Magazine article The Spectator

Reasons for Hope

Magazine article The Spectator

Reasons for Hope

Article excerpt

'Pakistan is a dysfunctional state, ' said the writer Martin Amis in a debate about ideologies and ideologues in our post-9/11 world on Start the Week (Monday, Radio Four). He seemed curiously unaware that he was in conversation with a woman lawyer from Pakistan, Asma Jahangir, who has just been released from house arrest after defying her own government; with someone who has actually experienced the real impact of the rise of global Islamism, and who cannot afford to agree that her country is in chaotic freefall. 'Pakistan is not dysfunctional, ' retorted the formidable-sounding Jahangir.

'People are so resilient that, despite no gas, no electricity, they are still continuing to do their work.' She went on, 'It's not like Afghanistan and I'm amazed that it still functions.' This was such a bracing, intelligent, welldirected discussion by Andrew Marr, whose other guests included Jim Al-Khalili, an Iraqi-born theoretical nuclear physicist now based at the University of Surrey. He has been researching the House of Wisdom, an intellectual powerhouse of scholars from all the major religions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, which flourished in Baghdad under the Abbasid dynasty from the eighth to the 12th centuries AD, while Europe was living through its own Dark Ages. Al-Khalili talked of scholars such as Al-Jahiz (born in AD 781), who 1,100 years before Darwin had already figured out that species must have evolved through a process of natural selection. And the mathematician and philosopher Al-Biruni, born in Uzbekistan, studied in Baghdad, travelled to Afghanistan and beyond. He calculated to an accuracy of within just 200 miles the actual circumference of the earth by measuring the height of a mountain in India.

None of this of course changes the nature of the dangers that we all now face but it's just so heartening to be given broader insights, and alternative perspectives, to be challenged to look beyond the current crisis and to find reasons for hope instead of a cynical, world-weary disillusion -- as in the Amis style of thought. The people of Pakistan have no chance to be cynical, or world-weary, or to mutter about rights and freedom and democracy. Ordinary life goes on remarkably energetically even within the maelstrom of geopolitical turbulence: bread is baked, vegetables are sold in the market, people marry and have children.

Olivia Manning's Balkan trilogy of novels has been dramatised as Fortunes of War (Radio Four, Sunday), but it should perhaps be known as 'Lessons of War', since the experiences of Guy and Harriet Pringle in Eastern Europe on the outbreak of war in 1939 reflect both the cruel chaos and the unbelievable normality that persists in the face of military takeover. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.