Between delusion and deception – 23 Dec 2022

The Friday Column

By Raoof Hasan

Delusion is generally perceived as a state of mind and deception, an act mired in ill intentions. But there is a definitive common ground between the two which cannot be disregarded. More specifically, in Pakistan, we seem to suffer from one or the other extreme for reasons which are both difficult to fathom or ignore.

Over time, delusion has become an integral component defining the average stock and ability of a Pakistani. We have a crisis thinking that we know a lot more than we do, or even have the wherewithal to imbibe and assimilate. We keep rustling from one end to the other in quest of what is neither knowledge nor learning.

It is a strange concoction: it is the art of lapsing into a comatose state to make believe that we are not where we have unfortunately landed, but far ahead and above. We believe that we are soaring in the world of the stars and beyond, in pursuit of discovering the hitherto unknown secrets beguiling life and the world. We are infatuated with this hypothesis. We live this state of mind, forever piling further mounds of hubris over the wobbly mountain of delusion that we have so laboriously created. Over time, it has become a monstrous presence that keeps staring us in the face but will not go away even when we beseech it to.

This is where the boundaries of delusion crisscross the boundaries of deception — an art that we have developed as a counter to our inability to either possess the merit to contribute to the world around, or garner inspiration to learn more and become compatible. Instead, we master something else which many may construe as a shortcut to overcome the abject paucity of either of the above needs: the art of deception that we have begun to practise as a matter of habit, be it in our personal lives, or our dealings with the world around.

Consequently, despite understanding far less than we project, we continue adding further quotients to it and drag it way beyond the parameters of either credulity or acceptability. We take this art into the surreal domain where claims made cannot be questioned, where limits are redefined for convenience, and where expectations are raised beyond a possibility of realisation. This raises questions about the total absence of seriousness that may be driving this monstrous pursuit.

Between the confines of these two states of mind, in the land of the make-believe, reside the miniscule shreds of our intellect, the residual fibre of our morality and the dying yearnings of our spirituality, with each in a state of morbid decline at a pace difficult to measure through the help of available gadgets and instruments. Yet pretentious bearings persist that we may be on the way to becoming the perfect model in the future to be emulated by the wise and the powerful, that we shall be the standard-bearers of a new world that may yet dawn when we re-emerge, if we ever may, after a plunge deep in the ferocious currents of insanity.

In this all-consuming engrossment, we are forever knitting our own reality and creating our own truth. We have been so consumed in the pursuit of the twin-scourge of delusion and deception that we did not even spare our foundational ethos. Every conceivable effort has been made through different times to render the Quaid’s ground-breaking address from the floor of Pakistan’s first constituent assembly controversial. A lowly bureaucrat, after trying to change its contents to suit the regressive thinking of the subsequent regimes, confined it to the dungeons of the national archives hoping that it would never be unearthed again. Zia’s draconian regime made another attempt to consign it to the country’s forgotten history but, somehow, it kept resurfacing to rattle the nerves of the perpetrators that Pakistan was conceived as another kind of state that it should have grown into becoming, but its path was variously impeded.

The sinister effort to impose an alien writ on the new-born state did not end with mauling the contents of the Quaid’s August 11 speech alone. His three enshrining principles were also horribly tampered with. First the sequence of his words “unity, faith and discipline” was changed to “faith, unity and discipline” and then the meaning of a constituent word was also altered to suit the emergence and perpetration of widespread regression in the country, particularly during the Zia regime.

The Quaid had used the word ‘faith’ in the context of having confidence in your own self and your inherent abilities to overcome adversities that one may encounter in life. Instead, it was given a religious connotation. Despite decades having passed, we remain stuck with an incorrect sequence of the Quaid’s saying and the wrongful religious appendage attached with it. If so wicked have been the beginnings, what could possibly be conceived as the end game and its horrendous consequences for the country?

We are a strange lot. We refuse to accept the liberal ethos of the country. We refuse to accept its democratic credentials under the influence of powerful shadows lurking in the dark. We refuse to accept freedom of faith as an inherent principle of peaceful co-existence. We refuse to accept people as the arbiters of national destiny and the engines of its growth. We refuse to accept individual freedom as a fundamental article of human dignity. We refuse to recognize humankind and want to grow into another sort of species unrecognised and unrelated to the rest of the people, but we insist the world follow us to similarly plunge itself into a pit of depravity.

We inhabit a country where there is no justice, where state institutions are dysfunctional, where corruption is rampant and effectively legitimized, where politicians cherish criminal indulgences, and where health, education and social welfare for the needy has no meaning, no relevance. In such an environment, we neither know who we are nor what we want to become, but we continue suffering from this delusion that we are the anointed ones of the world. This state of mind is symptomatic of being in an act of suspended animation, having no strength either to climb up to freedom, or find our way back on ground.

But this state is untenable. We will have to divorce a vast variety of ailments that we have assimilated in the past years, initiate a process of cleansing ourselves of the poisonous demons of delusion and deception, and then move on from there, fully abreast of our mortality and countless limitations on the scale of benchmarks, both intellectual and material. The time of reckoning beckons, and there is no time to waste.

The writer is affiliated with the PTI, and served as a special assistant to former PM Imran Khan. He tweets @RaoofHasan

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