NOTES FROM A SOCIAL SCIENTIST

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

The happiness of the drop is to die in the river;
When the pain exceeds bearable limits, the pain itself becomes the medicine.

When the spring cloud clears after heavy rain, it seems to me as if it were
Weeping so hard that, at the end it simply dies (from excess of grief). 
                                                                                – Mirza Ghalib, translation by Aijaz Ahmed

Grief and despair are visible all over the face of the nation in today’s Pakistan. Is there a glimpse of hope anywhere? Is there a silver-lining someplace in sight? Or are we, as a nation, destined to die from the excess of grief and desperation at any moment? Do we have a direction? Do we have a discourse? Are we radar-less, aimless, purposeless and exceedingly becoming pointless?

There is never a day when our weaknesses, what seems to be inherent weaknesses, are not exposed glaringly in our faces – and yet, we refuse to learn. We, as a nation, habitually hide behind lame excuses, and disregard what can be learned from life experiences or from committing insane mistakes. We have become motionless, thoughtless, feeling-less, action-less in a time and moment when continued motion, self-reflection, self-correction and self-improvement are the need of the hour. We are stuck in time – we are in a whirlpool of self-deception, self-destruction and self-illusion. We are not moral, we are not ethical, and we are mis-leading ourselves to a horrifying national abyss of our own making.

Consider, for instance, the recent episode at Islamabad International Airport where a Saudi national, reported to be a diplomat, was physically manhandled and badly beaten up by the airport’s Security Personnel. Let us assume, for the sake of deliberations, that the Saudi national had refused to go through the normal security procedures, had disregarded the Security Personnel’s instructions, had used abusive language and had even become physically violent in response to the polite requests of the officials on duty to obey normal security protocol (indeed, all of it will be verified by CCTV recordings). But the vital question is: even if all of the above- mentioned assumptions are true, can the security personnel’s behavior of physically beating up a passenger be justified? The security officials could have legally detained the passenger, arrested him or even denied him exit until all security requirements were fulfilled. Let me go a step further: as someone in the media has pointed out correctly, had such an incident happened with a Pakistani national at a Saudi airport, the officials there would have dragged the passenger to prison, locked him up and no one would even come to know of his whereabouts for a long time.  But my question is: can this assumption, in principle, justify what happened at the Islamabad airport that day?

I wish to take my argument further still: Let us assume that the passenger in question was not a Saudi diplomat but a Pakistani national who worked as a janitor mopping floors in some office and had refused to obey airport security rules while exiting to travel inland or abroad. Can the airport security ever be legally, morally, ethically or strictly in the line of duty justified to physically assault this person?

The point I am driving at and wish to establish is simple and yet monumental in its effects and consequences: the Islamabad Airport episode is an indication of an emerging national behavior at all levels of society, filtering down from top to bottom, that speaks volumes of the depth of national frustration and the expanding bankruptcy of our public conduct. Obviously, there is a distorted notion of “power” and how to use it. There is a growing disregard for law and its conventions (not that that kind of attitude did not exist in the past – but now it is becoming a “modus-operandi” in our public conduct). There is a fundamental disrespect for human dignity in our behavioral projections. Above all, there is a serious lack of objective reality, common decency, healthy respect and appreciation of ethical-moral norms in public conduct. Our existential judgments in the daily life-cycle and daily life experiences in public conduct and personal affairs suffer from inappropriate unfairness, indifference to others and their rights, misconceived self-righteousness and a dearth of rational discourse in our deliberative conduct. We have lost contact with ourselves, our community, our culture and our civilization. We have been alienated from ourselves and so have no regard for others’ existence. We have lost our own self-respect and consequently lost respect for others.

The Security Officers involved in the afore-mentioned incident at the Islamabad Airport are the living examples of small infected fish, bloated with power delusions and official-ness, in a sea of massive public misconduct seen daily in our national life. The fact of the matter is that in contemporary Pakistan, the obvious and vividly visible public service improprieties in every walk of national life, are directly related to the management style and leadership behavior of our incumbent democratically elected representatives. It seems that present-day democracy has failed us in its ultimate essence: what we have instead, in the form of national affairs managers, is a completely distorted, seriously ailing and decisively disorganized, incompetent political organization and leadership that, in itself, is a threat to this country’s public management.

Consider, the President’s unilateral decision-making in party business and national affairs: the manner in which the party’s leadership was obtained, the oligarchic nature of political structure developed and the loss of personal credibility and integrity, to name only a few issues. The list is exhaustive. Examine the Prime Minister’s public conduct: the obvious disregard for the Supreme Court’s judgments, the alleged corruption charges against his family members, the ill-conceived political nose-thumbing of public opinion, the lack of ethical judgments, the massive unprecedented corruptions under his national stewardship, the growing poverty of the masses, the financial and economic mis-management, the failure of foreign and diplomatic policies and so on and so forth.

Democracy only succeeds and flourishes when role models of higher moral-ethical standards in public conduct are set, demonstrated and acted upon by the elected leadership. Rhetoric, political manipulations and misplaced political showmanship are no substitute for real-time work for public welfare and decency in political behavior. Had the convicted Prime Minister resigned from his office on moral-ethical grounds, had the incumbent written a letter to the Swiss authorities on the instructions of the Supreme Court, or had the President and the Prime Minister subjected themselves to the ethical dignity of their respective offices and democratic norms, the nation would not have been standing at a cross-roads facing the dilemmas of its present political-economic sufferings and a questionable future.

Will our unbearable pains become our remedies? Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf  believes so! Do you? Think and act!

Instigate a people’s revolution – unless you have chosen to die from excessive grief! 

Comments