A nation without rationality

If we are to ever solve the many problems of our country, we need to adopt an approach that is, in the first place, rational and encourages us to think logically and with reason.

Kamila Hyat
Pakistani flag can be seen fluttering in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. — AFP/File

It is in many ways a requisite of both day-to-day life and governance that an elemental rationality guides the direction taken by ordinary people and those who wield power. In our nation, that rationality appears to have vanished.

We have a situation, where even within the government, there is profound confusion. A glaring example of irrationality is seen in our economic policies. The government’s frequent changes in taxation laws without proper consultation with stakeholders create an environment of uncertainty and mistrust. Businesses are unable to plan long-term investments due to the unpredictable nature of these policies.

This not only hampers economic growth but also discourages foreign investment. Rational decision-making would involve thorough analysis and stakeholder engagement before implementing any major economic changes. Yet, we continue to see abrupt decisions that leave businesses scrambling to adapt, often at significant financial losses.

Our education system, too, suffers from a lack of rationality. Curriculum changes are made without adequate input from educators and experts, leading to confusion among students and teachers alike. The frequent shifts in educational policy reflect a lack of coherent strategy and understanding of what is truly needed to improve learning outcomes.

Rational policymaking would entail a stable, long-term vision for education, developed in consultation with those who are directly involved in the field. Instead, we witness a haphazard approach that ultimately undermines the quality of education our children receive.

We see the same absence of rationality in other decisions as well. The news that electricity bills will soon be increased is not difficult to accept given the typical IMF manner of dealing with the government. But the question is whether it could have been held back by proposing other ideas, such as a cut in administrative spending to spare the already heavily burdened people from further strain and dismay. Clearly, this is not a priority.

We also have a small set of people who become rational thinkers or promote rationality. In most countries, it is generally expected that most of those who speak in public, including academics, journalists, politicians and others, will be rational. In our country, they have to be distinctly defined. These people appear on podcasts, on discussion programmes hosted by various organizations, and in other places, putting forward rationality.

But this rationality should of course come from virtually everyone in the country at whatever level and not just from a few selected individuals who have already made a name for themselves as rational thinkers.

There is also a distinct lack of rational behaviour in people’s actions. Groups of young people behind closed doors will fight over issues of political hatred and cult-like worship of a certain leader who is currently in prison. The lack of rationality underlying this discourse is almost frightening to witness. It comes from both sides, and there is no willingness to sort out matters or to reach any kind of understanding.

Comments by Imran Khan and his closest allies that he is being held in a death cell are also irrational. Everyone knows precisely what a death cell is like, with an open, sometimes, uncurtained, toilet and very few other facilities apart from a bed in one corner of the tiny room. Imran’s quarters are made up of two prison cells, and the allowance to exercise daily in the area outside this does not constitute the usual treatment of a prisoner on death row.

Yet he insists before the court that this is where he is being held. In the same way, other statements, lacking all logic, come from his supporters. Other parties that have no links to this are guilty of doing precisely the same. We have far too many statements that make very little sense coming from the leaders of all our major parties and adding to the air of despondency and hatred we already see on the political horizon everywhere in the country.

In some places, it has deepened even further, as is the case in smaller provinces and is now spreading in parts of the country such as Gilgit-Baltistan once known for its peace and harmony.

The irrationality does not come from politicians or politically motivated groups alone. It also comes from the actions of ordinary people. We have cases where persons are shot dead for no apparent reason and perhaps simply out of anger. We have other actions which seem to stem from similar reasons.

There have been cases in which traffic police officers and members of the motorway police have simply been driven over by angry drivers. Perhaps these people suffer from mental conditions of various kinds. But the same problems with the same thinking are also seen in battles on the street, in rows over tiny matters, and even fights take place within houses over the most trivial issues.

This, in so many ways, explains the kind of nation we have become without the ability to work together and at the very least listen to each other, even if there is to be no agreement and no consensus at the end of this discussion. Sane people can after all agree to differ. This is, or should be, a fundamental human quality.

We saw the same kind of irrationality when people attacked a young woman for having Arabic script on her clothes, even though they were unable to read precisely what was written or what the word meant. The same irrationality is depicted in our adaptation of our language to conform to its Arabic counterpart.

Surely it does not matter what we call a particular occasion or tradition. Far more important is the spirit in which it is undertaken and how it is to be credited by the person carrying it out. In the same way, on podcasts and talk shows everywhere, we have the most ridiculous assertions from those who term themselves ‘influencers’ in various fields as well as other persons. We have these so-called men of tradition and those who focus their attention on other fields of life.

This is a growing problem. If we are to ever solve the many problems of our country, we need to adopt an approach that is, in the first place, rational and encourages us to think logically and with reason. The process must begin at school and carry through to higher learning and beyond this. Unfortunately, this approach is not adopted, and perhaps this is one of the reasons for the irrationality that runs through every strain and every thread of our national life.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. She can be reached at: [email protected]

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this piece are the writer's own and don't necessarily reflect Geo.tv's editorial policy.