Holding the line on excessive materialistic displays in Pakistan?

February 11, 2007 | By | 2 Replies More

You can read about it here, The Daily Times of Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was moved on Tuesday against recent legislation allowing one-dish meals at weddings, with the contention that the law had reopened the door to wasteful expenses and weddings had become a financial burden for most people of the country.

The 22-page constitutional petition, filed by lawyer Tariq Aziz, said that rich people were blatantly violating the one-dish law. It said that this started happening only after parliament approved the one-dish bill and amended the Marriage Functions (Prohibition of Ostentatious Display and Wasteful Expenses) Ordinance 2000.

Before this amendment, there was a complete ban on serving food at weddings, and hosts could only serve hot or cold drinks, but on September 18, a law was passed under which a one-dish meal of curry, rice, roti bread and dessert could be served at weddings and related functions.

When I first read this article, I shook my head, thinking it was all so silly.  But then I remembered what I had recently written about consumer excesses in America,  excesses that are so prevalent that we now need to stop and squint to see the obvious.

Could it be that rather than a narrow-minded debate about ossified rituals, the Supreme Court that is holding the line in Islamabad is wisely squelching the beginnings of a beast that grew (yes, thousands of times beyond these meagre beginnings in Pakistan) to ensnarl so much of America with so many “needs” that we don’t really need.

Question: Are opulent American weddings any more meaningful than Pakastani weddings?  Similarly, are opulent American weddings any more meaningful than the pared-down American weddings held in the woods with a dozen close friends and a total food budget of $20?

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Category: Consumerism, Entertainment, Politics, Psychology Cognition, The Middle East

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jason Rayl says:

    "Meanng" is personal. This is the key fact that makes all such issues DOA in the public consciousness. Once government starts involving itself in regulating how people indulge "meaning" in ritual, the exceptions crawl out of the woodwork and we quickly get lost in excuse making. The lesson should have been learned a long time ago that certain forms of responsibility do not respond to coercive limitations. Personally, I find the whole notion of "celebrity weddings" and the subsequent aping of such ostentation by many who cannot afford it ridiculous. But I myself, in my own display of ostentation, own nearly four thousands books. I could go to the library, but I don't, not unless forced to.

    What Pakistan is trying to do here runs smack into the legitimate stance of individuals to say "It's MY wedding, MY life, if I'm not taking anything away from someone else, I'll do it MY way." And that is perfectly defensible. Just because someone else finds such consumption offensive doesn't invalidate either–personal–opinion.

    Let's put it on something else. I heard recently that in Israel, fundamentalist Haredis have begun a campaign of forcing modesty on women, going so far as to make women sit at the back of buses claimed by the Haredi as "theirs" even though they are not marked as such and are operated by the same public transit companies as all other buses. They are barring certain kinds of dress from certain streets, and are now proposing to bar "their" women from obtaining educations beyond high school. The argument is that public eroticization is "distracting" to the faithful. Sound familiar?

    But this is a matter of taste and custom and it's now being wrangled in the state supreme court. Even if the Haredi have a point concerning themselves, extending it to the population in general is egregious and discriminatory.

    So some people in Pakistan want to have more than one dish at a wedding. Why should this be a matter of law if the country itself is not under federal rationing?

    Seems to me there are more important issues to get one's knickers in a twist over.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Jason: I agree entirely that governments should not intervene into this basic area of personal expression. Yes, to some extent money is speech. My thought was that it was interesting how there was, indeed, a rationale other than blind dogma. And that the rationale makes sense to individuals, though it is not the legitimate sphere of government.

    I have at least 1000 books too, but here's a big difference. For both you and me, these books are kept quietly and privately on their shelves. They are not pasted to the outsides of our homes in order to brag that we own them. I have no problem with owning and controlling the tools of one's trade. My qualm is with runaway ostentatiousness, because it intensely distracts our minds and drains us limited time, money and energy.

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