COMMENT: Our moral decay —Taha Najeeb Khan - Tuesday, December 07, 2010

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Before we go around throwing angry diatribes against our politicians, American policies, Jewish machinations and Indian intentions with saintly clairvoyance, a healthy dose of self-reflection ought to snap us back into our not-so-flattering reality

Aasia Bibi’s blasphemy case is a perfect reminder of everything that is wrong with our society today. It reminds us of our moral bankruptcy that is a product of a value system that has been systemically retarded over the years due to its over-reliance upon archaic and medieval laws and edicts that do not merit any space in our legal system today. It also reflects our double standards that reliably manifest themselves when it comes to our marginalised minority groups. We are, after all, the same people who will unfailingly whip up blame against those who commit atrocities in Kashmir and Palestine, but are flagrantly nonchalant when it comes to minorities in our own society.

Besides, the minorities are not the only ones who suffer; even the vast disenfranchised majority held in captive slavery by our rich elite is not any better off. This should give all of us some pause. We need to ask ourselves how many societies in the world continue to institutionalise slavery on such a grand scale as we do. This rather ghoulish exercise of modern day slavery is something one would rightfully expect even a partially civilised society to have outgrown in this day and age. Unfortunately, we have not. Therefore, the unseemly sight of servants sitting obsequiously on the ground at their masters’ feet is rather commonplace, on top of which we have a ‘general public’ that is shamelessly and oftentimes overtly looked upon with contempt by the more privileged classes, who are, incidentally, completely loathe to sharing any space with their psychically enslaved subjects. Even stray animals are not treated with such disdain in most of the civilised world.

What makes this unconscionable abuse of human rights so ironic is that we are a society that stridently purports to be an ‘Islamic republic’. Interestingly, our society places a heavy penalty on practices like consuming alcohol or expressing the mildest intellectual scepticism upon textual veracity or plausibility of the truth-claims of religious scriptures. Therefore, it is considered perfectly normal to treat a vast majority of our people worse than animals, yet exercising intellectual/social freedom can get one killed. Clearly, such a diabolical inversion of a society’s ethical and moral values should be genuinely troubling to any outsider who chooses to view it without the lens of patriotic/religious bias. This, quite clearly, is a society where debate has been replaced by dogma, and reason replaced by revelation — a society devoid of any moral scruples.

A facile argument that is often defensively thrown around is that all of this is because of illiteracy. The people who make this argument often forget that the slave-holding elite is by no means illiterate. Also, let us not forget that this collective enslavement of a vast majority by a tiny minority is only one instance out of the kaleidoscopic range of egregious ethical and moral inanities that occupy the seemingly endless landscape of our depraved collective conscience. After all, our bestial tendencies on the road, our hypocritical denial of reality when confronted with facts, our shameless emulation of the very cultures we admonish, our incorrigibility to reform or change, our criminal apathy to the plight of those whose rights we unabashedly trample and our wilful abandonment of almost every other principle that makes for a civilised humane society are all fine distillations of our corrupt ethical and moral impulses.

Surprisingly, the same people who are otherwise morally blind to this social disparity in their daily lives are the quickest to take off their moral blindfolds in the face of cataclysmic events, for instance the recent flood relief efforts, which, commendable as they may be, only add to the paradoxical reality of this moral inconsistency. It is mind-boggling how the very people, who under normal circumstances, feel no anxiety towards denigrating street beggars in public or balking at the slightest prospect of sharing their space with their bonded chattel, are inexplicably driven to a crescendo of philanthropic verve every time a nationwide calamity occurs.

Could it be argued that this uncanny retardation of our ethical concerns stems from an obscure value system that is buried under several layers of moral obfuscation, held secure and in fact reinforced through a generational fixation with dogma and an aversion towards rational free-thinking that has completely arrested our moral development? Conceding at least this much might help us to understand how our society continues to give a free pass to a macabre line-up of moral vice such as organised serfdom, bride burning, honour killings, punitive rape, etc, while clamping down on people’s social and intellectual freedom by prescribing the most draconian penalties for those who refuse to tread the fine line of state-sanctioned moral unreasonableness. Such misappropriation of our moral concerns is exactly what has reduced us to a sickening residue of two-faced moral degenerates. Why, then, are we so surprised each time our leadership fails us? They are, after all, mere products of this moral decadence. Have flowers ever bloomed out of rot and filth?

So, before we go around throwing angry diatribes against our politicians, American policies, Jewish machinations and Indian intentions with saintly clairvoyance, a healthy dose of self-reflection ought to snap us back into our not-so-flattering reality. Let us do away with snap judgments of the west, condemning them for colonising us while we brazenly colonise our own people.

Let us recognise that we are faced with a state of moral emergency and the whole world has caught a whiff of our moral decay. People ultimately are products of their environment. So, if the environment creates people that are unable to change, the environment will never change. But the world evolves and sometimes change is forced from without when it does not come from within. That is why, while in isolation our society refuses to change, the consequences of our inaction are being felt worldwide and that is sure to bring about change from outside, which may not be pleasant. As Martin Luther King famously put it: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Let us wake up before it is too late.

The writer is a Solution Design/Development Consultant currently based in New York. He can be reached at

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