The other day, during a sizzling afternoon in Lahore, there was a riveting panel discussion on the dearth of tolerance in Pakistan society and its public connectivity with the media. Given the spreading virus of hate and prejudice, it may be counter-intuitive to suggest that perhaps the issue is one of over-tolerance. However, there is, indeed, a tsunami of tolerance. Tolerance of fraud, of falsehood, of arbitrary decisions, of deceit and of quashing of merit. The proliferation of media in the past decade has, among other items, been accompanied by its own excess baggage of negativity. TV has become a chatterbox generating more heat than light. Instead of discussions where ideas are exchanged there are rude arguments where abuse is exchanged. Noise is not knowledge. And information is not wisdom. The Internet may now be a new information pipeline, but there is no editor to vet it. The modern media may have led to a decline in reading and reflection making the public prone to rumours, conspiracy theories, and hearsay. Notice needs to be taken of the failure of Muslims to develop new media channels to balance the monopoly of mainstream Western channels. On the issue of tolerance in areas that matter, the Western media has not served as a shining example. For example, there is little tolerance for a thoughtful critique of Israeli manipulation and domination of Americas Mideast policy. Just gauge the furnace through which former US President Jimmy Carter passed when he empathised with the plight of the Palestinian people, and the hostility Barack Obama faced on Sunday when he spoke before members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The issue was ably examined 30 years ago by the late Professor Edward Said in his book, Covering Islam. It has been said that there is little difference between those who cant read and those who dont read. But then what about those who do get constantly bombarded from the same source and perspective? An interesting study by Shelley Slade, published a while back in the Washington-based Middle East Journal (Vol 35, No 2, Spring 1981) revealed that better educated Americans were more prone to harbour prejudice about the Arab-Israeli dispute because of more intake of disinformation. Meanwhile, at home, the challenges loom large. But for robber rule, Pakistan has the ingredients for emerging as a world-class force. In a culture noted for unseemly scramble for chairs - and where politics revolves around family and financial interests - heed needs to be paid to raising the morale of the youth. Fresh initiatives are required for galvanising and grooming the youth through national activity. Self-deception, denial and apathy have already taken a huge toll. There is also now the spreading blight of balkanisation. The present set-up - a mockery of sovereignty, security, and stability - has succeeded only in producing political failures after political failures. When the need is to unite, the move is to divide. To break out of the existing rut, the time is ripe for trying new medicine and discarding stale ideas. A moral decline can be tackled through a moral audit. Solutions cannot be expected to parachute from the sky. They have to come from within. It is a matter of will and skill. n The writer is a barrister and senior political analyst.