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The civilizational context

Culture evolves over time. Civilizations take generations. In both instances, it would happen only if the initiative were supported by an intense consciousness. However, if there is a level of insensitivity about its desirability, a deterioration automatically sets in which may vanquish whatever may have been achieved at some point in time.

Over time, going to public places or events has become a hazard in the country. These are usually terribly disorganised, made even worse through a gross display of rowdyism and ill manners. That is why, despite the educational and learning experience that such events usually provide, one is constrained to stay away. Unfortunately, that is taking away a major source of learning for those who may be interested in assimilating and putting the knowledge thus gathered to substantive and productive use.1

As part of my fellowship programme at the King’s College, I happened to attend the annual lecture by the Royal Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston. This time, it was in the shape of an interview conducted by Caroline Wyatt, a former defence correspondent of the BBC. Instead of the noisy affair that one mostly expects back home, this turned out to be an educative and enlightening event with the air chief marshal talking fluently about geo-strategic matters, the UK’s leadership role in the world and the challenges it faces, sophistication of equipment, the efforts which are underway to maintain the balance and a number of other related matters. There were informed questions from the audience which sat in pin-drop silence through the interview and there were online enquiries which were all responded to. There was no jostling, no shouting, no breaking out of line.

The event took place at the Bush House Auditorium which was not taken over by security 24 hours in advance of the event. There were no blaring cars announcing the arrival of the chief guest and no long queues of personnel to receive the air marshal. He came in like any other participant. Clad in his uniform, he took his place in a chair and opposite him sat Caroline Wyatt and the interview commenced. As announced, it finished in exactly 60 minutes followed by a reception for those who had attended. I did not feel suffocated. I kept breathing. Yes, I collected a wealth of knowledge in a short span of one hour.

There is palpable discipline wherever one goes: there are lines at the underground, at bus stops, at eating places, or any other location where groups of people may gather. Nobody tries to wrest anyone else’s place, yet everyone ends up doing what they had arrived there to do. This is reflective of a desire to order one’s life in a manner that one can get the maximum out of it. This will not happen by fighting to do it before others. It is rooted in the practice of taking your turn when it comes just like others would at their own turn.

The lack of observance of this essential ingredient of discipline is reflective of a mindset which believes that some people are more equal than others. They feel they don’t have to put in any effort to earn their living. Instead, they can enjoy what they have inherited, or what they accumulate through illicit means. They would not do their own work. Instead, they would send their menials to do it for them. This belief in societal disparity runs deep for establishing the ability of some over the rest with money playing a key role in defining this unjust and inequitable dispensation. People believe that they can buy whatever they may want with their money, even take over the state itself: they can buy a seat in the legislature or in the senate; they can get their children admitted to the best schools irrespective of whether they qualify to be there; they can buy courts and shape justice according to their wishes; they can buy institutions to make laws, amend them or bend them to suit their wishes.

There is no end to this paradigm of superiority. In a country like Pakistan, its benefits are endless and costs negligible. Those born in luxury take it as a means of living and would break any challenges that may threaten to constrain their freedom and urge them to live by law and its constituent ingredients. That exhortation has no appeal for such people who consider this commodity to be their handmaiden, always obliged to serve their cause.

This malady has now been institutionalized in the country with everyone benefiting from its profit. A person who was to be indicted for crimes of massive money laundering escaped to become the prime minister. His son, who was a co-accomplice, became the chief minister of the largest province of the country. Over 50 per cent of the cabinet members administered the oath of office were wanted by various courts of law for a variety of gruesome crimes. All of them had only one bounty they could use to get this relief: an excess of pelf accumulated by misusing their previous stints in power.

The issue is not that only few political parties or groups of people are afflicted with this malady. This is a national cancer. It has spread right across the societal expanse with everyone taking it as a right to exploit the benefits which they cannot legitimately claim as theirs. They try to justify their actions by saying that when everyone is making use of it, why can’t they? To accentuate the malady further, even political parties are managed as private limited companies with various positions filled through nominations by the heads. While they never desist from preaching for more democracy in the country, they practice dynastic politics within their parties with the leadership always passing on from the father/mother to son/daughter. No ordinary member of the party can even dream of leading it. This culture of inequity is practised within the political parties which constitute the context why they become national leaders. This cancer is deep rooted.

One is lost in a maze of existential issues that we suffer from as a nation. One cannot make out where to begin the remedial process. If I were the one given the task, I would put discipline at the top of the bucket list. Honouring the commitments via the social contract would be the next. Unless that happens and the state begins to invest in the wellbeing of the people, the sordid culture of inequity that has caught roots will only become stronger. The list is endless. We are well past the danger zone.

Raoof Hasan, "The civilizational context," The News. 2022-12-09.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social issues , Social contract , Civilizations , Politics , Caroline Wyatt , Mike Wigston , Pakistan , BBC