13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

A society that swings between tradition, modernism

'It is interesting that priority of middle class is to develop a way to carry tradition and modern lifestyle in parallel. A frank conflict is observable between supporters of tradition and modernism. Currently, Pakistani society is partly traditional and partly modern. It is in a transition phase. Now, civil society must play its part in identifying change, developing acceptability of change and maintaining an appropriate pace of change as this will help promote stability and peace. Such a balanced and peaceful society is indeed essential for the prosperity of the nation'

By Marwah Jairal

Social disintegration, especially in working-class neighborhoods, hit hard, as the social fabric in places most vulnerable to globalization has been stretched, torn and frayed. Employment declines, health deteriorates and family ties are strained. Meanwhile, stress, drug addiction and anomie ran rampant. The frustration which has erupted from all these prevailing deep crises has resulted in a fragile situation where modern man has started looking towards every passer-by with objectivity to get best out of him and jump to the next without leaving a print of any acquaintance, relationship or togetherness of old days. In modern times, how quickly a man is replaceable is the whole story of human existence.

Those whose significance is only that much, that they fill a place and as soon as another of their stock is available; they are replaced without leaving behind any impression worth respect and from dawn to dusk only those avenues which serve immediate interests well are in prime focus. Modern time has jolted very foundation of society which was built up on the moral values, norms and enriched culture. This all happens when the external circumstances do not coordinate with man’s inner spontaneity, there is bound to be a conflict, which at times, rather most of the times afflict him and makes his get going hard and painful. There arise confrontations and the manner of life generally becomes chaotic.

The apprehensions multiply in which the ordinary and the excellent both sufferers. Social disintegration, also known as social disorganization, can be described as the inability of society to structure itself and determine mutual values and norms that should govern society. Another approach understands it as a complex and interconnected system of communities, formal and informal associations in the process of socialization. A dysfunctional education system can also contribute as another reason for societal disintegration. In Pakistan, lack of a uniform educational curriculum and methods of education puts a wedge between elites and the lower part of the society. Differences based on different religion and social status increase social disintegration in societies.

In terms of opportunities, presence of nepotism instead of merit also causes a lack of commitment to one’s country. The reasons for this social breakdown in Pakistani society can be varied. These numerous reasons may include some internal as well as external causes. For example, democracy and the rule of law, judicial system and good governance, which were the main building factor of the idea of a new country after partition, fell into oblivion immediately after the country was established. The accumulation of power by the power elite limited the hope of Pakistanis to build a sustainable nation, which was reflected in the future commitments of the citizens of the state.

There are many reasons in the society that lead to the breakdown of the society, the core and main cause is the disturbed and interrupted system of social communication and the structure of mutual aid. A society that is deprived of functional and visionary leadership without new ideas and strategies usually tends to fall into a process of social disintegration. The practicality and viability of society tends to decline with the existence of economic problems, demise of formal and informal institutions, deterioration of interpersonal relationships, and the weakening of values and norms. All this affects physical well-being of society and the people who are deeply involved in it. This limits growth, self-actualization, self-reflection, and appreciation.

Another reason that contributes to disintegration of the society is cultural confusion also known as cultural dissonance reflecting the disharmony and conflict and confusion that people face as a result of the change in their cultural environment. In Pakistan, it is seen in Balochistan, and Khuber Pakhtunkhwa provinces besides Gilgit-Baltistan. There are speculations about mistreatment, less development and lack of opportunities for the local people. This creates differences between people of different cultures and animosity towards each other, leading to an increasing ‘disintegration of a society’ to the point where they consider themselves ‘alien.’ Lack of tolerance and acceptance of other religions, ethnicities and culture will alienate people from each other and limit them to certain boundaries, making it difficult for them to grow sociologically and psychologically, and then bind them to only one sect, ethnicity or area.

For social integration, one needs to be visionary and develop a sense of acceptance and tolerance and leave room for education and development as an integrated society rather than promoting societal disintegration. Another reason that triggers breakdown of the society was the history of disasters and violence that citizens go through. For example, the history of Pakistan is marked by a lot of resistance and sacrifice by the people and their ancestors. Long after the creation of Pakistan, it had to go through some wars and conflicts to ensure its survival. Pakistanis had to face a disturbed environment during the ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan. It has affected Pakistan in several ways, for example, the military operation to fight terrorism in the tribal regions has created an environment of hostility and chaos.

Troubled neighborhood and from time-to-time the large incorporation of migrants and its sociological, economic and psychological effects is what Pakistan has been facing since its inception. Thus, the environment in which society exists and the history of disasters also increase the rate of social decay. As mentioned earlier about migration, it is important to study its details, massive inward and outward migration also serves as a factor that leads society to disintegration. In Pakistan, many people still seek migration to boarding countries for better job opportunities, standard of living, better health and education and level of security. The Pakistani Diaspora, which reflects a ‘brain drain’ from the country, exceeds numbers of more than 10 million, people living in countries other than their homeland reflect little or no commitment and responsibility to their country.

Similarly, the large influx of migrants as a result of the ‘war on terror’ also posed a challenge to national integration as they bought their culture, identity and problem with them, making it difficult for citizens to truly achieve a sense of nationhood, leading to further cultural confusion and disharmonization. Those in power and other patrons who live luxurious lifestyles and comfort zones have responsibility to watch and analyze and seek guidance from other countries as with presence of different cultures, languages and religions, process of national integration has come to its logical conclusion. But it is not possible without visionary leadership and the will to honestly work for the society and its harmonization, without these values, the country cannot be expected to remain united as a nation.

Pakistan is a diverse society with a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious social landscape. So the need for cohesion has always been tremendously high. However, centrifugal forces have threatened the country’s integration since its inception. The disintegration of the former East Pakistan was the example of divisive policies leading to centrifugal tendencies. Social alienation, growing ethnic and racial differences, sectarianism, social stratification, divisive and polarized politics, cessationist movements, religio-political groups with radical agendas, gender inequality and ideological competition threaten cohesion. What threatens national cohesion? Here are reasons, unfair distribution of resources and growing social stratification; political polarization and bad governance; ethnolinguistic and religio-political tendencies; megalomaniacal leadership and their divisive agendas; institutional friction and power overlap; ultra-nationalism and sensitization of ethnic identities; ideological clash and fundamentalism; mistrust and grievances; aggressive neighbors and their evil strategic plans are some of the causes of the fragile integration of the country.

The fragility of national integration has serious and lasting consequences. Chronic elite capture and public improvisation; extreme poverty and high unemployment; sectarianism and increasing radicalization; intolerance and conservatism; identify crisis and ideological schism; proxies and traces of fifth generation warfare; rampant corruption and institutional failure; favoritism and nepotism; growing frustration and ‘brain drain’ feeds on the very fate and fabric of our society. Although, successive governments have created several policies to strengthen national cohesion, they have largely failed to achieve the stated goals. The Canadian model of multiculturalism offers a pragmatic integration blueprint that can be replicated in Pakistan. Despite being the most multicultural country in the world, Canada has effectively transformed its heterogeneous population into a harmonious and peaceful society.

Although contradictions and centrifugal tendencies exist in all pluralistic societies, they can be kept to a manageable level through pragmatically implemented state policies. In Pakistan, strengthening integration guarantees inclusive economic policies and provision of equal rights and services to all communities, groups and provinces. Strengthening of federative units, pluralistic development and cultural approach, national political outlook, equitable distribution of resources, meaningful land reform, equality and access to education, institutional harmony, separation of powers, political maturity, comprehensive accountability, transparency, loosening rifts that divide the power elite, promoting real democratic values, emphasizing inter-religious harmony and resorting to dialogue with dissident factions would go a long way towards mending cracks in the society.

The civil society has a profound impact on culture that is a complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs and other abilities acquired by people as members of the society. Evolutionary processes in civil society as well as exposure to other cultures, political and economic philosophies, social structures, religions, languages and educational styles are important forces that can cause culture change. Western influences are gradually influencing our culture. In our society, the human rights situation is a complex issue. Western ideas changed the educational paradigm in the country. The women’s march is another powerful agent of social change, which is also based on some inspirations from the West. It is gradually enabling women to play their effective role in various sectors such as politics, high profile jobs and international sports. It is a movement against gender inequality.

The transformation of the joint family system into a nuclear family system changes the social interface. Now, Pakistani youth believe in independence and individuality. These became the causes of evolution in civil society and emerged as cultural and social change. Now, the media has become an important contributor to social change due to its ability to quickly spread information to the masses. In Pakistan, media plays a positive role in spreading awareness about gender bias, poverty eradication, harmony and peace. Media coverage of foreign content is gradually reshaping cultural, social and religious values. On the other hand, however, the media has a positive effect on educating the masses about prevailing social and political issues and religious harmony. It also emphasizes movements and the struggle for change.

Our society is constantly changing due to all the factors described above. It swings between two poles; one is tradition and the other is modernism. People want to adopt a modern lifestyle and benefit from modern facilities. Thanks to technology, media and modern education, exposure to global ideas is inevitable. It is interesting that priority of the middle class is to develop a way to carry tradition and modern lifestyle in parallel. A frank conflict is observable between supporters of tradition and modernism. Currently, Pakistani society is partly traditional and partly modern. It is in a transition phase. Now, civil society must play its part in identifying change, developing acceptability of change and maintaining an appropriate pace of change as this will help promote stability and peace. Such a balanced and peaceful society is indeed essential for the prosperity of the nation.

Marwah Jairal is a student of MA Journalism at the University of Derby in Derby City of England