Friday, October 13, 2006

Media Revolution Baby

I remember reading a book by Richard Falk, Declining World Order (not his best work, read his articles if you have a chance), where he argues that the 'information revolution' reinforces ethnic divides rather than dispelling them; this is certainly what's happening in Pakistan. The novelty of 'Pakistani cable channels' is withering away and the channels are trying to create a niche for themselves by creating an identity that their target audiences can associate with. In doing so theyre adopting identites that are omnipresent in the fractured society of Paistan - so TV channels now cater to audiences who are either rich (CNBC, Business Plus, Sun Biz, TVOne), Sindhi (KTN), Pathan (Khyber), Baloch (Bolan), from Karachi (TVOne, Geo, Aaj, Indus), Punjabi (PTV, Apna), Retards (ARY) or poor (well they don't really have TV's so it would be a waste to have a channel for them!).


ayla said...

what are "ethnic divides"?

what's wrong with diversity in society?

Alien Panda said...

Absolutely nothing wrong with diversity especially when it means that an Irish American can enjoy his Italian meal, or a Hispanic American can get plastered on St.Patricks Day. I wish Pakistan was like that, but its not; its a segmented society. I'm not saying that we should all adopt a singular identity and start speaking the same language, it would be great if people spoke 3 or 4 languages (if the Belgians can do it...) and enjoy the diversity of various cultures. I'm sure even the Belgians have altercations arising from ethnic differences, but what we have here is pure hatred for other ethnicities. If Ahsan's reading this, I'll ask him to talk about the Muhajirs!

I've been back a few weeks and in casual conversation with seemingly nice, educated people, I've heard one ethnic group or another spew nothing but hatred for an entire group of people. I say ethnic divides because thats what's been happening in Pakistan, people who belong to a particular ethnicity, or are part of a particular sectarian or religious group are being isolated within the confines of that group. Karachi is a diverse city but its becoming much less so every passing day. The Hindus left the country in the 50s, the Christians in the 90s, Parsis are leaving now. Its the capital of the province of Sindh and there are hardly and Sindhis left.
The same is happening in Lahore, where theres been a exodus of Pathans and Muhajirs.

So I guess by 'ethnic divides' I mean a people who only associate with others who happen to share the same 'identity' as them. There's no diversity where there's no dialogue between the groups, nor any tolerance; each group inhabits a distinct social structure, and then bombs the other group.

Moss J said...

Yes, even i was shocked by the wanton amount of channels. I didnt notice the Baloch channel, but i am not surprised since I was quite shocked by the existence of KTN and Khyber.
However, I am more impressed than dissapointed by this variety. Even if the content is supeflous and dumbed down, it still offers some sense of accomdation towards a secularised society.

ayla said...

Alien Panda: that's really very sad :O(

Alien Panda said...

Moss J, don't get me wrong, I think its great that we're finally seeing the media reflect the fact that not all Pakistanis speak Urdu (a majority don't). What distresses me, however, is the fact is that we're always dealing with extremes. On the one hand people are being forced to give up their own languages and made to only speak Urdu, and on the other hand theyre rebelling by only associating themselves with their own languages. I'd rather have people learn English and Urdu and their provincial or regional language; then we would have 'diversity' and cultural vibrancy. Like I said if the Belgians can do it...

ayla said...

but this whole language thing in particular has been going on for so long, even before Pakistan came into being! And while different tv. channels may be capitalising on differences and perhaps even going as far as exploiting them... government policy is even more at fault. That's who works on it all in Britain (Irish, Scots, Welsh and English!) and in Belgium and even Spain has trouble with this (Basques, Catalans, Andalusians) and France (them darn Corsicans!) It's nothing new and has predated the nation state (which has really put on the pressure...and in the case of Pakistan it's worse because and feel free to disagree, it grew as a state on a kind of Islamo-fascist stand with Urdu at its heart which really pisses off the people who have known themselves as Baluchis and Pashtuns and Sindhis and Kashmiris from long before. Well this Islamo-fascism is returning... people are getting defensive. The government/policy makers need to make people (or different tribes, provinces and sects) feel secure instead of keeping them on defence.

That's the way I see it...hmm maybe I could get a job as a propagandist for the Pakistani establishment! That would be fun.

ayla said...

(When i said "this whole language thing" I mean that throughout the history of the region... including the Mughals and the frequent occupiers and then the British and Dogra rule, there has always been someone telling Kashmirirs and Sindhis and Pashtuns etc. what language they can speak, they should speak etc.)

Alien Panda said...

Ayla: Propogandist for the Pakistani Government, now that would be interesting!

Dare I say it I agree with you Ayla. I was also thinking of Spain as an example of a country that has used language (Spanish!) to create a nation, considering the fact that they're still fighting I'm not sure if that'll work. But then how do we construct a nation, a nation that can communicate?

A while back Ahsan had told me that in Pakistan URdu should be replaced by English and the regional languages. His rationale being that English is the language of the world, and has the added advantage of having no regional affiliations. Now I'm not sure I agree with that. One of the reasons that Urdu was chosen as the national language, was because it had no regional affiliations in Pakistan and could forge an identity for this new-born nation. That clearly did not work. The problem isn't the language itself, its the unwillingness of people to adopt a language that isn't 'theirs'. A Sindhi would rather want Sindhi to be the national language and a Punjabi would want Punjabi.

The propblem is we're debating about the national language of a nation that isn't really there, perhaps a common language can help create that nation, but if its people feel so fragmented how do you get them to adopt this nationl language that is to create this nation... my head hurts!

The solution is to somehow convince people that there regional language will not erode by the simultaneous use of a 'national language'. And this is a big fat lie - just look at teh UK, how many people still speak Welsh, even the Irish have lost their language. (And Fi if you're reading this, your ability to say hello and order breakfast in Irish does not count!)