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Biscuits, Boycotts and Selective Outrage

Biscuits, Boycotts and Selective Outrage

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Today, #boycottfrenchproduct is trending and Pakistan has been gripped by boycott fever once again, and this time LU biscuits have landed in the crosshairs. Ostensibly, in an effort to drive France to its knees and make it repent for its slight against the muslim community. Though how this is achieved by boycotting LU biscuits, which are neither French nor our ‘des ka biscuit’ but actually American owned, is beyond comprehension. For those interested in the nitty gritty, LU was founded in France but it was sold to an American multinational company, Mondelez International, in 2007. And, Continental Biscuits, in a joint venture with Mondelez International, produces LU biscuits locally. So, not only is the outrage directed at LU biscuits ridiculous it also has no factual basis. Besides, Gala is actually a decent biscuit and not a bad accompaniment to chai when there is no cake rusk so let’s not rush to burn down LU just yet. 

Instead, let us ask ourselves why we’re rushing to clear the shelves of french products and castigate a biscuit maker when we know it won’t have any bearing on the French or their policies. Pakistan’s trade with France is simply not high volume enough to affect either country significantly. Knowing that, I believe the reason for our furore to do away with French products is seated in its capacity to make us feel like we’re doing something right and just without doing any actual introspection or work. It is easy for us to take up our, metaphorical, pitchforks and torches to make hashtags trend and not eat a biscuit or two, and then pat ourselves on the back for it. But where is this outrage when it’s really needed, where is it when the issues are close to home and our anger can affect real change. Peshawar bleeds yet again and our children paid the price, but all we’re concerned with is #boycottfrenchproduct. Where are the protests, the headlines, the twitter trends and the wave of public anger so palpable that it would force the state into action. We bury our head in the sand when the situation demands real action from us, because it’s hard to speak truth to power and hold the state accountable for its failures. It can be demoralising, repetitive work running from pillar to post to fight the good fight. Thus, we take the easy way out and commend ourselves for calling out some distant enemy. 

Even when there is a situation that isn’t shinning a light on our own failures—like the Chinese pogrom against the Uighur—but it forces us to make tough choices and truly understand our complicity we look the other way because we would rather stay blind than to make ourselves uncomfortable. People can argue that we can’t risk losing a strategic ally like China but then we shouldn’t pretend as if we have the moral high ground required to crusade agains the French and their islamophoabia either. Our rage is selective, used to pacify our conscience and nothing more. As the saying goes, ‘Ignorance is Bliss’.

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