“A thousand times we die in one life. We crumble, break and tear apart until the layers of illusion are burned away and all that is left is the truth of who and what we really are.” —Teal Scott Much has been documented on the phenomenon of the demise of truth. It is a reality that one is so agonisingly confronted with. Instead, what we have is an art form that people seek to master. In contemporary genre, it is that mirror that one has to look into to see oneself and quickly plaster necessary embellishments to act the role that one has to act, or, in the words of T. S. Eliot, “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”. Everything that we see around is so artfully nuanced and so clinically orchestrated to create an impression that is deemed appropriate to be projected. In doing so, no care is taken of whether what is being said or done has any semblance of truth to it. The deeper one digs, the more one realises that it is neither the case, nor is it ever intended. What is so abundantly on display is a crass compilation of meaningless words spoken with an overdose of emotion and anger to mislead a gullible people. In the process, angels are being created of devils and virtuous pontiffs of wretched souls. Fascist leaders who owed their existence to offering vile support to dictators, even referring to them as greater than the Quaid, are remembered as champions of democracy. And those who were delivered by the military as the spoilt brats of the system, and who kept clamouring to fulfil the mission of that demon dictator, General Zia ulHaq, are now projected as the rebel boys, fighting for the cause of a genuine democratic polity. Inside the parliament and outside, people are going hoarse alleging victimisation. Everyone is trying desperately to escape a date with justice on mere technicalities: that it is not within the jurisdiction of this court, or it does not fall within the domain of that institution. There is no one willing to face it and fight for exoneration by providing substantive proof of innocence. On the contrary, the stress is on keeping it all buried deep by refusing to submit before law. In doing this, the accused, by design and purpose, play around with the weaknesses of the system, using one institution against the other, and exploiting them all to advance their cause of muddling the truth. As T. S. Eliot put it: “The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms.” So, where do we look for those eyes that saw the truth, but have turned into hollow sockets? Where do we seek those lips that were eager to say it all, but couldn’t garner the strength? Where do we see those stars that spread their mellow light for all to soak in, but remained hidden behind blankets of clouds? We have none of that in our midst. Instead, we have stony brains which have been frozen for generations, buried under loads of their sins, and driven by the devilish urge to take the attention away from where it should be focussed – in our pursuit of the truth, discovering it in all its captivating hues, shades and manifestations, and spreading it around so that we could see things in their all-encompassing relevance, and comprehend them with their untarnished meanings. Where do we look for those eyes that saw the truth, but have turned into hollow sockets? Where do we seek those lips that were eager to say it all, but couldn’t garner the strength? Where do we see those stars that spread their mellow light for all to soak in, but remained hidden behind blankets of clouds? We have none of that in our midst. Instead, we have stony brains which have been frozen for generations O’ my, my! What hope am I generating! I remember my grandparents’ times. I remember the prevalent custom of naming and shaming those who were found wanting in any characteristics deemed appropriate for acceptable conduct. If such aberrations were not remedied by censure, the deviants would even be banished from the community. This was an accepted norm which acted as an effective deterrent. Not any longer. Instead, we have a culture of espousal of crime. We have alleged criminals, even those who have been found guilty, waving victory signs as if committing a crime were an act of honour. And there are long trails of sycophants lined up like servile creatures to pay homage to errant leaders, hoping that a day may yet come when they ascend the throne again to dispense bounties for all to share, with no questions asked as to their source or legitimacy. And we have a parliament where naming and shaming the criminals is dubbed a felony, and where an alleged offender is made the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), ostensibly to dig into massive financial irregularities of the previous five years when his elder brother was the prime minister, and he the chief minister of the largest province of the country. What travesty! And, yet, we have the temerity to claiming that we would not allow any harm to come to ‘democracy’! What we have is not democracy whose essence is rooted in accountability at all levels: within the political parties, within the government, in the parliament, and in all other state institutions which fall within the domain of the administration. Without accountability, it is no democracy that we have. Instead, crooked family oligarchies have been raised which are being protected by manipulating vile methods and mechanisms. In the process, truth is lost. Nobody wants it and nobody seeks it for it may act as the hatchet to cut some reigns short. The garish desire is for indulgence in corruption to be uninterrupted with no constraints and no curbs imposed, no institutions engaged in unearthing it and no courts empowered to punishing it. Authoritarianism and coercion should be the acknowledged hallmarks of such dispensations. I write these lines with profound pain and anguish. With the loss of truth, we have lost our way. There is no ray of light filtering through to guide us to our salvation. We are only left with our contorted logic which is tailored to saving us from the stranglehold of accountability and having it all to ourselves – the loot and the plunder that we have indulged in so remorselessly, without remit and hindrance. This loot, this plunder has become our belief, our religion, our ethos. We want it as our incontrovertible right, benignly insensitive to the torment such pursuit may cause to the people and the state. It is time to climb down from the pedestal of our self-righteousness. It is time to own up our gross failures. It is time to do an objective appraisal regarding where we stand today, and whether there is a way forward that would sensitize us to the centrality of truth as the means for provisioning justice. For, what we claim to be ours is actually not ours. We have made it ours by violating the rights of others – of the impoverished and the marginalised people. Whatever may be the cost, truth must be sought. Let there be justice. Let the state’s riches go to where they actually belong – to the poor who are constantly struggling for their survival on the fringes, but often have to go hungry. It is Pablo Neruda who elucidates this struggle that we, too, may have to engage in: “We need to sit on the rim of the well of darkness and fish for fallen light with patience.” The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute – an Islamabad-based think tank Published in Daily Times, February 3rd 2019.