Are words enough?

Inaction leading to death and misery

“We never rise to the level of our goals but fall to the level of our systems” is what James Clear’s best seller Atomic Habits claimsThe wisdom dates even beyond Clear to Stoic Philosophy with Epictetus famously maintaining do not teach your philosophy, embody it!” Though the age-old wisdom has survived dark spells of history and even we as kids are told to judge a man by his actions and not words, yet something is missing here… Why do we not take this as a call for action to be Machiavelli’s “effectual truth” seekers who look beyond the façade, rather than another “good advice”? This sounds like an absolute judgment but merely look around us! Convicted politicians all day long preach glorious virtues of purity even unknown to Epictetus and people dutifully listen further incrementing their clout. Not to target politicians only, we ourselves are immune from actions. Rather than words leading to actions, our paradoxical words are supposed to hide our true actions and the dilemma has reached the highest offices now since political leaders are usually nothing but a shadow of their people.

What went wrong? Why can’t we live up to our words or align our goals with our habits (in Clear’s language)? Two probable answers come to mind; one, we aim too high or second, we intentionally depreciate words by not acting to subsequently weaponize them however suited. The first instance sounds unlikely as formulating robust policies and implementing them, no matter how difficult, is not impossible as exemplifications like the Civil Rights Movement in the US or Pakistan’s own nuclear successes portray; it is likely the latter then! It is just that we have started using words purely as a commodity…. As a means to different ends like attacking adversaries or making empty promises (with no intent of execution), both of which increase one’s comparative standing. This is the recipe for a state which has, according to the infamous author of Rule by Fear Dr. Ammar Ali Jan, all the answers but without questions; responses without recognizing the stimuli. This ultimately is a heaven for the elite that treats words like any other resource to cement its power through false promising in a society unable to question for any outsider attempting so is outrightly condemned and his words termed “terror”.

Though the age-old wisdom has survived dark spells of history and even we as kids are told to judge a man by his actions and not words, yet something is missing here… Why do we not take this as a call for action to be Machiavelli’s “effectual truth” seekers who look beyond the façade, rather than another “good advice”?

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The ultimate disservice hijacking of words by the political elite does is they soon lose their entire essence and stagnate growth. After the devastating floods of 2010, several studies were conducted with prominent ones being a report by NDMA and another by LHC within which numerous proposals including setting up better coordination systems, assembling warehouses for requisite relief equipment, inducting flood reservists, setting up an aviation rescue mechanism… (to mention a few) were made. What next? Looking at the situation today, none of them were likely implemented as Dr. Maira Hayat (another outsider similar to Dr. Ammar Ali Jan overlooked by numerous governmental departments in spite of (or because of) her distinguished credentials in environmental studies) rightly pointed if there were an aforementioned air rescue team, those four stranded brothers in Kohistan might have been alive today.

Those were not solely four brothers but symbolized millions of helpless people who are paying the price for “inaction on words”. What were those recommendations if not implemented? Mere empty words! The kind we listen to in political speeches, exploited to make pledges of giving billions in aid, constructing millions of houses without any hint of a roadmap which is not needed either for the intent is rarely there on the speaker’s end and accountability on the listener’s. The vicious routine has led to inaction on countless policies and if continued, the islands of promises would keep overcrowding simultaneous to the offshore accounts of the elite, leading that little trust of the strugglers and the international community left in the state into abyss. Let us not repeat that kid’s mistake who kept giving false alarms for help just to make fun of those who came until he was actually threatened and no one came. Foremostly understanding the essence of and implementing upon words is key to a stable society which we aspire to be. Aanis Moin, a young Pakistani poet who tragically died at 26, aptly sketched the threat if words lose their meanings in the absence of “effectual truth seekers” through a poetic expression that to date is one of the best pieces of literature that ever crossed my eyes…

“Woh Jo Pyasa Lagta Tha Sailab Zadah Tha

 Pani Pani Kehty Kehty Doob Gaya Hai….”

(He who seemed thirsty, was flooded,

Shouting “Water Water” he drowned)

Syed Sarim Fatmi
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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