View Full Version : Scream Therapy - M Bilal Lakhani - 29th November 2012

29th November 2012, 10:07 AM
Primal scream therapyí is a nontraditional form of psychotherapy which encourages patients to vent and express their emotional and mental pain by screaming.
Tune into any Pakistani news channel during prime time and it would appear that the entire nation is engaged in a collective bout of scream therapy to deal with the emotional and mental pain of living in Pakistan. Every anchor (http://tribune.com.pk/story/472132/media-quandary-can-judges-be-criticized/), politician and pundit is trying to out-scream the other in nightly screaming matches on prime time television. Why does everyone on television feel the need to raise their voice in order to get their message across to the Pakistani people?
Thatís because everyone knows the dirty little secret of prime time television in Pakistan: someone must lose in order for you to win. And screaming matches are relatively easier to win compared to the daunting task of winning over your audience with substantive arguments. In this landscape, no matter what your position is on an issue, there is a Ďmade for televisioní label that can be screamed enough times to redefine your position.
For example, if you believe Pakistan must crush militancy with military action, your opponents simply have to call you an American or Israeli agent enough times to drown out any substantive arguments you may have. On the other hand, if you believe in negotiating with the militants, you might as well be as naÔve as Taliban Khan (http://tribune.com.pk/story/451890/shame-on-you-mr-khan/).
If youíre an advocate for the separation of religion and state, youíre a godless secularist or a liberal fascist. If you believe Islam should have a role in the stateís policymaking structure, youíre as dangerous as Ziaul Haq, whose policies are the root cause of extremism and every other dark force in Pakistani society today.
This is the beauty of screaming matches: they naturally gravitate towards extremes and paint a black and white view of the world. We often talk about a trust deficit in Pakistani society and how that gets in the way of developing a consensus to solve national problems. We must understand that this Ďtrust deficití is firmly rooted in a surplus of labels that are screamed on television every night. Iím fairly confident that every player in Pakistanís cricket team has an individual opinion on game/team strategy but can you imagine what would happen to the teamís performance if the players started screaming at one another during a match?
Team motivation would plunge, the team would begin to fracture into subgroups and winning as a team would take the backseat to winning influence as a group within the team.
One of the most insightful moments of the recent US elections was the concession speech that Mitt Romney delivered (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/mitt-romneys-concession-speech-transcript/story?id=17664448#.ULZOquTqkuc) after he lost a hard-fought election campaign to President Barack Obama. The speech almost moved me to tears as a close observer of the political conversation in Pakistan.
ďIíve just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory Ö I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.Ē
This speech inspired this article with one key question in mind: can we create a national conversation in Pakistan that encourages opposition leaders and their supporters to congratulate a newly elected prime minister and publicly pray for his success? Fortunately, this isnít as hard as we imagine it to be. As a first step, we need to lose the labels we use to characterise people we donít agree with.
Would the heavens fall if we concede that every politician in Pakistan isnít corrupt? Or that most religious people in the country arenít closed minded, armchair Taliban sympathisers?
If only we could look beyond our self-imposed labels, we would see a startling vision of Pakistan; one that isnít as fractured as we imagine it to be during our screaming matches.
Incidentally, when we finally stop labelling others, we will begin to listen to them. And when people feel listened to, they eventually stop screaming.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2012.