A local basket of deplorables

Posted on September 26, 2016

Too much testosterone in the system. In societies where female infanticide still exists, this is bound to happen. In societies where the only definition of manhood taught is of insensitive and mindless toughness, this was waiting to happen. And it is not for the first time. Nor the last. And this testosterone is radioactive. If they are allowed to spread in open space, flesh will not burn. It will melt. Human flesh.

But like the American sport of chicken where a headlong collision is risked to show who has better nerves, there go the manly men of India and Pakistan. Chappan inch ki chatti (56-inch chest) versus the men on horseback. A clash seems imminent even if avoidable. And the cheerleader? Yes, that good old custodian of free speech, rights and democratic values — the media.

Since I live in Pakistan, you can look up and see for yourself how much I have already written on our own brand of deplorables. Forgive me, if today I try talking about the other half of the story. The ones we witnessed in just a week. On the other side of the divide. No, wait. I am not shirking away from self-blame. We are more or less the same racial stock. With a painful legacy of failure to transform. Our repeated experiments to democratise the crashed and burnt. Until recently. Now we are at a stage we can call ourselves a democracy. A nascent democracy. A leapfrogging democracy. But democracy nevertheless. And the countless failures had already damaged us. They did such a number on us that some among us ended up killing somewhere between sixty and seventy thousands of us. We are not beyond reproach but admire our courage to try again. To rebuild again. To dream again. And yes we deplorables. Quite a lot of them. But countless among us spent sleepless nights planning, plotting to bring them back to the fold of civilisation.

Now let’s talk about India. Our nemesis. But why? Nobody knows. It is an old ritual of hate that has got a new lease on life. So India, our nemesis, cannot handle Kashmir. And to it pictures of children blinded by pellets mean nothing. How many have been blinded? How many have been killed? But nothing. Then comes an attack on soldiers. Or so we are told. 17 are killed. Mostly not by gunfire but the fire caught by a depot adjacent to the camp. And Indian media and politicians who has done this. There are tweets. There are news shows. Army’s soldiers so army’s word. Indian DGMO doesn’t talk about any infiltration. A phone talk with his Pakistani counterpart regarding markings on belongings of the attackers but no infiltration. This from the horse’s mouth. And yet his briefing is not aired live. Or so I was told. Within seconds it is taken off air. Previewed perhaps. Then aired. Wait, soldiers are supposed to be the greatest warmongers in the world. If a government thinks its soldiers cannot be trusted and may go soft, imagine the paranoia of the said government then.

Then media cheerleaders start building case for a war. A nuclear war. Yes, we will also suffer. But we will annihilate the enemy. Sure. But, hey, wait. Don’t you have children too? Are you ready to risk their lives and futures too? Testosterone again. And such hatred. You can’t progress if you don’t love your children more than you hate your enemy. But you know how it is. And they know they don’t have to fight. They will sit on their cosy sets and pour out vitriol while soldiers go to die and poor peasants get annihilated.

But here is the thing. We are a broken, shaken, devastated, clumsy, impoverished and deeply wounded bunch of people who have only just begun their true democratic journey less than a decade ago. What is your excuse dear India? In common parlance you had it all. Money, democracy, national pride, strong defences, support from the entire world, culture, entertainment and so, so much more. Why did you then vote in a cabal of deplorables and allowed it to change you profoundly and irreversibly? Where did all that depth, moderation and maturity which comes with affluence and democracy?

As for the war rhetoric, you have no idea how we have lived for past decade and a half, knowing any random act of terrorism can kill or cripple us forever. You can’t be more ready to die a silly, ridiculous and meaningless death than we are. Think about that for a second.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2016.

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