Intellectual honesty and independence

I have never been popular, in school or later on in life, because I hate fitting into a hierarchical system of popularity. I abhor sycophancy. I cannot agree with someone for the sake of it,  just because they’re my friend, family or managers at work. I thought I would grow out of this social awkwardness and rigidity, but I find with time, I care less about the superficial opinion of others. I cannot in all intellectual honesty, applaud people when there is nothing to applaud. I find it hard to fake my passions and emotions. It’s a weakness, because a few white lies are necessary for survival and success, especially in Pakistan.

Pakistanis are a clannish lot. We hold loyalty dearer than honesty. We naturally fall into groups, alliances and fit ourselves into the most accessible and relatable herd. This means that we find ourselves in any scenario being the mindless sheep following a symbolic leader/mentor we admire and looking to them for cues on how to act or even think in a socially acceptable manner. Even in intellectual platforms, in classrooms, or in social situations, I’ve seen people holding back their opinion until the informal mentor or leader has spoken. We go to great lengths to prove our loyalty to our clan or group. We gush easily and agree easily. We find it hard to disagree or think independently and unapologetically. If we don’t toe the line we are shunned as the ‘ones who don’t fit in’.  I understand that we are tempted to agree with people we like or admire, return favours and cheer on our friends. There is an expectation to do so if you’re a ‘friend’, but such a process seems much like a barter transaction, exchanging favours, praise and acceptance.

Shouldn’t intellectual independence be valued? Shouldn’t debate and opposing ideas in the realms of courtesy and barring personal attacks be encouraged? There is nothing wrong with disagreement, how else are we to learn from ideas radically different from our own?

Anyway, this is just me thinking…in my isolated bubble.

Dard jab dil mein ho tou dawa kijiey,

Dil hi jab dard ho tou kya kijiey?

Ghalib.

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