When terrible things happen it is one’s wont to blame something for it. Floods destroy Sindh? Allah was angry. It isn’t the fault of landowners who wouldn’t open their flood gates or incompetent management of irrigation canals, but Divine Wrath. Same goes for earthquakes, hail and freak rains. Eve-teased in the market? Why didn’t you wear a dupatta? And if you did, you must not have worn it ‘properly’. Unhappily married? Your spouse must be a fat, ugly terror. The list is endless, and I think it’s time for the proverbial look inside one’s shirt.

Most of our troubles as a nation are lumped into one convenient ball of The Evil West. The Evil West infiltrates our lives in many ways, and is the reason why all the bad things in them exist. Your sons won’t study, and spend their days doing wheelies in Phase 5, playing snooker and utilizing those nifty talk-all-night-for-one-rupee cell phone offers? The Evil West, teaching our boys the way of the sinners. Your daughter doesn’t want to marry her first cousin? The Evil West, robbing us of our culture. Your kids’ school tries to introduce Comparative Religion into the curriculum? The Evil West, using liberal women with short hair to turn our children into kaafirs. Or worse, into Hindus! Daal eating Hindus! The TTP captures Karachi airport and kills Pakistanis? The Evil West at it again, provoking them with their drones and their scholarship programs that pay for our kids to go to Ivy League schools for free so they can brainwash them into America-loving human drones! There is no end to the madness, all because The Bad, Salacious, Culture-less White People are trying to colonize us again.

I won’t even use the word irony here, because that would imply some modicum of wretched humour. There is nothing even grimly funny about our situation because we take ourselves so seriously that to laugh would be sacrilege. The people who will gravely talk about our culture will then whip out their smartphone—which will invariably have been made by a ‘Western’ company, because nobody would be caught dead with a Q Mobile—and buy tickets to see the latest film in the cinema, which will either be an Indian one or a ‘Western’ one. The same people who piously talk about how children should know their mother tongue probably couldn’t name four poets in said mother tongue or have read a novel in their mother tongue since they finished school.

We are so terrified of the West because to us it represents a foreign Other, and yet our lives are irreversibly linked to it. Scores of people would immigrate to Canada, the U.K, Australia, anywhere, really, if they had the chance. We watch their films and listen to their music. We eat their food happily, we pride ourselves on our trips to their cities. Our best hospitals are modelled on Western ones, and staffed with doctors who were taught their craft in Western universities. We drive cars made by them, our medicines are largely manufactured by Western companies operating in Pakistan, even our roadworks are assisted by the Turks or the Chinese! And yet were are possessed of a spectacular ostrich quality, and continue to point our fingers at the West for everything that goes wrong in our lives without remembering that when you point one finger, three point back at you.

Politicians in India have blamed the increasing rape culture there on fast food and short skirts. We keep trying to find Western monsters under our beds and in our closets so we don’t have to acknowledge how deeply we have failed ourselves as a collective. The TTP keeps killing our fathers and brothers and sons because we secretly believe they can’t be all that bad, that maybe they really are being motivated by the drones. The drones are there because of the TTP, not the other way around. They are there because there are people who aid and abet instead of saying no. Pregnant women are beaten to death and young children are raped by bus conductors because we won’t stand up to protect them, not because the West influenced the perpetrators. Listening to Western music or wearing jeans didn’t make us garland Mumtaz Qadri, or make the man who publicly kissed him a judge of our courts. Reading Western books and poetry didn’t brainwash us into passing a bloodied Raza Rumi on the side of the road, begging for help for his mortally wounded driver. You can bleat all you want about our tehzeeb and our culture, but the sad fact of reality is that there is no such thing anymore. We slap our maids and snap our fingers at waiters, men stand in the women’s lines at banks and the Museum, we don’t stop for a minute on the road to let school children cross. We never smile at each other, we never hold the door, we don’t say please or thank you. What culture are we talking about? What tehzeeb? And we have to cheek to say it’s the West’s fault? No sir. The fault is not in our stars, but within ourselves, and it’s time to start taking responsibility for our lives. It’s time to take being Pakistani seriously. It’s time to stop blaming an indifferent, oblivious, amorphous entity for everything or thinking Allah is angry or pleased. God helps those who help themselves, and the day we start helping ourselves is the day we will save ourselves. Godspeed to us.

The writer is a feminist based in Lahore.

m.malikhussain@gmail.com