Friday, December 16, 2011

A Surfeit of Politics

A Surfeit of Politics

Maryam Sakeenah

"'Twas grief enough to think mankind 
 All hollow servile insincere
But worse to trust my own mind
And find the same corruption there." (Emily Bronte)

I am sick of Politics. And myself.
The connection is clear, for me as a student of Politics. Politics after all, is the raw human nature I carry within magnified onto the world map. Strangely enough, studying political intrigue, conflict, conspiracies, power struggles, war and peace, human motivations, aspirations and errors, I only find my own nature magnified onto the chasm of History. History: that embarrassing account of our communal actions as a species, and our communal mistakes.

History repeats with a pattern all too familiar, predictable and regular. It is a record of human mistakes that mattered. Fatal Mistakes that affected millions of anonymous lives. Mistakes that repeat themselves: relentlessly, tragically, incorrigibly. It is only the names, the faces, the dates that change. Not our inner rawness of nature. It is the context that changes, not the motives; not the actions; not the impulses_ not the feet of clay, not the tail between the legs.

First it was the primordial jungle where our predecessors tore each other up for space, or food. Now it is the Brave New World. No more stones and spears, no more caves. We have our Ministries of Defence. Our Smart Bombs and Dirty Bombs. And we fight for oil. We grew more sophisticated in our tastes, but in the process of the onward march of time, we forgot to learn the little lessons on the way, those little signs God signposted to direct, guide, warn, assist. We refused to learn from the consequences of our deeds and misdeeds. But mostly misdeeds. Sigh.

We chose to thrust fingers in our ears when the cry came loud and clear: “And travel in the land and learn from the fate of those before you...” (The Noble Quran) and “Many a nation have We destroyed before you...” (The Noble Quran) We forgot the greatest lesson of all: the realization that at the end of the day it is, after all, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, and that the only thing that makes “our little lives rounded with a sleep” have worth, is to

“leave footsteps in the sands of time
 Footsteps that perhaps another
 Forlorn and shipwrecked brother
 seeing, might take heart” (Longfellow)

 We chose only to leave stains of grease from heavy military boots thundering relentlessly onwards, trampling the small things, leaving behind stains of blood and the stench of death.

I remember some years back I saw a newspaper cartoon from Italy under Mussolini in the 1930s, which showed a volcano smouldering and full of lava, with a tag ‘freedom of speech’ written at the side. Atop the volcano sat ‘Il Duce’ Benito Mussolini with his fists firmly holding down the crater of the volcano. The caption beneath read, “This will hurt you more than it hurts me.” Time took it to the logical conclusion: Mussolini lost, living only as a pariah in history. Freedom triumphed. History taught the lesson it always does.

Yet decades down the line, we are still languishing for true and meaningful liberty and freedom_to live, speak, BE. Other tyrants hold down the volcano’s crater. Lesson: we forgot to learn from history. Again. And so we have our Abu Ghraibs, Bagrams and Guantanamos, we have Gaza and Baghdad, Mazar e Sharif and Srinagar where we let loose the Reign of Terror and then hold down the crater with boiling lava within, hoping it will not hurt us. We refuse to learn.

We refuse to learn that:

'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away”

We refuse to learn that the carrion littering the streets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and Fallujah in 2003 had been once upon a time faces that smiled, eyes that twinkled with hope, hearts that pulsated with life... and that the victimized and oppressed do not forget their dead. The hurt keeps festering till it maddens, metamorphosing human beings into suicidal human bombs who laugh life to scorn, because they have seen life devalued, wrenched away with wantonness.

In our narrow, selfish and disgustingly self-righteous megalomania, we pursue our agendas toying with lives, desperately trying to perpetuate our petty selves, leaving ‘light footprints’, planting flags and arrogant bawdy nationalistic emblems over bleeding cities where those ‘people we do not know’ dwell otherized, dehumanized. We forget that the Greater Plan too is at work, as it always has been. “And while they plan, God also plans. And the best of planners is God.” (The Noble Quran) We forget that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but that it bends towards justice.’ (Martin Luther King)

Political intrigues, strategies, agendas and ambitions in this larger context seem puerile child’s play, the chessboard moves of politics a mere Game of Chess. We keep playing the Game with pretentions of grandeur, calling it ‘Great Game’ , and we refuse to read the writing on the wall, the destiny writ large, the Hand of Justice constantly at work. “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”