For a music genius, Rohail Hyatt is quite tone-deaf.
On Sunday, he took to Twitter to talk about “unity and celebrating diversity” and by Tuesday afternoon, his tweets had spiralled into a hot mess — the type where you are so unaware of your privilege that you keep stepping into the pile of mess again and again […] and again.
Here’s the first and — in comparison to what followed — a mild tweet.
Some social media users came after Hyatt, given his open admiration for Imran Khan. This is where things took an ugly turn because the musician, who owes his career to millions of Pakistanis, called the public ‘jahil‘ and implied he does not hold PM Imran Khan to a higher standard because simply put, the nation doesn’t deserve any better.
“People must first become the change they demand from their leaders” doesn’t really make much sense to us. Why must the burden of poor governance fall on the public and never on the leadership?
He then made a more sensible point (perhaps the ONLY sensible point in his entire rant) about people not knowing much about celebrities and their day to day lives. “I interact with more poor people than most people will ever imagine. I also know poverty around the world” — this line, however, reminded us a bit about a certain orange skinned man who also loved to make grandiose proclamations…
But then came the real zinger. And by zinger, we mean the real madness.
“I’m not saying being poor isn’t hard, but being rich can be harder at times.” What even?
His tweets before this expounded the “simple pleasures” of life, claiming that children playing marbles are happier than those playing with PS5s. He managed to insult two groups with this ignorant line — children who are ‘rich’ (though he hasn’t defined what he believes the standard for being rich is) will easily get bored of expensive toys while poor children will stay happy with their marbles because they cannot aspire to anything else.
Lest Hyatt forget, for more than half the population of children in Pakistan, new toys, lets alone a PS5s, is merely a dream. They live on hand-me-downs and even those sometimes come with strings attached. So his line about letting them eat cake, ahem, we mean letting them play with marbles is super tone-deaf.
“Also, happiness is relative. For every chap you see on the news crying they can’t make ends meet, there are people who are wonderfully grateful,” he wrote. To diminish the severity of a person crying because they cannot make ends meet is baffling. To equate them with those who are “wonderfully grateful” is simply making light of their pain.
Yes, happiness is relative, but you’re addressing a nation where people take their own lives because of financial constraints. Can Hyatt not see how insensitive and belittling his remarks are? We suppose his privilege also gives him a sense of false security that people from such social economic background won’t actually see his tweets.
And this coming from a celebrity is rich (pun intended).
You’re Rohail Hyatt, the Rohail Hyatt. If you wanted a job, offers would pour in. Yes, they might not all be glamorous jobs but there will be job offers. While tweeting all this, you’ve been sharing pictures of a “new project”.
For the man “crying on the news”, no matter how many CVs he sends and how much he begs, a job might not be easily available. His children will go hungry because everyone else he knows is likely in the same boat. He might not have a family to rely on or friends who could lend him money — there’s a chance they’re in equally dire straits and are “crying on the news” too. What then should he do?
Eat at a mazaar, Hyatt suggests. “No stress.”
It is impossible to read Hyatt’s tweets without seeing the privilege they ooze. You might not have the money to pay your bills in 2022? People don’t have the money to eat today.
Rohail Hyatt, when you can’t relate to people who don’t have expensive things to sell, do not diminish their hardships. A rich man’s poverty is very different from a poor man’s poverty. Yes, a rich man can be “poor” while still being able to own a vehicle, his own home and knowing that he will have food to eat — and that discussion is a pertinent one which should be had without this meaningless comparison.
We don’t want to diminish other people’s struggles as we understand that suffering is relative but we don’t want Hyatt to be allowed to do so either and to falsely claim to “know poverty” without having the slightest inkling of it. Perhaps there was a time that he was down on his luck and had to live hand to mouth but then he should speak ONLY of his own experience and not making sweeping statements like being rich can be harder.
We also don’t think it’s our perception of a “negative world” that’s the problem here — the problem seems to be Hyatt’s ill-formed perceptions of poverty. People struggling to make ends meet and to put food on the table isn’t something beautiful — it’s a sad reality that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Poverty porn may seem lovely to the rich — the glorification of suffering in order to promote “gratitude” for what one has — but for the people who actually have to struggle, it’s hell. People can be grateful for what little they have but it is for them to express that gratitude, not you, Rohail Hyatt. You cannot speak on their behalf.
At a time when the prices of goods in Pakistan are higher than ever and petrol is at an all-time high, to say that being rich is or even can be harder is not just elitist, it’s downright wrong.
No one is saying that the rich don’t have problems, but their problems are very different from those faced by the poor. No one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or how they will afford to pay their bills and by minimising their struggles, Rohail Hyatt is showing a stunning lack of understanding and empathy.
If I have no money I will go eat at a mazaar, he said, as if life is that simple. It’s easy to say but not half as easy to do. That’s the equivalent of, ‘if you’re unemployed get a job’ or if ‘you’re homeless, rent a house’. It’s unrealistic and elitist. These are not the solutions he thinks they are.
Rohail Hyatt, have some empathy for the people who are losing their homes, the people who have to cut down on a meal a day because they literally can’t afford to eat more, the people who will have to walk instead of taking a bus or rickshaw because fuel prices are rising and they cannot afford the added expense. Their suffering should not be minimised so you can make a point about politics and ‘gratitude’.