Redundant Overton window

Zia Mohyeddin and Amjad Islam Amjad died this month

So did General Pervez Musharraf

But except for some peripheral controversies, tributes and discussions, the country had little time to spare for the demise of these three iconic figures of its history

It is as if we are in haste to forget

To do what, you ask? To return to the inanities of politics and cultural mediocrities

The case of General Musharraf deserves some attention

After ruling the country for nearly a decade and decades-long service, the man died in self-imposed exile

He was undoubtedly a polarising figure

But when a man dies, his politics perishes with him

His passing should have given his critics some closure

But when a few senators tried to offer fatiha for him on the floor of the house, a Jamaat-i-Islami senator opposed it

This from a religious politician whose politics revolves around the Islamic identity

Yes, the same faith whose founder had led the funeral prayer of Abdullah bin Ubbay, a known munafiq (hypocrite) of Madina, amid Hazrat Umar’s protestations

Forget what it says about Musharraf

Just think what it says about the religious understanding of the Jamaat’s leaders

There is straying from the flock

And then there is this

Zia saheb’s departure reminded me of his final work that appeared on television — an ad about a housing project in Gujar Khan

He pronounced it Gojjar Khan

You were blessed with an artist who could so comfortably switch between flawless English and absolutely divine Urdu

From Broadway to Hollywood, from Lollywood to variety shows on television, the man left his mark everywhere

And yet, since he chose to spend his final years in the country of his origin, which in turn is obsessed with property development and converting arable land into mud brick wastelands, it makes sense that the last gig offered to him would be to promote such a project

Imagine a genie offers to fulfil your three wishes, and all you can wish for is a cheeseburger, a shower and a grave — slow clap

Amjad Islam Amjad saheb has left behind an undying legacy

Undying in any nation that cares two hoots about culture

Our beloved country does not

Between explaining to the younger lot what a great TV drama Waris was and replaying it on television, I seriously thought if anyone even considered rebooting the TV serial with new actors and the latest production values

But why would they? They are busy making plays on scripts written by a card-carrying misogynistic man and a woman who believes minorities can be converted to Islam by listening to devotional recitations offered in the background of a phone call

You get what you ask for

Certainly, Amjad Islam Amjad and his legacy are not among those things

About reboots

Just think how many great titles can be rebooted

Khuda ki Basti, Ankahi, Jungle, Chhoti si Duniya, Andhera Ujala, Jangloos, Chand Girhan, Alif Noon and Suraj ke Saath Saath

We have seen how successful a remake of Maula Jatt has proven to be

But there must be a reason why these projects are not being attempted

Playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed could help but speak out that writers are being asked to write specific kinds of scripts

What kind? You can easily guess that

In the past two decades, culture has slipped out of our priority list

A healthy and pluralist culture fosters creativity which in turn engenders innovation and productivity

Ultimately, it is about creating harmony in society and ensuring tolerance for new ideas and experiments grows

A society at war with itself cannot progress a lot

But here, influential segments of the state and society do not seem ready to give up their desire to manufacture consent, homogenise the society to the breaking point, flatten and centralise a diverse nation

What can possibly go wrong? Then we complain that radicalism is proving too formidable to fight

Why wouldn’t it? It is clearly a priority of a segment

Before we proceed further and focus on the bigger picture, let us address the title of this piece

The Overton Window, named after Joseph Overton, a policy analyst who came up with the idea, is a model to understand the range of socially and culturally acceptable ideas, their evolution over time and how they inform the dominant politics of the time

The model insists that policy decisions are guided not by personal preferences but by the desire to remain within this range

So, before you complain that politics is too toxic, you should realise that it is merely speaking to what is culturally acceptable and often preferable in society

Right back at ya! What decides this range in society? Normally evolution of society itself

But in societies like ours, where the state has uncountable levers of social influence and has been using them throughout history, you can safely hold it responsible

So, from rising misogyny to radicalism and intolerance you can see why everything traces back to the state and its preferences

Still not convinced? Do you think that the state is more ‘evolved’ than that? Just open up the course books of the single national curriculum, and you will get your answer

Mind you

No one denies the presence of progressive elements within the state apparatus

Only that they are not the ones calling shots

Because we want to keep our Overton window redundant and divorced from reality and the changing world, our productivity and economic capacity keep shrinking

As a result, our economic performance has made us a laughing stock of the region

We can use any conspiracy to justify or explain away our plight, but the fact is the hands that destroyed the country’s economy over the decades of existence are all Pakistani

When I tweeted about the above ad featuring Zia sb, it felt like many people did not even want to see the point

In a country where the merit system does not exist, artists are always treated shabbily, and individuality and uniqueness are frowned upon, you are bound to settle for the most mediocre economic activity like buying and selling land

When this goes on, our neighbours are exploring space and manufacturing cutting-edge technology

You get what you ask for

And make no mistakes

This is what you have been asking for all along

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2023

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Date:19-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link