“For me, to live in Pakistan is to know extremes of hope and despair.”
March 19, 2015 2:08 AM Subscribe
Globalization is a brutal phenomenon. It brings us mass displacement, wars, terrorism, unchecked financial capitalism, inequality, xenophobia, climate change. But if globalization is capable of holding out any fundamental promise to us, any temptation to go along with its havoc, then surely that promise ought to be this: we will be more free to invent ourselves. In that country, this city, in Lahore, in New York, in London, that factory, this office, in those clothes, that occupation, in wherever it is we long for, we will be liberated to be what we choose to be.- Discontent and Its Civilizations (excerpt), by Mohsin Hamid (previously); reviewed
Born in Pakistan, he spent part of his childhood in California and was educated at Princeton and Harvard Law School; he subsequently spent years in New York and London before moving back to Lahore. In the title essay, he describes his decision to buy "blast-resistant film" for his daughter's bedroom window, explaining, "I did not wonder if they were made by factories in the West, by workers who were Muslim, by both, or by neither. No I wondered instead if such films were truly transparent. For outside my daughter's window is a tallow-blooming amaltas tree, beautiful and mighty, and much older than us all."The AV Club - "Mohsin Hamid comes from the George Orwell school of essaying: There’s no sentence that can’t be made shorter, no thought that can’t be improved with fewer characters, no concept that couldn’t be better expressed with just a little bit less. "
That's a novelist's detail, used here for both metaphoric and political effect. What does it matter who makes the film, Hamid is asking, as long as his daughter is safe? And not only safe but able to see beauty amid the danger and the violence?
Hamid believes that the greatest promise of our globalized civilization is self-invention, the possibility that “we will be liberated to be what we choose to be.” But the War and the Clash keep getting in the way. In 2000, the young management consultant–cum–debut novelist in New York was eyed suspiciously because of his Pakistani passport. In 2010, the world-renowned author, a resident of Lahore and now a dual Pakistani-British citizen, visited New York with his wife and baby daughter. Hamid had his “usual lengthy encounter at JFK airport.” After he’d been grilled about such issues as whether he’d ever had “combat training,” Hamid was finally released from “secondary inspection.” He rejoined Zahra and Dina: “We were the last passengers on our flight to claim our luggage, a lonely set of suitcases and a foldable playpen on a now-stationary baggage carousel.” At a reading in Germany, “people posed queries relating to how ‘we Europeans’ see things, in contrast to how ‘you Muslims’ do. Eventually I was so exasperated that I pulled my British passport out of my jacket and started waving it around my head.”If you write about Pakistan you must have mangoes.
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