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Sunday January 23, 2022

Learning from our ‘boys’

December 08, 2021

When asked what made his team a winner on November 14, 2021, a young member of the Australian T20 cricket team said, “I love these guys; I can’t tell you how much love there is among us.” And please recall this is a team that had been three games down, before gathering their forces, to best us in the semi-final and then to win the cup.

A little earlier, the captain of our T20 cricket team, Babar Azam expounded on similar sentiments, as he addressed his team-mates in their dressing room, straight after losing in the semi-final against this same Australian side. He said: ‘we must not point fingers at anyone, we need to stick together, because what we have created is not easy to create’. “This is a family we have created, brothers. This bond of solidarity must not be broken, especially in defeat.” One of the coaches followed up by stressing that we learn from lessons of defeat: “its not win or lose, its more win and learn”.

A WhatsApp message from a Pakistani friend spoke of the grit and will shown by a 40-year “old man” to dive at the boundary just to save two runs; and the cast-iron nerves of the player who was in hospital less than 24 hours before but came out to hit the best bowlers in the world all over the place. This show of teamwork rekindled the hopes of 220 million Pakistanis, about a lot more than cricket – about the present and future of their nation. It rekindled our hopes to overcome the current economic situation, the political impasses, ideological confrontations, various pandemics and shortages, and much more.

What is it that this team has shown that the government has not been able to nurture – and certainly not the various instances of opposition, ranging from those in parliament to those sporadically taking to the streets?

This team has shown collective solidarity above individual achievement, a sense of association above personal advancement, a sense of community above singular aggrandisement. We have had such experiences of national spirit bringing people together – the earthquake, the floods, other crises where people have gone beyond their individual projects and thought of a larger good, a national public good. Each time, however, we have failed to sustain that collective momentum. Can we now benefit from this T20 team lesson?

What these young men, referring to each other as “boys” have shown may be likened to an increase in social awareness, a rise in the collective consciousness. This goes against the current trend everywhere, that is “dog-eat-dog” in a fearful hunger for “more for me, at your expense”; at the expense of “us”. This is true in our national society, as it is everywhere – not least in the COP26 meeting that has just concluded that continuing with dependence on coal is quite OK, because that is what we are selling for profit today, and to Hades with the planet now and tomorrow.

It is essential to learn from this wellspring of goodwill and associative awareness felt and voiced by the ‘boys’. This is a fitting term, by the way, pointing as it does to the youthful freshness of their approach. How to spread this youthful freshness? The excellent discussion programme on Channel A accompanying the T20 tournament, ‘The Pavilion’ should be continued and broadened to include other members of civil society. One example: bring in business women and men, teachers, clergy, lawyers, farmers, trade unionists and other activists on a selective basis, and have them engage with selected members of the cricket team, to address what factors lead to collective thinking and action, as opposed to individualistic thinking and action that obstruct the creation of collective consciousness and efforts.

This can be followed up by pilot projects in volunteering spaces at the district and sub-district level of short-term efforts to put into practice such collective schemes and learn new lessons. It is time to learn from our boys in the field, and not just wave at them from the stands.

For an analysis of how nurturing human consciousness with its roots in compassion can become a powerful psychological underpinning of nation building and a normative basis of institutions and public policy, see the forthcoming book by my friend Akmal Hussain, ‘Institutional Instability, Consciousness and Underdevelopment’. In this book, Akmal shows how decolonisation of the psyche and the re-awareness of the human impulse for loving care for others and for nature, is vital to realising the Jinnah-Iqbal vision of Pakistan: Transcending narrow self-interest to build an equitable economy, achieving social justice and ensuring freedom in a sovereign state.

In demonstrating the power of collective consciousness as opposed to individual ego, the Pakistan cricket team has inspired the nation. More than cricket matches have been won or lost: the people have been made aware once more of their immense potential as a nation, if individual greed is replaced by the consciousness of human solidarity.

“The love you take is equal to the love you make”. – Lennon/McCartney

The writer has worked at the UN and the ILO (International Labour

Organization) in advising governments on promoting human and labour rights.

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