Deconstructing the icons of savagery | Pakistan Today

Deconstructing the icons of savagery

Candid Corner

  • An awareness revolution and the courage to demand

“Oh, tell me, who first declared, who first proclaimed that man only does nasty things because he does not know his own real interests. And, that, if he were enlightened, if his eyes were opened to his real normal interests, man would at once cease to do nasty things, would at once become good and noble because, being enlightened and understanding his real advantage, he would see his own advantage in the good and nothing else…Oh, the babe! Oh, the pure, innocent child!

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “Notes from Underground”

History books are replete with instances of man’s brutality to his own kind. The point that needs debating is whether he understood what he was doing and that it would be damaging his own cause and legacy? Also, if he were aware of that, would he have acted any differently than how he did in the first instance?

The chances are that, by and large, he would have been fully aware of his vile preoccupation, and the suffering and anguish it would cause to an incredibly large number of people as a consequence of his plundering pursuits. But, that didn’t dissuade him from his barbarity which is not consigned to olden times alone. This has been a consistent feature of human nature since times immemorial. What has changed are the methods and means of inflicting pain upon others, the bulk of whom would not bear even a shred of responsibility for what may have angered the perpetrators to deserve their ire.

But history has continued to witness ever new human indulgences to achieve grandiose and perverted plans at the cost of even the right of survival of the impoverished, the marginalised and the afflicted communities. This reality has not impacted the choice of course by the marauders for securing their vile ambitions and promoting their dreadful narratives, and those of the myriad beneficiary elite. If this is the way the world has been, will this also be the way the world shall remain?

It is time to look up. It is time to stand up and be counted as one among the comity of people where no one is inferior to others, and no one deserves any less than others. What this country needs is an awareness revolution and the courage to demand what rightfully belongs to the people. Nothing less will do to demolish the icons of savagery

The very thought is harrowing. But it is something one cannot escape facing. Witnessing the mammoth destruction around and the untold suffering it continues to cause, it is a nightmare that follows us like a shadow– haunting in its appearance and lethal in its impact, material, emotional and psychological.

At the root of it is the obsession of some with asserting their authority over others and lending permanence to their legacy. This ambition emanates from a flawed perception– that if people are subjugated, and if the spiral of their reaction is controlled, they would forever be rendered subservient, and they would forever defend the citadels of the conquering pillagers and the icons of their savagery, hiding behind masks of majesty.

But, that is not how it happens, or it may ever happen. Centuries have passed. Civilisations have flourished and been eclipsed, but there is nothing known as permanent subjugation. There is nothing that would pass for perennial bondage of one set of people before another simply by the grossness of the latter’s barbarity, or getting a false history of achievements penned and promoted. None could describe this frailty more poignantly than T. S. Eliot in his remarkable poem “The Burial of the Dead”:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you,

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you –

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Stony rubbish, a heap of broken images, seeing fear in a handful of dust– this portraiture reflects the reality of our existence. A claim beyond that will not only be fickle, but would disintegrate the moment one is no more, or may even be weakened through the currents of time. This is the ultimate reality, the only reality that one lives by, and one is known by. The mighty have fallen so often that one shudders at the thought. Each one of us is a shadow that is meant to pass. We have no substance, no permanent reality. We are but a tiny and insignificant speck on a vast and fathomless horizon reflecting the cycle of life.

But there is another reality that exists among us and which we are witness to on a daily basis– a reality where one sees the truth being mauled incessantly and blatant lies wearing the apparel of legitimacy. There is this charade which is enacted every evening for endless hours on the television screens. This is the intellectual plunder which the impressionable people of the country are subjected to without a break, where a boot meant to cover the feet finds its way to the top of the table and sits there as a revered symbol of authority. This is as low as we can get. But, even this is digested by administering a mild reprimand and imposing a two-week ban on the errant one who is a sitting federal minister.

Often we see established plunderers swearing on the holy book of their innocence, but they would not respond to allegations against them. The stress is on politicising their cases which are before the courts of (absence of) law. The plethora of evidence available is construed as garbage and political victimisation. Bails are equated with exoneration and not responding to notices is taken for a matter of right. There is no regret, no compunction and no shame. We live in an environment where the saintly would feel threatened as virtual outcasts.

What have we come to? Will we continue to plunge, or will the spiral of degeneration which has put a stranglehold on us come to a stop? By the appearance of things, there is no prospect of any change that would usher in goodness and empathy. It is a world where the cruel and the dishonest rule the roost, and all others are mere hirelings meant to render a duty, and move on.

This is not how countries prosper or societies blossom. This is not where the worthy and the deserving are assured a place by the state so that they could contribute to its welfare and create opportunities for the less fortunate. We work by a system which does not provide a place for those whom the state is obligated to support. In reality, they are the ones who are dumped in the pit to remain irrelevant.

It is time to look up. It is time to stand up and be counted as one among the comity of people where no one is inferior to others, and no one deserves any less than others.

What this country needs is an awareness revolution and the courage to demand what rightfully belongs to the people. Nothing less will do to demolish the icons of savagery.

The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.