Thursday, July 8, 2010

A culture of suicide...

Dr Babar Awan denies any wrongdoing on the ground that he cannot be blamed for keeping a tradition alive. - Photo by APP.

I found this article in today's (Pakistan):

A culture of suicide
By I. A. Rehman
Thursday, 08 Jul, 2010

Quite a few recent happenings have thrown light on the kinds of disaster Pakistan courts as a consequence of its adherence to what can only be described as the culture of commitment to suicide.

A considerable stir was caused among the uninitiated when an honourable member of parliament pooh-poohed civil society’s concern and anger at incidents of suicide commonly attributed to the absence of livelihood. Everybody who had access to the media went hammer and tongs for the pir known for his felicity in changing political gaddis and ignored the fact that he was merely articulating a hallowed cultural norm.

He argued that neither society nor the state had anything do with a desperate Pakistani’s decision to kill his children before destroying himself. All this and matters related to poverty revealed the will of the Almighty and humans had no business to question or interfere with His order of things.

It should not have been difficult to see that the honourable parliamentarian was only elaborating one of the Pakistani elite’s main cultural traits — the culture of denial. This norm was adopted first by the elite in nearly all fields of life — politics, warfare, economy, academics and even theology — and has been turned, through centuries of practice, into an essential pillar of belief by the commoners too.

Thus, we the Pakistanis have never done anything wrong. If we ever lost a war the reason lay in the enemy’s perfidy or the duplicity of a traitor in our ranks. All our miseries in pre-partition India were the result of a malevolent alliance against us by the British and the Hindu and at the global scale we are innocent victims of the conspiracies continually hatched by ahle-Hunud-o-Yahood. We had no part in pushing East Bengal out of Pakistan; this was achieved by a ruler who drank and womanised and who was helped by the Soviets and India. Those who are killing people in mosques and shrines are not from us, they are aliens unleashed by hostile external forces.

Pakistanis do not even hesitate to deny their part in their biggest accomplishment, the creation of Pakistan, and blame Congress for this, and this theory gathers more and more supporters as the people see their condition becoming increasingly unbearable. No, we are not responsible for people’s poverty and for making a mess of almost everything. And apart from a distorted interpretation of the belief in a pre-ordained world, there is great material advantage in blaming Providence for all our follies, excesses and misadventures.

When in the early years of independence, the much-maligned progressive activists started reminding the rulers of their pledges regarding land reforms, they were accused of daring to interfere with a heavenly designed system. (This was much before the honourable judges of the highest Shariat court in the country decreed that land reform was un-Islamic.) So strong was the rich landlords’ hold on the minds and bodies of the victims of their exploitation that the latter gleefully threw stones at the organisers of land-for-the-tiller rallies.

If anybody ventured to protest against inequality, old and venerable teachers would raise their fingers and declare ‘khudawand punj angusht yaksan no kard’! Since the fingers on the hand of a human being were not equal in length, this was offered as conclusive proof that God had enjoined inequality! An argument in favour of pluralism was turned into a sanction for inequality. That culture endures.

The variety of patterns of behaviour the culture of denial creates is endless. Dr Babar Awan denies any wrongdoing on his part as he crisscrosses the land in his search for cash-starved tehsil bar associations on the ground that he cannot be blamed for keeping a tradition alive. This is only a small illustration of democrats’ repudiation of their duties and commitments by taking shelter under precedents established by dictators.

Incidentally, the PML-N’s display of anger at the flights of the minister with a purse bulging with public money is also a form of denial — denial of the possibility that the gentleman under attack could be the opposition’s secret weapon operating behind government trenches.

Another aspect of the culture of denial can be seen in the 18th Amendment committee’s denial of the Pakistan Bar Council’s authorship of the proposal for a judicial commission for the appointment of judges. It is difficult to believe that Mr Raza Rabbani and his esteemed colleagues were unaware of the Pakistan Bar Council’s trail-blazing resolution on the subject.

Much before the Charter of Democracy was signed, on April 29, 2000 to be exact, the Pakistan Bar Council, under the guidance of the stalwarts of the lawyers’ movement for the independence of the judiciary, had called for the establishment of a ‘judicial commission’ for making appointments to the superior judiciary.

And they were quite generous in accommodating non-judges/parliamentarians in the commission. The body proposed by the bar council was to include: the chief justice of Pakistan (as the chairman), two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, the four chief justices of the high courts, the vice-chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, the president of the Supreme Court Bar, the four presidents of the high court bar associations at the principal seats, an MNA nominated by the prime minister and another nominated by the leader of the opposition, and one senator from each province. The committee on the 18th Amendment betrayed its adherence to the culture of denial by depriving the bar council of the credit due to it.

The most salient feature of the political culture of denial is the tendency to belabour the rival parties for actions and intentions for which the accusers also could be held liable. This attitude is based on the denial of the people’s right to individual as well as a collective memory. The biggest risk in persisting with the culture of denial is that nations unable to give up this habit cannot escape extinction. The culture of denial in its final form becomes a death-wish, a culture of commitment to suicide.

Pakistan will not be able to begin its journey out of the woods unless the people (because the elite everywhere is incorrigible) start accepting responsibility for what they do to themselves and to others and for every ailment that afflicts the state and society — be it poverty, terrorism, corruption, separatism or anything else that replaces the joy of living with a nightmare and a curse.

Clearly there are sentient, intelligent, educated, forward-thinking people in this country. Unfortunately there are simply not enough of them or they do not occupy any positions of responsibility and/or influence. We do certainly agree however on his particular description regarding the so-called 'elite'. Of ANY country...

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