The Lazy Pakistani Brain

To be fair, it isn’t just the Pakistani person’s brain that is lazy, but everyone’s.

Perhaps lazy is the wrong word too because of inherent negative connotations. What I mean is the following: every person’s brain naturally gravitates towards minimizing energy expenditure. In unfathomable ways the brain attempts to allocate energy utilization optimally as it functions, giving simple tasks less power and complex tasks more. This is an essential process to have in place; otherwise we’d waste all our mental energies plucking those berries and have none left over to run away from that saber-tooth tiger. Instead, the brain categorizes, simplifies, applies models. It learns a manageable amount of information so it can go on functioning without overloading and frying. It uses crafty tricks like habits and muscle memory; it remembers, so that picking berries can be performed effortlessly and you are capable of planning your escape from the clutches of that toothy feline.

The brain also magically directs consciousness upon what is perceived as important. This is also an essential biological process of reduction and simplification; otherwise all things would demand our attention all at once, and the utterly absurd chaos of the world would drive us insane before we are even a decade old. Right now as you are reading this you are no longer aware of your breathing. Now you are. You had forgotten that you had toes. Now you feel them again.

Moving on from that brief introduction which would make a professional brain nerd cringe, the moral of the story is this: we are not as autonomous as we think we are. Based on our individual makeup and mental faculties (nature) we’ve derived models from stimuli received from the world around us (nurture). And we then live in those models, comprised of select facts and selective focus, comfortable and secure because we can make sense of it all, and momentarily confused and disoriented when presented with new information which lies outside our models which we then frantically scramble to justify and assimilate somehow.

Because without these processes, we would be lost to the chaos of reality.

This is essentially what a ‘society’ is; a safe, controlled environment with set rules and a model which we can readily adopt. Our lazy brains find it very convenient to look to society to tell us what to think. We adopt their collective narrative and silently adapt into it.

It is here that we fuck up.

The ‘collective narrative’ over here, with no leadership or direction, has organically evolved to reflect the stimuli of which it has been born. This varies from place to place; Peshawar’s narrative is different from Karachi’s, but there are commonalities. We’ve gotten used to the strangest things regardless of location.

Load shedding is no longer an issue even though it is the twenty-first century. We’ve come to accept the Taliban presence because they stuck around for long enough and no one did anything about it so we were forced to mentally adjust. Daily bombings are now commonplace and discussed matter-of-factly over cups of chai and samosas. We haven’t yet had a decent leader who has legitimately wanted what was best for the various peoples of this place so we are OK having known criminals direct our national fate. Our army, the ISI, all of them are also mysterious, overly powerful entities with their own agendas that we don’t trust. The industries are mostly in shambles, things generally suck, and opportunities are quite scarce. And on and on.

Our lazy brains have been bombarded with threat and have been forced to adapt and adapt some more until we adapted ourselves into a little hole of negativity and despair. Everything is perceived as negative, harmful, threatening – because it mostly is – and we keep digging ourselves further in. Conspiracy theories, mysterious external forces, and the impending threat of disaster are fashioned to keep everything hazy, muddled, confused, fucked, as we continue mentally adapting to the shit that we are forced to endure. The result is what we now call the average Pakistani mentality.

It is rather tragic. Because we deserve better. Pakistanis are intelligent people. The best of us are respected and admired overseas as scientists, artists, sportsmen, businessmen. Even the average person here is a clever fellow. My maali is one of the coolest guys I know. 11 year old girls are badasses. Even scumbags like Amir Liaqat are crafty enough to stay relevant although they are basically full of shit.

Yet we’re being forced to endure such unthinkable atrocities that we’ve become a nation of shadow-people, not daring to dream and assuming the worst a priori. Our mental models are messed up.

All is not lost though. Nothing is set in stone, and saying that we are ‘ basically a chutiya qaum made of chutiyas’, is incorrect. That’s just the mental model that upperclassfolk apply to this place because it’s nice and lazy to think that way. The fact is that the human brain is a magnificent creation and it has the uncanny power to adapt, and adapt fast. All it needs is hope, direction, an adjustment of the stimuli which are fed into it. This will require a massive overhaul of the education infrastructure, a common ideology which assimilates yet celebrates the various cultures of which we are comprised, and leadership which we can actually put our beliefs in.

But that too is waiting for someone else to fix my problem.

While I wait, I know that I can personally try to be what I wish to see in this place, regardless of what I’m faced with. I can acknowledge the madness of everyday Pakistani living but not let it disrupt my mental models. I can choose to remain positive and be a force for good. I can understand that every person with a ridiculous viewpoint is simply a reflection of the environment he was molded in. I can choose love, and focus all my energies on making that vital force rub off on my surroundings rather than letting the despair from my surroundings rub off on me.

Because choosing any other option is just me giving in to the whims of my lazy Pakistani brain.


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