Language of Power: How it is getting more exclusive – By R. Khan
Regardless of the demonizing of the West, the western ideology is welcomed in every form. A language comes with the baggage of cultural identity and English like always is the language of power spoken in degrees of perfection at every socio-economic level. But to maintain its exclusivity, the fluency in articulation is still restricted to upper echelon of the society. Their accessibility to private schools and then going abroad for further education stamps them as a special class who know English with an accent.
Even the public schools without enough seats for students to sit upon or ceiling fans to cool them in the sweltering hot tropical summers offer SAT classes after school. Although the institutions practice English as their medium of operations, it’s a kind of English when taught without knowledge is unable to educate. Consequently the educated English creates a greater demand. It is the chimera that masses desire but cannot get. The goal of becoming totally English speaking but is not functioning.
Cafes, restaurants, boutiques, designers, the media, in essence the whole socio-economic machinery identifies with the English-speaking world. Their ‘chillin’ together develops a sense of exclusivity that creates the impression that they are on the same wavelength. If someone diverges from the Western outfit, for instance wears, eats, or looks different, isn’t ‘cool’. The exclusivity of their own cliques and the way of thinking has to be exactly hinged on the same props. If someone diverges, they are ridiculed. As the ‘Macdonaldization’ of Pakistan continues, it dawns on the masses that English is a currency for success. In small cliques talking and acting Western, people imagine themselves the brokers of power who will be able to pull off premium jobs and make a lot of money- abroad.
English has always been the language of power, a passport to success, for last two hundred years starting with the British rule in India. Whatever language the masters speak the rest will learn. In Mughal times, it was Persian. It is the language used to communicate in the courts of their rulers. Presently, the American English dominates. Pakistan’s military as well as civilian governments gain the Super Power’s sympathies through their knowledge of English.
In military, English is the medium for all communication. Whether the commands are curt and short reflecting a point of military preciseness shouted at the junior officer, discussing a strategy in the war room or in the clubroom jockeying around, they fraternize in English.
Being part of the ruling class, the Pakistani leaders understand that the language of power helps them to elicit sympathy and gain ardent supporters in Washington and the western media. Pervaiz Musshariff’s survival in the aftermath of 9/11 is in his ability to hear US goals and agenda and to articulate in ‘democratic lingo’ with the Western leaders’ ‘war on terrorism.’ Even though they know the language of power but their inability to understand the meaning intended makes them a sitting duck.
Musharraf repeating the ‘enlightened democracy’ mantra is the lesson learned through rote, a regular practice in Pakistani schools. General Zia ul Haq outlived his usefulness vs a tame Mohammed Khan Junejo who replaced him are the scenarios with intended meaning. ‘You are the blue eyed boy as long as you listen to me.’ Should be understood regardless of which language you speak.
The language of power even though give them the time with the American president, the English speaking leaders’ arrogance surfaces similar to Benazir who also badmouths politicians, opponents, the media or anyone who opposes her.
Although, Benazir managed to enthrall the Western audience, she found a scapegoat for every misdeed. ’I don’t know,’ insists Benazir, ’I’ve never had a bank account in Switzerland since 1984. Why would the Swiss do this to me? Maybe the Swiss are trying to divert attention from the Holocaust gold scandal.’
’Few people believed the Pakistani government charges,’ Benazir said, ’until the Swiss investigation. But that changed everything.’ Benazir in her speeches delivered in Cambridge English had a delightful lilt that even Americans revere. Sparing no expense she hired the most recognized media image makers.
Fascinating though their command on language though through it one also sees occasional flashes of the imperious nature and arrogance bordering foolhardiness. That marks the Bhuttos, and the Musharraffs of the ruling class.
In Pakistan, English, the language of power is perceived as a shortcut to higher accomplishments. English may be an international language of communication in all spheres of life but it’s not the end. Relying on English fluency as their only mark the nation is robbing itself from the real deal.
General Zia’ ban on English from the schools made English, a commodity that schools sold at exorbitant rates. The English because of lack of better teachers, disjointed syllabus and dictating to learn policies is becoming even more elusive and thereof exclusive.
limiting the language development skills by teaching Quranic studies as a mandatory subject. It reinforces the power hierarchy ‘no one questions my blessed motives.’ Mechanical perfection replaces the logical development. If thoughts curtailed, curiosity dampens and with limited expression language suffers. Thus teaching with no background of logic, the education system fails. And the propaganda of English language as the end to all academic, woes continues.
The student and H1 visas to the America reduced dramatically because of the ‘war on terrorism’ the direct access to the developed countries for further education is limited. Good education is harder to come. The ruling class fraternizes together and delivers speeches in proper English to further their own agendas.
The nation’s diplomacy and negotiations just don’t require lengthier conversations but a developed sense of what is right or wrong, an ability to visualize strategies that will make the country productive and benefit the ordinary citizens.