Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Random Thoughts

It is the season to be busy at work, so I am unable to write a coherent post but these scattered thoughts were itching to get out:

1. Pakistani anchor Talat has written an interesting piece in Urdu in which the conceit is to start with a long section that sounds like one of Tahir ul Qadri or Imran Khan's speeches and then reveal that it is the Urdu translation of one of Goebbel's speeches.
"These days anyone has the right to speak in Germany — the Jew, the Frenchman, the Englishman, the League of Nations, the conscience of the world, and the Devil knows who else. Everyone but the German worker. He has to shut up and work. Every four years he elects a new set of torturers, and everything stays the same. That is unjust and treasonous. We need tolerate it no longer. We have the right to demand that only Germans who build this state may speak, those whose fate is bound to the fate of their fatherland.

Therefore we demand the destruction of the system of exploitation! Up with the German worker’s state!

Germany for the Germans!"

This is actually very apt. TUQ is consciously and IK is unconsciously (lacking the smarts to understand such things and easily manipulated by clever men) using this exact line in Pakistan. Co-opting the vocabulary of "revolution", "overthrow of elites" etc created by the Left, the fascist wing of the Paknationalist movement is preparing the ground for an overthrow of democracy and the implementation of a long-held dream: the Chakwal solution. May Allah protect us all.

2. The delegitimization of the 2013 elections continues apace, aided by several media houses (especially the pro-army ARY group, long known for its close links with the hard-paknationalist faction and the intelligence agencies) and feckless mainstream politicians who had made rigging allegations as per the usual Pakistani routine and who now find themselves unable to point out that this election was actually fairer than most Pakistani elections and even if there had been NO irregularities whatsoever, PTI could not conceivably have won (a cursory looks the winning margins and candidates will confirm this fact).
This of course does not mean the election was completely fair. There were many irregularities, (though maybe less than those seen in the last election), with the worst cases in KPK (ANP and PPP unable to campaign thanks to the Taliban lending a hand), interior Sindh (intimidation by local bigwigs) and Karachi (the worst case of all, led by MQM gangsterism)...none of which are a focus of Imran Khan's protest.
So, the election, whose outcome would not have been very different even if most irregularities were avoided, has been delegitimized. The point is to overthrow the system, not to fix it. 
This is not rocket science, but it does need to be said again and again.

3. A somewhat parochial point, in that it is a peculiar obsession of mine based on my own history and the background I come from....I recognize that it may not be as important as it looms in my life.....but anyway, here goes: someday Allah may call the Pakistani Left to account for the fact that their main historical role seems to have been to prepare the narrative tropes that are now being used by every right wing force in Pakistan (not just the military-sponsored adventurers, but also the religious parties and even the Taliban);  not only has the Left provided the vocabulary (and ALL of the poetry) of "revolution" and "jab taj uchaley jaen gay" (when the crowns are knocked off heads), they have also undermined the intellectual foundations of the (already weak) elite faction that could have stood up for liberal democracy in Pakistan.The middle classes are obviously not all in favor of liberal democracy. They are also a breeding ground for "national-socialism" and religious fundamentalist groups, but the fraction of them that could be expected to argue for liberal democracy is further weakened in Pakistan by the penetration of Marxist-Leninist tropes among people who do not otherwise consider themselves part of the revolutionary Left.  This (mostly superficial and shallow) adoption of left-wing narratives and cliches does not imply that most of these people have stopped having servants and maids (god forbid) or have any deep interest in preserving our ancient way of life in the face of evil modernity (quite the contrary, most are looking for "progress and prosperity", just like good middle class people in other third world countries); but to a surprising extent, in Pakistan their narratives about the wold are derived (usually without any detailed knowledge of the source) from relatively small Marxist-Leninist parties and their intellectual fellow travelers. What I am saying is that this superficial and frequently muddled idle talk does seem to have a real effect on the way many educated people see the world and what patterns they impose on it. One of those patterns is a distrust of liberal democracy and a vague yearning for revolution. This leaves their representatives (and many journalists for example fall in this category) seriously handicapped when confronted with clever demagogues condemning liberal democracy and demanding revolution. (I must stress that i am not talking here about the relatively tiny band of deeply committed Marxists and/or Luddites, both groups having serious issues in my opinion, but both having some semi-rational basis for THEIR mistrust of liberal democracy and modern capitalism). Its a convoluted point, and I apologize for not being clearer. But something like this does seem to be going on...and it is handicapping the liberal democrats in the debates that are going on today in Pakistan...

PS: I promised @umairjav that I would rewrite this...Now I dont think I will rewrite this point, just try to clarify it a bit: It is NOT about people who actually worked for Left wing causes or understood (to varying extents) the finer points of Marxist theology. THOSE people are NOT in PTI (for the most part). They can be found in the PPP, the ANP, various Sindhi and Baloch nationalist organizations and so on, but rarely in the PTI. I am aware of that. My dig is not meant to imply that Leftists have themselves become PTI activists (most PTI activists were probably born after the first death of Marxism-Leninism in 1991). No, my thought process went something like this: 

  • The "Left" (especially in Punjab) has very little direct impact on current Pakistani political shenanigans. The first part of the dig is a dig at the surprising irrelevance of the Left.
  • But thanks to the prominence of the old Left in various cultural spheres and the extraordinary popularity of Leftist talking points (not the same thing as saying "domination of leftist parties or their economic policies") in postcolonial educated people (again, think of it this way: even right wing politicians in our countries absorbed many disembodied memes that had originally been birthed in Marxist or Bolshevik circles as part of a greater whole of "imperialism the last stage of capitalism" type analysis), even these kids have absorbed notions of revolution, revolutionary change and the overthrow of the elites. 
  • Its possible I am overstating the role of the Left in creating these memes. I dont think so at this point (i.e. I dont think I am overstating it), but I am open to this possibility :)
  • I have either clarified or dug myself deeper into the hole...or both. Got to run...

4. And last but not the least, congratulations India (and particularly the Indian Space Research Organization) on achieving a historic first: a Mars mission that has worked at first attempt. An amazing accomplishment, especially consdiering that they spent less on this mission than Hollywood spends on an average blockbuster movie production. Well done..

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), in Pakistan you cannot see the above videos because youtube is still banned in Pakistan. Allah works in mysterious ways...