Monument and Memory
By Sylvia T Villalobos
“Nations make monuments, because they teach and ennoble, help make nations. They bring back the past and animate us with heroes to be remembered, dreams reclaimed and glories re-enacted. They remind of us the good olden times, of noble triumphs and great events, of never-changing tides and torrents of history. Monuments are not for the flippant or the profane. Because they represent and even recreate important personalities and deeds, they entail a serious lexicon when described.”
Monuments for the great and the grand; no one ever built a monument for a gnat.
It is said that history –including monuments—is where the dead speak to the living. Maybe that is why many take it as a grave—no pun intended—matter. But it should not always be humourless or sombre. After all, even the dead deserve a break. And no less joyous is to read historians who wrestled with the past in the spirit of enlightenment fun.
Today, history is also a bruising secular affair where even heroes, however awesome, or precisely because they were awesome, are subjected to blasphemy. Sacrilege is slammed on the great and scorn poured on the venerable but no one on the red-hot furnace of veracity or truth, in which no one can be a Torquemada of the mind.
Indeed the modern day witches , academic or lay ,receive acclamation if their potion proves efficacious or correct , exposing the hero as a heel , or with feet of clay , or one who as fortuitous or accidental . Or justifies another who has been viciously reviled as actually worthy of the most deafening applause.
Wit and lightness are as much a part of history as glory and grief. But monuments with a humorous touch obviously
cannot be the fad. Why could not a light hearted status be welcomed as a novelty, acceptable both to the whim of the authorities or to the promulgations of art? They could lighten, at times, the arcane burdens of history. And they would always be there for the delectation of the passerby, in crisis as well as calm. For unlike flesh and blood, they do not decompose. And consequently, nor does the memory they seek to preserve.
And who were those heroes? Dr. Allama Iqbal who first gave the idea of a separate Muslim country for the Muslims of the British India. , The Father of the Nation ( Quaid – i – Azam) Muhammad Ali Jinnah, great men and women, yes but also the little ones, those who are lost in the group, the crowd , the masses , those who are without courage of honour – and tragedy or sacrifice . Some say that individual heroes, who often come from the elite, may become passé’. Disraeli had gloated that “the world is for the few and for the very few” Mao countered that “the masses and the masses alone are the motive force in the making of world history. Their ears are past, but not their imperatives and imponderables, for in history there are problems that are bigger than solutions. In fact, they should not be called problems, but realities which only other realities can replace.
Because everybody dies, a transient presence in a transient world, the fate of great leaders at a certain extent that of a nation they lead, are finally resolved not by politics but by biology. It is not mere wordplay that leads to the phrase “final solution” in the human lexicon. What is at issue is what happens before death when solutions are never final because new problems always arise.
Individualist rejoices in the steady growth of freedom, and they look to a future when they will enjoy so wide latitude for free existence that the old repressions will be like vanished nightmares, almost unreal or phantasmagorical in this viciousness. But will this give way to renew despotisms – and a new kind of hero? Can a hero as individual survive? Those who constitute the March 23, 1940 Lahore resolution at Minar E monument are crowd of Great men some are unidentifiable as individuals. Will the turning points in history now be more often the work mainly of multitudes?
But speaking of the distant past, why belabour the superfluous —that it was the workers, not Shi Huang -Ti, who physically built The Great Wall of China; that it was the stonemasons and the rest, not the pharaohs, who constructed the pyramids? That , in discussing the “Great Man Theory of History making “, Bertold Brecht asked if there was no cook in Caesars’ army , and if it was only the tears of the Spanish Kings that fell the sinking of his fleet?
Orthodox individual heroes normally do not appear in a truly free and democratic society, where there is nothing much to be heroic about. It is the Totalitarian regimes, left and right, which provide the occasion or the necessity for them. Communists., deceived by their phrase” People’s Democratic Republic” because it was not really the people’s and what was “democratic” in it was that everyone –without exception – can be extirpated while making only the first motions of heroism, or even while merely in the stage of contemplating it. One can even be doomed without contemplating anything. The levelling was even more horrifying because communism, a personal vision is, by definition, heretical. And yet, the non-communists world is not precise, too, for its much – vaunted republicanism may be representative geographically but not in class or sectoral terms.
The fascist Franco was, in comparison, the epitome of candour. He grandly announced “we do not believe in government through the voting booth. The Spanish national will has never been expressed through the ballot. Spain has no foolish dreams “He shot all heroes within sight, and for them no monument was possible.
Cultural determinism may be all-embracing but it is not all-powerful. Men have imagination and creativity .They have personal will and, if they are not defeatist, they have inner freedom in the most enslaved circumstances. And it is not impertinent to say that they also have courage.
It is from the wellsprings of the past, with the freshness or its eternal waters that a nation drinks to revive its old and faltering heart. Monuments are a fountainhead of its reinvigoration, and they help supply nutrients to bind the sinews of National cohesion. They prove that a nation has heritage and history —and memory, and one without memory is without hope. The past is not merely a vanished tableau. It is the bedrock of the future.
A monument is less for the individual than for the collective psyche. That is why it usually stands not in a private sanctum but in public setting within the easy view of all. It is normally on high ground or platform, a source of pride and power, at once a shared spectacle and a shared experience. They represent heroes of Pakistan not only for its entire citizen but they stand equal of heroes in other lands. No challenge obtrudes on the universality of their cause except in the vainly disputations.
This is not chauvinism but only a confident proposition based in historical merit. Quaid – i – Azam) Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a world class genius who strode Pakistan’s historical landscapes like a benign colossus, Dr Allama Iqbal, the crucible of the elemental fire in the sea of glacial submission to Allah , the Mozart of his peoples’ communal sonatas , and the resolutions thundering Beethoven.
While only a fool would reduce the status of heroes to a competition of who has more and better contributions of ideas. The non heroes who will presumes to be their derogatory critic, and condemns them without intellection or caution, should be reminded in moments of danger these great men performed more intrepidly than the critics past and present who have shed no blood or sweat to back up their own sanctimonious words.
Character is not only destiny. It is definition. It involves not only deliverance or damnation, but the nuances of deliberation and decision. Fate is eternal, but first must come CHOICE, and sometimes CHANCE. Man does not live by character, nor must he be judge by destiny alone. Heroism is associated with the idea of good in conformity to The Holy Quran, as opposed to evil in metaphysical terms. There are no monuments to evil, at least to what is perceived as such.
Pakistan have been under great emotional or psychological pressure, this impelled every citizen to understand that there is a HERO in every individual, that on March 23, 2010 every Pakistani had to make a brave and inescapable decision.
It must be stressed that the Revolution is not only their heroic age. Pakistan , it is often said , is a history of continuous struggle for freedom , freedom enjoyed , freedom lost , freedom regained , lost again , pursued again, regained , lost again. Dr. Allama Iqbal said “It is by rising to a fresh vision of his origin and future, his whence and whither, that man will eventually triumph over a society motivated by inhuman competition and a civilisation which has lost its spiritual unity by its inner conflict of religions and political values.” This unending pulsating rhythm of Pakistan freedom struggle has been the distinctive character of Pakistan’s’ national life for centuries, and in the withering process not a few larger-than-life heroes Pakistan have produced but many.
Pakistan have suffered more miseries from the European invaders, Consumerism, imperialism and terrorism, they have been badly battered repeatedly, and culturally marinated. They have been occupied, but in the real sense Pakistan remained unvanquished. The foreign entities may destroy their monuments, but not the memory.
Pakistan heroes have been fighting for freedom. To them freedom is more important than life itself, the latter is nothing without the former. Because of this, Pakistan’s history hinges on the twin values of sacrifice and valour in the Islamic pursuit of freedom. Dr. Allama Iqbal, an ardent advocate of the concept of human freedom and evolution explains the concept of tawh?i?d beautifully when he says, “Reality is essentially spirit,” yet he qualifies his belief by mentioning that there are degrees of reality reflecting degrees of spirit. He writes:
Indeed the evolution of life shows that, though in the beginning the mental is dominated by the physical, the mental as it grows in power, tends to dominate the physical and may eventually rise to a position of complete independence…
Life can be sacrificed for freedom, but freedom cannot be sacrificed for life. Every individual has the Goal and duty of safeguarding that freedom. Even if it causes him his life. ” the metaphysical ego is the bearer of two main rights that is the right to life and freedom as determined by Divine Law. ”Dr. Allama Iqbal, believed that behind the process of evolution is the vital impulse (Bergson’s elan vital) of ‘ishq or love which is metaphysical in nature and which makes life grow towards higher evolutionary GOALS.
It is love that imparts colour to the tulip
It is love that agitates our life.
If you could rip open the heart of the earth
You would see love’s blood coursing through it.
Beneath this visible evolution of forms is the force of love which actualises all strivings, movement and progress. Things are so constituted that they hate non-existence and love the joy of individuality in various forms. The indeterminate matter, dead in itself, assumes or more properly is made to assume by the inner force of love, various forms and rises higher and higher in the scale of beauty.
But this “forward push to life cannot be called creative unless hitched to some goal.”
Iqbal believed that evolution has a goal. “In fact, the evolution or dissolution of life is dependent on how far the individual chooses to use his or her creative will and power. The perfect man of Iqbal’s conception is of muja?hid, one who is ready and willing to face the problems of life, culture and society as he is to face the problems of after-life, spiritual welfare and death.”
From March 23, 1940, until the present, there have been few moments when Pakistan had a respite from their freedom struggle. And embedded like a galling, ever present thorn in every Pakistani flesh were and still are the recurrent outbreaks of internal and external conflicts and strife. This craving for fratricidal destruction is Pakistan hitherto ineffable mark of Kabil. External forces divide and impose policies on the government, who chose wilfully to and not by accident, “to walk in the darkness than in light.”
A people who need heroes cannot build a monument without a subject, cannot have a subject who was un-heroic. History therefore must provide the subject before art can provide the form. Although, a nation may have a tenacious memory and even more tenacious ambition, it can have no monuments if it has no heroes. In addition, the artistry of a monument is only a small aspect. It is not the substance. What matters most is the man not the monument, the meaning not the matter.
The past has already lost print as its exclusive rendition. This century and the next, the printed world will give way to the electronic image. Communication will largely be in visual flashes rather than in syllables. Is the age of banality at hand? Will history become insipidity? It may become artless—or on the other hand acquire character of a new art form? Or it will still remain a sculptural perfection signifying human, freedom and Islam in the eyes of Allah and the rest of the world? Would the memory of Dr. Allama Iqbal, Quaid – i – Azam) Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the great men and women, will become relics in a strange epoch of new paradigms? Would arduous nationhood be a thing of the past and their parched sacrifices be regarded as crude baubles? Would the joys become outdated, the sorrows and sadness not even recalled in the consciousness of the future Pakistan? Would both memory and monument become obsolete? The choice is yours! On March 23, 2010 Pakistan will celebrate 70 years of the passing of Lahore resolution … The essence of freedom struggle will constitute the substance of the celebration. Rise and become part of this Monumental Memory.
“Arise and soar with the suns new born rays
To breathe new life into dying nights and days.”
Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Lahore, Iqbal Academy, 1989, p. 78.
Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the Development of Metaphysics in Persia, 1959, p. 33.
Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Lahore, Iqbal Academy, 1989, p. 149.