Friday, May 25, 2007


I saw a baby sitting on the road alone yesterday. She was about 8 months old. I was in my car, standing at an intersection. I looked around and couldn’t see her mother. There was just one other beggar on the street, which was a 5 year old girl. The baby girl just stared at me while I stared at her. It depressed the hell out of me, and made me hate Karachi a little bit more. The light went green and I drove off like everyone else.

A while back, I met a 17 year old who said he had been picked up at random by the police on a false FIR (First Information Report). He had been hung, and electrocuted for around a month if my memory serves me correctly. They asked him for information on 2 or 3 of Karachi’s most famous gangsters. Having no connection, he obviously didn’t have any information. They then asked him for Rs 30'000, an amount which he did not have, and refused to stop torturing him until he paid. I recently investigated his story, and it is in fact true.

On Sunday, a friend’s son asked him if Mohajirs are Hindus, and if that was why they were killing Pathans in the city. My friend was horrified, and has since considered moving back to his village so that his children's minds are not poisoned. I reminded him that we grew up here in Karachi during the 80’s and 90’s through some of the worst ethnic fighting, and we turned out fine. As long as he was sure his own mind would free from prejudice, I estimated his children’s would as well. But I did say there was a chance that his children would be part of a shrinking minority of reasonable citizens when they became older.

I saw another boy today. He was about 8 years old. He was swinging about on the iron fencing that separates the Forum from the road/parking strip ( The Forum is a shopping centre in an affluent neighborhood). A guard came to him while he was swinging from the fence, and grabbed the boy’s arm. He twisted it around with severe force, and made the boy cry, ostensibly for swinging from the Forum fence. He held the boy in that position for some time. My friend went to him and asked what he was doing. The guard just looked at him in the eye, let go, and walked off. There were about 50 people on the street who sat and watched, and most lost interest within the first few seconds of the boy being hassled. The kid then asked us for money, and we said no.

Its been a bad few months in that way. I am hoping Karachi will stop giving me reasons to fear and hate it.


ayla said...

this sucks dude :O(

Anonymous said...

Parents have little power to determine the sort of people their children will become.

It is what children experience 'outside' the home, in the company of their peers, that matters most in the long run.

Parents don't socialize children: children socialize children.

NB said...

Im personally not sure about that Anonymous, though I admit that I do not know what sociology as a subject has to say about the weightage accorded to a childs parents as compared to his/her peers.

However, I can to some extent speak for myself. Most of my peers in school were, to varying degrees, bastards. In value terms I feel i was socialised more by my parents and grandparents, and by the books i grew up reading. Morover my close freinds were selected on the basis of pre-existing values. While they undoubtedly validated those values, I honestly doubt they were involved in their formation.

NB said...

Plus children may be socialised 'outside' the home as you have said. But that doesnt necessary mean that a child lifts his own values from the consensus of his peers.

In my opinion socialisation outside the home would more likley occur wherein during kindergarden, if Child A is getting picked on by the whole Grade, and Child B defends him thereby earning the respect of Child C, he is more likley to grow up with a corresponding value which relates to that incident, e.g having a strong moral sense, or alternativly a craving for respect.

Like you said its the "experience" which has socialised him. It is not however the children themselves, for in that example, he has lifted neither the entire grade's values nor the values of Child C.

Ahsan said...

afraid i have to agree with anonymous. A LOT of social psychology studies have been done on this. it turns out that parents matter very little to a child's development (other than being normal people, like not hitting each other in front of the kid). almost all of the child's development takes place due to his/her peers.

ayla said...

Where are these studies then?

I agree with NB in

a) not making such general statements without evidence

b) talking from my own experience.
A lot of things have shaped who i am, but parents have been instrumental in all of it both directly and indirectly e.g. deciding which play groups i went to, what kind of children were there, the extent of family influence, what i watched, read, sharing similar political inclinations etc etc.

c) I have seen many documentaries and there is a lot of popular culture literature on the effects of parenting on our psychology.

d) What is 'normal' ahsan?

e) Sociology and psychology are not an exact science either, so i dont think definitive statements can truly be made on the matter. I think it must be much more complicated than that.

Hmmm. I hate Monday.

Ahsan said...

if i find the time, i will produce said studies. i'm afraid "talking from my own experience" as you and NB seem to be doing, is about the most foolhardy thing one can do when it comes to academic theorizing.

as for "normal" parents, i probably phrased my thoughts inaccurately. what is more accurate to say is that WHAT parents do doesn't matter as much as what peers do. what does matter is WHO parents are. constituion matters more than action.

so for instance, it does not matter if my dad drives me to school or not (action), but it does matter that my dad is well-off enough to afford a car and school (consitution). it does not matter whether or not my parents read to me (action) but that they are not divorced and therefore do not force me to live in a single-parent home (consitution).

as i said, these ideas are pretty much taken for granted in the SCIENCE of social psychology, despite what you or NB might believe about yourselves. as i said, i will produce studies when i find the time. in the meanwhile, i know for a fact freakonomics has a chapter on this, which makes NB's argument all the more strange: i only read the book because it was on his shelf.

Ahsan said...

on the reading to your children point, i should add that levitt pointed out a fact that perfectly sums up what i am trying to say. if my memory serves me correctly, he said in the chapter i mentioned earlier that statistics show that reading to your children has no demonstrable effect on them, but having books in the house does. this is a perfect illustration of my point: it does not matter (generally speaking) what your parents do, it matters who they are. as anonymous said, in the long run, it is what children experience OUTSIDE the home, in the company of their peers, that shapes them more than anything else.

NB said...

Im not sure if Ayla and I are actually disagreeing with you Ahsan, or with anonymous for that matter. No one is debating that "it is what children experience OUTSIDE the home" that socialises them. No one is debating that parents do Not have the final say, or anywhere near it. Nor am I debating your point on books, or the observations made in freakonomics. I reiterate that I am not aware of the exact weightage accorded to socialisation by parents as compared to children. If there is a greater weightage attached to peer socialisation it is still irrelevant to the point I am making.

I am therefore saying again what you and anonymous have both said, and which I already said in my earlier comment.

In my opinion (which is based on what i have read, validated by my own experience), a child is socialised by their own constitution/background as well as their "Experiences" outside of the home plus xyz other factors.

Being socialised by the "experience" of playing or being with your peers, is entirely different from adopting the values of your peers (or any individual peers) Wholesale. Just because my friends son may play with children who are Anti Mohajir, does not mean he will grow up to be Anti Mohajir as well. By the time he reaches adulthood, he may well be socialised by that "experience" or set of interactions (given his constitution plus extra factors) to be more aware of racism as a social evil. Peers may indeed be crucial, but that is different to suggesting that children take their values from their peers. I am saying it is the 'interaction', rather than the 'peer' which is the source of the value learning.

When you say children, what I presume your talking about is between 6-12, which undoubtedly is a period wherein the child seeks to conform to peer values. But during adolescence children seek to realise their individuality and usually branch off into their separate groups. So by adulthood, it is not the values of the peers which have been adopted/lifted, it is the sum total experience of interacting with those peers which has shaped the individual.

I am aware that I have now reiterated this point in about 7 different ways, but thats only because Ahsan seems to be reading past it.

ayla said...

NB when are you coming to London?

NB said...

Unsure at the moment dude, probably august some time.

Ahsan said...

i would say that your last comment is actually saying something very different to (a) your first comment on this post and (b) ayla's comment on this post. i was responding to (a) and (b) and i'm not "reading past anything".

NB said...

ok i just re-read everything.

in my first comment i said: "Most of my peers in school were, to varying degrees, bastards. In value terms I feel i was socialised more by my parents and grandparents"

Fair enough, you are right in that it does vary. What i said was different with respect to the bit pertaining to grandparents and parents. I should have said that "my values are closer to my grandparents and parents, despite (and in the other sense because of) having grown up interacting with bastards during childhood."

As for the bit pertaining to my close freinds, (which include the contributors of this blog) I made freinds with you guys post adolescence, 'on the basis of pre-existing values. While you guys undoubtedly validated those values, I honestly doubt any of you were involved in their formation' not through interaction, and definitley not through lifting.

For god sake you compleltey read past my second comment. It said exactly the same thing and it was prior to aylas comment.

As for ayla she has simply staked the relavence of Parental influence, without arguing that it is the crucial factor. From my understanding she is saying Parental influence cannot be dismissed i.e that a parent Can steer a child to not to be racist, in once sense by imparting values (direct) and in another sense by controlling the child's outside school environment (indirect), i.e who they interact with. This is a fair point in my mind and once again not very different from what I said in my second comment, or in the comment prior to this one. It supplements your point rather than contradicts it.

Acha now can we please start commenting on the breastfeeding arab please? Its much funnier and less taxing.

Ahsan said...

what exactly am i supposed to be saying about breastfeeding arabs? that the IDF will come in and let them have just one tit, and that too the one without the nice milk?

i'm sorry, that was completely inappropriate.