Better be a clean slate

Twelve years is ample time to become brainwashed by a syllabus. From childhood to youth we are reduced to learning from textbooks that hardly ever tell the truth about our nation’s history. The whole time period between primary education to intermediate, teachers unknowingly keep brainwashing children. At university level this may change a little but not entirely.

The term “clean slate” over here is usually reserved for illiterates, a form of insult by the so-called educated people. Personally I beg to differ. My own experience with what are known as clean slates tells me otherwise. I have personally witnessed that these people can be convinced to see right from wrong with a logical argument, something I cannot say about the educated ones, who are often stubborn enough to reject rational views.

Whenever I’m in my village in Charsadda, my evenings are spent sitting in the hujra with men my age, with whom I have been interacting with since we were all kids. Most of these friends have at least an intermediate degree except for me and another friend who went on to do masters. About seven years ago, when Taliban were a major hit in our areas, highly praised and supported for their ideology, I remember this guy came to our village from Bajaur agency to meet his family.

The seventeen year old youth was not only a Taliban supporter, but he was a Talib himself. Although except for my family everyone in our village was supporting Taliban verbally, having an actual Talib around was a different feeling. I remember this guy used to go to mosque every evening while we were sitting in the hujra and he always used to look at us with contempt and anger, because most of my friends were not into offering prayers regularly no matter how religious they thought they were.

At times they used to jokingly blame me for being a bad influence. Anyways, one day I asked this guy if he could come to Hujra after prayers, and even though he agreed he still seemed angry and disrespectful. Everyone was startled why I had asked him to come and they told me that he’s a violent young guy, and might hurt me but I just wanted to find out a real Talib’s perspective.

So after offering the evening prayers, the guy joined us in the hujra and he sat there stiffly, that mask of anger on his face but he also looked a bit confused. I asked him why he joined Taliban and he started with the typical stuff, like they are the chosen people by God to fight evil, US is the biggest evil and then science and technology keeps us away from God – the same spiel you would expect.
I wouldn’t get into the details of our conversation. But I started bringing Quran from home every evening to hujra and try to explain to him things in a more rational way. It took me only five days to completely change this man’s opinion by saying some things that I had been telling all my so-called educated friends who had always stuck to their beliefs. The young Talib’s way of thinking changed to the level that he didn’t even go back to Bajaur but instead went to Karachi to begin work there with his uncle.

Five days. That’s all it took.

Suffice it to say even I was not anticipating such an astonishing change. But it made me realize that all this happened because he was more of a clean slate compared to those brainwashed by false history, influenced by teachers who come from the same educational background. This young man, though easily influenced by Taliban, changed his path when he was shown the more rational and clear picture.

I am no saint, far from it actually, and I am no intellectual, yet I tested a theory and since then I have done tried it on many other simple folk. The results are the same. Eventually I find its impossible to make those understand who think they already understand. I remember when Musharraf came into power, according to my own observation, he was not just popular among liberals, but also had a huge fan following among the completely illiterate population.

All this was because Musharraf, in his early days, used to properly explain things to people.
Most of our population is illiterate and although it’s a sad thing on one hand, on the other hand it might just be a good thing because if some day a good leader comes he could easily change the way people think. Our education system produces more emotionally charged stubborn minds, and until that changes, ignorance and illiteracy in our country might be something close to bliss.

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