A few moments ago, Cassini burst into dust as it entered Saturn’s atmosphere. In actuality though, it has been more than an hour since this happened but, as it takes almost an hour for the signal to reach Earth, the end was now. The specifics don’t matter. What matters is that Cassini is no more.

There is nothing to be sad about on this demise. It was planned and executed perfectly. Cassini was supposed to disintegrate into innumerable pieces so that it’s carcass wouldn’t hurt any extra-terrestrial life. On September 11, it made its last trip near Titan for its ‘Goodbye kiss’: the pull of the moon’s gravity elongating its orbit so that it crashes into Saturn on its way back. As scheduled, the spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere and 45 seconds after sending its last signal, burst into flames.

Cassini was an achievement the whole humanity can be proud of. It travelled 7 years after its launch on 1997 to reach Saturn. There, it spent 13 years before it almost ran out of fuel. During this time, it made a number of discoveries about Saturn, the composition of its rings and potential life habiting environments in the outer solar system. The spacecraft has left humanity with an incredibly large amount of data which would further the understanding of astrophysics for times to come.

Not many celebrated this triumph in Pakistan. Most didn’t know or, much worse, didn’t care. The latter, the disregard, is probably the most painful aspect of the many, many things wrong with us as a community. We are a strange collection of people. We like using technology, or at least, we like to show off. A number of people within my social circle are already waiting for October to preorder Iphone X and have it brought here. The purchase would cost them a lot more than the original prices. The phones will be sold for almost double the prices due to the rarity and, people will buy. Not because they need to use the screen for some VR project or use it to make financial transactions seamless. No. The new phones would simply be there to show off prestige.

This attitude is exactly why the laptop schemes from both public and private sector are futile exercises. As a nation, we are yet to develop the attitude to not only make the most use of technology available with us but, to be curious. To, use it as a launchpad for new improvements and advances. To improve our lives just as many other nations in the world have done so using the same technology.

In a recent lecture in University of Copenhagen, a part of the world tour for his book ‘Goodbye islave’, Dr.  Jack LinchaunQiu, complained how people are becoming slaves to consumerism. After the talk, I chatted to him about the paradox of Pakistan and Finland. I queried how people in Pakistan who, at an average, earn way less than how much an average Finnish person earns, continued to get the latest, most expensive phones while the Finns were content with carrying their broken screened phones so long as they continued to work. Qiu could not explain the phenomenon so he suggested the comparison was futile itself. He insisted that these were two different groups of people with two very distinct mindsets and either behavior could not be reflected on another. This got me thinking and continuous to trouble me.

Are we really that different? Have I been unjust by claiming in the starting paras that aloofness to Cassini’s death is a cardinal sin for Pakistanis. Maybe, I should have given them more leverage and allowed them to be naïve and careless. I don’t really agree to either of that. Pakistan, so far as technological advancements is concerned, is not far behind. In the globalized world of today, technology cannot be limited inside a boundary. In due time, it escapes and makes an impact on other nations. We, in Pakistan, have the latest technological inventions available for us mere weeks after their release elsewhere. And yet, we insist that circumstances make it impossible for us to advance at the pace of advancements in India. The neighbor we all love to hate is projected to be a major space player in the coming decades. Pakistan, on the other hand is still notorious for its terrorism and fixation with polio.

The Naya Pakistan is not new for it still contains and maintains the problems of the old system. The culture remains the same. More importantly, the attitude remains the same. Any improvement in Pakistan will only come when someone presses the restart button. Of course, that’s not possible. This says a lot about my optimism towards this country and its people.


The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based in Islamabad.