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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Is it politics that makes us negative?

Huma Zafar |

Driving to work, I observe people on the road and in traffic. There is usually a stern expression or a frown, most have a cigarette lit up and are on phones… They don’t seem to be happy as they honk crazily at the careless motorcycle driver that made an illegal turn.

Then there will be some odd one here and there who will smile at me as they see me singing and dancing along to my favorite tunes. The women and men that are at the traffic lights usually begging, understandably, aren’t smiling either. I will roll down my window, offer a beaming smile to the woman carrying her baby, reminding me that it’s my duty to help the poor. I always, without fail, always, tell her how pretty she looks today. A small hint of a smile will break – she wants my money, not my compliment. I will give both.

I pull up to the check-post to enter the office building. The guards who are standing in their commando outfits in 40-degree weather, motion me to open my car’s boot. I lower my window and offer a beaming smile. I am met with a stern expression that says, “You may have a bomb in your car, let me check.” The car behind me starts honking. I enter the building where I work. The security guards – one man and two women, are now my friends. In 6 months, I’ve seen a change in their behavior – We went from a curt hello, put your bag through this scanner monolog to, “Hello ma’am, I like your outfit today,” and the male guard shyly looking down. I offer all three a beaming smile, wish them a good day.

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As a society, we’ve learned that our opinion is an opinion only if it is critical or if we are cynical.

First thing that struck me when I moved back home

This is the first thing that struck me when I moved back home from Atlanta – How negative everyone is. It is unbelievable. Everyone smiled in Atlanta. EVERYONE. On the streets walking, in the trains, on the bus, on the plane, in the parks – everyone was so friendly. Even the dogs would wag their tail when they saw me. Here most people are friendly only on their Instagram or Facebook picture posts.

Yesterday when I reached out asking if I can write about the negativity – I was asked, how will you separate negativity from bad politics? All the negativity you see is because of politics. Everything in this country is because of politics. Sigh. Why are we so obsessed with politics? Is it our only source of entertainment?

So I took it upon myself to present another view to negativity. I believe the negativity is within and bad political decisions only intensify the emotion. Let us look at the other South Asian nations, the Incredible India, or Sri Lanka – the Wonder of Asia – are their politics better than ours? Are their policies better than ours? One thing I do know is that their nationalistic spirit is somewhat better than ours. They do believe in the ability to achieve good things. We frankly, can’t even appreciate the good things that happen to us.

Read more: Think positive, live happily, but how?

As a society, we’ve learned that our opinion is an opinion only if it is critical or if we are cynical. Because if we are critical or cynical, we sound smarter? If we’re critical or cynical we project a certain image? I don’t know.

Why is the negativity spreading?

There are a lot of factors actually. When you are an unhappy person on the inside, you cannot make others happy. Why are you unhappy? (I can’t tell you that; I am not a therapist).

So here you are, an unhappy person, bitter, angry, negative. You get up in the morning. You shower. You iron your clothes and the lights go off. You lose your temper. How will you iron your clothes now? It takes an hour for the light to get back. You will be late for work. Great. You get angrier. In that anger, you storm out to have your breakfast – your wife or cook have spoiled your fried egg, so you unleash your wrath upon them and start off your morning with harsh words. How hard is it to fry an egg?

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The pattern I am describing here is a way of life. You can choose to let things affect you or you can change the way you think.

Finally, the light comes, you wear your clothes, and leave for the office. You light up your cigarette. You feel a bit better. A woman carrying her child makes her way to your car window and begs you for some change. You lower the window, tell her rudely to get a job, blow some smoke on her face. You look to your left. There is a girl with a ponytail, in her blue reflectors singing and dancing along to some music in her car. You look at her sternly. Why is she talking to beggars and why is she giving them money. It is people like her who encourage beggars. She turns your way and beams her smile. You look away, disgusted by her behavior. You toss out your cigarette onto the street. There is so much garbage there. Why aren’t the CDA workers here cleaning it up?

Dysfunctional government or dysfunctional people?

The system is so deteriorated. Dysfunctional government authorities. They do nothing. You make a turn towards the office. You stop at the check-post. Why is that man taking so long to check her car? Honk, honk, honk, and honk. Hurry. I am already late. Oh God, it is that same smiling girl. You speed up, pass her, and honk while you pass. There, I just told her off. You park, you rush to the entrance of the building.

It isn’t easy living in Pakistan but it is home and we should make the best out of it.

The guards say their curt hello and ask you to put your bag through the scanner and politely get off your phone. You slam your phone and walk through the security. Thanks to the government and their funding to madrassahs, I have to go through these extra check-posts. You walk into work. You haven’t said hello to anyone. You log in to Facebook. Supreme Court orders JIT to form. Of course, they do. What else were you expecting? Justice in this country? Oh Please.

This is a horrible corrupt country and we are doomed. You write a long comment under your friend’s post telling off random strangers on his page. There you go, you showed them. You return home in the evening, turn the news on. There was an explosion. People died. Great, this happens every day here. Life is so miserable. I hate this. So you switch channels. Some random political analysts are dissecting the Supreme Court decisions. You applaud the loudest one… He must be right because he’s yelling. It is late at night. You’ve had pizza for dinner and are on your 20th cigarette for the day. You paid GST on both the items. The government is so corrupt. They only take taxes from us, not the corrupt ones. Does Nawaz Sharif pay taxes like I do? The light goes off. There are so many mosquitoes. Why don’t they clean the garbage on the streets? And in that angry frame of mind, you sleep.

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The next morning: new day, same story.

Positive mindset is what we need

What if, the majority of the people in Pakistan started thinking this way? What if we calmed down just a bit and allowed some positivity in our life?

The pattern I am describing here is a way of life. You can choose to let things affect you or you can change the way you think. Perhaps instead of watching the news at night, you ironed your clothes for the next morning? Perhaps instead of tossing your cigarette out and adding to the garbage, you choose not to litter? Perhaps you didn’t honk so loudly at the check-post and wait for your turn patiently? Look at all the people you affected because of your negativity. What if, the majority of the people in Pakistan started thinking this way? What if we calmed down just a bit and allowed some positivity in our life? What is positive here, you ask?

The natural beauty we have. In Islamabad? Go hike. In Lahore? Go for a walk in Lawrence Gardens. In Karachi? Go to the beach? In the middle of nowhere? Listen to some music! It doesn’t matter. You can do a lot to be more positive in life. Watch less television. The quality of our programs is not helping shape our minds. Less use of social media. The more you disengage from negative noise, the more time you give yourself to breathe. Spend time with family and friends. And when you’re with them, don’t have heated discussions on politics. Talk about normal things in life. Watch a good movie together! Laugh.

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Life is too short to be negative and certainly too short to let bad politics determine how you choose to live your life. It isn’t easy living in Pakistan but it is home and we should make the best out of it. A negative person will find something to be critical about, anywhere in the world. Unless you do your part, to stop the negative narrative, change cannot and will not occur. A new breed of political leaders cannot turn on a miraculous switch and fix everything. Only you can fix your life, your thoughts, and lives of those around you. One step at a time.

Huma Zafar is a fitness enthusiast with a passion for fashion. She runs a few successful charities in Pakistan alongside a demanding career. Her interests include reading, writing, hiking, exploring, traveling, and meeting new exciting people. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.