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[Opinion] Anatomy of society

by Khameto

When gods inhabited every sphere of life in old days everything under the sun exude meaning. The snow was abode of fairies, trees was rendezvous for fairies to ogle at the boy they love, some trees connected us to supernatural world, flowers and fragrance had effect of transporting one into ecstasy which in its turn brought forth exquisite poetry not contaminated by commercialism and vogue for 15 minute fame, we were oblivious of and not effected by the big events that jolted our surrounding polities, we had a local ethos that connected us to the syzygy of nature, supernatural and human beings.

Suddenly, everything collapsed before our eyes. The terra firma on which we were standing, and established edifice of culture and society, turn out to be an ice that rapidly melted under the heat of change that we failed to comprehend.  Suddenly, we found ourselves looking aghast at novel things of post industrial society. For the mind of a closed society everything was unfathomable. We failed to make sense of order of things because our cognitive apparatus is not attuned to objective world. In a nutshell, we found an ‘existential hole’ in our existence. In desperation and without guidance we filled the existential gap with whatever we found exotic. And we were justified in copying everything exogenous because when we did not have anything at all. We turned into paupers and beggars and no choosers.

We are living in a society where meaning disappeared with, in the words of famous German poet, ‘the departure of gods/God’. Consequently, we are condemned to carve out meaning through gossip, wine, books, sex, self righteousness, misogynist attitude etc, to count a few. We exist by consuming the leftover of those societies who have entered another paradigm. 

First ever Burushaski Rap Song – ‘A sign of things to come’ appeared in this background. The complex interplay of social, cultural, economics, religious, personal and tribal processes have given birth to this creation. It encapsulates the dilemmas we are facing at individual and collective level. The album is aptly title ‘a sign of things to come’. This is our future appearing in present as sign. Majority of our children will be doing what we are opposing now. I disagree with some of the comments about this album. I neither encourage nor discourage the young lads who indulged in unknown genre, for creativity should emanate from within not to be triggered by a flattering mouth. This form of music is meant to shock sensitivity of a society that refuse to raise question against its established norm.

Can anybody tell me what Hunza culture is? I do not know. We are the only people who are proud to be good speakers of English, then why we hesitate to accept its cultural forms including vulgarity. In every matter we are confused to the core. I agree to disagree with people who said this is not our culture. If calling bad names is not our culture then how come our languages contain good stock of obscene words?  Some of comment exudes air of self righteousness. We are constantly bombarded with images on TV which are more obscene then the words here. So what the heck objection to vulgar words.

In order to extricate ourselves from the dilemma of being mimicking apes to authentic beings we ought to engage with primary questions that have not been addressed with the advent modernity. These questions related to direction/misdirection of our society and angst that persists at individual level but could not get cathartic outlets. To put it interrogatively we need to question: the idea of progress, purity, success, history, culture, tradition, superiority of tribes, self righteousness, definition of knowledge and intelligence in our social setting, our place or extinction in the world stage in future, how to provide spaces for individual creativity without letting collective instinct stifling his ideas etc.

Raising questions about aforementioned issues will consequently lead to harsh realization about their irrelevance or socially constructed nature. Ultimately, we will undergo a drastic and agonizing spiritual pain at individual level. Only after that we will come out with new realization and understanding about the agonizing relation of individual’s interaction with society and agonizing process of making a society that encompass heterogeneity of individual interests. That will be a point where our society will produce authentic Being who can engage with primordial question of being and being in society.

The writer identifies himself as a pseudonym “holding a degree in literature from a non-reputed university. For individual queries he can be reached at

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  1. beautifully thought. I agree with Khameto, especially I am on the same page with him on the 5th paragraph.
    Why do we always come up with this culture issue? I too do not know where our culture came from….Did God distribute the guidelines about culture when he made tribes? as in saying ‘you hunzukutz, this is what u do and thats ur culture, hey wakhis, this is what u do and thats ur culture, and so on”…..NO. For me, what our ancestors did when they were bored or when they had to do something or whatever, is what WE call culture. Our ancestors did not even know that what they were doing was the CULTURE, they did it because either they had to, or they liked to do so. we mistook that for something thats obligatory. If they could make a piano back then, may be they would not make a SURANAI, who knows? What we are doing now, will be the culture of our ancestors.
    I also agree with Khameto about his thoughts on vulgarity. Is our culture just the part we like? in old times, they walked bare footed, is that our culture? one might argue that there were no shoes thats why they walked bare footed or in TAOCHING, I argue that they played SURANAI cuz their was no piano. Both these arguments are equally valid, an individual’s personal dislikesness and likeness can never be used to undermine one argument and validate another. Vulgarity has always been there in our language, why should we let it die? a language is incomplete without them. And I have always seen people learning the bad words first when they are interested in learning a new language.

  2. Khameto has this tendency to be ignored/refuted coz s/he tends to talk meanings and questions that are considered “signs of maarifat” by many in our society. People just don’t dare to challenge him coz he is good at things that he talks.

    Culture is irrational, guided by emotions(which are superficial and self serving). The rational abhor emotions, but are slave to them, by definition :p

  3. Khameto has done a good reflection on contemporary angst that is brimming in our society. But the parameters that he has set out for a discussion are very muddled in the sense that they urge people to long for an authentic mode of being on the hand and also willing to accept and be forward looking on the other.

    In expressing his opinions and passing judgements on the nature of cultural activities in Hunza, Mr Khameto the so called educated person from a non-reputable university, is in fact as much confused as he thinks that others in Hunza are in deep disarray when it comes to resurrecting, as it were, original values in a deeply interconnected world. Here, without making globalisation too complicated by questioning its underlying processes of and the dominant impact of Western values on our society, it is safe to say that cultures everywhere are malleable, learn from each other. Civilisation as a broader category is not an air-tight cylinder, containing authentic values and systems of being in themselves. Throughout history peoples, cultures, and civilisations have interacted with each other to form the beauties of human expression, in art, in music, in paintings, in dance, and also in evolving moral virtues.

    To give one of the fine examples from Islamic history we can look at the great cultural interaction that took place in Moorish Grenada, and Cordova. I know that some people might raise objection on the grounds that the architecture of Moorish cities is an expression of imperial ambitions of exiled Umayyad princes but the very reality of synthesis of Islamic and Christian patterns of design is a testimony to peaceful, cooperative and creative engagement of human beings. Here, the general point that I wish to make is to illustrate the fact that we should not be really scared to embrace ‘foreign cultures’ and influences. We will limp, we will mimic, we will internalise, we will externalise and excurse some of our own out-dated traditions but in the end humanity will win if it interacts in a faithful manner. The recent appearance of a rap song though it may be deficient in upholding great moral standards is however a good creative endeavour towards challenging our stagnant society and exploring ways of jolting us from our slumber. We should comment on these kinds of activities and try to explore as Khameto has done various dimensions of this new pattern in our cultural lives, rather than passing quick judgements.

    To make one related point, one can admittedly say that the culture of modernity is influenced by an ethos informed by rational activity. In all human expressions the searching calculation of human beings, the application of reason, and the mechanical way of social and political organisation in society has stripped us from experiencing real human emotions, passions and desires. In some places where rationality has overtaken everything else they have become ‘one-dimensional men’ whose only goal is to be productive, efficient and to use an NGO terminology results oriented. While this attitude has created great wealth and expanded the opportunities to control nature in more sophisticated ways but the ground for great tragedy, and heroism seems to be in limbo now. Once great virtuous men like the Israelites prophets used to be heroes of their time, this august position seems to be relegated to men of profit rather than prophet. Men of wealth have now power, influence and disproportionate impact on our society, a reality which is as truer for Western society as it is for ours. The recent rap song can be seen against the dominating influence of rich and powerful people- and those whose life-goal has now become accumulation of wealth.

    ali al-Hakim

  4. Since Sajid Barcha sees eye to eye with my opinion, there is no point to provide him detail answer except my heartfelt thanks for his appreciation. I appreciate Haq Parast’s comment about my write up. I could understand whether he opposes me or support my observations. I take exception to his comments that I tend “to talk meanings and questions that are considered “signs of maarifat” by many in our society.” Here specially important is the what is written in quote and unquote ” “. I wonder whether by maarifat he is alluding that i might belong to Khana-e-Hikmat or putting me in the high pedestal of scholars, neither of whcih i am not. Haq Parast in right that i have tendency to be ignored/refuted. a person who refuse us deserves more respect for he provide a n opportunity to address our shortcomings. if we receive agreement and respect all the time there is likelihood of our turning into Pharoah. for me culture is what human beings create a thing that is given by nature like mountains, air, sea, tree. If Haq Parast needs more elaboration, i am ready to provide him. I am concluding my comments here for i am afraid the readers of PT may dub me garrulous.

  5. Khamito tends to paint a remonticized picture of human intellectual journey and consistant conflict between material change and traditions. Traditions being defined here as a set of values of a society that resist change.

  6. I appreciate the intellectual critique of ali al-Hakim. He has studied in a reputed institution of London School of Economics and Political Science. On the other hand my way commenting and refuting has flair of crudeness which is typical of our region.
    In fact, I am puzzled by the response of al-Hakim. My thoughts may not be as clear as my brother’s, but what he said seemed to support my stance that we should get rid of contradictions in our society and do not hesitate to accept new things after critical engagement. A cursory glance at my write up will clearly show even to a layman that i favored new experimentation by youngsters in Brushashki language. I request readers to decide whether ali al hakim’s observations refute or support my ideas. Perhaps editor of Pamir Time can decide objectively about it.
    Indeed, I spoke against the people who criticized the singers of first Brushashki Rap Song on the basis of morality that does not hold sway over society anymore. Can ali hakim explicate how an attempt to be authentic and forward looking attitude are mutually exclusive? Going against the grain of prevalent norm is no less heroic than the heroes of Greek epics. Aristotle set a strict criterion for hero that he should be above normal human beings. It means only a king, prince or supernatural being can be hero.
    Currently, we neither have kings and princes, nor we believe in supernatural beings. Therefore, the only locus of heroism can be found among common man. Modern literature and cinema have successfully created and depicted such heroes. For example, the character of tramps in drama ‘Waiting for Godot’ by noble laureate Samuel Beckett is exquisite illustration of becoming heroic in unheroic age. Another example is ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller. In cinema Charlie Chaplin’s character epitomizes pangs and angst of man in modern setting. It shows that the definition of heroism is immutable as al Hakim seems to imply. It is still here but the nature of fight change.
    One of the strains in my thinking emanates from being a member of society. If there is any confusion in my mind it either reflects general confusion of our society regarding asserting itself in the age of globalization, or you can attribute it to lack of my knowledge. The more I learn things do not become as clear to me as to ali al Hakim, but they become more complicated. And this is difference between me and him because he gets clear and easy picture of a convoluted social process or phenomena, whereas I treat a simple social phenomena as a complex whole. Perhaps both are right, but between two rights a great deal of reality lies. Pamir Times plays an instrumental role in bridging the gap between two opposites by getting people with diverse thinking under a single blog.

  7. One should appreciate the poetics of Khameto’s expression-a ballad of shaman-could be outshined by this spontaneity. Khameto’s insatiable lust for a bygone age where gods/deities reign human creativity and culture is not a simple nostalgic attempt to glorify the past, it is rather an expression of the perennial question of existence. Grappling with an agonizingly self perpetuating conflict between meanings, values, art and all other creative manifestations of this fleshy human is what has determined the course of the history of ideas.

  8. Both Khameto and anti-Khameto seem to have same level of grasp over the anatomy of society and the self perpetuating conflicts between various creative human thoughts and actions, and manifestations.

    It is really heartening to note that we have thinkers of such a high caliber among us, in the context of Hunza. This situation should give us enough confidence and hope in the capacity of our collective wisdom, so essential for progress and better future.

    We all need to create harmony between our thoughts and actions, which will only be possible, once we have many good thinking heads in our society.

  9. I think the worth of words is dimmed in front of the veils that Khameto or his “anti” has clad himself in. Why don’t our “intellectuals” first break through the luring glass ceilings of vague identities and, then, try to decode the fabrics of our society?!!

    Bertrand Russell or Gallileo needed not to hide behind this or that veil, when speaking their mind out, irrespective of the consequences!!

    What does it take to create honest, open, rational-thinkers?

  10. It goes almost without saying that intellectual heresy stirs the stagnant to move, stings the sluggish into life-as Socrates once said. Ideas should precede the ephermal identity and hence it should be the vigor of intellect to be appreciated rather than the association of ideas to a personality. Therefore, it means least whose ideas are there but it matters a lot what has been said.
    The ideas evolve with a complex dynamism and therefore are not the product of a single person’s creativity-thus it is unfair to associate them to an individual. Hiding the identity is a fair way to suggest that these ideas were not revealed to me but they were transmitted evolved and they trespass the defined territory of my existence. I do not know what Khamito has to say on this but I at least am convinced that public perception of my personality does not impede the appreciation of the ideas that I borrow from history. Let us proclaim the death of author and authority and then the only permenant thing left is —ideas.

  11. Why don’t you guys simply say that readers should not see, ‘who has said what’ they should rather take ‘what has been said’ – idea has more value than flesh!

    In that sense, hiding one’s identity, does not seem to be an intellectual dishonesty – is that right?

  12. Somehow, I have the understanding that what’s being said is very much a reflection of the forces surrounding the sayer, per se. In a rational world, the cause of what is being said, needs to be understood, if we seek to understand what has been said.

    But then, that’s just my “personal” feeling.


  13. Anti-Khameto accepts that History is the wellspring of ideas but he dissociates himself and for that matter any single personality from the world of ideas on the grounds that post-modernists have claimed for the ‘death of author and the authority.’ The very use of this expression and its endorsement suggests that Anti-Khameto accepts the broader post-modernist outlook as well: that is the relativity of truth i.e. it is futile to search for eternal truths, uniqueness of individuals i.e. whoever desires and thinks in whatever way is valid, and the end of grand narratives that means depersonalization of society, values and historical evolution of culture and systems of thought. The value against grand narratives is to say that we cannot access universal truths in a single interpretive framework. The world is a jigsaw puzzle and it will remain as elusive as ever. It would be difficult to put together an overarching scheme of things; in short the order of things is chaotic at its heart. The human search for order would always be enigmatic. Whatever systems of thought we have built so far are mere reflections of power-relations, and essentially they are social constructs that tell us more about the nature and constitution of a particular society at a particular space and time as opposed to human struggle and search for answers to perennial questions. This attitude in my opinion is frightening and dangerous. The idea of democracy

    Without differing too much form what I had said earlier in my comment above that we the people of Hunza should embrace change I would however also add that the process of change must be organic, the shifts in social attitudes and values should reflect our critical engagement. The change should be authentic otherwise we risk becoming instruments in the hands of international powers, and men of ideas who are external to our existence. We risk becoming slave to foreign agendas, and it will be easy for external opinion makers to shape and mould us according to their own interests, and preferences. Within this context it is dangerous and frightening to hide behind faceless nicknames masquerading as ideologues. Do such intellectual habits deserve our genuine admiration and respect? To begin with I had myself these temptations and I had certainly fallen into them and now I realize that this is not the way forward, however the attempt to ‘sting sluggish into life’ is genuinely sincere. ¬May be this attitude is reflective of the voices within ourselves pulling us to one side or the other and second the conflict about our conception of ourselves and our world, about the meaning of our sayings and indeed the meaning of our activities and of our lives.

    In the above comments, both from Khameto, anti-Khameto and their supporters and detractors, there are complicated and deep issues at stake. It is beyond the scope of this comment to systematically combat and explore the issues that have been raised. Notwithstanding my disagreements I would however applaud Khameto, anti-Khameto, and everyone else who have shown an interest to reflect on the disconnect and the evolving uneasy relationship between our local traditions and the demands of modern ideas, for these are the people who would help us chart out ways forward by dissecting moral issues, and providing the necessary intellectual leadership.

    ali al-Hakim

  14. The incredulity towards grand narratives “as Leoyard Fancois once put contains a powerful proclamation; though it is not an epochal rupture-like modernity but it is tumultuous enough for societies like ours where modernity is intertwined with medieval values. We have used religio-tribal instruments to interpret modernity. Our Weberian rational institutions are founded on what is sacred to us –as a bulwark against profanity- in classical Durkheim’s sense. Western societies, due to an historical interplay between human agency and structural forces are somehow less traumatized by the travail of post modernity-where it nurtured, evolved and developed organically as a continuum. We the non westerners had equally strong hermeneutic traditions whose refutation was not an indigenous antithesis rather its critiques/refutation were exogenously framed. I cannot forget centuries long of colonial experience whereby local hermeneutic tradition were portrayed as a set of stagnant myths of inferior races. The new epistemology (form of knowledge) that germinated in the intellectual and political womb of the West was injected into the colonial societies. Thus a sort of epistemic imperialism is explicit in this which by no means was an intrigued design to suppress local knowledge but an unavoidable outcome of early capitalism. Truth is relative-I agree with Al-Hakim-and through him-the post modernists but I fear that we tend to lose sight of heterogeneity of post modernity itself-because the very notion of post modernism brings its own meta narratives. Therefore one should add that there is no such thing as post modernism –there are multiple realities only and there were always multiple realities-which were trampled historically.

  15. Good debate between two towering intellectuals of our time. Both Khameto and Anti-khameto have involved me with some new dimensions of life. Anti-Khamito, in particular,is powerful with extraordinary writting skills and clarity of thinking.

  16. It is heartening to see the debate generated by ‘Anatomy of Society’ and quality of feedback I have received for my views. The debate started with, in the words of ali-al hakim, with broad parameters and my discussion was very muddled. Perhaps he is right to a great extent. Now it appears that the debate is converging on a single point and getting to the cores where the problems lie. The metamorphoses of debate is clearly visible as we started our discussion from ground realities of our society and moved into the realm of ideas with feedback from Sajid, Ali al Hakim, Noor, Anit-Khameto, Mutabiat, and Haq Parast.

    Anit-Khameto has brilliantly pointed out the dilemma faced by non-western societies in negotiating modernity and asserting their identity in the age of postmodernism. The question arises here is how to get rid of epistemic imperialism/violence perpetrated by colonial powers and the colonial experience imbedded in the palimpsest of our history. To do so we need to reengage with our history with clear philosophical vision. Until now our history is written either by colonial power, state or local elites. They have tried to fit history within the mould that is product of the convergence of power, interest and economic base. While doing so the history of layman was suppressed. Hence, the life world of society and its people were expunged from the pages of history with single stroke of pen that colluded with the power.

    Modern technologies of power are in diffused form. It is because of the diffused nature of power Michel Foucault said ‘power is everywhere but it comes from nowhere.’ To break the clutches of epistemic imperialism on mind we ought to confront power at the loci from where it emanates. The clearest manifestation of power is in the discourse of history. To redress the imbalance created by modern epistemic structures we have to suspend the theoretical unity of universal discourses. It will result in creating a space for local narrative to assert them, thus filling the gap. Francois Lyotard’s incredulity towards meta-narrative was not a fancy of a poet or a whim of a madman; rather it was a deep insight into the inner dynamics of knowledge and discourse formation in modern age. It proved conducive for subaltern groups to assert themselves on the pages of history.

    Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in his magnum opus ‘Notes from Prison Book’ adopted the word subaltern to refer to those groups in society who are subject to the hegemony of the ruling classes. Subaltern classes may include peasants, workers and other groups were denied access to hegemonic power. ‘Their history’ asserts Gramsci ‘therefore, is intertwined with that of civil society, and thereby with the history of States and groups of States.’ Subaltern classes are not unified and do not have state. Therefore, they do have history of their own. They remained underrepresented, as history is a history of the state and dominant groups.

    Gramci’s philosophy of history inspired a group of historians called ‘Subaltern Studies Project’ in India. Now this school of thought is the only school of thought in history that emerged in non-western societies. The historians of Subaltern Studies applied the theoretical insights of Gramsci about the problem of representation of the subaltern groups to Indian history. However, while applying Gramician notions of hegemony and sublaternity, they take the Indian cultural and political context into consideration. They argue that though the elite in India had dominance over subaltern groups, they did not have hegemony over these. Absence of hegemony provided a space for subaltern groups to affect local event through their agency and will. Colonialist and nationalist history left out subaltern classes whose traditional structure or domain remained intact during colonial period. Subaltern groups relied on local structures for political mobilization. Guha treats the subaltern domain as an autonomous domain, for it neither originated from elite politics nor was its existence depended on the latter.

    Meta-narratives attempt to subjugate diversity in a monolithic form. By doing so, they eliminate myriad cultures and societies from the pages of history or consign it into dustbin of history a la Francis Fukuyama by declaring end of history. Fukuyama’s influence is clear on ali al Hakim’s writings.

    An example from subaltern studies group’s rejection of meta-narrative and celebration of heterogeneity of postmodernity will clearly illustrate the intellectual benefits of extricating ourselves from the meta-narratives of modernity that hang around our neck like an albatross in ‘The Rime of Ancient Mariner’ by S.T Coleridge.

    Since the elitist/modern historiography in subcontinent subscribes to the essentialist posture of colonialists, it depicted the region as homogenous culture at the expense of subaltern groups, cultures, histories, and races. Likewise, collusion of historical scholarship and ruling elite resulted in capturing of meaning in homogenous nationalism. The politics of representation in Orientalist discourse is based on clearly delineated identities. It forced heterogeneous and non-delineated groups to align with delineated group. In this process various groups lost their particular identity or coerced by epistemic force to surrender their particularities to a group which was underpinned by taxonomy and labels manufactured by Orientalism to strengthen the sway of colonial power over uncharted groups. Pakistani state is trying to do the same by coercing us to merge our diverse identities, including Gilgit-Baltistan within a monolithic identity of Pakistan if there is any.

    We can get a better understanding of the past by learning lesson from the historians, like subaltern studies group, who broke new grounds in the discipline of history. Only by questioning received wisdom and thinking we can become mentally independent. No doubt thinking is thanking.

    In the context of Gilgit-Baltistan we have to reengage with colonial representation and national discourse of history to bring forth the epistemic violence perpetrated covertly by ruling class to maintain historical amnesia in our society. It is need of the hour to have research institutions where scholars in their respective fields will be able to explore the hitherto unchartered territories in history and society of Gilgit-Baltistan.

    Unfortunately, we lack institutions for social and cultural research. Although there are some institutions, they are either engaged with non issues or culture and social issues are not issues for them at all. As a corollary, our society is moving like a rudderless ship in the tumultuous period of globalisation, which is engulfing weaker societies. This is my last comment about the debate regarding anatomy of society. I am grateful to all those readers who considered my article worth reading and conferred me with their invaluable comments. Kudos to Pamir Times for providing a source of catharsis to express our latent confusions, views and opposition.

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