Is it time for an “Idea Revolution”?
by Waleed Ali Khan
In the midst of political, economical and even ideological turmoil, a few intellectuals in Pakistan continue to exhibit exemplary citizenship as they try to resolve Pakistan’s socioeconomic issues by identifying problems at the grassroots level. Despite Pakistan being placed at no. 10 of the Fund for Peace Failed State Rankings, these individuals continue to write, invent and discuss ideas of hope.
Efforts are made to bring these individuals together in order to create a synergy of sorts, such as nationwide, privately organized conferences. The most prominent of such conferences that is gaining momentum among the public is TEDxLahore, which is an independently organized TED event that takes advantage of its local setting to discuss ideas that are pertinent to Pakistan. The speakers hail from a very wide variety of professional and demographic backgrounds but have the common mission to use their genius for the greater good. As a result, TEDxLahore wants to bring these people together so that they can discuss and collaborate to dream and achieve even bigger. Appropriately dubbed as “collective genius”, the event makes an effort to involve thinkers even in its audience members. The high demand for attendance gives its organizers the luxury to pick its audience through an online application where prospective audience members have to prove that they can become a valued contributor to this social meeting for intellectuals. With an audience of 400 people and a live stream that is reaching out to a global audience, the organizers are confident that their efforts will bear fruit. Heavy involvement of social media aims to make this project an “idea movement” where intellectuals, independent from a political agenda, call for people to use their talent and brilliant ideas to help their ailing country.
However, such efforts are not always in the form of single events. Several people have set up organizations that are committed to finding solutions for Pakistan’s social problems by ideas through research and academia. One such organization is SEPLAA, which stands for Seeds of Education, Policy & Legal Awareness. Representing itself as a “Think Tank” organization, it comprises of intellectuals, including a handful of lawyers, who perform research on Pakistan’s socioeconomic problems, to influence the opinions of the public and the policy makers. Citizens also have the options of becoming voluntary ‘members’ of the organization so that they can use whatever skill they have to contribute. Like TEDxLahore, SEPLAA relies strongly on the social media to spread its message. The organization maintains several blogs and other social networking accounts that encourages participation and spreads awareness.
The government and political system of Pakistan has a very tarnished reputation as it is believed to largely comprise of uneducated Pakistanis whose sole purpose is achieve personal gains through their positions. Therefore, many of Pakistan’s intellectuals try to disassociate themselves from any government or political institution, and tend to work independently. With the newly found freedom of press in this country, such institutions can achieve their goals without government intervention to a large extent.
Critics claim that ideas do nothing to solve the problems on ground. However, these entities believe that these ideas, coupled with a strong public relations backing (such as the social media), can influence policy makers to do the right thing. There has been success. For instance, organization including SEPLAA pressurized the government of Punjab into including a new clause in the ‘Nikahnama’ (Marriage Contract) that makes it compulsory for couples to undergo a blood test before getting married to avoid birth defects.
Efforts such as the ones mentioned above touch every citizen’s heart primarily because there is a strong need for people who believe that things are not beyond repair. Pakistan appears to have an abundance of people who love to sit back and criticize, and who shamelessly say that the country is doomed. Very few people use whatever talent they have, be it big or little, to do their part to bring their country back on its feet.
Ideas have caused revolutions. Maybe its time for ours.