The scream - Pakistan Today

The scream

Let us put our self-destruct mode aside

I remember once reading a story about a utopian world where, to ensure that everyone was dealt a fair hand in life, those who were born with above average intelligence had to wear a set of headphones, which delivered a high pitched scream at regular intervals, to ensure that no meaningful thought could stay in their mind for more than a few seconds. Thus handicapped, they were unable to achieve any excellence, which would otherwise be unfair to the “average” person, whose mediocrity precluded any great achievements. I was reminded of this story because every once in a while, when my country begins to find its feet and tries to move in a constructive direction, an invisible being delivers a deafening scream, which shakes it to its very core and destroys whatever progress it has made since the last scream. Distraught, agitated, confused, we forget the way forward, and instead start to self destruct in a hysterical fury, and are reduced to rubble once again, much to the satisfaction of the invisible hand.

This shock jars us out of all thought for a considerable time, and then we try to overcome the disaster and try to reorganize our life. Just when we seem to be managing to rise from the dead, our lives are shaken once again, by yet another one of a series of inflammatory stimuli, which are impossible for any individual to ignore, and for the collective consciousness, do not fall short of a clashing of enormous celestial cymbals announcing Armageddon. Here a cartoon, there an incredibly offensive film, a racially charged statement from a prominent US politician, or the pope. It is astonishing how the source of this provocation can take such diverse forms. What can be common between a convicted racist felon, clearly out to threaten peace and harmony with a scurrilous attack on a religion, and the leaders of the first world, or the world’s largest faith?

I want to believe that there is nothing behind this odd congruity, but if it is so, why then, the results of their actions are the same? I am forced to question if they are all motivated by the same cause, striking a blow for a common end, each in their unique way? It is a scary thought, and makes me look for an explanation for this common purpose. Why us? Why can’t we be left alone? We would like to get on with our life, please. Unlike the hero of the story, we are not really in a position to threaten anyone with the output of our extraordinary faculties. Here the object seems to be mere vandalism, a will to destroy the hapless, like a bully stepping on an anthill just to see the ants scurry in all directions. I cannot fathom the why and where forth of this wonton destruction. I cannot understand the threat we pose to so many people, which needs to be thus exterminated. I just know that we need to learn to survive despite this.

I want to ask my fellow countrymen and women, let us stop listening to this scream. If the barking of a mad dog means nothing, it should not even be noticed. It definitely should not send us into a mad rage, venting our fury by hurting ourselves. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Let us put this self-destruct mode aside, let us just let it be. In the story, when the hero pulls off the headphones, and dares to think freely, he does so with dazzling clarity, shining bright like a supernova. If we too can dare to stop listening to this engineered scream, and instead just move forward, uninterrupted by the ploys of the distracters, we can too can realize our potential, and attain amazing heights of brilliance. The alternative is to be forever a tool in the hands of those who do not want to see us rise from the abysmal depths we have fallen into. They just need to launch a petty attack on our faith to see us come crumbling down. What a victory for our enemies! It is up to us to decide if we want to continue to be played as fools, or if we can show them that their obnoxious tactics can no longer rile us, and that we are going to move forward on our path with steadfast drive. Let us make the correct deci, based on wisdom not emotion.

The writer is a faculty member at Services Institute of Medical Sciences, Lahore