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ďAN ARTISTíS WORK IS NEVER DONE, NEVER COMPLETEĒ

DR KHALID SOHAIL INTERVIEWS DR ALI HASHMI

 

Sohail: Ali, you are a psychiatrist yourself and interviewing other people is part of your profession. How do you feel being interviewed by someone else today?

Ali: Itís a great relief for a psychiatrist to be able to talk about his own issues, thoughts and feelings. I often say to my wife that you are my 24 hour a day on call therapist. She hears all about my clinic work because I need to talk to her when I come home.

Sohail: I am curious about recent changes in your life. When I met you last year for the first time, I thought that you were well settled in America, having your profession, your family and your house. I was surprised, rather shocked, when I found out that you were planning to go to Pakistan, not for a visit, but for good. That did not sound very good to me. Now I am curious whether it is a recent development or you have been thinking about it for a long time?

Ali: No, the idea is not new. In fact it has been part of the plan every since I came to America. I had planned to come here, do my training in psychiatry and go back. But I stayed longer than I had originally planned. I have been visiting Pakistan every year for the last 15 years. I had my children here. Now that they are getting older I want to take them back to their country and culture.

I want to see how it feels to live and work in Pakistan. I want to experience first hand the social problems of Pakistan and help people coping with them. In America I deal with broken marriages and broken families that I had not seen growing up. So I am curious how it would feel to live there and see how my community and country has changed. In your opinion the human condition might be universal but in my opinion social conditions affect the human condition and I want to experience those differences between East and West. But going back to Pakistan also means leaving a nice job and a comfortable lifestyle. I am a socialist and I wonder if I have some 'misplaced Marxist guilt'(as my father calls it!) living in an affluent society while my country men and women are poor and suffering. Now I have decided to go back so that I can soak my children in their traditional culture and language and extended family.

Sohail: If you were a single person, you would have been free to make choices about your future. Having a wife and children makes it difficult as your choices affect them whether they like them or not. I have never met your wife. I am curious about her position. Is she happy with your choice?

Ali: I never wavered from the desire and conviction to go back in our 11 or 12 years of marriage. She is a woman from a conservative family. That is why, for obvious reasons, she wants to live in a liberal American society. Here she is used to driving her car freely, going wherever she wants and enjoying other freedoms. She is concerned that she would lose some of her freedoms in Pakistan. I try to reassure her that women in my family are liberated and she does not need to worry. But she worries because the broader society is conservative in Pakistan which is true.

Sohail: It seems as if she is not as enthused to go back as you are.

Ali: You are right. She is not as enthusiastic as I am. Sheís dreading it a little bit more. If it was her choice she would prefer to live in America and visit Pakistan frequently.  I have a strong desire to give something back to Pakistan. There are times she rolls her eyes when we discuss such issues. Because of my family name and being the grandson of the famous poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, my responsibility is a little more than other Pakistanis.

Sohail: Now that I have become your friend I feel emotionally connected to what happens to you. Now I feel about your family the way I feel about my sister Amberís family that lives in Lahore. I feel very concerned about them as I feel that Pakistan is no longer safe as it is part of a war zone. She told me that last time when bombs blasted in town, her windows rattled. Does that not worry you about your children? Donít you worry that you are taking them from safe America to unsafe Pakistan?

Ali: Well yes, I do worry about their physical safety in an environment where bombs are exploding and people are being shot and killed in the streets. But I think the good outweighs the bad. In America their father has a nice job. They are comfortable but they are also exposed to American social ills. My oldest is nine. If we stay here in the next few years as a parent I have to worry about marijuana and drugs and alcohol in the school. For me moving from America to Pakistan is like moving from a low crime area to a high crime area for a greater goal and hoping for the best. Let me share a Middle Eastern story to prove my point. 

In a Middle Eastern town, in old times, there was a young prince who was very rich and proud and lived in a palace. One day he went to his garden and saw the angel of death. It looked into his eyes and pointed at him. The prince was terrified and ran to the king and told him that he had seen the angel of death. He begged the king to lend him a horse so he could run away to Baghdad, a far away city. So the king gave him his best horse and the prince ran and went to the other town. The King was angry and went to his garden to confront the angel of death. He asked him why he had scared the prince. The angel of death said, your majesty, I did not mean to scare him. I was just surprised to see him so I pointed at him and asked him what he was doing here since I have a rendezvous with him this evening in Baghdad. 

So that is the philosophical interpretation of it. I mean if something bad is going to happen what is there to stop it from happening anywhere? If all of us worried about bad things happening to us all the time we would never get out of the bed in the morning.

We are sitting on the ninth floor of a hotel right now. What will happen if there is an earthquake? What I mean is that you canít worry about things like that. 

Sohail: So far I was asking you realistic questions. Now let me ask you a hypothetical question. What will happen if after three years you realize that you had made a bad choice and you should not have gone to Pakistan? Would you come back to America?

Ali: I would not be opposed to that at all. I just donít like change for the sake of change. So Iím going back with the idea that I want to stay there. Let my kids grow up there, and do their college there and spend time with both sets of grandparents and all that. But if we realize that it is better to come back we will, but I cannot conceptualize that at this stage.

Sohail: Now let me take a step further and ask you a personal question. Can you share how your relationship with your parents changed since you moved to America? How is it different now when you go back and visit them in Pakistan?

Ali: When I left Pakistan I was 25 and like most Pakistani children I had lived at home all my life. After finishing my medical school I was ready to leave home. In the West children leave earlier but in Pakistan it is not unusual to stay with your family until you complete your university and many times not even then. You may get married in your parents' house, have children there and so on. When I came to America I studied psychiatry in Houstan for four years. Then I got married and moved to a different State in America.

Over time, I canít really pinpoint any specific time, my relationship with my mother and father has changed and become more loving and forgiving. Rather than a child / parent relationship it has become more of an adult / adult relationship. When you are living with your parents, sometimes you develop a certain hostility to being treated like a child, which will always be the case if you never leave home. But it has become better now. It really improved after I had children and they became grandparents.

My father and I have had a very close relationship because he is a psychologist and a leftist. It is very easy for us to connect. My mother and I have a different kind of relationship but she is in a different profession and she is very busy and keeps on becoming busier. We do not talk about ideological things but I am very proud of her. She was a career woman in Pakistan when such a thing was unheard of. She is a leader in her field of journalism and broadcasting and has inspired a whole generation of Pakistani women and she is not done yet!

Sohail: In our earlier conversations you jokingly mentioned that one of the reasons you want to go back to Pakistan is to resolve your relationship with your dad. Can you tell me a little more about that? There seems to be a mystery about that relationship?

Ali: I donít think itís too much of a mystery because I think it has the same dynamic that operates between every son and every father, perhaps more so between the first born son and the father because the first born son is the designated 'prince' and heir, so of speak, the heir to the 'throne'. I understood the dynamics better when I became a father myself. It used to bother me that I did not get the approval of my father. My younger brother and I always talked about it and he felt exactly the same way, although they have a different kind of relationship. But when I became a father of two sons I realized that mothers do more nurturing while fathers do more disciplining. I realized how much my sons needed and wanted my approval and realized how I could use that to push them towards achievement.  When I was 12 I used to ask myself about my father, Ďwhat makes this man tick?í It is like trying to resolve oneís Oedipus Complex. Who is this man who my mother loves and who is in charge of all of us and how can I become him?  It was sort of a complex relationship. My father has a very strong personality because he grew up as an orphan and he is the youngest of three brothers. He is the psychologist and I am the psychiatrist and that maybe generates some professional rivalry also. 

Sohail: How were your choices in life affected by him?

Ali: The two biggest decisions of my life, my career and my marriage were both suggested by him. In my high school I was not very good in Physics and Maths. My father told me one day that (other than Physics and Maths), I was good in studies so why didnít I try to become a doctor? I did not really have anything else in mind so I said it sounds okay and I became a doctor.

After finishing my medical school I was planning to come to America for my specialization. I remember sitting on the dinner table and talking with my dad about different things. When I mentioned becoming a psychiatrist he was wise enough to remain cool. He did not say anything. It seemed as if he did not fully approve. Later on I realized that there is some professional jealousy between psychiatrists and psychologists as psychologists feel that psychiatrists are pill pushers.

After coming to America the first year was very rough for me. I was living on my own for the first time, far away from home with no friends or family. At one point I felt that doing psychiatry was the worst mistake of my life but since it was on my own decision I could not go back. I used to talk to my dad and he was always supportive. I used to tell him that I am working with homeless people and drug addicts in a big city, I don't know what to do with them, they have no families, no social support, I don't know how to help them. He was always encouraging though, he used to say you are learning all kind of new things so just be patient.

My second main choice was marriage. He wanted me to get married before I came to America. He wanted to make sure that some White woman did not get hold of me.

Sohail: (jokingly) Some wicked White nurse (both laugh)

Ali: (laughing) Back then, I could not say Ďnoí to him. He tried to arrange a marriage with a relative but it did not work out. After I graduated he tried to arrange something with the daughter of one of his old friends. I went along as I did not love anybody else and I had not seriously thought about that issue. There was even an engagement. And then one day while I was visiting New York for my training interviews, a family friend I was staying with said you are going to get married and you donít know what you are doing. And that got me thinking. So after I went back to Lahore, I met my fiancť I told her that I wanted to wait a few months as I had to think it over. But she got upset and talked to her parents and they got mad and broke it off. May be she was not ready either.

My wife now, is the sister of one of my oldest friends. We grew up together. We used to like each other as teenagers. But my dad told me to focus on my studies. I had a little bit of lingering resentment from that so when he proposed marriage to her my first reaction was to say ĎNoí because of the old resentment. But then I thought that's silly. I also discussed it in my therapy when I was a student of psychiatry. I had to face two questions. Who was I going to marry and where did I want to spend majority of my life. I was pretty sure I did not want to marry an American or someone raised in America because I wanted to go back to live in Pakistan.  

Sohail: How is your relationship with your dad different from that with your mom?

Ali: I donít know if I talked to you about the story when I was getting therapy?

Sohail: I donít think so.

Ali: When I decided to do therapy in Houston, you could get 12 free sessions as a psychiatry resident (trainee doctor) with a faculty member. My therapist was a very nice older woman who was one of our professors. We had a few sessions. One day she said how come you never talk about your mother, you always talk about your father. I thought for a few seconds and said there is nothing to talk about. What do you want me to say? Let me tell you another story of my childhood. My mother is the one who wrote about this in an essay in a magazine recently. My mom used to work in a television station. I was nearly two years old and my dad took me to the television station to pick up my mom. I was waiting to see her but she could not go as she was busy. I was crying. I don't remember that but she does. She wrote about how heartbreaking it was for her to see me crying and wanting to be with her while she had to work. A child psychiatrist friend in Houston told me that memories before 3 or 4 are nonverbal which means you cannot really express those memories by speaking because a child of 3 or 4 years has very limited speech and no way to find words for those emotions so you cannot put those feelings into words. What he meant was that my mom's 'absence' so to speak in my early memories is also very significant. To him it meant there is some pain there, maybe anger or some negative feelings that I have repressed because they were painful and unacceptable. A part of me used to be resentful maybe or sad that she was not around even though she worked, made an income for the family that allowed us to have a higher standard of living than we would otherwise have had. It was also what she enjoyed and what made her happy. I'm fine with it now. We are closer than we used to be and we talk quite a bit. She is still as busy as ever, she recently got elected to be the president of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association so she will be even busier.

Sohail: How was she when you became a teenager and started showing interest in girls?

Ali: I canít remember back to my teens any kind of interaction with her about that. In my 20ís I had a girlfriend once and almost married her and she knew about that. I donít remember her being punitive or upset or disapproving which would have been out of character for our family any way. Again it was my dad who was there. He would comment on it Ďdo thisí or Ďdonít do thatí. My mother is more attached to my younger brother, like moms usually are to younger children. I was always a little more independent, a little more aloof maybe. He followed her into the media business. If he was sitting in my chair he could tell you a lot about his relationship with his mom.

Sohail: Let me ask you another personal question. How do you see the relationship between your mom and dad?

Ali: They were married in 1967 so they have been married for 42 to 43 years. So that by itself says something about their commitment and love and caring.  There was also a history as my fatherís older brother had married my motherís older sister. It was a love marriage. My mom and dad also had a love marriage. The families knew each other. In 1970s Pakistan was quite liberal. There were a lot of artistic and cultural activities. There was a socialist movement. People were involved in social issues bigger than themselves. My grandfather was still alive and he had a larger than life personality and people from all over the world called him and came to see him. There was a time there was some tension between my mom and dad when she went to Hawaii to do her studies for two years while we were young. Because she was a non-traditional woman it was harder for my father to adjust to that. In spite of that he encouraged her to go to America to get more education and she always gives him credit for that.

Sohail: You grew up in a family where your aunt and uncle and grandparents were big celebrities of Pakistan. How did you feel as a teenager belonging to such a family? You grandfather Faiz married a British woman Alys at a time when mixed marriages were unheard of. How do you feel being the grandson of such a celebrity?

Ali: As a teenager it was hard. My mother was in the media. My uncle was in the television. We were socially prominent. My grandfather was famous. As a teenager you want to fit in. We were called Communists and I did not know what it meant. My uncle and aunt were actually more socially prominent because they were in front of the camera on the screen on T.V as they produced childrenís programs. My mother was behind the camera as she was the producer. It was hard as a teenager as I felt as if I did not have an identity of my own. I was somebodyís son, somebodyís nephew and somebodyís grandson. I remember a story from medical school. I had a professor who was my fatherís childhood friend. I did a one month rotation with her. On the last day she asked me whose son are you and I told her and she asked me why did I not tell her before. I said I wanted you to judge me on my performance and not because of my dad. Also, in Pakistan, it is never a good thing to advertise that you are part of a Communist family especially when your grandfather was charged with sedition and treason. That all changed when I came to America. When I came to America nobody cared who I was, it was very liberating. And then one day someone mentioned in a party that Ali is the grandson of Faiz and I got a lot of affection and love. But by then I had become a psychiatrist and had my own identity. So it was fine. I'm proud of my family now because I understand what they stood for all those years ago and what they still stand for. Funnily enough, now I want to return to Pakistan for the same reason because I feel I can accomplish more socially there since I am from a prominent family.

Sohail: You are a member of a creative family and I have a keen interest in creative families because my fatherís side of the family is also creative family. My uncle Arif Abdul Mateen was also a famous Urdu and Punjabi poet in Pakistan and knew your grandfather in Amritsar and Lahore. I struggled with some of the issues you mentioned. Do you feel creativity is genetic? How did you feel when you became aware that you were also a creative person and you can become a writer like your grandfather?

Ali: I have no doubt that there is some sort of genetic predisposition to it. I mean some of that is passed on, but of course thereís a lot of nurturing as you get older. I was surrounded by books when I was growing older and there were people who liked to write and liked to paint. My aunt is an accomplished painter. People used to make fun of me that I think too much. Interestingly although I was the grandson of Faiz, Urdu was not my strong suit.  I always felt more comfortable in English as I belonged to the upper middle class being raised in English medium schools. My grandmother was also English and I used to talk to her in English. It was the first language for me. It is only recently that I am getting comfortable in Urdu. I remember writing an article about exercise when I was 13 or 14 and it was published in a magazine. My mother was an editor of that magazine. I was thrilled as it was a big deal at that age. I remember my dad coming out of the washroom with a towel round his waist to my room and shaking my hand as he had read my article in the magazine. He told me it was a great article and I should keep on writing. I realized then that I could get my dadís approval by writing more. I wrote for a while but then I got busy with studies and did not write for several years but then I picked up writing again and wrote some articles for chowk.com.The very first essay that was published on chowk was actually after I got to Arkansas about ten years ago. It was about the very first psychotherapy patient that I ever saw in Houston and she taught me a great deal about therapy and about myself and about the process and all of that. Since then I have written a number of articles but for me creativity is a conscious process.  

Some writers are full time writers but I write after a full time job in my office. For that one needs to be disciplined. In the last few years I have been trying to be regular about my writing. Sometimes some thing strikes deeply and I want to write about it right away. Iím still struggling with the discipline that is required to write well. I admire what you have done in terms of setting aside a specific time every week for your creative writing. I am still working up towards that. What keeps me going is that every time I have written something I have received a lot of positive feedback.

Sohail: What are your dreams as writer in the next few years?

Ali: For a while I went through a phase where I really wanted to have a book published until my mother pointed out and my father also that any Tom, Dick and Henry can have a book published, that itís no big deal. For me publishing a book was a goal in itself. Then I reflected on it and thought that there are millions of people who have their books published and so what is the purpose of writing or why do you write? I think one writes in order to express oneself. You write in order to show other people what you see in the world around you. The special gift of an artist is to see what is hidden from a non-artist and then show it to others. He can see what is not obvious to others.

Whatever truths you see you should show to the rest of the world if you think they are worth showing. Thatís what you have to express in your art and in your writing. As you are aware my writings are inspired by socialist, progressive and humanistic ideals. I want to serve something bigger than myself.

This is something my father and I have talked about numerous times and of course he has always been steadfast about that. I serve myself and my wife and my children and after I have done that I want to serve my community and my society. How can I do that? Well, every person needs to decide that for themselves. To me, I enjoy writing and so that's the medium I choose in order to speak out against injustice, oppression, inequality. My family has a history of doing that. Life changes, its not static and an artistís work is never done, never complete.

Sohail: Let me ask you a question as a writer and an artist. How important it is for you to create something with high literary standards and how significant it is for you to bring a social change with your writings?

Ali: Well I think we all have to choose. I mean if an artist or writer decides to write about something without consciously wanting to accomplish something else like social change, thatís fine. Maybe they just want to tell a story or describe what they see in the world around them. That is a goal in itself. We all have biases towards certain points of view. If someone says I'm 'neutral', I'm not biased, well, not having a bias is also a bias. Some motives are more conscious than others. People who profess that they do not want to bring social change are really saying that they are supporting the present status.

Sohail: Supporting status quo.

Ali: That is right. Artists can chose to paint apolitically and writers can choose to write apolitically as long as they realize they are supporting the status quo by taking that position. They are different than those who want to bring social and political change. Some writers focus on inner change, emotional and family change rather than broad political processes and social struggles. In my opinion as a writer oneís life should be in the service of a larger goal, a goal larger than oneself. What that goal should be and who is to determine that, well that's up to each of us to decide. 

I donít have any disagreements with somebody who says well my goal is to earn enough to feed my family and keep a roof over our heads and put my children through school and thatís my only goal. Thatís fine. I donít have any disagreement with that. As long as they realize that in the end, that's not enough. I couldn't live with myself if I did that and thatís part of my familyís legacy. The larger world outside the family will always intrude into our lives and we can choose to ignore it or actively engage with it, for better or worse. Really as an artist I donít think that kind of art, 'impartial',  would be very profound. 

Sohail: Let me take the dilemma of personal and political writings a step further. Some people are motivated by their personal anger and their creativity has a cathartic value but others can get inspired by that and bring a social change although that creation was inspired by personal tragedies. What do you think of that because you are a psychiatrist as well as a socialist?

Ali: If I look back on some of the things I wrote 10 years ago,  if I do them now I will make them more beautiful and say them in a different way. But at that time I was in a different state of mind and my writings reflect where I was in my life at that time.

I believe that if you are engaged in something that is meaningful then the anger or despair or loneliness or isolation automatically disappears. We have discussed the writings and work of Dr. Irvin Yalom at Stanford. He has written a lot about 'existential' issues, life, meaninglessness, despair and basically he says the same thing. What I am writing now is meaningful now but when I see it in five years it might mean something different. I am inspired by writers that lived before me. Reading about them and their work and wanting to do the same kind of thing, that's what inspires me and dispels my despair on my bad days. Faiz, Iqbal, Ghalib and Meer were also inspired by writers before them. It is the gift and the curse of artists, writers and poets to have the 'third eye', that vision to see things hidden from ordinary people. Sometimes, that can be painful and demoralizing but as long as we are engaged in life, in things we enjoy, things that inspire us, usually creative things, that pain does not last long and can give birth to something profound and beautiful.

Sohail: When I was giving you my book as a gift I wrote, Ďfor my friend who is a Marxist mysticí. How can you be a socialist as well as spiritual. How do you bring these two philosophies together?

Ali: The program of psychiatry that I trained in was psychoanalytical, inward looking. But being a socialist I am also outward looking. And I try to bring these two perspectives together. Marx taught us that our concept of reality is based on our material conditions and that seems fairly straightforward to me. If we accept that humanity is one whole, that there is more that unites us than divides us and that we are all part of the universe, then everything around me is also within me and everything within me is reflected outside. That's the Sufi concept of 'Unity of Existence', that everything is part of one unified whole. Some days that requires some effort because all of us are so automatically wired to consider ourselves as separate: from each other, from the world around us and so on.

Sohail: let me come back to where we started. Pakistanis are at a crossroads. On one side are religious fundamentalists and on the other side are American imperialists with their armies. What are your views about the present Pakistani political crisis?

Ali: I have no doubt in my mind that the American intervention in Pakistan is making the situation in that area a lot worse than it was. But then there has been military intervention going on in Pakistan for 50 years or even before that. You know all the motivating factors including oil and natural resources. But the US is having a hard time because they cannot maintain the military presence for very long, its too expensive and the country is virtually bankrupt. It owes huge amounts to China and other foreign creditors. Sooner, rather than later, they will have to pull their army out. They simply won't be able to afford not to. The situation is becoming similar to that of Vietnam in the 70s. As the US economy continues to decline, they will have to scale back their military interventions to focus at home. We would all love for them to leave and let us work it out for ourselves but thatís not going to happen anytime soon because they have their own interests. 

Pakistan has never had a semblance of any kind of autonomy in terms of governmental or military policies. I was reading something by Faiz just a few days ago in which I remember that he said by the time he got out of jail in 1955 and these were his words in Urdu that the country had been sold to the West.

Pakistan as it is currently constituted and governed is not a viable state. Iím not making an ideological judgment. What was the reason that within 10 years of the formation of Pakistan the military had to take over and since then the military has been in charge more often than not? To me, the country is not viable as a nation state in its current political formation and it never was. The only way to hold it together is to do it by force. So the force is the military and bureaucracy that is funded mostly by Americans and by American aid. If that aid was to stop I think the country would probably split very quickly along ethnic and regional lines. I would hate to see blood shed but perhaps redrawing the borders would be a good thing. Perhaps it would work better as a loose confederation of the various ethnicities and regions. Perhaps that could be expanded to include the Indian confederation as well. That would go a long way towards undoing some of the damage that was done in 1947. India is having her own troubles with ethnic and regional unrest. In their case, they have had much more seasoned and experienced political parties in charge so the army has never felt the urge or had the ability to intervene. Also they made sure to protect their native industries in the first 2-3 decades after the British left and now can dictate much more favorable terms to Western powers. Failing that, in Pakistan, for the next few years I think itís not going to be much different from the way the last few years have been.

Sohail: Let me ask you the last question. You have strong feelings for Pakistan and you are going back to serve your country. But you are also an American. Do you find yourself in conflict because of American foreign policy especially towards Pakistan and other Muslim countries?

Ali: I have an aunt who is a Pakistani American. She told me that when she is in Pakistan she is defending America and when she is in America she is defending Pakistan. I never feel that burden. I feel I have a unique opportunity to have the best of both worlds. I wrote an essay about the greatness of America. Our local paper published it and people sent me all kinds of positive feedback. It was about 9/11 and how Muslims were treated after that in America. I described my own experience of not having had any problems after that attack even though I live in a very religious, conservative, Southern area. My neighbors, co-workers, even strangers in the street were all extremely kind and supportive. I have lived in America for 16 years and it has made me a better person. I disagree with American foreign policy and America's military invasion of other countries. But for me the American government is different than the American people. I do not confuse American people with the administration. I have many American friends who disagree with the policies of their government. I am also aware that I support America's wars by my tax money but I do not have a choice. I could stop paying taxes but that would not be wise as it would have its legal consequences. In America, people go every four years to the polls to choose people they believe will do what they want them to but the main thrust of the administration's policies changes very little from one administration to the next .

Sohail: How did you feel about the last American elections when Barack Hussain Obama made the promise to change and received a Nobel peace Prize afterwards?

Ali: He should have won the war prize not the peace prize. He is a smart man like Bill Clinton but he has his own motivations. I live in Arkansas which is a conservative area and one of my friends wanted to put an Obama sign in front of my house and I said fine. It was the only one in my neighborhood. But he won on the platform of moving the war from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan which is what he has done. Unfortunately, in the electoral arena, there is not much to choose from. In America there is not much room for the people of the Left. I am not surprised at what he is doing because this is what the people who paid for his campaign want. In America to run for elections you have to have a lot of money. You basically buy a seat in the Congress or White House. America's industrial capacity is declining while rivals like China and India are growing because the big corporations took all their factories there to make more profit from cheaper labor since they pay workers there a fraction what they make in America. When you outsource all your business to other countries, you make more profit temporarily but others progress and develop industrial strength. The only industry growing in America is the military industry since they need that to control the world. Some predictions say that by 2020 China's economy will be bigger than America's. I think the American Empire is already on the decline and this will accelerate in years to come. Every Empire that came before it in history believed that their rule would last for all time and where are they all now? I do not like war or bloodshed but history has its own logic and laws.

Now what is my role or your role or the role of writers or artists here? To point out what's happening and why. To point out if thereís an alternative and then keep doing it again and again, whether anyone's listening or not, whether anything is changing or not. I often joke that what I really want is for all of this political change to happen in my life. Preferably in my youth so I can see with my own eyes but that's not realistic. Our lives are brief, 60, 70 years is not a very long time in the history of mankind even though it is the sum total of one person's life. My dad used to say that each one of us needs to realize that we are just one stone of the dam holding back the flood. Faiz died in 1984 and he mentioned in one of his books that he could see the Soviet Union declining. If Faiz was alive in 1991, he would have been very sad to see the end of the USSR. It was very painful for many Left Wing writers and intellectuals to see that downfall. One wishes to leave the world a better place and it is sad if it becomes worse in oneís lifetime in spite of one's best efforts but in the end, one must be satisfied that one did one's part and that has to be enough. Those who follow will have to do the rest. 

Sohail : thanks for the interview and sharing your ideas so openly and candidly.

 

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