A saying goes: “There is none more cruel than the poor.” The record of any revolution will prove this. The reason is that the poor have always been at the other end of the stick. They are the victims of perpetual injustice harshness and degradation at the hands of those more fortunate, or at the very least, of indifference. And if kindness comes their way, it seldom comes unmixed with condescension.
And so the poor can only dish out what they have received.
But this was not always this way. In ancient tribal societies, all wealth, no matter how it was counted, was held in common. And poverty was shared poverty. And because it was shared, it did not hurt.
But when the unfit had fallen by the wayside and, and the fittest had”survived” had, the gene that drives “the survival of the fittest”, did not stop there. Its built-in momentum carried it further along the same path. And so the battle for survival turned into the compulsion to dominate….. the quest for power. And one of the main ingredients of this power was wealth…and thus the need to accumulate it.
This type of wealth graduated into unearned income and privileges for a very small segment of society. Above this charmed circle of privilege rose a much smaller one of the oligarchs–the beneficiaries of wealth designated as “elite capture”. The almost unique peculiarity of our oligarchs is that though they are sitting on a mountain of gold, they will nevertheless resort to loot and daylight robbery on their second-day job.
This massive gouging of wealth by those at the top leaves very little for the huge mass of people at the other end of the spectrum except deprivation and poverty. This poverty is grounded in injustice and stark inequalities. Its perpetuation has been the result of the unwillingness of the oligarchs to share a piece of the pie with the unfortunate at the bottom, while those at the bottom have always tried to fight and enlarge their share of national wealth. Much of human history was born in this tension of the have-not trying to get his share from the “haves” against the resistance of the latter.
What we are seeing in Pakistan today is this battle being played out. That is it. All the rest is a masquerade.
It is thieves on one side, and one who is a threat to them and their stolen wealth, on the other; and the army has decided to stand by the thieves. This is the whole story.
Imran Khan’s insistence that a much greater part of the budget should go towards national development, better education, health etc and that taxes owed by the wealthy, and the not-so-wealthy, should be properly assessed and paid, is a call for redistribution of national wealth. Without this, no nation has, nor can, prosper. This is anathema to the votaries of neoliberalism. Thus Imran Khan is seen as a rebel against the settled order. His success would have induced others to follow his lead.
This, among other reasons, was why Imran Khan had to be got rid of.
That the army came out in support of the oligarchs was a shattering blow for us. But this would not have been the case had we known the history and the role of various components of society. The army is always the last bulwark of the oligarchs and stands by them against the people.
But in the human breast, injustice has always sparked the thirst for revenge. This thirst has, from time to time, been slaked by revolution. And during these revolutions, the poor man’s cruelty is seen to explode in all its unrestrained fury.
But there have been cases of a lone wolf exacting revenge on behalf of society as well. This happens when a person of uncommon commitment who does not fear for his life, decides to opt for revenge. The best example of this would be that of Udam Singh when in London, on 13 March 1940, he shot and killed Michael O’Dwyer the ex-Governor of Punjab, whom Singh held responsible for the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919. And this was followed by the killing of Gen Vaidya and Mrs Indira Gandhi by the Sikhs as revenge for the Indian army’s attack on the Golden Temple etc. And much earlier in history, in the middle of the first century A.D., we hear of the Jewish Sicarii, as lone assailants or in groups of two or three using their daggers against their hated Roman overlords. This is the first recorded use of terrorism as a tool against a government. A thousand years later the example of the Sicarii was followed by the Hashashin [the Assassins] who also truck in ones and twos, and who did a lot of damage while they were active.
It is to this possibility that the generals should be paying attention, instead of letting their sagacity push them towards cobbling up sham democratic and legal structures to bring peace and respite to the country to exercise full control over it. Any effort so obviously founded on patent falsehood can only serve to undermine their credibility even further.
Instead of looking to guide “democracy” over the next five years, they’d be better advised to look just six months into the future to see how the next torrent of mass hunger is to be coped with, and to examine the consequences of its crash into the open arms of so many jehadi outfits just waiting for their ranks to be filled.
What this will spark in society should be our primary concern, and also that of our all-knowing generals, who are currently involved in various stages of intrigue by night, and denial of the same by day.
What the current wave of unprecedented repression is achieving is little else beyond sowing fear but also the thirst for revenge. This is bound to have consequences.