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    The murder of history?

    The manipulation of knowledge http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2002-d...02/oped/o5.htm
    Dr Tariq Rahman

    The author is a Professor of Linguistics and South Asian Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad

    [email protected]

    The manipulation of knowledge to produce the kind of citizens a community or the state needs is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, all human societies socialise the young. They do this through folk tales, adages, songs and, of course, religious preaching. Plato is known for having produced the blueprint of a perfect society and, of course, he created an educational system which was supposed to create citizens to accept the myths and values he thought necessary. Societies with established churches, as in the medieval era, give the control of education mostly to the religious authorities. This ensures that the dogmas of religion, whatever be their interpretation, are imprinted on the minds of at least those who can read and write and disseminated in the general public. The state, with its tremendous power, gradually wrested away education -- this instrument of control over the human mind -- from the church. The project of the state is that of the consolidation of the power of the ruling elite. In the days of kingship the state taught obedience to the monarch. It spread ideas like loyalty, which our feudal lords call 'namak halali' (being true to those whose salt you eat), to those who are in power. In modern days the state champions nationalism to which everything is to be subordinated.

    Now the aim of formal, academic education, if there is ever such a thing, is the pursuit of the truth. This means that one's loyalty is to the 'truth'. However, the aim of the state is the protection, consolidation and expansion of its own power. This means that there is an intrinsic clash between the aims of the supporters of education as discovery and those who support education as socialisation. As it happens, and for obvious reasons, the 'education as socialisation' lobby wins hands down -- it always has -- and modifies textbooks in the light of its ideas as to what is in the 'public interest'. Ironically, however, such is the seductive charm of 'education as discovery' that everybody professes to teach 'facts'; to be interested in 'pure knowledge'; to value education as an end in itself (no jobs, thank you!) etc. However, after the sloganeering is over and children's textbooks are actually written, the socialisation takes over in real earnest and truth is the first casualty though its corpse is stowed away safely in the cupboard. Later, even the cupboards are thrown away.

    In Pakistan the attempt at socialising children through textbooks is most in evidence in the history, social studies, Pakistan studies and Urdu texts. In general the children most exposed to such texts are from the upper working classes and the lower middle classes. These children study in the Urdu-medium schools in Punjab, urban Sindh, NWFP, Balochistan and Azad Kashmir. They are the largest majority of school children in the country. Sindhi-medium schools, who also teach similar textbooks, are in rural Sindh though most cities of Sindh do have Sindhi-medium schools too. Obviously, the children's worldview is not formed by the textbooks alone. They are influenced by their families, communities and teachers. Above all, they are influenced by their peer group. Thus, the textbooks may be only one component, and maybe a small component, of the material which influences world view. However, as it is the most visible, it is the only one which can be manipulated with ease.

    There have been many attempts at pointing out that our textbooks spread hatred and create jingoism. Indeed, if I name all those who have expressed such ideas I will run out of space. Suffice it to say that among those who have pioneered such studies are Drs Pervez Hoodbhoy and A H Nayyar; the historian Dr K K Aziz (in The Murder of History in Pakistan) and Dr Rubina Saigol. Rubina Saigol's work is theoretically most rewarding because she points out how notions of patriarchy and male dominance are also strengthened by our excessive valuation of war, aggression, masculinity and so on. Some people, especially those concerned with giving rights to women, have even created textbooks which give their just place to women. The question, however, is to convince the government that it should change the textbooks in the public interest.

    First, our textbooks are written in violation of the principle which the Quaid-i-Azam announced on 11 August, 1947. Whereas he has said that the state would not distinguish between citizens on the basis of their religion (or sect), our textbooks cannot mention Hindus without calling them 'cunning', 'scheming', 'deceptive' or something equally insulting. There are some Hindus in Pakistan and many Christians and Parsis. This being so, the state's association of Pakistani nationalism with Islam, and only Sunni Islam, puts all others at a disadvantage. If Indian textbooks had called Muslims evil all the time, would we not be justifiably outraged? It is, therefore, only fair not to indulge in this kind of abusiveness. Apart from the moral reasons it does not serve our interest because it makes our citizens such haters that they are ready to support policies of war against India. As we all know a war, especially nuclear war, is neither in our interest nor in India's. Whey then create such deep hatred and then ask the public to support efforts for peace? Would it not be wiser not to create so much hatred in the first place so as to give peace a chance and to give government the flexibility to change pro-war and pro-hatred policies if it wishes too.

    All wars with India are written about in a one-sided manner. Facts are twisted and hidden. For instance, the fact that armed fighters were sent across the Line of Control in 1965 and in Kargil in 1999 are glossed over. The students do not learn that our previous policies have been wrong. What they do learn is that we require very aggressive policies otherwise we would be annihilated by India without reason. This makes some 'hawks' champion insane notions such as 'first-strike' by nuclear weapons -- a policy guaranteed to wipe most of us off the planet. We need to understand that our previous policies of aggression have been wrong. So, while we should condemn all forms of aggression, suppression of rights and occupation of the lands of minorities such as that of Israel in Palestinian areas and India in the Kashmir Valley, we should also make it clear that we do not support aggression even in retaliation to perceived injustice because we are not so irresponsible as to let loose the dogs of war.

    In reality, such textbooks are not in the enlightened self-interest of Pakistan. We need to create citizens who are tolerant of other religions and sects. This is not possible if we keep indoctrinating them with hatred for all other religions and minority sects. We need to create citizens who will agree with the notion of being flexible on Kashmir and valuing peace rather than war. This cannot be done if the old lessons glorifying war and giving it a religious colour continue to be taught. We need citizens who value men and women equally and oppose honour killings. We cannot do this if the textbooks either do not show females at all or show them only in some specified roles thus giving the message that they cannot pursue other roles.

    We also need to expand the knowledge base of our young people. To distort history giving the impression that we have no connection with the Gandhara civilisation and that our history began with Mohammad Bin Qasim is doing a disservice to our future generations. Our students are shocked if they find a genuine scholar telling them that most of what they have read is not just biased but entirely untrue. The contempt we have for all state institutions -- TV, radio, courts etc -- extends to the educational system. This surely is not the way to build pride in our identity which all governments aspire for.

    To conclude, if the present government really wants support for policies of peace, tolerance and moderation, then one of the steps which should be taken is to give new objectives for writing textbooks and then to have new ones written.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?

    #2
    Good article about a very important topic. Hope everyone shows the patience to read through - kinda long and wordy.

    A whole generation of Palestinians have been raised on the thought of enmity with Israel. Now the reverse started happening in Israel and you see the results.

    If every child in Pakistan is brought up on the thought that India is out there waiting to attack, as they grow up there will be regression to Palestine, or to fundamentalist extremism! And if the same things starts happening in India what will happen? As it is Mush has his hands full controlling the ISI and the terrorgs!

    Comment


      #3
      Arjun boy you Indians must take your own advice. IS there any thing that happens in India natural or man made without ISI involved directly or indirectly.

      HUH man look who is talking...

      http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/mag...viewpoint.html

      Beyond that, improving relations involves changing the psyche of the two young nations. They have to abandon their obsession with each other. In India, Pakistan's intelligence agency - the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) - is accused in almost every domestic problem. Senior ministers routinely blame it for train accidents and rising crime. If Indian newspapers are to be believed, the ISI engineered plague in one city followed by a locust invasion. Now some BJP-ruled state governments are proposing their own laws ostensibly to combat the ISI. The obsession has turned Pakistan into an Evil Empire. It is preparing the ground for a call to military adventure, especially after the Kargil incursion last July.

      Blaming Pakistan is the easy way out for any government in India, but it is not responsible governance. The country has to put its house in order.


      [This message has been edited by Abdali (edited June 22, 2002).]

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by Abdali:
        Arjun boy you Indians must take your own advice. IS there any thing that happens in India natural or man made without ISI involved directly or indirectly.

        HUH man look who is talking...

        http://www.asiaweek.com/asiaweek/mag...viewpoint.html

        Beyond that, improving relations involves changing the psyche of the two young nations. They have to abandon their obsession with each other. In India, Pakistan's intelligence agency - the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) - is accused in almost every domestic problem. Senior ministers routinely blame it for train accidents and rising crime. If Indian newspapers are to be believed, the ISI engineered plague in one city followed by a locust invasion. Now some BJP-ruled state governments are proposing their own laws ostensibly to combat the ISI. The obsession has turned Pakistan into an Evil Empire. It is preparing the ground for a call to military adventure, especially after the Kargil incursion last July.

        Blaming Pakistan is the easy way out for any government in India, but it is not responsible governance. The country has to put its house in order.


        [This message has been edited by Abdali (edited June 22, 2002).]
        Mostly in agreement with you, about putting house in order. Even if I give the benefit of doubt and say Indians blame ISI too frequently, that's got historical reasons. Hopefully with recent changes in ISI and committments re c.b.t, this tendency will be checked.


        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by ArjunMahavir:
          Mostly in agreement with you, about putting house in order. Even if I give the benefit of doubt and say Indians blame ISI too frequently, that's got historical reasons. Hopefully with recent changes in ISI and committments re c.b.t, this tendency will be checked.


          Yeah sure historical reasons to blame ISI for what Plague, earth quake, locus attack. You need to put your house in order real bad before you even say Pak and ISI.

          Comment


            #6
            If you want me to recite the obvious to you, I will:

            1. Do you deny ISI responsibility for building and training c.b.sewer rat terrorists in POK?

            2. Do you deny ISI responsibility in Afganistan?

            3. Do you deny Musharraf replacing the ISI chief as one his first major changes internally?

            4. Do you deny every Pakistani, Indian and worldwide reports in press of "ISI being its own uncontrolled rabid agnecy"?

            Comment


              #7
              This is what I call burying the headů

              1) Do you deny sewer roaches in uniform are not killing innocent civilians in IOK
              2) Do you deny RAW was not fermenting trouble in Afghanistan by arming NA.
              3) Do you deny RAW was not assisting terrorist in Afghanistan during your EX USSR masters invasion
              4) Do you deny RAW is not responsible for LTTE
              5) Do you deny RAW was never instigating terrorism in Karachi/MQM

              Comment


                #8
                Abdali: You did not answer a single question you were asked. If your way of admitting guilt is asking non-topical questions I am not interested in that. You asked me about ISI and I told you.

                Comment


                  #9
                  And you are beating around the bush without looking in your own back yard. First take care of your own ills, take the advise of the author from time magzine. Put your house in order and then come down here waste banwidth. And yes RAW is not a terrorist organization.

                  [This message has been edited by Abdali (edited June 22, 2002).]

                  Comment

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