Feb 28, 2009

Another Byzantine intrigue

By Shamshad Ahmad
Everyone wonders in agony if there will ever be an end to crises and tragedies in our benighted country. We in Pakistan seem to have somehow so mismanaged our affairs as to confront ourselves with dire peril and ceaseless chaos. We are a "warrior" nation and have been tirelessly fighting wars. These are not military wars alone. Our wars have been of all sorts and scale. We have been fighting proxy wars for others but mostly we have been fighting fratricidal, communal, sectarian, and political wars of our own. These have been suicidal wars. We have been killing ourselves and our own institutions. We have been squandering our future. We have paid an immeasurable price in these wars, and continue to pay a heavy price for our governance failures and leadership miscarriages. And still we take no lessons from our wretched history. Instead, we have limited our worldview only to "this evening's breaking news and tomorrow morning's headlines." In our country's politics, what people "know" and "understand" largely depends on what they see, hear, and feel and how they think and act. But in looking at what our leaders do or not do, all we see what is not, and see not what is, because all of us are captives of their whims and with illusions already embedded in our minds, we like to interpret what we want to see or what is easiest to see because we just suppose we have no alternative.This is a dilemma which was illustrated twenty-five centuries ago by none other that world's most renowned political thinker, Plato who had warmed: "Behold! Human beings living in an underground den...here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so they cannot move, and can only see before them... Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance and between the fire and the prisoners there is a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets." This is our political scene today. Our people are no more than the puppets or wooden marionettes. We are what T.S Eliot would have depicted as "hollow men" or a group of "human beings living in the dark, leaning together with dried voices and quiet whispers, shape without form, shade without colour, a paralyzed force with gesture without motion. We are a nation without values. We have no convictions. Even our sins lack conviction. We don't take anything to heart. Look, how remorselessly we digested the tragedy of 1971, the worst that could happen to any country.

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