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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yo!

Years ago, while teaching at Hamdard University's HIIT in Karachi - set up by friend, Samir Hoodbhoy (the elder brother of Physicist-Activist Pervez H.) - I was also provided an opportunity by an older 'friend', Syed Mumtaz Saeed, who then headed the sister-institute, HIMS, to address its students for a few weeks and to introduce them to some modern thinkers in a few areas of my interests. My choices included Edward de Bono, Alvin Toffler, Ray Kurzweil and Timothy Leary in the list of the 8 or 9 people and ideas we discussed. Among the 'Futurist' sessions - possibly the one in which Toffler's concept of Waves was discussed - we looked at what the shape of Education, Business, Health Sciences, Communications and much else would be at some well-into-the-future date. Discussions and questions about post-Humanism and Singularity intially shocked and then intrigued many of the students who, apparently, had rarely been exposed to such 'open' and sometimes 'controversial' discussions. But when I went on to Religion (for which my strength - and you do require some bravado to teach anything sensibly these days - came from my initial interactions with Hakim Said, which I shall blog about soon) and posed the question of what Belief Systems would look like in situations resulting from the above, there was confusion, to say the least. Someone rather angrily (but not too angrily) shouted "Islam Is Forever". I said that that was an acceptable response and we should then try to extrapolate what the practice(s) of Islam would be like in the future ... after all, who a thousand or so years ago, would have predicted the varied ways in which Islam is practiced today. That not only lowered his boiling point but led to our very enjoyable discussions, later, in the cafeteria. I have often wondered if anyone in the class at that time - a violent one for Karachiites, but not because of religious differences - could have envisaged the veiled threats that we witnessed during the Lal Masjid crisis. Or predicted the international scourge of the fundamentalism of today as the imminent future of religious societies. Or how this violently divisive trend would be affected way into the future after possible encounters with a different set of little green men. And speaking of extremism and its consequences, those of you who have seen the film, Jesus Camp, or watched with horror the videos of how almost every religious creed seems bent on destroying the minds of its young may even ponder - like many did in the late 60s and some are sadly voicing now - if it's sensible to bring children into this world today :-( Reminds me of the scene in Quo Vadis, one of finest film epics ever made outside of Cecil B DeMille's kingdom, when Petronius, sickened by Nero's burning of Rome, decides to end his life and sends his last letter to the emperor (super-superbly played by Peter Ustinov), that states, "To die in your reign is a pleasure. To be born in it, a miscalculation." Hindsight tells me I should have run a joint session (and I do not mean that kind of joint!) with HIMS & HIIT students and explored the possibility of an OpenSource Religion. Does that seem crazy? Remember Haldane's Law - 'The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose!' - as you explore Yoism.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous shez said...

if you were looking for a philosophical discussion on religion and science in class of 20-something pakistani kids. You were being too optimistic in my POV.

12 September, 2007 14:06

 
Blogger Dan said...

Cool! You really get what Yoism is about.

While my country (the U.S.) is arguably the most dangerous on the planet--especially since its actions are heavily influenced by organized insane fundamentalists--I do not fear my fellow citizens. While this could change, the vast majority of Americans do not believe that violence based on espoused beliefs is justified.

When I hear about Pakistan, however, the situation is reversed. I am told that the majority of Pakistanis look up to Usama Bin Laden, in some regions the vast majority.

So, I wondered whether you feel fear when you express rational views so clearly and openly. Are you in danger? Do you believe that your country can remain relatively stable?

In any case I admire your courage and the ideas you espouse.

Dan, A Founder of Yoism

12 September, 2007 17:15

 
Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

Something tells me I would've looked forward to Professor Zakintosh's classes, had I been a student of his. Not that I am not one already, in a way...

:D

12 September, 2007 17:58

 
Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 September, 2007 21:48

 
Blogger Zakintosh said...

@shez: The optimism was justified and amply rewarded. once they were 'allowed' to speak up, students had a lot to say! and a lot of it was not based merely on academic theories but on their own experiences.

@dan:i'd correct that perception to read that a very small number of pakistanis, on the whole, look up to USAma ... but, yes, the vast majority in the northwest frontier region and afghan border areas do ... or pretend to.

i am in no more danger in karachi than i am in london or elsewhere. terrorists do not selectively kill ideological opponents. they just kill. muslim terrorists have probably killed more believing muslims than anyone else everytime they've bombed a mosque.

more than the fear of expressing rational views is the fear of what the country will become if we remain quiet.

will pakistan remain stable? 'remain' implies that it was stable at some point. i cannot recall that at all ...

great to hear from a yoism founder!

12 September, 2007 23:03

 

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