“There is no flag large enough,” says Howard Zinn, “to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” But does anyone — an individual or a nation — who commits such a gruesome crime really want to cover his shame? This query escaped the piquant wit of one of the greatest historians of all times. Let us put this question another way: when the Caliban of insanity rules the roost, would it not be droll to think that a barrier of shame would likely hinder the liquidation of someone who talks sense?
We are living in dangerous but interesting times. Our era is marred with contradictions of all hues. To please the goddess of democracy at its altar some dictators, who by any means are considered as detractors of the international hegemony of capital, are being sacrificed, while on some non-condescending nations a few of their ilk are simultaneously imposed. Nations cannot be left alone since they are incapable of defining the quantity of liberation they need. A bigger dose can prove detrimental for them unless determined by the supreme powers; after all their hegemonic interests rein supreme. Democracy was a panacea prescribed by western nations and hence the criterion of reality too lies with them. Only they know where the cause of democracy is best served — by political fascism or its equally vile alter ego, spiritual fascism. In Greece and Ukraine the former is found suitable while in Syria and Libya the latter is considered ideal. One who cannot savour this nuance is very likely to quote Nazim Hikmat, “Searching for democracy is” now akin to “searching for a virgin in a whorehouse”. “Domination,” Herbert says, “has its own aesthetics and democratic domination has its democratic aesthetics”. In life, an individual may march to an accord of his own making but in the life of a nation, destination and destiny both are decided by imperial powers.
Like democracy, reality too has lost its rationality. ‘Unfreedom’ is declared as being freedom and subjugation has become emancipation. Society is contradicting itself. In underdeveloped countries, where cultural sublimation has yet to reach its acme, society has returned to primordial chaos. It has transformed into a brutal, barbaric and senseless aggregation of people who, in case of failing to comply with their belief, do not hesitate to unfurl the flag of their violence. In moments, the unscrupulous ‘heretic’ is turned into a cadaver and left uncovered as a headless, limbless torso. His remains are considered unworthy of a flag or a coffin. Instead of shame it is pride that overwhelms the crowd’s insanity. Franz Neumann says, “If life is an original datum, irreducible and not open to critical examination, if the whole stands categorically before the individual, if obedience is owed because a leader is endowed with superhuman, God-like qualities, then reason is excluded.” Once unreason becomes the only reason, the neurosis of the individual turns into what Eric Fromm describes as a “culturally patterned defect”. It plays havoc with the psychology of the masses. Due to economic uncertainty, the middle class is more prone to be afflicted by this. The media dominated by the ruling class, which finds such a defect a God-given opportunity, leans over it. As Herbert Marcuse suggests, “To be sure, there is pervasive unhappiness, and the unhappy consciousness is shaky enough — a thin surface over fear, frustration, and disgust. This unhappiness lends itself easily to political mobilisation; without room for conscious development, it may become the instinctual reservoir for a new fascist way of life and death.”
In these horrific circumstances, under the influence of sustained propaganda, a new reality is shaped, which is self-negating. Public opinion becomes a tool for invisible forces, hence a substitute for reason. A reality akin to this absorbs all alternatives; subjugation to such a reality, which is a false unconsciousness, is not only convenient but considered a logical alternative. This becomes the “illusory triumph of democratic progress. It consumes the intellectual substance on which democracy has lived” (Max Horkheimer).
The law against blasphemy is one, which has consumed the intellectual substance of those who, on the media, boast about their ‘intellect’. By twisting people’s imagination into many tangles, these ogre-like hawks croon the same ditty demanded of them. For the people, the little knowledge of these myrmidons comes at a very dear price, which results in utter confusion. If this remains the epic of intellect, it is difficult to discern between intellect and neurosis or a seizure by an undiagnosed malady. Spinoza says, “Many people are seized by one and the same effect with great consistency. All his senses are so strongly affected by one object that he believes this object to be present even if it is not. If this happens while the person is awake, the person is believed to be insane...But if the greedy person thinks only of money and possessions, the ambitious one only of fame, one does not think of them as being insane, but only as annoying; generally one has contempt for them but factually greediness, ambition and so forth are forms of insanity, although usually one does not think of them as ‘illness’.” These words, stated by this great philosopher a few hundred years ago, still stand true. This insanity or neurosis has not only become a common phenomenon among the hegemonic powers, it has overwhelmed the people of underdeveloped nations as well who consider their faith, belief or creed as indispensible, final and immutable. “Shallowness,” says Oscar Wilde, “is the supreme vice.” One needs to realise the follies of one’s thought since “whatever is realised is right”, he concludes.
The poisoned chalice of religion poured swiftly in its veins has actually paralysed the nerves of this nation, especially those belonging to the middle class. The wits it once had have already been consumed by the confusion instilled by economic catastrophe, a situation similar to Germany, which brought Hitler into power. ‘Juden aus’ (Jews out) was the slogan raised to divert people from economic issues. In today’s Pakistan, ‘blasphemers out’ is its exact translation. The only difference is that Hitler wanted to sell them while here a sally of anger, a disguised economic disgust, is finding its grisly expression in a hideous manner. A state of illusion has become a reality and, in the case of Pakistan, perhaps the only one. A good bit of the army, almost all the local media and a sizeable portion of the middle class have been addicted to this ‘state’ to the extent that, to salvage its reverence, they can go to any extent. No government in Pakistan wants to change this mindset since it suits its nefarious designs. If such chaos is settled, people are likely to become conscious of the cause of their servitude and will seek real freedom — the freedom from want. This is not commensurate with its goals. Hence it would keep this Frankenstein alive. What the state fails to realise is that the Elizabethan terror perpetrated by this Frankenstein with its connivance can be followed by its antithesis, the Jacobin terror — the era of barricades and the guillotine, which consequently had the king decapitated.
“Society,” states Oscar Wilde, “often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.” In a society where, according to Adorno, “Every detail is firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear, which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight”, in such a totalitarian society, “the denunciation of what is called currently reason is the greatest service reason can render” (Max Horkheimer). At the cost of their lives, this is what all the ‘dreamers’ can do. For them, the bell of Thantos will keep tolling. The super-ego will continue to curb the basic instinct of freedom. But, as George Orwell states, “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Hence the dreamers not only have to promote the truth but also reject what Baudelaire calls “the drab canvas we accept as life, it is because we are not bold enough”.
Increasingly, there is something unsavoury about old democracies like the US and UK. Not that their ...