Sep 25, 2010

Ripe for revolution?

Nauman Asghar
Events are part of an irresistible time stream of history. Individuals cannot create the current of events; they can only float upon it and steer. Revolution is not the work of men; it is a 'process'. Moreover, revolutions are the result of deep-rooted and slowly evolving political and social malformations rather than the sudden outbreak that they appear to be on the surface.
The intellectuals who dismiss the possibility of revolution in Pakistan advance two arguments. First, to them the revolution must be motivated by an 'ideology expounded by the intelligentsia' which is non-existent in this situation. Secondly, they attribute the improbability of revolution to the absence of 'leadership'. But an impersonal and non-subjective historical analysis of social revolutions suggests that ideology is not indispensable to create the desire for reform. Instead the revolutionaries in most cases are actuated by an unbearably iniquitous and rotten social structure. Social revolutions occur because of 'emergence', not 'making', of revolutionary situations. Rather than being fostered by a particular ideology the revolutionary spirit in France of 1789 was the outcome of grave and accumulated wrongs of successive despotic governments. On July 14, 1789, when the French people gathered in Paris and attacked the Bastille -- a symbol of arbitrary and capricious government -- they had no leadership, which only emerged during the course of revolution itself. One of the greatest lessons of history is that 'occasion brings forth its men'.
The state-edifice in its present form is rickety in the extreme and the ill-constructed governmental structure does not conform to the wishes or desires of the country. The occupants of the corridors of power do not give a hoot about the welfare of citizens. The state seems to be failing in its primary responsibility of providing protection to citizens' life and property. The people at the helm of affairs have come to this position by a strange concourse of events, entirely untrained in the arts of government. They possess none of the masterful qualities necessary for leadership. Even if they are not unintelligent, their intelligence is unequal to the daunting challenges of today. They are lacking in wisdom, in breadth of judgment; they do not understand the temperament of the people or the spirit of the times. Born to the purple, their outlook upon life does not transcend that of the small and highly privileged class to which they belong. Their feudal mindset blocks any attempt aimed at empowerment of citizens.
The glaring incidents of mob-lynching in the presence, and sometimes under the patronage, of law-enforcement authorities amply demonstrate the complete breakdown of the system of justice. The political parties here are too disorganised and too personality-centred to become nurseries of charismatic leadership. The chieftains of these factions suffer from self-righteousness and their arrogance has estranged them from citizens, thus frittering their credibility.
The social organisation of the country is far from satisfactory. A class-based, anachronistic and outdated social structure has engendered widespread resentment amongst the disadvantaged segments against the status-quo. The privileged orders are favoured in a number of ways such as tax exemptions, cronyism, nepotism, thus perpetuating class fragmentations. The social discontent has driven common people to the verge of consenting to commit suicide -- the only route to escape the pangs of poverty and unemployment. Paradoxically the multi-tiered educational system in Pakistan, instead of helping to mitigate the sufferings of the hoi polloi, makes the social fissures deeper and more pronounced. One of the most pernicious effects of unnatural distinctions established in the society is that it has rendered possible a tyranny by a minority over a majority quite as complete, odious and unrestrained as any tyranny of a mediaeval king could be.
The inequitable and unjust land ownership in Pakistan has become a stumbling block in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. The surging wave of inflation has broken backs of the salaried class as well as daily wage-earners. The recent floods, like the bad harvests of France in 1788, have aggravated the situation and to tackle the humanitarian catastrophe in the offing in flood-ravaged areas is well beyond the capacity of a country already in deep financial straits.
Moreover, the commonplace view that revolution is undesirable as it merely results in a change of oppressors is untrue. The French Revolution accomplished the transition from the feudal and an absolutist system of the preceding centuries to the democratic system of the modern world. The entire structure of the French state and society was remodelled and planted on new and far-reaching principles. The Reign of Terror was unleashed because of foreign intervention by monarchial dynasties in neighbouring countries to staunch the tide of revolution. But such a situation is unimaginable in these times.
No amount of patching up and renovating could make the present fossilised system in our country any tolerable and a total reorganisation of society is needed. The media has played its role in exposing the anomalous state structure compelling the people to think about the causes of their miserable lot. Today the country has reached a stalemate where those responsible for bringing about change are apathetic and reluctant while others, clamouring for reform, are powerless to effect the changes. Thus the situation is ripe for revolution which may spring from a slight occasion like spiralling increase in food prices as is expected in the forthcoming year because of the devastating floods. Today the country stands in dire need of a new social contract which must be premised on the following two principles. One, the people are the only legitimate fountain of power. Two, the growth of one individual is to be as little as possible at the expense of another creating a healthy atmosphere for social reconstruction.

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