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Politics, State and Hero-worship – Daily Times

Daily Times
Your right to know Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Syed Wajahat Ali
September 20, 2021
Heroes develop systems, but quacks do not. Fortnightly, at the time of the full and new moon, the Buddha used to gather his Sangha to conduct a study circle based on codes of conduct to re-invigorate a mutual bond between the Threefold Refuge including the Buddha, the doctrine, and the sangha (the monastic order). He always observed an “equality like an ocean” in his own words. He knew the secret: using equality, liberty, and fraternity, it was far better to transform a whole system into a romance instead of just himself.
B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, while addressing the first constituent assembly in 1949 recalled:
“Sangha observed all the rules of a parliamentary procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc.”
Moreover, he also forewarned “in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship.”
Individuals, whosoever, cannot substitute systems.
Moreover, Thomas Carlyle, 1840, in his classic lectures, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, analysed the characteristics of heroic leadership:
“From the prophetic (Odin and Muhammad) to the poetic (Dante and Shakespeare) to the religious (Luther and Knox) to the political (Cromwell and Napoleon).”
Political heroism emerges in social and academic vacuums and enjoys a comfortable space in the poor countries to drift public opinion away from facts
He stressed the inward dimension of heroism. In the words of David Sorensen and Brent Kinser, during his encounter with heroism, “Carlyle dislodges religiosity from religion, myth from history, and truth from ‘quackery’ as he describes the wondrous ways in which these ‘flowing light fountains unlock the heroic potential of ordinary human beings”.
Another classic example of valuing system above hero-worship is when the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) codified the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. His companion Ali (A.S) had written his prophetic designation in addition to his name at the end of the document. Suhayl b. Amr, the representative of Quraish (polytheists of Mecca) objected to this privilege, which certainly angered the companion. But, the Prophet agreed to the objection, erased the appellation with his own hands, and preferred to keep the peace document operative with consensus and legal equality.
Baronial Movement 1258 was the first challenge to political romanticism in England. The result was that the entire authority of the crown, Henry 3, was distributed among a Senate, including 15 magnates not nominated by the King. The Angevin System grafted on to the primitive monarchy was transformed into limited constitutionalism at the Parliament of Oxford. “The King reigned but the system ruled.”
Although Pakistan has imported Westminster’s democratic legacy, it is still struggling to find the ingenuity of purpose and method found by the English polity 763 years ago.
There are numerous other illustrations to convince that a majority of the most followed leaders in human history have noted the importance of sustainable systems much above their grandeurs when it comes to social policy and human organisation. Obviously, people instinctively used to seek inspiration from ideas, achievements, speech, physical and mental dispensations of their ideologues with some social consequences as well. Nevertheless, there is a delicate line between inspiration and cult. The former provides a rationale for enterprise growth whereas the latter is a parasitic illness leading to acute retrogression.
Hero-worship usually sets patronage as an underlying base to operate a social machine without promoting respect for prescribed legal frameworks. Actual heroes do not need worship. They inspire their followers to stay objective, truthful, and institutionally correct. They believe in developing strong systems as a result of their compassionate teamwork and constitutionalism. They deplete polarization by using the higher argument of their love for collective growth. Nelson Mandela sums it up, “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
The worst thing that an unchecked stardom of the party leadership, can do is clip down the faculty of political actors and their capacity to rationalise political disputes. Political heroism emerges in social and academic vacuums and enjoys a comfortable space in the poor countries to drift public opinion away from facts by using emotional capital, propaganda, rhetoric, and populist coercion surpassing the voices of reason within and without. Thus, political heroism narrows down the scope of the shared wisdom and therefore impedes conflict resolution.
Pakistan’s case is an example of scaling down the shadows of hero-worship on a political system. The drastic impacts of post-decolonisation ups and downs in Pakistan’s democratic history are the loss of institutional pride and confidence, lack of clarity, and most importantly, the intoxication of hero-worship to its last limits. Slogans like “Teri Yaad Aayi Tery Jaany k Baad,” “Har Ghar Se Bhutto Nikly Ga,” “Mard-e Momin, Mard-e-Haq,” “Mian Tery Janisaar, Beshumar,” “Ab Aaye Ga Imran, Sub Ki Shaan,” classically reveal the deeply entrenched human romanticism in political attributes. Hero-worship has travelled through generations after generations; turning political parties to operate like self-righteous, centrifugal fan clubs instead of institutions.
Hero-worship retarded the liberalisation of politics in Pakistan. The excessive reliance on hero-worship has damaged the public perception about the performance of the political skeleton; perceived to be short-sighted, inefficient, and antagonised. The judicial, executive and legislative structures have touched some historic lows during the last few years-failing to envisage a rational trade-off between public choices through articulated consensus over socio-economic and strategic goals. The parliament lacks the audacity to throw back to the electorate an adequate legislative response on important national issues like election reforms, budgetary planning, poverty reduction, foreign policy, higher education, and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. Similarly, the consecutive instances of sexual violence, murders, inflation, accidents, corruption, truncated accountability, discrimination of minorities and women have seriously questioned the delivery of the executive arm. The highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, has also witnessed some bizarre manifestations of personalised galvanisation in judicial proceedings. Compared to the simple elegance of oligarchy, the stability of baronial rule, or the divinely ordained reign of a monarch, democracy has become a grubby, crumbled, inefficient method of government in Pakistan.
These failures are pushing the state towards a multi-layered conflict of interest between the government and the governed. The trodden lot in Pakistan are struggling against lawlessness, poverty, substandard education and health, and humiliation they face during their unbecoming interface with public institutions functioning at the expense of the public purse tasked to provide them with a better quality of life and a respectable identity in the league of nations.
Pakistan needs consensus, collaboration, and competence. The Cs cannot be achieved without the institutionalisation of political parties and a decrease in the authority of hero-worship in internal party structures. The first input to a democratic system is a democratic mindset at the top level, added with statutes and then organisation. As a system, politics yields well-aware citizens with high opinion mobility, engaged in healthy encounters on policies and their operational strategies. Politics as hero-worship essentially yields romance-drive and unconditionally obedient Jyalas, Tigers, Karkuns, and Sher Jawans to fuel the splendour of their leaders and interests of their clans.
The writer is an academic, columnist and public policy researcher.




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