Professors, Politics and Pakistan

For some reason, WordPress has been at odds with my browser and internet settings recently so I haven’t been able to blog as much as I wanted to.  This post is going to be an amalgamation of everything I wanted to say all month!

So I am taking a course on democratic theory this summer and its turning out to be more entertaining than I thought.  I actually wanted to drop it, mostly because I wanted to continue being a bum and taking just ONE course the entire summer semester; BUT that was before I actually attended one of the lectures.  It’s being taught by Howard Schweber (his profile: http://law.wisc.edu/profiles/index.php?iEmployeeID=278 ) and it’s become one of my favourites so far. 

Now, normally, when you imagine a course on political theory, you reckon it will be dry, dull, dreary and full of thinkers you’ve always heard of but never really understood.  Certainly, this course features Locke, and Rousseau and all the other political aficianados but with this specific professor, they’ve been brought to life!  He knows his stuff but doesn’t come across as intimidating and is super-duper capable of teaching the material in a way that makes it relatively easier to understand; he contextualizes it well.  To top it all off, he’s hilarious!  Sure, the course only has a handful of students in it, but hey, who needs a big class anyway? 

So anyways, we were studying Robert Dahl today (who is just WAY too theoretical about democracy for my liking) and Dr Schweber made an interesting remark that really took my by surprise and made me think.  Robert Dahl wrote in the late 50’s and in his text, he makes references to Germany and England as being weakened states.  Now obviously, since he was writing just about a decade after the second world war ended, it makes sense.  But compare this to Dahl making the same references in 1990; it would seem ridiculous for anyone to think of England and Germany as ‘weak’ in the 90’s, which is FIFTY YEARS after the war ended.  It would be just as ludicrous if, in 1990,  the leaders of England or France refuse to trade with Germany or join any UN agreements that include Germany by saying ‘No way, that country invaded us and killed our people andruined our economy and is still a threat to us.’  It’s just not very likely to happen.

Yet, in Pakistan, people constantly and consistently refer to the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and use it as a basis for distrust and disagreement.  The governement of both countries are STILL at odds with each other and on extremely precarious grounds when it comes to diplomatic relations.   And this is FIFTY YEARS after the end of the ’65 war.  Funny, isn’t it?

Certainly, many people can claim that the two examples aren’t fair to relate because India and Pakistan also had military confrontations in 1971 and 1998, but, as Dr Scweber pointed out, they were both without ACTUAL invasion of one country by another.  Either way, I still found it to be an extremely relevant and thought-provoking analogy.  If nothing else, it certainly says alot about how long the poeple of South Asia can bear a grudge.

I find alot of the matierial covered in class to be really insightful and the professor asks alot of questions and personal opinions, which I never actually knew I had about the subject.  But this also becomes a complication, because I feel like I can’t really say anything meaningful about democracy or the process involved in the set-up of a representative gov’t while sitting in Pakistan.  I just feel like I am being naive if I say ‘oh, it should be like this’ or ‘it should follow the model of so and so’ because the history of the country displays the exact opposite.  Turmoil, take-overs, martial law, rigged polls: it’s not what ‘democracy’ entails.  At the same time, what all thinkers and theorists write about democracy also sounds really idealised and phantasmal.  Can any state actually ever be truly DEMOCRATIC?

I don’t really know if or when Pakistan will ever become democratic enough for it to be credibly labeled as a democratic country and I don’t want to get into the specifics of it either because it’s a discussion that’s too long and frustrating to have with myself on this blog.

Oh and here’s an article by Dr Schweber about his experience in Lahore so far and what his thoughts are on how Pakistan is viewed by the outside world and what its ACTUALLY like: http://worldnews.hometips4u.com/howard-schweber-pakistans-contradictions-the-view-from-lahore

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