Tag Archives: The Tipping Point

This year on Pakistan’s Independence, mend some Broken Windows

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August 14, 2009: Pakistan turns 62, and the Blaagers (name given to Paki bloggers) celebrate by Going Green and Trending #Pakistan on the Twitter Trends (similar to when we trended #PakCricket and Twitter was a Sea of Green). And while I was among those involved in this effort and fully supporting it these past days, a strange void was felt inside. A nagging thought that maybe Going Green and making it to the Trending Topics were feel good measures; a sense of Patriotism that rises up at occasions like this and then conveniently is put in storage for the next appropriate Pakistan Pride moment. We owe it to Pakistan to move beyond just superficial lip service to the ideals of Jinnah and our founding fathers. We must do something to stall the downward spiral we see our beloved country in.

I just finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell recently and one particular discussion in the book stuck with me: The Broken Windows theory. This thesis put forward by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982 and further discussed by Kelling in his book Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities gives us a great insight on the problems Pakistan faces right now. We have essentially become a community where there are too many Broken Windows.

So just what is this theory?

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.

Basically, the premise is that a Broken Window sends a negative signal and people start slowly treating the area around this Broken Window as rundown and derelict. The idea is that if you want to make a big change sometimes the best thing is to change seemingly trivial things. As these trivialities add up we reach a tipping point, and soon we know it the area is no more what it used to be.

Building Up Pakistan

So just what am I talking about? What windows are we breaking? Whether it is that 50 rupee note you slipped the policeman to avoid a ticket for talking on the cell while driving, or the fact that you just flaunted every traffic law that exists while driving an unregistered car without a driver’s licence. Or it is that empty Coke bottle you just threw from the car’s tinted windows.

Patriotism is not just about the paper flags you have decorated your street with, it is also about taking those flags down once the celebration is over. It is not about the huge flag on top of your house, it is also about removing that illegal and unislamic Kunda your house is running on. It is not about blaring National Anthems from your car stereo, it is about respecting the traffic laws as you do so. It is not just about being enraged at the disappearance of the Quaid’s photo from the President’s House, it is about living the ideals of the Quaid.

This year, on this Independence Day, let us resolve that we the Citizens of Pakistan will not shed our Patriotism when the clock strikes midnight. We will instead mend Broken Windows, clean up our mess, and implement the dreams and ideals on which Pakistan was founded on. And as pane after pane is fixed, we will Insha’Allah soon see Pakistan become Evergreen.

“It ain’t easy being Green” – Kermit The Frog

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