A culture lacking beauty and reason - Amin Jan Naim - Thursday, April 21, 2011

There is a pressing need for an alteration in the values of our society and the uplift of the character of the nation. The sharp cleavages in our values amidst a general social degradation are evident in all facets of our national life. A radical transformation and emancipation of our society is necessary. This will not be possible without a change in values, norms and outlook.

One aspect which lies at the basis of our state is a precious legacy of the British era – the principles of British common law.

Sadly, we are drifting away from this legacy. A sound, modern polity has to be based on what are now universal principles of jurisprudence. Some examples of these norms are the stipulation that hearsay is no evidence; that a person is innocent until proved guilty; that the burden of proof should not lie on an accused person; and the requirement of habeas corpus.

Long periods of dictatorships and draconian religious ordinances have badly affected rule of law in Pakistan. Some in society and governance develop a close, intertwined network and the rest toil and struggle unsupported and unprotected. That is why most rulers and especially dictators ensure their own men as heads of every major institution in the country. This setup is then perpetuated in the hierarchy and any dissent is crushed.

Our culture lacks reasoning. Precise reasoning based on measures, measurability and numeracy is the basis for modern science. An exposure to modern science and the scientific method will be especially valuable to the young.

Freedom of religion and artistic and intellectual freedom are now the core basis of any modern society. In addition, there is a need to spread the virtues of tolerance, courage and politeness in our populace.

We need to remove malignant values and shun xenophobia and obscurantism. It is sad that Pakistan is becoming increasingly xenophobic. One desirable way forward would be to imbibe the Hellenic tradition.

It is to the pristine influence of ancient Greek thought that the gigantic structure of western civilization owes its splendour and achievements. Western influence through technology, industry, communications as well as scientific, juridical and political ideas is profound everywhere.

But since the west does not have all the answers, we can also gain by imbibing some of the traditions of China, Japan and Korea.

The legacy, mores and aesthetics of the Confucian societies are remarkable in human history. That legacy is now predisposing them towards healthy modernisation based on their own values as well as the acceptance of the best of the western ones.

As one example, these countries are now also in the vanguard of western classical music – a source of strength and social vitality. Besides thousands of their youngsters studying in music conservatories, they have produced world renowned musicians like the Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa, the Chinese cellist Yo Yo Ma, the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida and the Korean conductor Myun-Whun Chung. Can we also hope for such phenomenon to happen here?

The current winds of change in Arab countries show a blurring of traditions and a triumph of universal values of freedom and human rights. The courage of the protestors in the face of brutal and omnipresent security apparatuses of the autocrats is really remarkable. A similar human triumph was witnessed in the overthrow of the Communist dictatorships in Europe in the 1980s.

Excellence and genius are important, but it is the average norm that will determine the robustness of the future Pakistan. Life in Pakistan must become less morose. The right way to go about achieving all this is through a continued, persistent political and electoral process in a framework of freedom, democracy and rule of law.

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan. Email: aminjan@comsats. net.pk

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=42840&Cat=9

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