Fabricated Truths – The legacy we are leaving behind
Pakistan is a country where majority thinks that philosophy is disbelief, use of science is permissible but it is a route to hell and most of the discourse is mythologized. Such assumptions are likely to hinder a scientific and critical thinking among people. Notably, the human history has undergone various phases of intellectual development—theological, metaphysical and positivist. This division by Auguste Comte explains that beginning of human thought was theological in nature. People in primitive age of their civilization divinized the natural occurrences. Natural objects, including animals, trees, fire, etc., were worshipped. This was the first phase when human intellect was underdeveloped. I can relate this phase to many of the people living in Pakistan even today who regard ‘reality’ as theological. People are split into various religious beliefs and sub-beliefs resulting in an intense form of ‘schism’. Many of them divinize ‘humans’. For instance, various groups consider historic figures—prophets, progeny of the prophet, prophet’s companions, and saintly people as humans with supernatural powers. Based on this, a good deal of knowledge is constructed that advocates the ‘miracle factor’. People do not think that such knowledge is exclusive of reason, evidence and logical justification. However, this is promoted with zest. Much literature is available in Pakistan which positions religious figures as super humans—completely the heroic portrayal of what exists in mythological literature. Construction of such discourse authenticates the beliefs of a fresh mind incapable of rationalizing what is going around.
In Pakistan, hero-worship is a great dilemma. People do not think rationally about things, humans and occurrences. No matter, it is politics, religion, ethnicity or a language, we do idealize. English language is idealized. Political figures though they are dead or those alive but not performing well are earning fame for they have been idealized. Religious scholars in respective groups are heroes and whatever they preach is taken as absolute truth which is beyond any question or criticism. If done so, one has to face severe consequences. Criticizing even an ethnic figure can cause a great harm including loss of life. If one thinks of reforms in religion, one has to face the same challenges. So, this hero-worship or idealization of people, castes and ethnicities is dominantly controlling the ordinary people who are trapped mentally. Knowledge is being produced in bulk—the fabricated knowledge only to fit to the narratives of various groups.
The case in Pakistan is not much different from classical Greece where knowledge and human experiences were not advanced, and people believed in each other’s assertions. The statements of the wise then were taken as truth. For example, Aristotle being a scientist believed in Ptolemaic Model/ geocentric view of the universe where earth was thought to be the centre of universe. On inquiry, Aristotle asserted that since God lives up in the sky, He thus placed earth and human on it at the centre so that He (God) should monitor them more easily. It would have been difficult for God to watch the mankind if they had been in the corner. This explanation satisfied many people living in Greece and also others outside it. This view became so popular that it was taken up by Christianity and made a part of Bible. Aristotle became sacred. He started to be divinized. Analogously, the theologians are revered sacred in Pakistan. They have various explanations which can satisfy each group of people affiliated with their respective school of thought. They prove science out of scripture. Such science is lauded at best in Pakistan. For instance, at the time of Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation process, ‘Muslim Science’ was invented which attempted to measure the ‘spirituality level’ of various Muslims. Many Muslim scientists took part with interest.
Though Aristotle’s position came to be questioned later by Copernicus and Galileo with ‘helio-centric view’ of the universe and accepted by people in various parts of the world, it may take time for theological deconstruction in Pakistan. The theological explanations of reality and construction of knowledge based on this epistemic position obstructs people in Pakistan to find a way to critical thinking. The entire discourse is accountable for the irrationality whatsoever exists in Pakistan. However, when I think of ‘metaphysical epistemology’, people are found to be performing better and reflecting on reality quite effectively. For instance, Abdus Salam—a Nobel Prize winner scientist in Pakistan for his ‘Grand Unification Theory’ was a monotheist. And he clearly stated that his motivation behind ‘unifying forces’ was monotheism. However, method which was scientific in nature helped him and his atheistic fellow working on the same theory led both of them to the same conclusion.
Interestingly enough, leftists in Pakistan think of themselves as befitting the positivistic phase of intellectual development. But when it comes to reality, they are just seen to monopolize science, reason and evidence. In reality, ‘Marxism’ acts no different than a religious discourse. Marxists like theologians talk about fundamentals; in case of deviation, blasphemy is there for sure leading to exemption of the classical Marxist group thus dividing Marxists in Pakistan into groups. Knowledge in their groups is also major issue. For instance, most of the literature produced is anti-religion turning people into atheism. Feministic discourse under Marxist theory condemns ‘patriarchy’ whereas oppressive forms in their discourse are being ignored. Males have no say when it comes to a woman since woman is oppressed in Pakistan; therefore, in all cases her voice takes the lead. No matter it may be unjust to men sometimes. Marxist discourse is very tricky and contradictory in Pakistan. They promote atheism while at the same time preach the monotheistic spirituality found in mystic poets of Pakistan. They are divided in line with political and intellectual grounds. And construction of knowledge is done accordingly condemning each other for unjust production of ideas and censorship of truth.
We are basically unaware of the mechanisms involving construction of knowledge and truth.
Having unawareness of historiography, we are submissive to the discourse which passes on to generations over the years. Nietzsche argued that the theologians have consciously attempted to create a discourse which helps them maintain their rule and authority over the people. Creating notions of ‘sin’, ‘virtue’ ‘evil’, ‘divine curse’, ‘punishment’ actually reinforces their authoritative position in the society. They have created such notions in order to control common folk. This is very much relatable in Pakistani context. The religious sermons delivered in Friday prayers, any occasions or regular meetings in mosques portray God as an entity to be feared. The entire discourse in religious teachings is made to control people, their behaviour and thinking. This is done by all religious and cultural groups starting right from family nourishment.
In addition, the fact that power constructs knowledge to promote an established narrative through pedagogy is also ignored by most people. To an ordinary mind, all knowledge whether cultural, religious or academic is value-free. The powers that be in all countries select the knowledge and fabricate it before it gets to the people. Americans, for instance, teach distorted history of Afghan war against the Soviet Union. The same goes for other countries including Pakistan. KK Aziz, a great historian in Pakistan, has explained in detail in his book ‘Murder of History’ that the knowledge in Pakistan is taught in distorted forms. The facts are fabricated. As a result, the children grow to be biased and illogical. Academic discourses are oppressive in nature. It is not only happening in schooling but also in colleges and universities. Since Pakistan has been an ex-colony under British Imperialism, the discourses constructed have some traces of the colonial legacy. People think in terms of ‘whiteness’. Racially discriminated attitudes are promoted; indigenous languages, cultures and knowledge are being destroyed in the name of progress and prosperity.
Given such detailed analysis of knowledge and its sources, we need to understand how far people in Pakistan are free to choose or think critically? As Nietzsche voiced that human beings are caged in social structure where not to speak of the free will, the system has taken even the ‘will’ of people, We do not will; we are conditioned. Human beings are totally controlled and conditioned under selective discourse which blocks their ways to think and reflect on what they practice in day-to-day life. The same is the condition in Pakistan. People are conditioned. They have not been given choices. They are imposed and indoctrinated. To escape this influence is very challenging for people. In given conditions, it is argued that we need to promote critical thinking among our children in family, schools and colleges and universities. Though what culture impresses on mind is lasting, it is yet possible to de-socialize people by helping them develop rational thinking based on evidence, reason and knowledge that is human-friendly. We need to question all oppressive discourses in all schools of thought existing in Pakistan which discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, gender, religion, caste or status. Knowledge has to be neutral to its best. Knowledge has to be inclusive of all who live in the country. Truths need not be distorted to gain interests. I think Pakistan needs more serious efforts in contribution of knowledge shifting its attention from knowledge for commercial use and incentives as done by university professors and researchers in the form of research publications including dissertations to knowledge for human development. All discourses inspired by neo-liberal values are less useful and need to be understood as a menace to social structure in Pakistan. Fortunately enough, Pakistan has a potential to contribute and is contributing. It still needs more efforts in this part so as to leave real knowledge behind instead of leaving fabricated truths for coming generations.
The author is a lecturer at English Language Development Centre (ELDC), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro. He can be accessed at: email@example.com