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The enemy within.

It has been a month since the #AuratMarch, and unless one lives under a rock it is hard to escape all the conjecture around the movement. Though there have been many sections of the Pakistani society that have accepted and encouraged the #AuratMarch, it has largely been criticized and trivialized. With a whole spectrum of reactions it garnered, the most commonly used adjectives have been vulgar, unnecessary, immoral, unpatriotic, western, etc.

Some have called for the organizers to be arrested and raped, others have mansplained why the #Auratmarch is a social evil and few responded with their own slogans for a virtual #MardMarch. Some men defended their right to sending unsolicited pictures and explicit content to women without their consent. There exists a considerable body of women opposing the march, with their own placards, one of which translates to “You are a street b***h, while I am a home queen”. A woman may have a wonderful husband, but her experiences do not warrant that everyone has the same privilege. A placard that read “divorced and happy” opened up a crucial debate, challenging the prevalent opinion that divorced women are miserable damsels in distress. An alarming number of netizens argued on the logic that rights are finite like a piece of cake and giving women rights will deprive men of theirs. One placard held by a young man as a reaction to the #AuratMarch translates to “If I give you your rights who will give me mine”

Simone de Beauvoir, an existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist states “The point is not for women simply to take power out of men’s hands since that wouldn’t change anything about the world. It’s a question precisely of destroying that notion of power.”

Men, women, and everyone else who falls on different areas of the spectrum should enjoy equal liberty and equal protection of the laws. To assume that the #AuratMarch is merely to facilitate women is an uninformed notion, feminism is good for everyone. Gender equality means moving away from rigid constructs that a person can be defined and limited by their gender, be it a man, woman or anyone else.

Trivializing the #AuratMarch to sexist jokes takes away from what it stands for, in simple words equal protection of the law and equal rights. Human rights are universal, inalienable, and indivisible. Before we spew hate on the #AuratMarch, we should introspect and reflect. We need to recognise the enemy within. Social structures that have been decaying our nation, the sooner we realize the more lives we save.

Attached are a few headlines of what transpired in Pakistan in the past 4 weeks.

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8 years later…

A loved one doesn’t die at once, we lose them over time, their rocking chair is perpetually still, their belongings in the cupboards are gradually replaced by bed linen, their books slowly distributed to people, the ink in their diary fading, we stop seeing their clothes drying on the clothesline, we realize that no one else uses the same nicknames for us. The emptiness we always feel in the moments of celebration, we try to imagine their presence, only to realize our memory failing us. It dawns upon us that we are losing them bit by bit, in pieces despite holding on, they keep on slipping away. Each passing year adds to the distance between us.

Do we reserve our compassion only for the dead?

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Since last week, the Pakistani social media circuit is abuzz with a slew of posts urging people to be kind and watch out for signs of depression. This has been triggered by the tragic incident where Rushaan Farukh, a young, talented, and popular student at the Beaconhouse National University Lahore publically jumped to her death on campus. This comes a few months after Anam Tanoli, a beautiful young model committed suicide after being perpetually bullied online.

The evolution from vilifying suicide to identifying depression as a reality is much needed and we have come a long way. Depression is real and can be fatal. Since depression does not have a face, the ability to speak up and speak about depression can be life-saving. In popular culture and among people I know, a few have been diagnosed with clinical depression and have been managing it through medication and counseling. Yes, the struggle is constant and often exhausting. Despite the cyclical nature of depression, people are able to manage it, especially with social support.

Social media has given voice to many, users can use it to express their battles, seek companionship, propagate ideas of benevolence, and empathy. Social media has also given people a platform to channel their aggression through diverse methods, from anonymous smear campaigns to directly abusing their victim. Several young and talented people, especially beautiful, popular, and intelligent women I know remain vulnerable to frequent hateful cyber aggression. They have had professionals rule out depression and have no history of mental illness in their families. They occasionally express their self-destructive thoughts solely based on the anonymous online aggression they often endure. Constant negative messages do influence our self-image, some develop a thick skin, others succumb to it.

What triggered this piece and the subsequent questions I have is a Facebook post that I happened to stumble upon regarding empathy and kindness, where the user claims to be a champion on mental illness and acceptance. The post means well, but the problem is, it comes from someone who tried to bully me endlessly on my appearance. I only came to know of her existence when the cyber aggression started, hence I have reason to believe I never wronged her. Several other posts I have witnessed urge people who are suffering from depression to reach out. It takes a lot of courage and trust to open up about depression, and that trust one has to earn. Selective phases of kindness only when someone has taken a fatal step does not cut it. At present one doesn’t even have to be kind, just don’t be unkind, don’t be insensitive, let people live and exercise their choices with dignity. It baffles me to see labels like gay, drama queen, attention-seeker, bipolar, OCD, diva, menopausal etc. being casually used, they hurt.

There could be someone who apparently laughs off perpetual criticism and hurtful labels, one may believe it doesn’t hurt until irreversible damage has been done. Depression and self-doubt are not related to lack of success, wealth, beauty, health etc. Look out, someone who could be having it all might be fighting a battle in private. If being kind takes too much of an effort, then do not be unkind. When one doesn’t practice what one preaches one does a great disservice to the cause.

Do we reserve our compassion only for the dead?

Do we become humane only after some has given up?

Do we wait for a catastrophe to strike others so we may get a chance to be periodically kind and feel good about ourselves?

Do we only feel emphatic towards the ones who have quit the rat race and cease to be our competition?

#BNU #Lahore #Education #Awareness #Suicide #SuicidePrevention #Depression #Cyberbullying