroad; sipping their Starbucks, flaunting their Gucci’s and uploading pictures of all their latest misadventures on Facebook along with their bleeding heart status updates on, ‘how their hearts are still firmly embedded in Pakistan’, ‘how each bomb blast in Lahore still rocks their soul’ and ‘how they absolutely loathe the Bilawals, the Zardaris and the Sharifs’. [1]

Commenters to the OP who want to avoid moral bankruptcy reason that sending young, ambitious intellectuals abroad could be in the best long run interests of Pakistan — they can get the best training abroad, they can gain seniority in international advocacy, news, governmental or academic organizations, they can send cash payments back home.  Two rejoinders — 1) young “potential leaders” most likely leave sickly countries for the same reasons of safety and opportunity as anyone else, and 2) you don’t need a shiny degree from a Western institution to address basic logistical problems like tax collection, disaster relief, police and emergency services, disbursement of medicine — or even corruption.  “My Harvard degree says that local police stations shouldn’t accept bribes”?  Please.

Yet for some basic reason, the primal moral drives in people diverge and divide them into two classes.  For the first, removing yourself from a “bad situation” is justifiable.  You feel bad and will lend a helping hand when you can, but the world is cruel and everyone is hustling to get away from the cruelty.  For the second, you’re wrong when you leave behind a bad place to pursue a life of personal (or maybe familial — but it’s harder to attack mothers and fathers for desertion than young people) satiation.  You owe a specific obligation to the country where you came from and to “your people”, perhaps because they are not so different from you except by fortune.

Regardless of where you stand, as a human I just feel moved by discussions of patriotism as such a positive force of motivation.  In every case where there is a strong group identification (national, religious, ethnic, gender, political…) people can get so motivated to look beyond their individual horizons to the destinies of the group. But expatriates are a special case where they chose to get out of geographic (and other) associations with their group without leaving it altogether.

Interesting motives in other news stories (but the margin is too small to contain them) —

1) The stories of US pilots deployed to Pakistan for flood relief.
2) Iran and Venezuela agree to be allies in the crusade against America.
3) US confirms $60bn deal in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
4) India and Brazil move to include ecological and biodiversity economic costs in their national accounting.
5) Obama cancels planned visit to the Golden Temple in India for head covering-related reasons.


[1] Farseen Hussain, “Bursting the ex-patriate bubble”
[2] Photo credit, Sulekha/AP


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