Cognitive capital is a phrase that props up often in psychodynamic theory when attempting to understand the marginal capacity of the mind. In line with the finitude of human existence, the concepts of scarcity apply to cognition. Meaning, that is not only possible but highly likely that one could run out of space.
Space for what? Space for concern, space for empathy, space to ‘feel’ as it were.
And so, what ideas or concerns own a majority of the average Pakistanis cognitive real estate, merit research. Because as proposed above, eventually, there will be no more real estate for new ideas. Land reclamation allegorical to Karachi’s Phase 8 might be a possibility, but it is an arduous process to expand one’s cognitive capital.
A cursory reading of Pakistani news headlines tells the story of a societal psyche overrun by religious dichotomies, a preoccupation with a bastardized version of propriety, and general intolerance to disagreement. Socrates is rumored to have said that ‘it is the hallmark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it,’ and they forced him to drink hemlock for his troubles. Perhaps the concept of societal progress is a fallacy.
Perhaps what is most pertinent here, is that an overpopulated cognitive landscape is easy to predict and pander to. If an understanding of cognitive capital is attained. Businesses might go about purchasing cognitive capital with ideas that might work to offer a definitive and desired bottom line. Why, one wonders, are we subjected to archaic concepts in our advertising spaces? Well, because profit maximization is desirable and a formulaic understanding of content ensures steady profits.
Add to this the proliferation of digital content consumption technologies; cellphones, Ipads et al. One hardly need to allocate any cognitive resources at all to propose why the average Pakistani does not have cognitive capital to spare, when, for instance, attempting to understand why the impending ban on apps like ‘Tiktok,’ might be governed by monetary interests and not moral quandaries.
But alas the average Pakistani would much rather allocate cognitive real estate to the suffering of a Palestinian family when children in Thar die of thirst just the same. The bite in that statement might lead to an inference of bitterness but above all else, it is sympathy and want to understand, that governs this writing. It is in our nature as finite beings to not be able to concern ourselves appropriately with multiple humanitarian crises simultaneously. And so instances of ‘burnout’ and ‘empathy fatigue,’ are highly prevalent. As human beings, we are ill-equipped to withstand being inundated by this level of information.
Being inundated by the amount of information that the average cell phone can deliver leads to cognitive overload, there is no question that one cannot actively interact with that level of stimulation. Far too often I have sat across brilliant actors, filmmakers, business owners, and journalists to do a podcast and have been regaled with similar flavors of conversation about cognitive burnout and how they have had to build up conventions to protect their psychic space from the information.
In the journals of psychodynamic theory, it is posited that cognitive overload will invariably lead to psychosis, and a quick look at the mental health statistics for Pakistan will paint exactly that picture for you. In conversation with the head of Taskeen, Taha Sabri, I was told that the preeminent psychic characteristic in Pakistan, is national low self-worth. On average, and it appears as a default, a person in Pakistan understands themselves to be less than their Indian or Chinese counterpart. But ‘less than,’ on an intrinsic level. That kind of low self-worth is not intuitive, it is not rational, it alerts one to the compromised societal psyche housed in Pakistan.
A compromised psyche that will not let a person hope for better, for themselves or their loved ones, because, well because they’re less than, why would they expect any better?
And in that light, the general apathy in Pakistan towards, subpar, content, construction, governance, and product can all be explained. And it is reasonable to propose that if efforts are undertaken to free up cognitive capital at a societal level, that the average Pakistani might again, begin to understand themselves to be worthy of dignity and effort from entities that might understand, only, the language of numbers.