“Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea.”-Marley Dias If a word can best describe the Pakistani nation’s feeling at the present moment, it is “frustration.” This is a common emotional response to situations that are seemingly beyond control and result in anger, annoyance, and disappointment resulting in a general mood of depression and high anxiety. From the rulers to the ruled, all are in a state of uncertainty and appear to be helpless-the ruled on account of the rulers and the rulers because of their mismanagement as well as the unending demands of international donor agencies. As the days go by, frustration is likely to increase because of the perceived resistance to the fulfilment of expectations. An artist could easily paint a bleak picture of the utter chaos that exists in a country where regulating the public aside, feeding this monstrous population is soon going to become a questionable affair. When an individual is in a state of frustration, psychologists, after careful analysis of the circumstances surrounding the person, suggest things like, talking and venting feelings before someone trustworthy, recourse to counselling, exercising, writing, even crying or screaming out loudly, changing lifestyle etc. This happens only when such individuals seek professional help otherwise, there is a chance that they may end up damaging themselves or even others. But where an entire country is in this state, what can be done? This requires serious evaluation of the problems to revolutionise the prevailing systems. Not just cosmetic touch-ups but downright major reshuffles. The last seven-and-half decades have been a roller coaster ride for the people of this country. The last seven-and-half decades have been a roller coaster ride for the people of this country and the number of experiments carried out by short-sighted self-serving leaders, have resulted in nothing but devastation on all fronts. Today, we are on the brink of economic collapse, our progress belies that of countries which saw independence long after we did, and our development reflects in the methods that we have adopted to promote corruption, dishonesty, bad governance and defiance of rule of law. From an ordinary pedestrian to the ruling elite, all are making a mockery of laws that are trampled upon and denounced with utter shamelessness. There is not one sector that can be said to be functioning smoothly, not even the ones that consider themselves beyond accountability. What has gone wrong? Why did we fail to recognize and deal with the sizzling embers that have now turned into an inferno? Why did we overlook our faults and blamed others for whatever went wrong? Why did the people neglect their civic responsibilities, their loyalty to the state, and their duties as citizens by obeying the law, being honest, practising tolerance, being careful with public property, picking up their garbage, and keeping the country immaculate, discouraging corrupt practices etc? One does not need government agencies to clean up the mess within the confines of homes and localities which can only be done by the collective effort of the people. All this while, we have been finding scapegoats for our weaknesses and faults without perceiving that characterless nations will give birth to characterless leaders who can easily push countries into a disastrous pit. The first thing we need to do is scrutinize own selves and check our attitude towards our country on the threshold of the decent citizenry. Once we learn this art, once we start appreciating the innumerable advantages we share as one nation, once we profess our gratitude to be born free, then can we aspire to paint our land beautiful. Alan W. Watts said: “Every intelligent individual wants to know what makes him tick, and yet is at once fascinated and frustrated by the fact that oneself is the most difficult of all things to know.” We are all individually responsible for the predicaments our country is facing and we must consciously rise to cleanse it ourselves. No outside force can undo our wrongs nor should it be expected that someone from afar would answer our distress calls. The fact is that every aspect of our lives is intricately connected in a manner that any issue in one triggers off a domino effect in the entire system. This is why the need of the hour is to remove those hurdles that we have erected with our own hands. Hurdles of hatred, regionalism, biases, lies, inequality, injustice, plunder, loot and most important, selfishness. Stop believing in conspiracy theories as these are most successful in a divided nation. A handful of colonists held sway over our land because our national fabric was tattered and we were easily gullible. Things have changed now. Communication is now a matter of nanoseconds and if there is a sufficient amount of confidence, no outsiders can create rifts unless we want them to. To overcome frustration, we should change ourselves and the system. Mere speeches of change do not bring about change. Practical steps have to be taken. We have to break ourselves free from the strangulating shackles of colonial administrative legacies that have led us to where we are and replace these demonic institutions with indigenous ones based on ground realities. Gone are the days of British imposed bureaucracy where people were subjects. Every person is a free and respectable citizen, a status that ought to be recognised by rulers and officials belonging to civil-military set-ups. If we know what we want, then we can if we want. Nothing can stop us from smashing false idols if we are determined to turn around the fate of this country. “To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles.”-T F Hodge The writer, lawyer and co-author of many books, is Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).