Afridi, democracy and myths

If the vice chancellor of a university suspends students for expressing their views, how exactly can they be promoting peace in the region? Perhaps it is time for the proponents of normalising relations to face reality

Catchy title again, right? Before clarifying the relationship between Afridi, democracy and myths, a clarification is in order. Belonging to the rare group of Pakistanis, in fact extremely rare, who do not follow cricket, and do not even know who the national team captain is — perhaps not that big a booboo since the captains keep changing every now and then — any error emanating out of lack of knowledge of the game may be condoned. On the other hand, perhaps this is the right qualification for joining the cricket board. This does bring to mind a particular extremely frustrated utterance of a normal cricket loving Pakistani when the team was faring terribly on a previous encounter with the arch enemy and Afridi got sent to the pavilion for a duck: “They should kick him out of the team; anybody can score a duck!”
Good thing that nobody listened to him, for anyone can score a duck, but only Afridi can hit two great, hugely memorable, consecutive sixes to send the Indians packing. And the best part of the sixes, abundantly more satisfying, was the expressions of pure unadulterated dismay, indisputably noticeable in the demeanour of the opposing team. Kudos Afridi! As the younger generation might say, “You’re the man!”
Having already confessed a complete lack of interest in the game, it was indeed an anomaly to have sat in front of the television to watch the entire match, and that too after years, but in the end it was well worth the effort. Admittedly, when the national team was struggling towards the fag end of the game, concerns about personal loss was the only reason the idiot box survived total annihilation; the other option was the near impossible task of kicking oneself in the nether regions for wasting a Sunday. 
And then it was Afridi’s turn to bat. At that point, based on the narrative, built upon feedback from cricket loving friends that the man is highly unreliable, feelings of anguish that all was lost were overpowering — until those fateful two balls and ‘boom boom’! Frankly, those two sixes more than balance all the years of letdown, and then some; all credit to him, and then some! Definitely, ‘boom boom’ Afridi is not a myth — he is as real as they come.
So, while Pakistan celebrates this much needed moment of happiness, amidst all the prevalent uncertainties, what does the world’s largest, self-proclaimed secular democracy do? They charge 67 Kashmiri students, for cheering Pakistan to victory, with treason! Prior to deliberating the question, democracy: a myth or reality, there is a more pressing observation. If the vice chancellor of a university suspends students for expressing their views, how exactly can they be promoting peace in the region? Perhaps it is time for the proponents of normalising relations to face reality. On multiple occasions the duplicity of the mindset across the border has manifested itself in unpalatable and hostile actions. There is every reason to have a more cautious approach going forward. 
As pointed out in last week’s writing, encouraging debate, or freedom of expression, is considered one of the foremost advantages of democracy but how can there be a debate if there is no dissent? Coincidentally, The Economist recently published an essay titled ‘What’s gone wrong with democracy’, which by the way should be a useful read for those blinded by the theory of democracy. The author observed that democracy’s global advance has come to a halt. Unfortunately, the article has pre-empted this write up, in so far as when it pointed out that the disillusionment with the working of this particular political system was strengthened when the financial crisis of 2008 revealed fundamental weaknesses and, to quote, “Governments bailed out bankers with taxpayers money and then stood by impotently as financiers continued to pay themselves huge bonuses.”
For ease of reference, considering that this is necessary for challenging the myth, certain other observations in The Economist’s write up are reproduced: “The 2013 Pew Survey of Global Attitudes showed that 85 percent of Chinese were ‘very satisfied’ with their country’s direction, compared with 31 percent Americans.” And, most damagingly, “American democracy is for sale and the rich have more power than the poor.” Amazing! Will wonders ever cease? Last but not least, “Patrick French, a British historian, notes that every member of India’s lower house under the age of 30 is a member of a political dynasty.” What would have been even more interesting is the same analysis of the American lower house. Nonetheless, how dynastic rule improves the conditions of the poor in the future when it failed to do so in the past remains a mystery. What can however be concluded is that the world’s largest democracy is not what it seems to be.
The leftovers from last week’s straightening of the record were the Magna Carta and the English Civil War. For the record, the Magna Carta was a deal between the king and the nobility in 1215, primarily driven by the feudal barons to limit the king’s powers and protect their interests. The belief that the feudal would have acted in the interests of the very masses he ruled, is rather puzzling. Notwithstanding that King John was quick to tear up the Magna Carta, once again how can something have roots in events that happened centuries ago?
For the record, Oliver Cromwell, right after signing the death warrant of King Charles I, was elevated to the position of Lord Protector and ruled the nation with an ‘iron fist’. On his death, his son attempted to be the next lord, at which point everyone figured that a monarchy was far better than a protectorate, and swiftly crowned Charles II — long live the king. For the record, Oliver Cromwell was later posthumously executed. Once again, how all this fits in with democracy’s narrative is extremely befuddling. Frankly, this history should be used to project a monarchy!
Effectively, democracy’s history cannot be later than after World War II; perhaps another time. To conclude, according to The Economist’s democracy index 2011, only 15 countries of the world could be labelled full democracies. More than 88 percent of the world’s population lived under flawed democracy, hybrid rule or authoritarian rule. So what exactly is the ruckus about?
At the end of the day, the pursuit of the best political system continues.

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Aaj Kal