Violence and its Effects on Intergenerational Mobility

By taha No comments

Up until a few days ago I was not fully aware of the implications of systematic discrimination and bias against a particular race or ethnicity on its future generations. A lot has been said about how assimiliation of people from races or ethnicities discriminated against in the past into the mainstream economy is an arduous task. I used to think of all of this as pointless. To me the idea that people would blame the current living conditions of their people on their history was absolutely ridiculous, given the time period between them and the historic discriminations which had occurred. In my opinionated childishness I was of the idea that people should live in the present and even though they should learn from history they should not waste time to change their past.

This changed when I recently read Gayer’s book on Karachi’s history. The book is a phenomenal write up on the political and sociological history of the city and how it evolved into the situation on the ground today. Towards the end of the book, Gayer discusses a lot of how the city has stood steadfast in the face of continous violence and how people have learnt to live with the sitation in the city. He focuses on Lyari, and cites one interview where a man says how he is afraid of kids on the roads in the community, who are armed and kill random people of other ethnicities without reason. The people in this place have been experiencing such violence and endless sprees of crime in their localities that it became a way of life for young kids. Without solid forms of role models to follow, these kids also follow into a life of crime as they do not see any way of living peacefully and earn an honest wage. This got me thinking – if the systematic violence against this group of people in Lyari had not continued unabated for the last twenty years, the situation on the ground today would be a lot different than it is now. Only if land grabbing and drug trade gang wars had not found its way into this area, it could have been a prosperous and peaceful part of the city, a part producing many enterprising youngsters especially young football players given the passion for the sport in Lyari.

Which brings me back to my initial point; I’ve come to realise that generations are inextricably linked to each other. What I mean when I say this is that the socio-political climate that parents provide for their children in plays a big role in how the children turn out to be, just like it did in this part of the city where parents had to raise their kids in environments of great uncertainty, discomfort and terror. Conditions most of the year resembled that of a war zone and children did not have regular access to schools, education and other healthy activities which might have enabled them to have a healthy childhood. This means that the social and economic resources that were available to the children in other parts of the city were starkly different in comparison to those within the area. Which in turn meant that instead of being productive members of the society, some children in the area turned to a life of crime; a pure cause and effect scenario where the intergenerational mobility of the next generation was severly hampered and even diminished by the circumstances of the generation above. I have come to realise that the very common adage of ‘do it for your children’ is much more deep than it first seems to be. How history unfolds has a very significant impact on how the children in the future will live their lives. If certain races are persecuted and repressed, the affects will be felt for generations to come.