The warped morality of middle class

Credit: Friday Times: Wasim Saroya of Selvenia

n any society, the middle class is self consciously bound by a self-devised code of morality and has definite ideas about society and where it should be heading. Middle classes tend to be overly sensitive to how they are viewed and so their material condition – ie being sandwiched economically, politically, socially – determines what has come to be known as middle class morality.

Carrying this additional burden usually makes the middle class more nationalistic, bordering on jingoism. In other countries, middle class’ concerns are self contained, self centered and predictably limited to certain issues, such as trains working on time, corruption, electricity, amenities of life, schools for children, and a better life.

Like all middle classes, Pakistani middle class by and large is also concerned about these things and is patriotic and nationalist to core. However, the Pakistani middle class – a great majority of which is educated in the state’s school system – has been heavily indoctrinated, especially in the last 30 years or so. Consequently, it has a warped world view which makes it more reactionary than its counterparts elsewhere.

They tend to be more self-righteous, less forgiving and more fanatical in their thinking vis a vis the world. Another central feature – which though present in all middle cases, is the central plank of Pakistan’s middle class ethos – is hypocrisy. Take for example our boiling outrage at that terrible woman – Waheeda Shah. There is no question that what Waheeda Shah did was unpardonable and I do hope she is not allowed to take her place in the National Assembly. The Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu action following the incident. For one thing, being fortunately or unfortunately associated with the legal profession myself, I am aware of countless incidents where lawyers – the vanguard of middle class in Pakistan – have resorted to violence much worse than Waheeda Shah. Forget clients and litigants, even Civil and Sessions Judges are routinely manhandled in their court rooms. Lawyers – who pride themselves as being an educated lot – have acted often as animals and this – I am sorry to say – is the norm, not the exception. So where is the suo motu on that?

Last month, the Lahore Bar Association – under pressure from the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Lawyers Forum – decided to ban Shezan in the bar rooms of lower courts. This is an unconstitutional and illegal ban aimed at economic and social boycott of a class of citizens of Pakistan. In any civilized country the superior judiciary would have struck it down as unconstitutional. Yet in Lahore Bar Association – that impenetrable bastion of our morally upright middle class – the ban persists.

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Categories: Asia, Democracy, Human Rights

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