The fibbing intellectuals
Syed Kamran Hashmi
Their contribution is laudable and noteworthy but, sometimes, they are indiscreet in their writings and disingenuous in their speech, which results in factual errors and conveys inaccurate information.
The tour de force of private news channels in Pakistan has introduced a new assembly of ambitious, talented and inspiring intellectuals on the national landscape. They not only include journalists, lawyers and academicians, this echelon also consists of people from all spheres of society. They have helped us re-strengthen our ideological foundations and have provided the intellectual depth in Pakistan. Their contribution is laudable and noteworthy but, sometimes, they are indiscreet in their writings and disingenuous in their speech, which results in factual errors and conveys inaccurate information.
These errors are amplified when they are made by one of the most extremely sought after television anchors and the author of numerous, phenomenal columns. He has been writing in newspapers for over a decade and has been a source of inspiration for many Pakistanis through his writings.
In one of his columns, he inaccurately quoted the size of the economy of the UK to be seven trillion dollars. Surprisingly, there was no follow up correction or apology for many weeks on this mistake because the actual size of the UK economy is between two and three trillion dollars. It would have to grow at least three times to become a seven trillion dollar economy.
He also refers to John F Kennedy (JFK) as the youngest president of the US in his television shows and columns when Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the youngest president of the US at the age of 42 years. He was four years younger than JFK and five years younger than Barack Obama when they were elected presidents of the US.
In his columns, he sanguinely discusses the economic success of Iran in the last few decades. In reality, Iran has an inflation rate of 15 percent or more, an unemployment rate of 14.6 percent and had to increase gas/oil prices four times in one day. Its economy still remains under tremendous strain and the government plans to further reduce subsidies on the energy sector. This would lead to an even higher rate of inflation and may also result in greater political turmoil in the country – a glimpse of which we have witnessed on the streets after the 2009 presidential elections.
The bracket of our intellectual elite also contains an inspirational speaker and an emerging talk show host. He passionately discusses human evolution in his lectures and often inaccurately implies that Homo sapiens (human beings) are the direct decedents of Homo erectus (pre-human evolutionary species) and Homo neanderthalensis (human like yet different species). This information is not exactly accurate because scientific evidence, in the form of DNA mapping and gene analysis, has concluded that neither Homo erectus nor Neanderthals are the direct ancestors of modern human beings.
He also mentions that Homo sapiens (human beings) emerged as the first bipedal (two legged) primates almost 300,000 years ago. The inaccuracy of this information is, again, well known because ‘Lucy’ (name of the partial skeleton) who belonged to the Australopithecus Afarensis species had existed almost three million years ago and was most likely the first bipedal primate.
He also emphasises on the size of the brain as an absolute marker of the species’ intellectual development and disregards the fact that the Neanderthal’s brain size was relatively bigger than the average human’s but their intelligence level remained far inferior to Cro-Magnons (early humans). This difference in intellect between the two species ultimately led to the extinction of Neanderthals because they could not compete with the innovation, skill and intelligence of early human beings.
In one of his inspirational speeches, he proclaimed that all the enlightened and sagacious people in human history were indigent and poor. He goes on to include the prophets and philosophers in this list but did not recall the role of affluent people like Siddhartha Gautama, Usman bin Affan and Abdul Rahman bin Awf in this category. In contemporary history, he does not mention Sir Winston Churchill and Muhammad Ali Jinnah who were both extremely wise but had also enjoyed elaborate and ostentatious lifestyles.
As a struggling nation with an extremely low literacy rate, we cannot afford to have an imperfect and inaccurate approach towards learning and education. It is the responsibility of our literal elite to teach and guide us with exactitude, precision and accuracy of knowledge, for we depend on their intellect and look up to them for inspiration.
The writer is a freelance columnist residing in the US. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Daily Times