Imagine that every time you have a lapse in judgment, it gets printed in newspapers around the world: every time you lose patience with your children, every time you scream at someone in traffic, every time you drink too much and do something you regret. Each time you slip up, everyone hears about it. The world is never notified about the 99.99% of the time that you are a completely normal, productive, law-abiding citizen. The world only learns about you when things go wrong. Now imagine what the world would think of you.
It’s not that terrorism, patriarchy, and violence aren’t real problems in Pakistan. They exist and the country is battling these issues every single day. Pakistanis are very much aware of the extremism in their midst. The problem is that so many people seem to only be aware of that extremism. Because just as in the hypothetical example above—the other 99.99% of life just doesn’t make the news. When there’s only room in the newspaper for a single column about Pakistan, it’s going to be filled with the most compelling story. And unfortunately, that tends to be the most violent story.
And those are important stories. Those are the types of stories that expose corruption, stop genocide, and alert the world to emerging threats. It’s right for those stories to be told. But when those stories are all that we hear, it’s so easy to imagine a world that’s far scarier than it really is. You lose sight of the 99.99% of the world that’s not scary at all. And living in fear can be a dangerous thing. Because if we’re afraid of each other, we’ll never be able to work together to solve our common problems.