The Cloak of ‘Practicality’

What I have observed in the last twenty eight years of living in Pakistan, is that our ambient culture is polluted with aspects that take us away from a sense of responsibility and harm our integrity.

Our status quo is riddled with examples of disconnect between the ideals espoused fervently and what we actually do. This dissonance is very evident in some families and institutions. Sadly, all the good stuff that is expressed on social or professional events, often falls on deaf ears, resulting in daily practices of individuals and communities being at odds with the soundbites, which are meant to guide our behavior in a positive direction.

Let’s look at duality as a feature of our culture i.e., saying one thing, but meaning another – saying ‘yes’ to a request from your friend or boss, even though in the heart of heart, you have no intention of doing what’s needed.

I recall that some years ago, a senior lawyer and an acquaintance, requested me to act as a witness at his son’s wedding. I would have obliged, but due to another commitment, I couldn’t be available on the date of the wedding, which was scheduled a few days after my departure from the city. The lawyer comforted me, “That’s no problem.” He opened his briefcase, swiftly took out a document (nikah naama), and suggested without batting an eyelid: “Please sign here as a witness.” I was surprised, “Sir, how can I sign, when I will not be witnessing the happy occasion?!” He was perplexed with my question, and replied, “This is just a formality, and having you as a witness, even though you will not be there, will be an honor for our family. I see this as a practical solution!”

Such a phenomenon begs the question: How has duality become a norm? One of the many reasons that has made this hypocritical trait so routine, is our choice of words, which serve as ‘pain-killers’ to describe an errant act.

Our conscience, which is normally alive and vocal, when it detects incongruence in what we say and do, is conveniently silenced by high sounding words like ‘practical’ and ‘expedient.’ Such words become palliatives and are very effective in silencing the voice of our conscience, whenever we violate personal or professional ethics.

Consider this: Dictionary defines ‘practical’ as an idea, plan, or method likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances. Hence, achieving a desired outcome becomes a priority, without any regard to how it is achieved.

If ethical considerations and values prove to be impediments in the path to achievement, they are easily sacrificed at the altar of another word – expedience. Note that the word ‘expedient’ means ‘convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.’

Anything worth doing is difficult, and being in integrity in all interactions, is a challenge that we need to embrace. By exercising wisdom and upholding principles, in tough situations, personal or professional, we may not achieve our goal in its entirety, but we will sleep well at night.

Life is a minefield of temptations. Each indulgence promises pleasure, which is short-lived. The cost of betraying self is incalculable.

Hiding behind the cloak of ’practicality’ may benefit you in the short term, but will compromise your being in the long-run.