Jun 082008

Most of those writing in newspapers are hoodwinking readers by presenting feelings, passions and desires as serious analysis. How about impeaching Chacha Chhakan for not being able to hang a picture without turning the house upside down?

If pigs could fly, or more to the point, Pakistani “analysts” could have their way, Great Leader would have been banished from this land and, as a necessary corollary, logic be damned, democracy would have dawned on us, Aurora-like, and shone in all its glory.

But pigs almost never fly, as a rule. And when they are made to, as one was in Stephen Dobyns’ short story, A Happy Vacancy, they tend to tumble from the sky and kill “Jason W Plover, a poet with six books”.

So it’s good they don’t or we would have had quite a few Jason Plovers meeting the Maker in a rather unbecoming fashion. Of course, one could say, as we are wont to, that the problem does not lie with analyst X for wishing that they flew, but the bloody pigs. This may be a self-reinforcing idiocy but who cares in a land where we still have to decide whether it’s Islamic to stand up and pee.

This tribe of “analysts” feels so agitated, itching and screaming, but never will you see any one of them take a pause to realise that it is as foolish to want pigs to fly as it is idiotic to desire fish to climb trees.

Since I am hundred percent certain that the point has been lost, let me explain.

There is reality and there is desire. Reality seeks analysis regardless of how one feels about something; desire belongs in the domain of dreams, diary-writing, poetry and the most subjective genre in newspaper writing, the column. Never must the two, analysis and column, be confused. Yet, writer upon writer falls into the trap of expressing his desire and mistaking it for serious analysis.

Let’s have some rules, gentlemen, beginning with the limits and limitation of “analysis”.

First, there is no such bird as pure objectivity. Every social sciences student knows that the strengths and weaknesses of any analysis are determined by the framework one is using. Moreover, while in theory one can be straitjacketed by this or that framework or a model within a framework, on the ground things never shape up linearly or neatly.

For instance, in these pages we have had debates on transition and transformation. While theoretically one may consider them as competing strategies, even dichotomous, in the real world of politics they intertwine and influence each other perceptibly as well as imperceptibly.

So yes, analysis will have its limits and limitations. But no, it is never subjective in the sense of a column, which is where desire(s) can be expressed in prose that borders on the poetic and one can afford to eschew structured thinking.

Analysis must always have a central point, an anchor. It must look at what-is. Even when it talks about what ought to be, it must move in and through what-is. It can refer to the normative and the ideal but only if it is clear about what it would take to get to that point. Whether reaching that point is indeed possible; and if it is not, to refer to what can best achieve the objective rather than what we must do, however passionately desired.

The latter in fact is a trap that needs to be avoided assiduously, not least because what we think we must do normally draws on morality, principled stands, the imperative to change it all because nothing has changed so far, and so on.

This is dangerous enough; what makes it fallacious is to present this “analysis” with a mix of metaphor and a style that draws on the flourish of Victorian prose. Determining the sex of the writing at this point becomes difficult: I call it transvestite writing. Newspapers, sadly, are full of it.

But far from complaining, readers actually enjoy this stuff which reminds me of the debate over Punjabi films. Why is the crap produced? Because cine-goers like it. Could it be that crap was produced until no taste was left for anything better and more sophisticated?

The only problem is that while one can ignore films, especially of the thumka variety, op-ed pages of newspapers can do much mischief. It is fair to say I am writing a column, it is my subjective view, and I want to give it to everyone including Charlie’s aunt. Allah be praised.

What is not fair is to call this desire to do something and for something analysis. I don’t like Musharraf or I hate America is a feeling, a passion. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way. One can even take to the street, break a few windows or stand with a placard saying that much. One can write it down, frothing from the mouth in a column, yes, I repeat, in a column. But never, I repeat, never, call it analysis; and if you can’t figure out what’s happening, “f*** I don’t get it”, would be good enough.

This column, The Other Column, is not analysis. To pass it off as such would be silly. Honesty demands that we present our wares for what they are. Most of those writing in newspapers are hoodwinking readers by presenting feelings, passions and desires as serious analysis. How about impeaching Chacha Chhakan for not being able to hang a picture without turning the house upside down?

The blame must lie with editors for printing such pieces, though were they to become stringent, newspapers in Pakistan will be left with just half-dozen non-cross-dresser writers. Yet, the only place for most such pieces is the editor’s pike. The dustbin I reserve for those pieces that combine some half-baked analysis with what I call roving, subjective prose. It’s worse than stream of consciousness and the writer should walk to the River Ouse, put a large stone in his pocket and drown himself.

C’mon sirs, gimme a well-written piece on how to do sirloin to a turn even without Nigella Lawson’s bust line and I will be much happier than seeing Your Greying, Greyed and Balding Eminences trying to fail Politics 101 with such effort, thank you!

Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at sapper@dailytimes.com.pk

Source: Daily Times, 8/6/2008


 Posted by at 12:04 pm

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: