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Arsalan Khan, neoliberal capitalism and a homeless man

December 1, 2011
NOTE: Anybody who is reading this (all two of you if I am lucky) should not in anyway take this as a fair and accurate compilation of the ideas/points that  Arsalan Khan articulated tonight at Cafe Bol during his talk on The Culture of Neoliberal Capitalism. This is just what I remember off the top of my head at 1:00 am.

Just got back from Cafe Bol where the speaker talked about how capitalism has been for a long time packaging dissent, rebellion and pseudo revolution into a commodity. I guess the basic idea is that we should not be satisfied with this false kind of rebellion against the system (ie wearing Che Guevara shirts) since this is the kind of dissent that the system actually promotes.

What we need to do is . . . thats where the story gets complicated and mostly stops. He did suggest that the Occupy Wallstreet movement was the right kind of thing since it really went to the heart of the system of capitalism.

One point which I found interesting was…

was that he said that capitalism and democracy no longer share space and instead capitalism now far overshadows democracy. The main reason given was the dismantling of labour unions, outsourcing and and… probably more things but I don’t remember now. I should probably take a pen and pad to these things.

I think it would be interesting to read more about the interplay between democracy and capitalism. Arsalan seemed to suggest that from the 1930s to 1970s there was a give and take between the two but, after that, neoliberal capitalism (Milton Friedman type) rose up and since then capitalism has steadily devoured democracy. True? False? Need to find out.

Image from

Image of homeless people I found on google

That all aside after the talk/discussion/question/comment time was over, as usually happens, people do a little networking as they are leaving. I was waiting for it to end quickly,  so that I could move the few extra bits and pieces back inside the Cafe, lock up and get going.

So was standing on one side waiting for the izing of the social type to finish. It was interesting to listen to people talking about anthropology, Jacques Derrida, cocaine dealers, poetry, corruption etc etc…. All the while, about maybe 30 feet away, there was a man sleeping on the floor of the plaza. He probably was a beggar or could possibly have been a day labourer who need a place to unfold his ‘bistar’ (bedding).

LUMS and foreign graduates talking about fairly abstract things with a sprinkling of FC College students trying to sound intelligent; while at the same time this man sleeps on the floor of  a shopping plaza at 11 pm. I was going to write, I wonder what was going through that man’s mind when all these people spilled out a small shop and into his bedroom.

It would have been a kind of rhetorical question which would cause one to think from the man’s perspective but actually the only thing he was probably thinking was how much noise these people are making. Or maybe he’s so used to sleeping outside every night that such noise doesn’t really bother him.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say. It certainly isn’t that Cafe Bol should stop and instead all the people who come to these events should go help people similar to that man sleeping on the floor. But there is something there in this stark contrast.

Maybe it is a reminder that there is still much that needs to be done. Or that maybe not enough is being done? Can anything be done? Are LUMS  graduates the kind of people who can  really change the fate of the people like that man? Are any of us?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. An Duine Gruamach permalink
    December 1, 2011 1:35 am

    A thought-provoking piece, thanks for this, Faraz.

    With regard to the incompatibility of capitalism and democracy, I think a salutary look at Greece is in order – they are now governed by a government appointed to toe the line of the bankers, not elected by the people.


  1. TEDxFCCollege: Intellect with compassion « Faraz's Blog

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