Another lesson of time
With the end of the Drama in the Capital our choice to remain on the democratic path gets clearer. That means we understand more clearly than before that the world we live in is an inclusive one, not a world for the chosen few; that it is a world where matters should be decided by reason not force, by empathy not dictation. Forces of violent sectarianism and hostile attitudes have yet to wave their white flags, but it is not their world; they can delay our quest towards the path of peace and happiness but cannot keep us diverged forever. They should be made to realise that they can kill individuals but cannot wipe out mankind. Although the gun intimidates, it does not win respect and should be used only to defend.
But it is time to ask why, after all, are ludicrous endeavors like these necessary? Why can’t we accept the realities of our times and play our games within the scope of these democratic realities? Prudence demands that we do not criticise too harshly the interests that lost in Islamabad; on the other hand wisdom demands that they move to the right side of history. The nation can overcome many of its problems if it decides to stand like a rock, not with, but behind elected governments in its every right move.
People of all professions and incomes aspire to be heard, to be included in decisions that affect their life. We cannot categorise people as common or special. There are no ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ people except through merit; but merit has to be determined by some established system of standards. Personal notions of merit cannot prove you or yours truly as extraordinary. There is no humane algorithm to win somebody’s obedience except through persuasion. You may see your merit as exceptional as you wish but the fellow next to you has to independently acknowledge it as such; your boasting or anger makes no difference, while persecuting him with your force can only alienate him further.
This adherence of equality means democracy. It may infuriate a general or an intellectual alike, but in our world there is no alternative to it except one: befuddle the people with some magic, intoxicate them with a charged emotion, and take away their ambition for equality; so that they abandon their claims. But chances of success in such an endeavor are meager. One could see similar submission in the soldiers of the Qadri brigade, when people agreed with the Allama’s extreme shifts of position and happily left without asking if the government had changed. But one can be almost certain that even a respectful analysis of the agreement in media can awaken the majority from the inertia. Such are the times. Even though the media can be manipulated, the manipulation needs to be globalised in this global media world. No power, including the sole super power, can hope to harness that privilege. That makes the task of a tyrant or dictator increasingly difficult. It is merit alone that can win. Brilliant crooks can get away with a chunk of the pie of more than their share but that is a trick of brilliance, achieved with the consent of those that allow. If you happen to be around and know the crook’s design, your success to frustrate his move depends on your ability to awaken those that can say no. That is the path of persuasion and awareness; a path that even prophets had to take to achieve change.
We have to revisit our strategy. We live in a growingly democratic industrial world where economy matters more than nuclear weapons. The way we are at war with ourselves, we hardly need a nuclear enemy to destroy us. Let us accept democracy as our own system to live with the world. Our principal tragedy is lawlessness. At the moment only one element defeats law: the exploitation of Islam as its shroud. Can we hope that our generals and judges will help elected governments in the equal implementation of law for all, including those who manipulate religion to defeat justice? People will learn to choose the correct people; it is their duty and prerogative. Intellectuals and the media can facilitate and educate each other and the nation.
How whimsical our dreams of the generals and judges emerging as symbols of modesty and wisdom. A dim light does always flicker to indicate the tunnel’s end. Let us reach out for it.
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The author is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His urdu books Tehzeebi Nargisyat and Mubaalghe, Mughaalte are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.
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