Friday, March 29, 2013

Why we Search for Job Security. Why Not Risk Taking

By Dr. Irfan Hyder

Why are we so afraid of taking risks?
Why our primary focus is on jobs that provide security?
Why people go after a pensionable, secure, career job?
Why people think that becoming a government "servant" is their ultimate goal?
Why "sarkar ki naukri" has so much premium?

An analysis of these questions takes us to the time of the early 19th century and after the 1857 war of independence when the British Raj eliminated the land entitlements of the aristocracy. The landed aristocracy of subcontinent especially the Muslims found themselves literally penniless as they lost their entitlements, and their regular earnings from their land holdings disappeared. They found themselves with no marketable skills or knowledge. Their Persian language skills became worthless overnight as the official business started getting transacted in English (recall the famous saying "Farsi seekho, tael baicho").

Culturally the aristocracy of that time, especially Muslims, had looked down upon craftsmen as "kum-mi" (menial), and avoided the trades and crafts that require working with hands. They used the terms related to crafts pejoratively and disparagingly: Jolahay (artisan), taeli (seller of oil),kumhar (potter), qasai (meat seller), baniya (shop keeper), mazaray (field hand), .....

Hence, they effectively shut themselves out of the businesses related to these crafts. The aristocrats or the elites therefore had no option but to go for English studies at the new schools/colleges so that they can eventually become government "servants". Those who did not take the modern schooling to government route and also shut themselves out from the crafts and trades went hungry and their plight has been captured by several renowned poets as exemplified in the poetry, letters or life of Ghalib, Insha, etc [included still in our syllabi] and depicted by authors for e.g. in the heart breaking story of Mirza Sikandar Bakht and included in the matric Urdu syllabus of 1977 of Sargodha Board [would someone tell me the author name?].

In short, we saw during the late 19th century start of a mad rush towards the secure job of the British India Government Servant, and continuing even after partition. I have seen myself official government correspondence being transacted till late 1970s and even in to 1980s, where the government officials would sign the official notes and letters as "Your Most Obedient Servant"!

The safety and security of a government job (or a career job) robs you of your independence, destroys your "khudi", makes your prime duty to obey the commands and dictats of the superior. You become like a caged parrot. He has the security of a cage. He does not need to be afraid and continously be on the lookout for a prowling cat or a diving eagle. He has food security. He would daily get his rations in the mornings and evenings. He has a gilded cage. He is only expected to sing and please the master when the master so wishes. The master may reward him by taking him out of his cage for a few moments of supervised liberty but only after ensuring that the wings have been properly clipped. He has everything except liberty to do what he wants to.

The slave mentality and the psyche so developed in the Muslims of the subcontinent was the major target of Iqbal. His metaphors of Hawk/Shaheen (who preys himself and goes after a live prey), and denigration of vulture/kargus (who feeds on someone else's prey or dead meat") attacked this mentality.

"Woh fareeb khurda shaheen jo pala ho kargasoan may
Usay kya khabar keh kya hay, rah o rasm e shahbaazi" -

Iqbal wanted us to be shaheen who lives on the skies, and does not settle down in plush homes, and Shaheen is not afraid of fluctuation of fortunes (jhapatna palatna, palat kar jhapatna) were all intended in liberating us from our love for security, safety and official residences. However, the love for security, safety and official residences still reigns supreme in cities like Islamabad and in particular communities.

But, then there are communities like the ferocious tribals and Afghans who could not be tamed by British. They led their lives independently, and still do. Who are enterprising, willing to work any where, go to any wilderness and start from nothing with a chai-khana (tea stall) under a tree, travel all their lives on roads (driving trucks), moving from one place to another. There are desolate parts of Pakistan where you would wonder who would ever have the courage to settle and do this kind of tough work of breaking rocks and mountains, and you will find that tribals are there doing work which no one is willing to do because it is risky and hard. British manipulative machinery tried its best to kill the spirit of these tribals by spreading jokes such as those referring to "akhroat" and "pathans", but could not. There are also settled business communities like memons and chiniotis who are enterprising and create their own business and space using trading system for their liberation. They are the real risk takers. They have also been made target of jokes. Unfortunately many unsuspecting from amongst us relate these jokes without understanding how they were designed to malign our psyche and mentality.

You will see a common strand among all such enterprising communities. They make their children start in a small shop or even a street stall at a very early age. They know that the real learning is not in books but in real life with real people. Yes, reading, writing and arithmetic are important and must be learned and this a person can do in a few months or in a few years starting at any age. However, refinement of language and arithmetic skills takes place in the real life. Business learning at an early age through small enterprises can lead to great things. See for example "Made in America" the autobiography of Sam Walton of Walmart who at the time of his dying around 1993 was the richest man of the world.

If today after 65+ years is not the time to get out of this slave mentality, then when would it be. Unless we begin to take our destiny in our own hands, stop denigrating work and craft, things would not change. The change is visible and is coming. We see now people looking favorably at crafts. For e.g I see in Pakistan upscale businesses with names such as "Darzi" and "Kaarigar", and boutiques, fashion designers (even Islamic fashion designers), Meat One, Gourmet, Nirala sweets etc. We are rediscovering the importance of sunnat of the Prophet by reverting towards business and trade.

Current state of affairs in Pakistan is now making us realize how difficult it is to assume responsibility and take ownership of our own destiny. But, this is the cost of real freedom.

"Apni duniya aap paida kar agar zindoan may hay" - Iqbal

About the Author: Dr. Irfan Hyder is an IT Guru, Dean at IoBM, and Founder of L2L Club. 
This is a cross post from I2L Blog

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