“The market undercuts community, atomises the family and affects mental health by turning more of life into a scorecard competition” ~ Value(s): Building a Better World for All by Mark Carney
My Facebook feed shows Pakistanis expressing their pride and celebrating young men and women of the country who have showcased their talents at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. This is significant for the emotional wellbeing of the people whose country is going through a terrible economic and existential crisis. Pakistanis now know about the record-breaker Arshad Nadeem from Khanewal, strong man Nooh Dastgir Butt from Gujranwala, the fierce Hazara boxer Ilyas Hussain, the dashing sprinter Shajar Abbas, and many other medalists and participants who have braved all odds.
It is important to note that Pakistani players are displaying their raw talent, for they have not received much state support and facilities, in contrast to other countries. Indeed, the reason that China is able to secure so many medals at the Olympics is due not only to their immense population but also the tremendous resources that the government channels towards sports facilities and training.
My concern is with some Pakistanis who end up comparing Pakistan with India, or some who end up downplaying the players for faring poorly. This is pure testosterone at play, where insecure men engage in size comparisons. It is demeaning to the spirit of sportsmanship.
Of course, it doesn’t help when insecure Indian trolls flood Pakistani sites with sneering and snide remarks. They barge in to draw attention away from Pakistan celebrating its raw talent and make it about themselves. It is like someone going to another’s birthday or marriage party and hogging attention away from the birthday child or the bride. But such trolls are best blocked or ignored to wallow in their own hatred. Pakistanis should never feed trolls, especially when the nation is in dire need of conserving its energy to focus on the incredibly hard task within.
Pakistanis need to avoid comparisons, remain focused on uplifting their players, and heed the words of the late Robin Williams from his ‘Celebrate Humanity’ promotional series for the Olympics.
“You are my adversary, but you are not my enemy. For your resistance gives me strength, your will gives me courage, your spirit ennobles me. And though I aim to defeat you, should I succeed, I will not humiliate you. Instead, I will honor you. For without you, I am a lesser man.
Just a reminder: […] you don’t have to come in first to win.
Someone once said, “You don’t win the silver, you lose the gold.” Obviously, they never won the silver.”
What Pakistanis need to focus on is institution-building. This means going beyond occasional celebrations of raw talent, of which there is no dearth in the country, and ensuring that our athletes and players are provided systemic support. This is not just about sports, but generally about nurturing young talent across the board in various fields. Indeed, at the end of the day, Pakistan stands great because of its people and not its rent-seeking, self-serving ‘1%’ or economic elite, that dissuades upward social mobility of the poor masses by hogging a lion’s share of Pakistan’s resources that belong to its poor people.
In essence, Pakistan is not just the English-speaking classes from Gulberg and DHAs, it is the thriving Punjabi, Hazara and other poor folks thriving in gully mohallas of small towns and villages, whose raw talent knows no bounds. It is their inventions, their ideas, their athleticism, and their contributions that make Pakistan great. Whether they score a medal or not is irrelevant. Their talent deserves to be nurtured unconditionally. It is time we recognise our strength – the people of Pakistan.