Luxury is often categorised as an expensive home or car, a vacation on an exclusive island or a bevy of servants at the ready. That, however, is merely physical luxury. No matter the status of a Pakistani’s bank account, we as a nation are devoid of a collective adherence to visible philosophical ideologies, life’s true luxuries.

The philosophical ideology that is elusive to even the richest of Pakistanis is, for example, a practicable sense of justice, equality and fairness. An intangible set of principles by which to live life that reflects in the overall fabric of society.

It is practically impossible to go about basic day-to-day life as a normal Pakistani citizen without engaging in minor fractures of the law, namely bribery. This is not the kind of bribery paid to the police to sweep major criminal activity under the rug. This bribery is miniscule and constant in nature: to receive the correct electricity bill, bribe the meter reader; to ensure swift court proceedings, bribe the court clerk; to be an efficiently functioning member of society, bribe everyone.

The existence of this low-level of corruption is so pervasive that even the most principled of Pakistan’s citizens engage their blinders and do what they must to exist peacefully. A principled life is, indeed, a luxury.

Though a state like the US is far from free of corruption, the average Americans will go their entire life without engaging in bribery or compromising on the set of principles they uphold as a national inheritance. This is, perhaps, an even greater luxury than continuous, 24-hour electricity.

The American ideology, both textual and in practice, is built on the concept of freedom. The Constitution of USA begins with the notions of establishing justice, promoting general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty. The American Declaration of Independence is the epitome of philosophical luxury.

The Declaration, written at the inception of an independent America, states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

As recently as August 28th, US President Barack Obama reiterated these words in his address to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Even in the darkest hours of American history, the philosophy preserved in the American Declaration and Constitution remained a beacon of hope for a better nation. Thus, the philosophy endures. It endures as a moral beacon, woven into American life.

Principled behaviour and upholding American political philosophy trickledown from the highest office in the nation (echoed in the speech of every sitting President) to classrooms of students learning what their nation was built upon to eager immigrants hoping for a better life. The American dream that so many leave their nations for, is not just economic, it is an acquired inner peace that exists in a society without pervasive corruption.

Pakistan’s founding documents may echo similar principles, but they are relics as ancient as the papers on which they were printed. What trickles down in this society if it is a commonly held belief that Pakistan’s leadership adheres the least to these luxurious principles of equality and justice?

Principled members of Pakistani society may actually exist by the millions, but they compromise their beliefs on a daily basis. They roll this philosophy up into a few hundred rupees and breathe a sigh of relief when their home or business continues to run smoothly.

A Pakistani may be able to afford a Land Cruiser and unlimited prime real-estate, but not the elusive principled life.

The writer completed her Juris Docto at the University of Notre Dame Law School (NDLS). She was a senior articles editor of Notre Dame Law School’s Journal of Legislation, vice president of the NDLS chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a member of the Asian Law Students Association. She previously clerked at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid as well as the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office. At Temple University, she was co-founder and vice president of the Pakistani Student’s Association.