As a first-time visitor to a place, you have to ask questions to navigate your way. Since thoughts and events in this world never cease to amaze, you just can’t help questioning them. From the Babylonians, the Chinese, the Greeks and Romans right up to this day and age, it is precisely the act of questioning that has spurred civilisations into finding answers, and thereby stumbling upon discoveries and inventions. Hence, question and you grow and prosper or else you remain static and stale. But not everywhere do questions receive warm receptions. We might, then, do ourselves some good by pondering upon the reasons responsible for that state of affairs in the Pakistani society. If we begin with the earliest venues of a child’s socialisation i.e. family and school, we realise that these two brutally cut down upon their potential to pose questions. The reason for that is not very hard to understand: most parents lack the required training for child-rearing. They think that it is enough to provide for and help their children grow physically. In the meanwhile, what they criminally ignore is the other equally crucial aspect of a child’s personality: mental and intellectual growth. Children with the ability to ask questions enter schools to realise that their queries aren’t welcome here either. They face the hideous reality that their teachers don’t have what it takes to compassionately listen to, and gracefully accept, dissenting answers and viewpoints. What we get as a result is children, and later on citizens, who only know how to respond to commands and toe outdated and regressive lines. As they grow up, the same children then participate in the gatherings of their peers or elders. Within both these spaces for socialisation, occasionally, curiosity gets the better of them and they throw in questions. But disappointment awaits them here as well. The elders are usually so rigid and sure that only some divine revelation would have them change their standpoints; human reason won’t do any good. Add to that the obstacle that if an argument is dragged beyond a certain point, they usually retort, “You don’t have any manners. Haven’t you been taught how to talk with elders?” Since their wings have already been clipped, all they can do is defend, or even celebrate, their crawl through life. Along the journey, a child also gets to know that there are “no-go” topics, where no questions are tolerated. Now you would expect these to be only few and lying outside the realm of usual day-to-day life. But you’re mistaken, because they are almost every single meaningful aspect of everyday life. Hence, one must avoid questions pertaining to anything that has to do with socio-economic injustices, religious and sectarian realities, the ethno-linguistic equation, institutional imbalance, history and ideology of Pakistan, etc. As a result, one is left with a society that stinks of fanaticism, fatalism and servitude. Children with the ability to ask questions enter schools to realise that their queries aren’t welcome. They face the hideous reality that their teachers don’t have what it takes to compassionately listen to, and gracefully accept, dissenting answers Fanaticism, because children that have grown in such setups are normally deprived of the essential tools needed for logical and scientific enquiry. They don’t reason things out and merely reproduce during exams what they are fed during lectures. Now this is not a one-time isolated event. This is an attitude learned early on, during one’s educational journey, and it lasts a lifetime. At social levels, such a retrogressive training churns out young men and women who don’t question cruel behaviours or practices and have the least amount of tolerance for questions posed by the few daring ones. Such mechanical minds don’t develop the independence of thought, initiative and enterprise, and fall into the habit of personal and social docility. No wonder then that tragedies like that of Mashal Khan, Qandeel Baloch or Sabeen Mehmood occur every day in our society. Fatalism and servitude of these young minds is evident in their commentary on and approach towards political matters of interest. One, every ill that happens in the way of public policy and governance is ascribed to fate and all one gets to hear from these youth are statements of resignation and helplessness. In political as well as religious life, chance or luck is given more influence over what humans can do to change the course of ideas and events. Oftentimes, debates of apparently highly qualified and bright university graduates are starkly devoid of flexibility of approach and acceptance of divergent viewpoints. Rather than engage with the scholarly and intellectual aspect of politico-religious life as it plays out on streets, participants resort to verbal violence and get their rigid views down the throats of others in the manner of an illiterate election-time voter, or a know-it-all demagogue speaking from the pulpit of a religious establishment. As a consequence, political leaders and parties are cast into cults and even a sensible analysis of their acts draws the eyebrows of many a youth close. This sort of lifestyle is doing our society no good. These attitudes have to be discontinued if we desire a healthy and enlightened society. For that to happen, a family environment is the first aspect of personality development that needs to change. Parents and elders must entertain questions and reasons that their kids conjure up. If a kid is curious or confused and thus has queries, he should be encouraged and reinforced for that. Classrooms and instructors had also better reorient themselves along new lines. They should impress upon learners that asking questions and rationalizing scientific, cultural and social events and discourses is worth appreciation. Teachers need to be advised and trained on how to encourage learning through learners’ personal faculties of investigation and rationale. The moral is that until questions are welcomed, our hopes for a progressive and vigorous society are all in vain. The writer holds an MA from the University of Warwick Published in Daily Times, July 15th 2018.