Prisoners of their Mindsets!

By Dr. Haider Mehdi 

An ancient Yiddish (Jewish) saying goes as follows: “The fools would have been amusing, if they had not been our fools.”

And some unknown wise person said: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

It is obvious that today’s Pakistan suffers from the unmitigated political foolishness (the fools would have been amusing, if they had not been our fools) and human greed of its ruling elite unparalleled in its entire history. This ailing political culture and its continued existence is the result of the mindset of a ruling class that has a total disconnect to the life-cycle of common people in this country. Hence, the daily sufferings and struggles of ordinary citizens have assumed nearly no relevance to the political discourse that is under absolute control of the ruling elite. Unfortunately, the political managers in this country are the prisoners of their own mindsets, totally oblivious to the ideas of a democratic welfare state. They exist in a confined world of their own, far removed from the world of their fellow-citizens that demands an intrinsic engagement with the reality of common people’s daily lives and their actual struggles. Hence, the ruling political class, democratic or otherwise, has no idea how to provide relief or remedies to the majority of people struck by deprivations and daily hardships.

Contemporary social scientists concerned with the fallouts, adverse effects and negative impacts of a particular “mindset” on a political system define the concept as follows: “In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviours, choices or tools. This phenomenon is also sometimes described as mental inertia, “groupthink”, or a “paradigm”, and it is often difficult to counteract its effects upon analysis and decision making processes.”

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In my political vocabulary and conceptualization, “A mindset can also been seen as incident of a person’s Weltanschauung or philosophy of life.” For example, it is my intellectual conviction, based on daily observations of our incumbent ruling elite’s political conduct, that the contemporary dominant political top leadership in Pakistan has a “Traders Mindset” (though Plato centuries ago warned that “Traders” should not be the rulers, in the modern democratic political philosophy when “Traders” assume political power, it naturally creates a “conflict of interests” dilemma and political crisis). They conduct “politics” as a means to consolidate their “mindset” of Right Wing, pro-capitalist, corporate-culture oriented, American-centric domestic and foreign policy that offer no real-time resolutions to common citizens’ immediate and urgent problematics. For example, the so-called Zardari’s democratic government in the last five-years was unable to deliver any kind of relief to the majority of people who suffered continued deprivations, rising costs and lack of essential services needed even for marginal standards of living. This political trend and economic policy discourse has continued in the country under PML-N leadership. The majority of people in this country are facing growing poverty, unprecedented hikes in prices of daily consumable commodities, corruption is rampant, law and order is non-existent and Pakistan is being driven towards a political and economic abyss. There seems to be no relief in sight for common people and the PML-N top leadership continues to talk about privatizing national enterprises – an absolute indication of their “mindset” of treating “politics” as an ideology and a “doctrine” for vested interests.

It is ironic and sad that the incumbent Prime Minister’s recently launched “Economic Fruit Basket” (a funny title for an economic initiative) did not carry a single word about the “ACTUAL MODALITIES” to address the growing problematics of common citizens, such as skyrocketing prices of daily consumable commodities, rising tariffs, increasing indirect taxation and growing threats to people’s lives and property, lack of dispensation of justice in lower judicial courts and so on and so forth. Earlier, in a speech on November 24th in Lahore at Al Hamra, the Prime Minister continued with the usual and traditional “mindset” of rhetorical symbolism: the Muslim Ummah, ideology, Pak-India relations, Vajpayee, visa restrictions and, allow me to quote the unsophisticated speech-writer’s insertion, “we were lucky that Dr. Allama Muhammed Iqbal was born in this part of the world” (Prime Minister fire your speech writer, he/she is incapable of perception management and public diplomacy – should be sent back to first grade instead of writing your speeches). Shields were exchanged and glowing tributes were paid to each other – and yet not a word about the ailing and suffering nation held hostage to the whims of a distinct “political mindset” and awaiting some kind of emancipation from their daily sufferings. How long can a nation survive only on words and ideological sentimental and emotionally symbolic rhetoric? Time is running out.

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There can be only two dominant mindsets in a political organization: “the productive mindset and the defensive mindset. The productive mindset seeks out valid knowledge that is testable. The productive reasoning mindset creates informed choices and makes reasoning transparent. The defensive mindset, on the other hand, is self-protective and self-deceptive. When this mindset is active, people or organisations only seek out information that will protect them. Truth can be shut out when it is seen as threatening. The defensive mindset may lead to learning based on false assumptions or prevent learning altogether.”

There is a fundamental and important relationship between “self-perception” and a distinct “mindset”. It is not clear how the dominant contemporary political forces in Pakistan, the PPP and the ruling PML-N leadership, perceive their repeated ascendancy to political power in the country. However, it appears that the leaderships in both of the parties believe that they are destined to rule Pakistan for an indefinite foreseeable future. This “mindset” promotes the idea that, due to celestial intervention, no matter how many mistakes they continue to make in their governance, political economic ideological parameters and political performance, their entitlement to political economic power cannot be revoked on this planet called Earth and a territory named Pakistan. Or does the incumbent Prime Minster attribute his political-financial success to his  “entrepreneurial mindset” – the collective ability of his close circle to always manipulate the political environment to their irrevocable (as they might believe it) advantage including negotiations with foreign elements in their support.

However it should be noted very carefully that in politics an “entrepreneurial mindset” and its “entrepreneurial performance” are two very distinct notions. As of now, the PML-N leadership has failed as much in its political entrepreneurial performance as its predecessor, the so- called democratic regime of Zardari’s PPP.

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Modern theorists, on the notion of mindsets in politics, contend that “power groups that fail to review or revise their mindsets with sufficient regularity cannot hold power indefinitely, as a single mindset is unlikely to possess the flexibility and adaptability needed to address all future events.”

A word of caution to the believers of celestial interventions: nature never allows an indefinite vacuum in its system of evolving momentums, and unpredictable political explosions are an intrinsic part of human history!

Mind it, Pakistan might be heading towards one of those unexpected peoples’ revolutionary explosions!

You never know how tomorrow might turn out – or do you?

History is a witness to the fact that prisoners of their mindsets are the losers in the end!!