Posted in freedom, gender, pakistan, social relationships



Every year, 8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is a global day celebrating the achievements of women. At the same time, it is a great time to advocate and reflect on issues related to gender equality, that is men and women (including trans-gendered individuals) should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender. Gender refers to socially constructed characteristics and norms of women and men (and people have the right to assert how they want to identify yourself irrespective of your biological sex).

Globally, the women are fighting to get their deserved share of equality and opportunities; however, the situation is not celebratory for Pakistan. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, Pakistan ranks 141 out of 142 countries worldwide.  Large gaps continue to exist between men and women in health, education, politics, and economic participation.  Factors contributing to high inequalities for women include gender-based violence, restricted mobility, lack of education, little awareness of rights, lack of access to and ownership of resources and assets, and limited access to social services. The root-cause of this divide and the outlined factors has been the patriarchal norms of the society.

We are aware of this fact but it is also important to acknowledge that in the modern age, these norms equally harm the men. Humankind is selfish and in my skepticism, men would only join the league when they see the benefit for their own kiln because change of norms is a long-term battle. In order to understand how patriarchy hurts men themselves and how we can engage all genders of society towards equality, I can think of only one solution i.e. raising questions, as I do not have the answers yet. Historically, Pakistanis are encouraged not to question any authority whether it is the family, school, religion or any other area of life so the first step is overcoming our complacency.

Let’s begin with economic development as at the end of the day, it runs the home. This year, the central theme for International Women’s Day campaign is the pledge for parity. Parity refers to the equal pay and leadership opportunities for all genders. But the argument that men ask is that why should women get equal pay in our society when men has more responsibilities for the financial sustenance of families. Orthodoxy in interpretation of religious scripture supports such perception and this patriarchal norm is nothing less than a burden for a family unit in today’s age where the middle class is diminishing quickly. One person earning for the whole family is an unrealistic proposition. If women have the chance for equal pay, the urge of genders to participate increase and the independence of working woman can be mutually beneficial to families if men can keep their egos aside. In many instances, women are the sole-earners or continue to support their families (I won’t bring marital status here because it is so irrelevant) and therefore, the whole idea of one gender bearing financial responsibility is baseless and parity becomes even more important. The idea of family is all about love and support of all kinds. It is an imperative to destroy patriarchal norms and therefore, a pre-requisite to establish other equalities of responsibilities as sharing housework after work and taking care of development of children. Paternal and maternal leaves also helps in maintaining that balance for a married couple.

In return, this participation can help in easing the emotional pressure that comes with patriarchal ideals of manhood. Under patriarchy, a man cannot be vulnerable, sensitive and expressive because he has to be strong enough to sustain the family, its economics and dynamics. Equality can ease out these unrealistic and inhumane expectations that men have created themselves for their creed. Briefly, we need to realize and acknowledge that women do not require men to save their lives. There are plenty of examples of women from diverse backgrounds who fight against the odds to get through every day. The solidarity will eventually help men to understand themselves holistically.

So what questions should we ask as a society to get there? For each of the area discussed henceforth, HeForShe campaign website has been referred to determine questions.

  • Does a healthy family is dependent or interdependent?
  • How would my workplace change positively if all genders were treated equally?
  • Does my workplace support equal pay for equal work?
  • What positive examples of women we have of female co-workers and leaders who are balancing their quality of life?
  • How can we eliminate taboos of using digital technology so that it can accelerate learning, provide economic opportunities and connect them to life-saving resources?
  • How would my family’s life be different if safety wasn’t an issue, in person or online?

For economic development of tomorrow, we will need to start today with good education and health for all genders, especially the girl child because they already have lesser opportunities. For United Nations global goals for sustainable development, 2016 is dedicated to the girl progress. For many societies, a myopic understanding of religion can create a barrier for development especially in what we equate to ‘honor’, which in my opinion, has never been an intention of any faith. One need to think about Mother Mary, Hazrat Bibi Khadija and Hindu goddesses to understand how they had already made a difference in the world before men came and contributed in their lives. Moreover, their initiative was never dependent on permissions from men.

So what question we need to ask ourselves for the area of education and health? They are pertinent to ask because if even we are providing girls’ education, we stereotype their opportunities (also sometimes attach shame) based on our biases of gender roles. Hint: the answers are mostly affirmative based on research and current job trends.

  • Should schools require all students to take computer science classes?
  • Do you think boys and girls can excel at the same subjects?
  • Should schools offer the same number of extracurricular sports to boys and girls?
  • Do we need more positive male and female teachers championing for the girl progress? What does it mean for young boys and girls?
  • Why do you think women now outnumber men on many college campuses?
  • What role models do we have of successful individuals pursuing a non-traditional degree for their gender?
  • What do you think is the biggest health risk in our country? Do genders stereotypes contribute to the risk?
  • Are all genders prepared to provide emotional support with intelligence?
  • Do partners in our society give each other respect for health and choices related to wellbeing?
  • Do you think your families and health system adequately supports mother’s and child’s health?
  • Can genders talk openly about their sexual wellbeing, so they have a sound physical and mental health?

In all the questions, there is a need to shift how we identify, communicate and act our societal roles. How can we embrace diversity and find strength therein? Are we man enough to demonstrate a new definition of masculinity where we are intuned with the feminine traits that we inherit from our resilient mothers, where heroism corresponds not to macho-ism but the emotional strength of kindness, compassion and sensitivity? How can we teach children and teens to be accepting of all genders identities? How can we contribute to making our society safe for all genders? More importantly, what it means to be human – the experience where you transcended and didn’t conform to normative gender expectations.

I know socio-economic realities are harsh, there is no one-size that fits all but these are some starting points towards assimilation and we need to be inclusive. If anyone reading this can engage any one member in your circle of influence – your family member, friend, work colleague or your own workers to think about even a single question and act on the answers, this will push us for the subsequent questions.

As world-renowned feminist Gloria Steinem said “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”

It is high time that all genders including men set their egos aside and join the collective. Sometimes women also unconsciously try to propagate the patriarchy because everyone has a fair share of baggage. It will not change rapidly; it will be a daily ordeal. Sometimes you will believe in these ideals but it will be difficult to act on it. Personally, I believe in this ideal but I have also faltered because of my share of societal baggage. We all will need to forgive each other at times, and sometimes we learn it hard way.

However, on a larger level, we need to respect the choice of a woman to take her decisions about their identity, beliefs, appearance, mobility, action and nature of participation, marriage and so on. Most importantly, men cannot be secure until they liberate their fear of women (a disguise for fear of what other men or world will say). Men will never be secure until they are fearful of using the next cuss word, sexist joke or dogmatic comment.

Posted in lessons, life, realizations, reflections, social relationships

better place

You learn new things everyday and your existential worldviews evolve through dialogue. What I have learned lately is that we do not need to console ourselves all the time but actually feel the flux and discomfort of ourselves and others. It is okay to feel vulnerable because you can always bounce back. Immunity and order in certain conditions is neither desirable nor worth living for. We consider silence is to be dignified but sometimes agression to preserve human dignity is also sacred.

Posted in care, etiquette, freedom, philosophy, pluralism, reflections, religion, social relationships

Zen midst Chaos

In recent years, in many social interactions, I have come across people who exclude and discriminate people on basis of morals and worldviews. Everyone comes across moralists (one who is unduly concerned with the morals of others) whether they are fundamentalists or pseudo-mystics who always try to run a moral brigade on your head. Ethics while selects the ‘good’ choice in a particular situation based on one’s existential understanding; morality is more about strict rules of ‘right and wrong’. Though their intensity is different, some of them are standing with guns and daggers and some are just being too judgmental (this also have varied forms of expressions). Moralist in any form are equally annoying to those who do not like these chains.

The reasons for such moral stiffness can be many but I believe, the problem lies in our over-indulgence in Platonic thought of dichotomy for all beliefs, decisions and actions, though many times subconsciously. Even the most interpretive and open texts like poetry and literature is translated into worldviews and actions only in this strict way. Right and Wrong. Form and essence. Old and New. Start and End. Mortal and Immortal. Temporary and Eternal. Everything is in pairs, yes I agree, but what about sub-pairs within each.

In this demarcation, we forget to notice the eternal in temporary and temporary in eternal. Sometimes perceiving yourself too right can go to the extreme of hurting other. Other times, something which is apparently perceived as wrong can actually be contributing to other’s good. Then there is also a distance and restraint from material life. Is not spirituality more about balance and unification than our supposed separate worldly and religious domains? Why then are you sent on earth, you should have rested in eternal peace? Embrace the matter in whole, all its beauty and ugliness having beauty.I have also felt that God’s biggest blessing in the world itself is form but we take it for granted. How would you tolerate Art then? If you won’t, you will become staunch to any creative-imaginative ability as advocated by philosophers like Plato and in religion, the extremist groups because of their distasteful moralistic attitude. The act of painting is out of innate desire (both love and lust) and out of love, comes finesse. If you are judging strokes too much, you will never create the painting. I would ask those who say they are intuitive and prefer to go with the flow, how they can be disapproving moralist. Nature is the biggest form which leads to your essence. For me, nature itself defines eternal in a temporary setting. How it can be so soothing when temporal I would ask these fatwa givers. Yes I am concerned about afterlife but it is also important to appreciate God’s different bounties and blessings of this world as well.

One might ignore form on the presumed eternity of essence. Essence was always there, yes but would keep on evolving as it is creation of both mind and heart. Whoever thinks essence remains the same, does not appreciate what interpretation is. Everything is in flux – Science, Laws, Culture and Religion. The only essence that is actualized is God which is beyond our comprehension, that’s about it. The only way to achieve Zen is through prayer where you recognize God and Good, why do we then have to rely so much on outward recognition of our moralistic view-point? That’s why it is advised to pray on regular basis and love on regular basis in all humility. Your love for the divine should not cause vanity. Moreover, prayer which means different to everyone. For some dancing can be immoral but isn’t the beautiful samaa not also dancing and extremely spiritual. Moralist or inflexible people can never appreciate diversity, they can tolerate public constestation of ideas. They enjoy company of only those who can reaffirm their moralist prejudice.

Consequently, for all that incomprehensible and comprehensible, there would be chaos. There would be whirling. Obviously I am against the self-imposed depression and chaos of extremists that has nothing but physical dimensions. When it comes to intellectual, spiritual and emotional chaos has its own beauty, the chaos which the extremism of complacent people will never like to divulge in. Our bodies have not been given survival instinct and will power for no reason. Who guaranteed your life would an easy ride in any possible way, outward or inward?

History has seen the downfall of civilizations caused by mystics of reclusive nature who take no initiative out of fear under the false demeanor of complacency/thankfulness. Many civilizations have survived out of valor. The most philosophy-inclined and vocal Sufis were the ones who inspired generations.Too much Zen can make one idle and one’s inability to handle chaos leads you to a reclusive bubble. But bubbles cannot be forever, one day they will burst. Where then will you go? Back to the judgmental/illlusioned self? The creation is in movement, even in a still object, the atoms are moving.

There is also a different kind of fanaticism in some readers/followers of mystical literature who display lack of conviction in the subtext of the words. All civilizations do suffer from quote syndrome; it is some blabber and passing like Chinese whispers, however meanings are not generated out of it for TODAY. We need to interpret and adorn this symbolic literature with reasoning that is out of love and not out of religion, which means our apparent conceptions of right can no longer sustain. We need to see the goodness/beauty instead. The mystical literature says this as well. Mystical literature is not about your usual moral realms.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

― Rumi

Peace then is full of chaos and not what we understand of peace literally where the act of stillness namely indifference, silence and complacency become illusionary symbols of peace. Reed not only have to be cut to be played but even when it is playing the most beautiful tune, the wind is not free, most of the time it is prisoned. One can either love or waste your time in calculating right and wrong. You can either be kind or judge. When you are judged, you need to love yourself and tell the others not to take their moral vanity too seriously.

There is a thin line between contemplation with perseverance/rigor and being judgmental. Debating of ideas is not about seeing who’s right or wrong, it is not about affirmation, it is about sharing with no strings attached.  Sharing itself should be one’s joy and not appreciation and reaffirmation because conclusions does not have to be mutual, they can be personal, sometimes there would be none. Freedom of expression comes with responsibility and baggage of critique in public domain. Sometimes it would also include refutation. Yes sometimes there will be chaos in sharing as well but it is the responsibility of both parties to be patient. The real patience is where there is contemplation with contest. This patience is developed through trusting goodness of intent on part of the other person from the very beginning. Pluralism in the word itself signifies that it is a mutual value. If you would judge the intent then you will also be judged whether you like or not.

Life does not come on your terms, nor will people, life is not about having zen, it is about recognizing zen in the chaos. It is about understanding that you are always fallible so you cannot expect others to be pitch-perfect on your own terms. You cannot put your moral brigade on any one, no matter how meaningful you think it is. Everyone in your world would not tolerate judgments and then you cannot sigh on their reaction because you were not in control of yours as well.

Rather than being too concerned about right and wrong of others, try to invoke goodness and beauty. Rather than being cold, be warm, even at cost of being angry but be warm, let your clay feel the kiln. The thoughts presented here are also open to debate. Conclusions are not fixed, they will always be personal (even if it represents void of concreteness) even after debate and this fact is already accounted.

Wish you love and strength. Blessed Be.

Posted in pluralism, reflections, social relationships

Being authentic rather than being perfect

Everyone’s way of showing their love, care and empathy is quite different. Some are more expressive and some are little subtle but whatever the case maybe, mostly it is thoughtful and meaningful. Sometimes people expect care and that too in their own preferred ways but then the others might also be suffering through their lows and therefore, it is not always possible. Human limitations is sometimes much stronger than the human courage itself and vice versa. In such situations, it is not easy to go out of the way but it does not mean that the person is not feeling it. Sometimes you fight, many times you fight back and most of the time you should come back. In the end, one cannot help but embrace the fact that life moves on and it is in a constant wheel of creation and wonder.