Cometh the Impasse, Cometh the Man

Author: Saad Masood

For the era of distressed tidings around us and the associated stalemate, no one quote can express the way forward than this “those who have come to an impasse should examine their original intentions; those who have succeeded should note where they are heading”. This saying is borrowed from Hong Zicheng, a Chinese philosopher who lived during the end of the Ming dynasty around the 17th century. He had also seen the workings of state come to a grinding halt and the system paralysed, particularly at the tail end of the Ming rule. That is why his recommendation to those who are stuck to “examine their original intentions” and to those who think they have overcome to “note where they are heading!”
A striking resemblance to the quandary we find ourselves in and consequently perhaps sane advice to the all the actors at large. Consider.
Rightly or wrongly, in the eyes of the common man, the political class has had it too good for too long. The parties that have been in power and those that have been out in the cold have been trading places frequently. All this time, the poor have gotten poorer and the rich have become richer! Social divide has increased many-a-fold and it seems that there is no respite for much of the population. In the meanwhile, the privileged elite have been happy to run only a gamut of power politics and wait their turn to return to the corridors of influence. I have written previously that nothing has enabled politicians to cede their space more than their own policy of running with the hare, hunting with the hounds! If they are to gain some sense of respect and claw back the supremacy of civilian rule then this policy needs to end. As the impasse continues unabated, at-least the political leaders should get their act together and do two things. One, do the best with the available space. Freedom to act may be a limited concept but surely there is a dearth of good governance and a huge gap in service that can be fulfilled. Rather than vie for opportunities that are not available, why not work miracles with the ones you have? Two, and this is most important, come together for a standing agreement that all will only work within the ambit of the constitution and that none of the political parties will seek help outside of their remit and circle of authority. I know this will not be easy. Afterall there are decades of mistrust, animosity and polarisation but there is some merit in generating consensus on this important position without compromising one’s core principles. “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”, said Otto von Bismarck. I sincerely hope his advice is heeded.
The onus to defuse this impasse falls to the government of the day. And this should not be limited to evening talk show invitations but also reflected in concrete actions on the ground to create an atmosphere conducive for dialogue and negotiations. The hounded opposition is in no position to initiate any confidence building measures but for their part, they need to learn that sometimes retreat is the better part of valour and that one should afford a graceful window of exit to even the worst of enemies! Banging your head against the wall only gets you so far in life. When a point has been made and popular support showcased, it is time to gain something out of this stick of confrontation. What exactly you may ask? To replace it with the carrot of reconciliation, but again, without conceding central tenets. They may want to remember that there is always wiggle room between the bottom line and the actual line!
Throughout our history, the judiciary unfortunately has likewise not covered itself with glory. It has played into the hands of populism time and time again! The list of flawed judgements is lengthy and versatile. The jurists of this land may think of themselves as pawns but it is said that pawns are the soul of chess because they alone form the attack and defence! In order to alleviate this current impasse, the time has come to ignore dictation, avoid controversy, dodge political leanings, stick to the rule of law and stand up for the often-threatened constitution! Whatever the judges decide, they must get off the fence and stand on the right side of history as anything less will be tantamount to personifying Dante’s warning, “the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis”.
The true omens of power also need to learn from history and ask whether this is the outcome that was expected? Maybe there is a better way of allowing the country to function albeit at the same time keeping the security paradigm intact and non-negotiable. Albert Einstein, arguably the smartest amongst us, said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. In the interest of resolving the impasse, and for the sake of progress, it is maybe high time to ponder over this quotation from Einstein.
These are drastic times that require drastic actions and novel thinking. Supreme among them is to be the bigger man and give the other enough space to sit, discuss, agree and jointly move forward. Admittedly, it is not easy especially when there are such staunch positions everywhere we look but the country can ill-afford this standoff. Cometh the impasse, cometh the man?

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