It’s nearly a year since http://www.fringejoyride.com was first started. I thought I’d celebrate this by recording a list of unusual real-life fringe-engagements that improve our service cultures.

In Pakistan there is a group of people known as ‘hijras” -literally meaning “exodus”. They consist of a class of transgender and transvestite people usually abandoned by their families. The hijras are mostly unemployed because of the extreme societal prejudice against them and often survive by begging/publicly harassing young men with vulgarities.

From Pakistani Hijras Get Jutics 2009 – Addiel Sabir.mpg

The mainstream society of Pakistan government has a problem according to CNN, ” only 1.9 million people in a country of 170 million filed tax returns at all last year”. That’s about only 1.1% of the population paying tax  in the whole of Pakistan.

In 2006 a few government offices initiated a scheme to employ the hijras as tax collectors. They use the prejudice against hijras as effective weapons against wealthy corrupt neighbourhoods withholding their taxation. Usually a few words threatening to sing and dance if the money isn’t received is enough overcome any stinginess.

From CNN International Nick Paton Walsh meets the dual gender tax collectors in Pakistan

Here’s the moral dilemma:

Is subverting or even abusing a social prejudice is the ‘correct’ way that a government should behave rather than dealing with the injustice itself?

A hijras individual employed by the government earns 4% commission on the money they ‘effectively’ obtain. What if we start to speculate what happens in a few years if these fringe tax collectors would be earning above average wage? These individuals could become powerful both financially and politically as government employees and shakers of the economy. In fact, perhaps being a hijras would become a thing of admiration as opposed to shame.

Would future mainstream people emulate the hijras in order to gain the powers of a tax collector? Or would this increase the hatred of the hijras with the doubled unpopularity of the tax collectors as we’ve experienced in the West?

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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