IT was quite a sight watching Laal ( a ‘revolutionary pop band’), being scrutinised by some three dozen young men and women on a TV channel this year on Pakistan Day.
The band is being aggressively promoted by the said TV channel — a channel which ever since the start of the Lawyers Movement in late 2007, has sprinkled itself with revolutionary confetti, cleverly treating the concept of revolution as a highly saleable software in times of socio-economic and political crises.
Of course, never is this revolution clearly defined. Instead it usually stumbles out from our TV screens as a cathartic (but highly convoluted) concoction of liberal democracy, socialism, nationalism, patriotism and religion.
Since the programme featuring Laal was live, the channel seems to have been caught unawares, believing in its own assumption that the middle-class urban youth of Pakistan too are a reflection of what the channel has been dishing out in the name radicalism and reform.
Laal mean well though, and I particularly want to single out their lead vocalist, Shahram Azhar, who seems to be a genuine, sensitive talent. However, thanks to the purely media-constructed notions of the current ‘revolutionary’ zeitgeist in the nation’s youth, I’m sure the band too were taken aback by the reception they got on that show.
Not that they were jeered — far from it, because their unplugged performance was rather marvellous — but the questions that they were asked by the audience betrayed what the electronic media has been spouting regarding middle-class youth in Pakistan.
It is a devastating case of naivety to believe (or worse, propagate), that middle-class Pakistani youth have rediscovered the revolutionary, democratic and progressive spirit that it demonstrated from the 1950s till about the mid-1980s.
The truth is, this spirit, if it really has made some sort of a comeback, seems to be confined to assorted fringe clusters, but they are noticed because to most TV channels they are saleable images.
But then these days anything is saleable if it is continuously bombarded in the mainstream media, from pop bands to whole movements. The question is, are these clusters capable of altering minds and opinions?
No is the answer if their propagated ideas are secular, especially in the political context. But yes would be the rely if the offered ideas in anyway are associated with religion.
That said the 23rd March show was a stark reminder of the above notion. The bulk of the young audience didn’t seem all that impressed by Laal’s ‘Marxist leanings’, and many of them actually suggested that good old fashioned inscrutable mantra and rhetoric of following the holy scripture.
The point is, the fringe clusters who were proudly exhibited by many TV channels during the two-year-long Lawyers Movement — passionately spouting slogans, songs and speeches about democracy, justice, free media and revolution — I’m afraid they do not mirror the spirit of today’s middle-class Pakistani youth.
I mean, coming back to that Pakistan Day show, it was naïve of the channel to believe that the audience on that show will wholeheartedly consume and appreciate Laal’s nostalgic penchant for harking back to a past dotted by such fantastic protest poets like Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
How can you expect this generation to give a hoot about Marxism, Jalib, liberalism and progressive notions of art and politics, when much of their ideas of political, economic and religious history come from hate-mongers, paranoid conspiracy theorists and at times, outright frauds, whom they see every single day on one channel or the other posing as televangelists and ‘security experts’?
Most of these kids have little or no idea about who Jalib or Faiz or Marx or Lincoln or Kennedy were. They don’t want to hark back to that; instead, they’d rather hark back to that ‘glorious age of faith’ which, in actuality, is a cleverly implanted memory in the minds of us Muslims.
Why Marx, why Laal (red), why music? The questions kept coming from the audience.
They just couldn’t intellectually comprehend a group of ‘protesters’ who (1) weren’t emotionally combusting about PPP, MQM and Lal Masjid like Imran Khan; or (2) spouting out loud long nothings like talk-show hosts, or (3) weren’t implicating the Jews, RAW, Americans and malevolent jinns in the political and economic crimes against Pakistan, the self-claimed bastion of Islam.
How can they, when most young men and women today are getting their political and historical answers from religious and political cranks!
It is a flawed assumption on part of the electronic media to think that today’s young people will be able to grasp the more liberal and progressive notions of protest.
Because on the other side of the coin are these very channels who have already captured (and arrested) this generation’s intellect with irresponsible televangelism and political programming.
Jalib is nothing but a ghostly caricature to most young people today. They’d rather debate and look out for the dreadful al-dajjal.