Honeymoon of death

The light of our time, Asma Jahangir, became an embodiment of this struggle. She revived Sartre’s promise: ‘commitment is an act not a word’

“A heretic is a man,” GE Lessing says, “who sees with his own eyes”. “…the greatest beauty lies in the clarity of things”. If one has the courage to see the reality with clarity, one must look to the land of the pure where life finds itself in the death throes. The battle to protect human dignity by preserving the sanity is all over but the shouting. The hounds are howling and vultures are waiting for the unholy communion of death and devastation to reach its dark filthy finale. It’s a portrait of regression, of a graveyard of living beings, where the deaf, blind but shrieking cadavers rule — and rule with menace. There is great upheaval under the sun and things are not ideal.

“Hate”, Frantz Fanon says, “is not inborn, it has to be cultivated, to be brought into being, in conflict with more or less recognised guilt complexes. Hate demands existence and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behavior; in a sense, he has to become hate. That is why Americans have substituted discrimination for lynching. Each to his own side of the street”. But here Fanon faltered: he could not foresee the existence of savages suffering from necrophilia who would love lynching to shed their brutality on the innocent human beings to attain the libidinal gratification even in the 21st century.

Freud made the same mistake of calculation when he thought that people had learnt their lesson. Instead of killing, they had restricted their libidinal pleasure to the burning of his books. A man of his genius could not apprehend the intensity of starvation or the perversion of the starved, though Sartre, to some extent, did when he said, “it disturbs me no more to find men base, unjust, or selfish than to see apes mischievous, wolves savage, or the vultures ravenous”. “Hell is other people” but, contrary to Camus, suicide is no more a philosophical problem, it has become a generalised phenomenon. The ‘hell’ is soulless; the parasitic puritans live on others’ flesh. The others can be Marxists, ‘infidels’, Baloch or any minority for that matter.

From Indonesia to Chile to Pakistan, the farce of religious revival was repeated without even a modest cosmetic change. The fire of religious hatred which augmented the fuel of capital had its downside as well. The society was thoroughly brutalised. The religion providing no economic respite became a tool to quell the dissenting voices

Hate, the bizarre phenomenon let loose by the pretorian guards, has finally matured. Those running amok with colorful turbans are the modern-day version of Brown and Black shirts, which were instrumental in maintaining the ironclad control of fascists on the reins of power. The massive number of lumpen has found its utility: it coerces the people into conformity. The messy job of cleaning the dirty linen of the mentors has been shifted to this unproductive stratum by the forces that have created them. A divine terror unleashed by the guards to guard their interests without denting their own honor is something tactful and Machiavellian. Yet those who can smell the blood know where the blood streak is coming from. Irrespective of public personas, those who find a reason to kill in the name of religion their faces and identities are not hidden from the people. The grisly drama, from the inception, is endlessly staged at the border, in Balochistan, out in the plains of Punjab, with all those who differ — Mashal, human rights activists, leftist journalists, and so on. Does one need Einstein’s grey matter to understand the pathology that afflicts Pakistan and the dominant interest of those it serves?

Fascism is ruthless, unrelenting and a form of a government that needs totalitarianism to succeed. It is the government of big capital, defeated and subjugated unions, and the armed forces led by a man of destiny who leads his people straight to the graveyard of history. It is the rule of terror that can only last till it remains beneficial to the needs of the capital. Nazis were not ruled by Hitler or his coterie but by the ‘air arm’, the Gestapo and the labour front and, behind the façade, the invisible power of big business was playing its role. In the land of the pure, the role of the first two was closely knitted with the job of the pretorian guards. The march that began from the border continued inwards to the domination of the state for wresting the control of its resources. It turned the Martials into one of the biggest but invisible capitalists of the country. The petty job of inflicting direct terror was outsourced to the other loosely formed gelatinous stratum of the society having no role in the process of production.

The religious parties, who survived initially on the fallen crumbs of the guards, became eager compatriots and willing partners in the lucrative process of accumulation. To enhance the wealth and to wield power, their help was instrumental in securing the ‘ideological borders’ of the state from those demanding a just, equitable and secular society. From Indonesia to Chile to Pakistan, the farce of religious revival was repeated without even a modest cosmetic change. The fire of religious hatred which augmented the fuel of capital — falling as ‘manna’ courtesy of Saudis and, in times of imperialists’ needs, the CIA — had its downside as well. The society was thoroughly brutalised. The religion providing no economic respite became a tool to quell the dissenting voices.

The domination maintained through coercion is unsustainable — it loses its legitimacy. The social contradictions can be undermined temporarily but their intensity is bound to become vivid. Germany, to the advantage of Hitler, was a monolithic nation. Under the economic catastrophe, the slogan of ‘blood and soil’ and Lebensraum helped the Nazis to overcome the simmering questions of class contradictions but despite providing ‘butter before guns’, the mirage did not last long. In countries like Pakistan comprising of multiple nationalities with massive inequality and an ever-deteriorating economy, the slogans of ‘jihad and security’ ring hollow and remain unhallowed by the masses. Fully realising the farce, the Big Brother has invoked another issue, that of blasphemy. No one except the lumpen element, a fraction of the middle class and those with a high stake in this primitive system is interested in the political gimmickry around this issue.

It has given free rein to those looking for bread and circus. They are lynching people in cold blood as they walk scot-free, taking out processions and threatening to drench more ‘blasphemers’ in blood through acts of violence. They flout the norms of law and justice brazenly, yet neither the writ of the state nor the sanctity of the court is thought to be challenged. Conversely, any one vying for basic human needs of the downtrodden or insisting to give peace a chance, especially with the people across the border, is eclipsed in the wee hours of the night — liquidated or recovered terrorised, traumatised and ‘purified’. But in the time of helplessness, murderous rampage becomes a collective unconscious — for their own benefit, the guards must heed to Fanon’s word of caution.

It is the worst of time, Marcuse anticipated it long before us: “the intellectual is called on the carpet, for speaking a suspect language not spoken by the majority but like a foreigner not belonging here, (he is) threatened to be cut down to the size, to be purged”. For how long one can suffer? Is it not the question of to-be or not-to-be for those who wish to follow the dictates of their conscience? Sartre once said, “no indulgence can erase the marks of violence: violence alone can eliminate them”. Those who have sown the wind of violence will reap the hurricane of its consequences, but how? Sartre has the answer by “making people ashamed of their existence … Teaching them to become aware of the potentials they have forbidden themselves … to upset, if necessary, the chain of command, but in any case, and most assuredly, to stand up to the world”. The light of our time, Asma Jahangir, became an embodiment of this struggle. She revived Sartre’s promise: “commitment is an act not a word”.

The writer has authored books on socialism and history. He blogs at saulatnagi.wordpress.com and can be reached atsaulatnagi@hotmail.com

Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2018.