Monday, September 6, 2010


I've been asked by a non-Pakistani to give American college students a reason to care about Pakistan. A reason to care. A reason to care? Can you give anyone a reason to care?

The fact that this is considered a legitimate question is disturbing. This is not to say that it is an irrelevant question: on the contrary, it is one that people around the world are asking so often we have become used to it. People need a reason to give a damn about Pakistan. Why Pakistan, they ask, when there is so much need in so many places around the world?

I admit this initially left me stumped.

Then it hit me that the reason I am stumped is not because there is no reason to care, but because apathy is not something that can be addressed through logic. I can make any number of political arguments as to why the average American should consider donating to the cause of flood relief, but this is not a political crisis (for once). It is not connected to the war on terror (for once). Therefore, it logically follows that neither of these things should play a role in one human's desire to help another.

I already said there was no point in logical arguments though. The only plausible reason I can give would-be philanthropists is this: if your parents had drowned, your home had collapsed and you were watching your child die a slow death because you have no money left to afford malaria treatment, you would hope to God someone would help. You would hope to God that someone wouldn't waste time asking why they should. You would hope that someone wouldn't think twice about giving your child a shot at life because your president is an asshole.

Did anyone ask why they should care about Haiti? Sri Lanka? Kashmir? Russia? None of these states have avoided either corruption or political instability. It seems there are only questions in response to this question. They are disbelieving questions. I can't believe the world has come to a point where humanitarian aid is considered on the basis of the strategic value a country has.

On a different, but important note, the argument about terrorist groups winning hearts and minds if the United States does not step in is overrated. I think it is extremely doubtful that if Mullah Omar inadvertently saved my life by donating a pack of biscuits when I am starving, I would join Al Qaeda. I think it is even more doubtful that flood survivors who are being forced to fast and pray by relief organisations will be inclined to become suicide bombers. I won't even try and make that case for Americans to care about the crisis in Pakistan. I don't think I ethically can. If winning the war on terror is the only reason you have for donating to a cause, please don't.

Which leaves me with nothing to say again. Need I try and say more? Your question is offensive and if you are asking me to give you an antidote for apathy, I'm afraid nobody has found one so far.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Sarah! Zehra told me about your blog so I came over and listen this is awesome. You write soo well!!! And I especially liked this post, its an angle I hadn't considered at all but now just makes so so much sense. :) Ghazal (zehra's friend)