Deprivation Theory, Pakistan and Tunisia.
- Sunday, 08 June 2014 07:04
Some interesting facts we, and maybe America, need to think more about. The statistics below come from the Asia Society, Brookings Institute, and from a survey conducted by the British Council last year:
In Pakistan, 60% of the population is under 30. However, 50% of school age children, aged 6-16, cannot read or write, and 39% do not attend school at all (Asia Society). 94% of Pakistanis between the ages of 18-29 think their country is headed in the wrong direction, but only 29% believe democracy will be good for their country. Military rule and sharia law both come in ahead of democracy (British Council survey conducted before the Pakistani election last year). Only 10% of Pakistanis ages 18-29 hold stable employment (British Council survey).
Here’s the anthropological overview of those statistics: No education + No work = Violence. This is called Deprivation Theory.
Simply put, when the young cannot understand what’s happening around them because they don’t have access to information (they can’t read), and they cannot get a job to support their families, the young become disillusioned and will resort to any means necessary to survive.
Sometimes that involves “Revitalization Movements.” For example, last year a cricket champion named Imran Khan became the hero of young people in Pakistan when he ran for national election on a platform of anti-corruption and change that galvanized thousands of students and young professionals. Khan, however, lost to two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The opposite of a Revitalization Movement is a Nativistic Movement, which is characterized by a desire to return to a “Golden Past,” a time seen as much better than today, a time of near perfection.
For example, in Madrasas, religious schools, rather than learning to read and write, 8 year old Pakistani children spend four hours a day engaged in the same educational regimen that was being taught 1,300 years ago–memorizing the Quran. We’re not saying this is either good or bad, only that it represents a Nativistic Movement, a powerful belief that salvation, in every form–economic, social, spiritual–resides in the past.
Despite media propaganda, this is not a “Muslim problem.” It’s a Human Problem. That’s what Deprivation Theory is about. Regardless of religion, desperation fuels disillusionment. Disillusionment fuels the search for a better way. The Better Way, as seen through desperate eyes, is perceived as attainable only through the use of extreme measures. Some look to the past for answers. Others look to the future.
Not all Muslim countries are engaged in Nativistic Movements that look to the past.
Tunisia, for example, has been engaged in a world-changing Revitalization Movement. Three years ago a young street vendor set himself on fire to protest government harassment and corruption, and it set off what we all know now as the “Arab Spring.”
Tunisia is dedicated to establishing a democratic state. This isn’t going to be easy for them. First they must dismantle the governmental structure of the old dictatorship, and create democratic alternatives. They’ve already started the process, holding elections, reforming the Constitution, decentralizing the government to empower regional governors.
What’s the difference between Pakistan and Tunisia. Well, a lot of things, but maybe most important? 90% of Tunisians, both male and female, can read and write, which means they can understand what’s happening in the world and see a path forward. They are not condemned to just looking backward for answers.
Nativistic movements and revitalization movements are neither inherently good nor evil. They are just the ways human beings try to deal with poverty, pain, and fear. But, without a doubt, the most radical weapon ever invented by human beings to fight these things is literacy.
Do you think we’re wrong?
Russia and Crimea, an anthropologist’s perspective
- Friday, 28 March 2014 11:07
For anthropologists the past couple of months have been especially interesting. We call it Deprivation Theory, but what we mean is that when people feel deprived of something they consider essential in their lives–even something as intangible as a sense of justice–the inevitable result is social upheaval and violence.
There was an intriguing article in the Moscow Times, written by Russian military expert Alexander Golts. Golts wrote, “Unfortunately, the same Western states that so loudly tout their supposed observance of the rule of law at times prefer circumventing those rules for the sake of political expediency. Recall how Washington struggled to make its case for the invasion of Iraq, or how the West granted independence to Kosovo in violation of international law. As Moscow annexes Crimea, it happily reminds the West of those precedents. It is this behavior that reinforces Putin’s conviction that the world is ruled by force, not by law.”
If that is Putin’s conviction, he’s a fool–at least from an anthropologist’s perspective. The world is ruled neither by force nor law. It is ruled by the raw and bleeding passion of the people. People who unite beneath a banner of “deprivation,” the belief that they are being deprived of something essential to their lives, do not care about law or the threat of force. Force may rule for a time. The Rule of Law may rule for a time. But in the end it is the tears of the masses that change the world.