Driving home to work last Saturday, I stopped at a red traffic light next to a car driven by a middle aged man. I was intrigued by the fact that the individual was engaged in a conversation with an unseen person. My first reaction was that perhaps he was busy on his cell phone using the hands off mode, but a closer look indicated that the man was talking to himself. That very night, I saw a television program featuring a psychologist who narrated an exact scenario like the one witnessed by me and added that a major portion of the Pakistani society was suffering from depression and multiple personality disorders.
I was reminded of a previous column of mine, wherein I had theorized that a large segment of the Pakistani nation was laid up with psychological aberrations, one of which was megalomania. I had supported the notion with visible indicators such as posters and banners carrying mug shots of sponsors, large gaudy residences complete with an army of body guards.One of my close relatives, who practices psycho-therapy read my piece and opined that the condition normally manifested itself in a feudalistic society aggravated by corruption and a speedy accumulation of wealth.
A street brawl was a thing of rarity in the fifties and the sixties – it is not the same now. Everyone appears to be high strung and operating on a short fuse (psychologists must have a name for this phenomenon too). Conventional wisdom dictates that this usually happens in a social system beset by insecurity and fear. These last mentioned stemming from economic deprivation, corruption, a flawed legal system, radicalism and terror.
Just this morning, a mini bus driver overtook a colleague on Murree Road, screeched to a halt, sprang out of his vehicle and in front of my horrified eyes dragged the other driver out. What ensued was a bloody and no holds barred fight that blocked traffic and caused a grid lock. The reason for the violent outbreak was frivolously paltry – a passenger had been enticed and diverted away from the vehicle of the aggressive party.
Another aberration often seen at public places is abominable juvenile behavior by youngsters on roads, amusement parks and festivals. Experts attribute this to lack of entertainment and conservative restrictionsthat bottle up youthful energy in lower and middle class homes. I am not inclined to add anything substantial to this point of view, but I am witness to the sight of perfectly well behaved groups of youngsters, who turn wild the moment they are out of their residential localities.
Nonetheless, I am inclined to take the warning signs very seriously for a sick nation is a vulnerable nation – a fact that is becoming painfully evident through rising incidents of terror and crime. If we allow this deterioration to continue then we will lose an entire generation and with it any hope of a prosperous future. The most potent antidote against this outbreak is education and literacy. This is not rhetoric for I have seen this antidote being administered and I have also witnessed it’s unbelievable effects.
An impressive red brick building surrounded by a high compound wall has now become a landmark in Johar Town, Lahore. This is the campus of the Teach a Child School System, set up by a Pakistani citizen, with a vision and the will to go with it. The concept revolves around picking up high IQ children from families from low income families without resources and putting them through a totally subsidized state of the art education system that begins at the Kindergarten level and continues till their placement in good jobs. The whole system runs on philanthropic adoption of children and contributions (many of which are anonymous). Credibility of the project is maintained through stringent monitoring and audit. The most significant change that TAC has brought about is in the life styles of its students and their families covering hygiene, sanitation, social interaction and above all sound values. This then is the type of cure that Pakistan requires and urgently.

The writer is a freelance columnist.