Public vs. Consumers

How does it feel when you are the only woman sitting in the Islamabad High Court at the Justice Qazi Faiz Isa led three-member judicial commission? You don’t feel harassed by all the men present there. Not even a single female lawyer or witness or a female journalist with the exception of a female secuirty guard (in plain-clothes). The thing that hits you hard is, in Pakistan every political or public discourse is “male-dominated”.  You don’t get to see the “female” perspective.

Why it is like this? Because the traditional role of men and women are  defined in a way that you don’t even question it. Hence, Politics is not a job done by women. Court reporting is a field of men not women. Many here argue that trends are changing in Pakistan but seriously after yesterday, I feel, it would take another century to see presence of women in the public sphere. But then I also feel that there is no “public sphere” in the Pakistani society. The public sphere defined by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas.  The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (1962). 

“By the ‘public sphere’ we mean first of all the realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed”… “Citizens behave as a public body when they confer in an ­unrestricted fashion – that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions – about matters of general interest.”

Are Pakistanis only passive consumers? As Habermas mentions various factors that adds to the eventual decay of the public sphere. Consumerism in one of the factors that turns the critical public into passive consumers. Aint we all dependent on TV Channels giving us information about each and everything that concerns us. The commercial mass media discuss our problems and issues without including citizens in the debate. According to Habermas, ” Democratic public life cannot develop where matters of public importance are not discussed by citizens.”

The High Court proceeding  yesterday about the “Memogate” scandel is of high public importance but is it discussed by the public? This question is yet to be debated either by the public or  by the consumers.

About QZ

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