Past present: The fragile state
History shows that a society can tackle political, religious, and economic crises with an active and intellectual response. Passivity and lack of intellectual energy could cause the collapse of a society.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe faced political and religious issues which seriously affected the social and financial structure.
In the Thirty years’ War of religion, fought between Catholics and the Lutherans in Germany, 30 per cent of the German-speaking people lost their lives.
In the 17th century, England was involved in the civil war between the king, the Anglican Church and the parliament which mainly comprised the Calvinists or puritans. When religious strife and conflict had exhausted the European society, an intellectual response emerged in the shape of Thomas Hobbes’ (1588-1679) book, the Leviathan.
According to this English philosopher, every sect believed that God was on its side while the others were infidels. Each sect emphasised on salvation of the soul and heaven being man’s eternal abode as they believed that life in this world was temporary.
Hobbes analysed that people were concerned more about the next world because anarchy and disorder made them pessimistic about the world and its affairs. In these circumstances, he figured that the basic instinct of human beings was the fear of violent and accidental death.
In the absence of a politically strong organisation to control the society, there was no law, authority or system to protect life and property.
He concluded that only a strong state could defend the country from foreign invasion, and provide peace and prosperity to the people. Once the people had material benefits, they would care about this world rather than worry about the hereafter. He also suggested that state and religion should be separated, while a secular and democratic society should be promoted which would inspire people to pursue happiness. In his opinion, only a secular society could get rid of religious intolerance and sectarian strife.
Thomas Hobbes believed that a strong government was important for maintaining peace and order in the society. It was essential for people to pay taxes to make the government efficient as only a strong and well-organised state could deliver security to people.
How are Thomas Hobbes’ views relevant to Pakistan and its society in the present day? We confront the same problems that the European society did in the 17th century. Sectarian conflicts intensify as each sect believes that truth is on its side and forces the other to convert to their faith. This leads to bloody clashes among different sects with the followers ready to die for the cause of their faith and become martyrs.
In the absence of a strong Pakistani state, the society is in a situation where there is no law and order but the law of jungle prevails.
According to Hobbes’ views, corruption and non-payment of taxes renders the state of Pakistan weaker. People do not pay taxes but spend money to protect their life and property by hiring private agencies in their defence against crime.
Since Hobbes clearly pointed out that human beings desire peace and security and are not in favour of living in insecure circumstances; similarly, the Pakistani society is also desirous of a strong, incorruptible government which would restore peace and order, provide opportunities to people to enjoy prosperity and to die a natural death after living a happy life.