when insensitivity is 'just a joke'.

June 10, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
“I don’t want to go to Pakistan! Because I don’t want to be blown up.”

This was a statement I heard a few days ago, and two things about it were plainly obvious; it was insensitive, and the person saying it was convinced that it was a perfectly acceptable joke.
This was a private statement; hence the speaker could afford to be politically incorrect. But if the world doesn’t know what you’re saying, does that justify insensitivity?
By “Insensitivity” I reffer as lack of concern for another’s feelings or situation, and there is a reason why I use this term to categorize such jokes, albeit many will argue, “but he was just kidding.”
Perhaps some years ago, I would have agreed. There was a time when I brushed off such comments.
Because I had the surety that the people saying them would agree that the nature of the act they were mocking was not to be condoned; someone joking about murder wouldn’t necessarily murder someone themself. Today I question whether it is enough to not be involved in an act if you continue to think that it is worth mocking. Can you justify insensitivity because the insensitive doesn’t necessarily commit the actual crime?

To elaborate this particular situation, a Pakistani studying in a Malaysian university said this.
His friends asked him whether he was looking forward to going back to Pakistan over the summer. In response he mocked possibly the most dangerous security threat facing Pakistan today. He ridiculed the phenomenon, and his friends laughed.
Perhaps his being Pakistani makes it worse, because it is a reminder of how sheltered some members of a country like Pakistan can be. Whether he realized it or not, he was mocking is something that has destroyed numerous lives in Pakistan. From the beginning of 2013 till 21 April 2013 alone there have been 197 bomb blasts in Pakistan, and almost 700 people have been killed. Barely five months into a year and almost 700 people dead and over a thousand injured.

But statistics can never justify the extent of a bomb blast.

Those that are “blown up” as this man put it, have their limbs torn off and shrapnel lodged into their bodies. Survival is a near impossibility and injuries are almost always fatal. Property turns to rubble within seconds. Parents loose children and children loose parents in the blink of an eye.

The nature of a blast also means that everyday life is suspended indefinitely.

I had my only encounter with a bomb blast on the 19th of September 2011 when the Tehreek-i-Taliban targeted SSP Chaudry Aslam’s home in Phase 8, Karachi.
Within seconds there were shards of glass across the rooms of my house, a teacher from a nearby school and her child were killed, my younger sister’s school was ripped in to, my Literature teacher lost her house that day. In total eight people were killed and all the property in close proximity was badly damaged.
And to compare this blast to others that have taken place in Pakistan before and after, you’d call this one relatively lenient.

I’ll be speculating when I say this, but I don’t think the guy knew the severity of what he was making fun of. I doubt anyone can really completely understand it.

But tell me, how exactly is any of this a joke?

I called this guy insensitive because of the lack of respect he showed individuals affected by such tragedies. By making fun of it, he ridiculed their loss and encouraged others to do the same.
Worst of all, he in essence ridiculed the situation of people whom he, belonging to Pakistan himself, should have been possibly the most sensitive towards.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that all of us have at some point encountered a statement that is bordering insensitivity, if not this specific statement.
The question is less about what we do about it, and more about how we feel about it. As mentioned, not long ago I thought it was fine to crack thoughtless jokes so long as the act itself was not justified. Today I can see that I was as wrong as anyone making such statements. Maybe it’s because the threat is ever increasing, maybe it’s because I personally experienced it, I don’t know. All I do know is that it isn’t a joke.

I did not want to write this to encourage people to lecture anyone making such statements. I wanted to write this so that people think about everyday insensitivity and question whether it is right or wrong.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback