THE WAY IT WAS : The way it should not be —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan
Prejudice — even in the face of abject defeat and humiliation — assumes
complete superiority over others in terms of courage, ethnic and racial
superiority, faith and personal hygiene. Those prejudiced against are considered
cowardly and deceitful. They exude offensive body odour
On the Fourteenth of August, a newspaper carried a sub-headline, “Pervaiz says Pakistanis must create harmony and stop hating.” What a splendid Independence Day thought. I wish it could be done as easily as taking off the Uniform. Personally, I have no inclination whatsoever to ask anyone to disrobe when what is being worn is so abundantly transparent. Clothes are a matter of personal choice but civilised conduct demands they be appropriate for the place and the occasion. But where Pakistan comes first, who cares.
There is this story about a king having been deceived into believing he had been brought fine clothes no fools could see. He paraded through town with his royal body totally bare of garments. None of his courtiers and attendants dared tell him that he was actually in the nude. Even the citizens who found the sight rather embarrassing did not take courage to jeer an advice to the royal ear. Wherever a group of raucous youth were unable not muffle their laughter the king waved to acknowledge their loyalty and love for him. Everyone knows the end. One sunny day a foolish lad screamed in everyone’s hearing, “Look! The king has no clothes.” No one was surprised except for the king.
The lesson is that one should tightly hold on to one’s uniform and not be duped into changing it for nothing. In the old days a king without a often lost his head. Today without the uniform he may not find a thing to sit on. This leads us to another question: if Hate is all a person has, will he abandon it merely for being asked to? “Love your neighbour” is all very well but if the neighbour deprives you of your rights and possessions he can only be hated. It is the person responsible for Hate who deserves a reprimand and not the one who hates him. I have heard it said that a person should not expend his anger so easily that he won’t have it when it is needed most.
Fortunately beat of a drum can still chasten the heart and a sluggish soul to action. The monotony of a hypothetical middle-class existence can be so awfully tiresome and boring. A life punctuated by self-deception, pursuance of tasks and challenges lauded by men with hard noses and bad breath. Actually life is bit of a joke, anointed by wise men with leisure to speculate. Ever since intellectual labour has become a profession most intellectuals, as they are called now, claim monopoly over ideas. They will not soil their hands to weed out lies from truth but prefer to spin virtue from profit. The vulgar believe that the world can be a better place without the intellectuals. Is that possible?
There was a time when new ideas spurred men to action. Philosophy was the foundation of Greek civilisation. Even in the age of the Tyrants, the rulers could not do without the philosophers. If a Tyrant didn’t find one he got one from abroad. In our time what is considered socially and politically right rests on naked self- assertion and needs no philosophical, moral or popular justification. In fact, philosophy and morality is regarded a hurdle in state affairs, something foreign to reality, a figment of poetic imagination. It has been ingrained in the popular mind that poetry, art and philosophy are unreal, creations of daydreamers. This allows political barons to act upon their whims without blinking. The danishwar, of course, provides the requisite verbiage to justify their actions.
Literature, art and philosophy — that includes science — enlarge and enrich our feelings and ideas and enable us to become bigger than we are. They facilitate us to enter into a more human relationship with others as well as our ‘self’. In an ever-changing world they empower us to judge others as well as our own actions — everyday, every moment.
Hate, returning to the subject, is nurtured — more often than not — by prejudice. Prejudice thrives on a worldview where things are permanent and static. They cannot change. Prejudice — even in the face of abject defeat and humiliation — assumes complete superiority over others in terms of courage, ethnic and racial superiority, faith and personal hygiene. Those prejudiced against are considered cowardly and deceitful. They exude offensive body odour. The Hindu, the Christian, the Jew, the minority, the other — and now, the civilian — have this common failing.
Prejudice, to reiterate the point, is the father of hate and mother of violence. Wherever there is violence and terror, regardless of who is right or wrong, the common man gets hurt. When the Iraqi people retaliate against the US presence in Iraq, American and Iraqi mothers both lose their sons. Let me add that it brings little satisfaction to a mother who has lost her son to count how many other mothers have lost theirs. When America goes to war the American mothers have their sons harvested. I could not contain myself when in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 the camera focused on the parents of a young American soldier killed in the Iraq war. The father resting his hand on the inert hand of his wife to comfort and gain strength from her, the mother pouring out in anguish an unconstrained trickle of tears and words, mumbling that it was unnatural to call upon the old to bury their young.
Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist