A recent TV show clip — interview of a famous journalist on a top ranked TV channel — reminded me of how strongly we have been brainwashed into believing in the superiority of white man. The journalist had a long list of items which prove that the white man is infinitely superior to the brown man, and that we are a thousand times worse than the “civilized” races. To pick a couple of items at random, he thought that the white men are always honest, and they would be deeply insulted if they were accused of lying. Similarly, he thought that selling fraudulent medicines and making excessive profits were faults that only brown people like us have. It is not just that the whites do not do such things; they cannot even conceive that civilized people could commit such heinous crimes.

Apparently, it seems that he learned about Western civilization only from movies which glorify it, and is completely ignorant of the realities of the modern Western cultures. As far as lying is concerned, KellyAnne Conway had to create the notion of “Alternative Facts” to defend lies told by President Trump. He seems to be unaware that the US and UK created a campaign to deceive their own public into supporting the war against Iraq, in order to cover up their true motives for the war, which involved killing millions of innocents, and destroying the entire country, just for control of oil. He does not know about the recent case where more than half of a Harvard class was caught cheating. I would advise him to read a recent article in Newsweek with the title: “The Truth Is We Are All Raging Liars.” The article shows that while Americans like to think they are honest, the reality is that: “We are a culture of liars, to put it bluntly, with deceit so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we hardly even notice we’re engaging in it.” Moreover, in June 2018, the Washington Post reported that Trump had made 3,251 false or misleading claims in his first 497 days in office — an average of more than 6.5 claims per day.

Similarly, the glorified idealization that there is no concept of selling fake and harmful drugs in the civilized West has no match to reality. Recently, GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant (what we call Number 2 drugs). This is just one among a large number of similar abuses, where the pharmaceutical industry has knowingly put dangerous drugs on the market, concealing research regarding harmful effects. In a recent case filed in North Carolina, Attorney General Stein said that “As millions of Americans were becoming addicted to and dying from prescription painkillers, it appears Insys and its sales representatives were pushing its incredibly potent opioid on North Carolina patients just to make more money. This is unconscionable, it’s unacceptable and it’s illegal.”

Contrary to the idea that “making excessive profits” at public expense is only what uncivilized brown people do, the pharmaceutical industry makes huge profits by charging enormously inflated prices for essential medicines. For just one recent example, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim tablets from $13.50 to $750 per tablet in just one day. Another article entitled Pharmaceutical Industry Is Biggest Defrauder of the Federal Government shows that over the past decades, the Pharmaceutical industry has paid about $20 billion in fines for selling drugs with false advertisements of their supposed benefits. Unethical practices by the pharmaceutical industry are detailed in hundreds of articles and books. One of the most prominent cases was when Senator Tauzin herded the “Medicare Prescription Drug Bill” through Congress using dirty tactics, including pressurizing and bribing opponents into changing votes. This amazing bill forces the US Government Medicare Health program to buy from local pharmaceutical industry at whatever price they name; the government is not allowed to negotiate the price, and cannot import exactly equivalent drugs from across the border in Canada! It has been calculated that this bill amounted to a $80 billion gift to the pharmaceutical industry. This provision was so outrageous that Obama made a campaign promise to get it repealed, but could not succeed against the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. Two weeks after getting the bill passed, Senator Tauzin resigned from the Congress to take a $2 million job with the grateful pharmaceutical industry as their lobbyist in Congress.

Perhaps the blinders on this journalist’s eyes would be removed by looking at the treatment given to asylum seekers at the borders of the USA recently. While the zero-tolerance policy of Trump was rescinded in face of outrage and social pressure, thousands of little children remain separated from their parents, and held in cages, with no mercy being shown to screaming children and crying parents. This is the civilization so admired by him?

It must be clarified that I do not support the idea that the East is superior to the West, or vice versa; good and bad people can be found everywhere. My essay is just to dispel the journalist’s idea that only angels live in the West, while we are all degenerate and immoral in the East. This misconception arises from centuries of colonization which has left deep psychological scars. Our traditional educational systems, which provided free education to all, were deliberately destroyed by the British, fearful of resistance to their rule from an educated public. These were replaced by an education designed to create admiration and respect for the West, together with contempt and hatred for our own heritage and ancestors. This educational system continues to this day, and creates exactly the same effects. This conquest of knowledge was a key to the ability of a handful of British to rule a huge country. In the era of the British rule, boot-licking of the British was the only way to rise in the ranks of the government. Especially after the events of 1857, those people who admired the British and betrayed their own people got awards and honors, while those who were honest and sincere were stripped of their properties and imprisoned in British jails. While the British are long gone, the Brown Baboos who have replaced them faithfully imitate and admire their past colonial masters, and proudly wear and display their chains of slavery. They continue to believe and propagate the canard that “Hum to Zaleel Qaum Hain”, that everyone in Pakistan is corrupt, and long list of complaints about how bad we are as a nation, while in the West everyone is perfect.

In my own experience as a teacher, this inferiority complex is the first barrier to educating students to achieve excellence. Coming in with the belief that we are an inferior people, it is hard for students to believe in themselves, and in the possibility that we can make great achievements. The inspirational message of Iqbal provides an excellent antidote to this poisonous inferiority complex. In order to create the desired change, we need to awaken our youth to their enormous potential, their ability to soar like the eagles.

The writer is the VC of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.

While the British are long gone, the Brown Baboos who have replaced them faithfully imitate and admire their past colonial masters, and proudly wear and display their chains of slavery.