Reality Deficit

NPR did a great interview with Ayesha Jalal, a professor at Tufts University. She is helping Lahore University create it’s first History program.

What really struck me was how relevant she made the study of history to a nation that seems to be facing so many pressing and current crises. She explained that Pakistan has a “Reality Deficit”.  Without a proper way for people to think about, question, and explore the past; they are left with the simple group-think narratives that are simple and partially true. By only knowing part of the story, they have to fill the gaps of how they got from then to now with conspiracy theories, invisible enemies, and out right lies.

The lack of historical understanding, is a lack of past reality; leaving you with a deficit today. The whole concept is such a great way of stating the obvious disconnect when talking to people…especially about politics and the culture wars.

The simple narrative is that Pakistan was created as a Muslim nation so that Muslims could live free of India. This is the justification of the rising militant movements and their troubled relationship with India. The truth is that their separation is a relic of their common British past and that more Muslims live in India today than in all of Pakistan. This reality of today clashes with the story; so their fill their deficit with conspiracy theories ranging from the mundane to how America is causing the floods.

I think of America and how people think we were founded as a Christian nation with free enterprise  and capitalism are religious ideals. I see how this collides with America really always being a nation of immigrants, never a religious country, and founded by socially conscious elites who never even wanted a democracy. Our own reality deficit is really quite staggering.

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