The one good (and bad) thing about internet and social networking sites is that if you have access to them, you can no longer not know what is going on in the world, in your country, in your city and even in the neighbourhood around you.
So, as I logged into my online accounts, I have been experiencing what we all do at some level or another, an information overdose on my newsfeed but sadly, since a very long time, the news hasn’t been a cause for rejoice or celebration. Instead, depression, confusion and fear has replaced the original charm of connecting with distanced friends and family members so a whole new level of use of social media is seen to be emerging wherein it has come out as a tool and weapon for spreading awareness on causes and issues and to mobilize people for the same.
All of this is good at some level I suppose. Awareness is a good thing and one should make informed decisions and be not kept in dark, however, when the devil is out, it is out and makes no distinction between good, bad and ugly. The rules apply across the board and the impact and implications, well then go hand in hand.
Much of our online existence and aggression is actually a reflection of our character, our values and our collective sense of being in the offline world and so contrasting views converting into verbal battles is all too common. Intolerance is all too common and with it, abuse is all too common for that is how we are.
Unfortunately, most of us are all too oblivious of the interplay of the online and offline world and fail to appreciate the impacts our online existence can have on our offline world. The Qandeel Baloch case is an example at point. However, what disturbs me is that I see a lot of discrepancy in terms of our definitions of core concepts such as ‘honour’.
How can honour be limited to and restricted to the female members of the family? Are the men not supposed to carry the honor of the family on their shoulders? Are they and if so, why are exempted from even the possibility of bringing shame to the family when in fact, nothing can bring more shame to a family than a person who indulges in criminal activities such as killing or harassing or raping or torturing and abusing etc? If we are that headstrong about defending our honour then we should as a society equally punish the male members of the family when they deviate.
This thought is what brings me to the topic of this article, i.e. reconciling Pakistan’s honour. I wish to understand and question how can we reconcile honour killings with harassment and other such opposing and contradictory practices prevalent in our society for either we can be “an honourable society” or a society which lacks honour and so ends up harassing and murdering and abusing its fellow people. We cannot, be both without off course being contradictory.
Harassment exists in many shapes and forms in our society, from work places to public spaces and even our homes. From verbal to physical and psychological, it manifests itself in the most subtle and in the most obvious forms; so much so that at times people do not even realise it themselves that they are in fact harassing another person.
What is most disturbing about the prevalence of such practices is that all too often they are accompanied with pre-conceived or rather ill conceived notions that put the blame on the victim for having ‘asked for’ such behavior. That can never and should never be taken as a justification or excuse. The longer we accept this rhetoric or reiterate or even think that the victim had something to do with initiating the harassment ushered towards her, the more draconian and entrenched this practice would be. There is absolutely no excuse or justification for harassing anyone for any reason in any way at all, period.
For a society which is so headstrong and adamant about keeping its honour to an extent to even justify the most heinous crime against mankind (and women in particular), i.e. murder, it is unsettling to observe that in that same society harassment of women is also as common as honour killing is, if not more.
So as social media put forth before me, there was a murder justified as honour killing in my news feed, and another story about how a women was harassed by frustrated motorcyclists on street and yet another, how several others were silenced or killed or ‘taught a lesson’ for not ‘conforming’. All of this is totally irreconcilable and tells me a lot about the kind of twisted values we have and the twisted society we have become online and offline.
For any real progress to ensue, we need to work towards bridging the gaps in our shared values through education, dialogue and discourse.