Guardians of the status quo

October 27, 2020

Throughout history, the delusional allure of wealth and power has seen poor men wanting to be rich, rich vying to be kings and kings yearning to be god. As Roman philosopher Epicurus summed it:...

Share Next Story >>>

Throughout history, the delusional allure of wealth and power has seen poor men wanting to be rich, rich vying to be kings and kings yearning to be god. As Roman philosopher Epicurus summed it: “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little”.

Elite theorists Vilfredo Pareto described democracy as the circulation of elites; Gaetano Mosca dubbed it the ruling class. Robert Michels made seminal contributions to the study of democracy. He coined the term ‘iron law of oligarchy’. His assertion was that elected leaders inevitably morphed into an autocratic cabal that fostered corruption for personal gains. Michels defined this paradox as a death knell for democracy.

He enumerated three self-ordained essentials touted by this cabal as their inherent right to rule: their (singular) indispensability for democracy, their mastery at governance and their experience. This fallacy was compounded by its ready acceptance by the repeatedly jilted voters. This psychological frailty was described by Michels as the ‘perennial incompetence of the masses’.

This preamble, lengthy as it is, mirrors our predicament over the years. The endless debate is whether the khakis are responsible for our woes or the civvies. The unfortunate fact is that we have been let down by rulers irrespective of the color of their apparel or the make of their boots.

Dictators wrought destruction by fighting alien wars; politicians’ passions became their fetters. Dictators tried to transform into democrats; the latter morphed into dictators. The end result was a beggared country with a nation bereft of sense and direction.

Our utopian hopes and beliefs have rested on those long deceased and the proven discredited. Election per se is not democracy. The idea that we ever had a democracy is qualitatively false. This is empirically proved given the irrefutable facts and figures that plague our daily lives and the land that is our home.

Essayist and poet Jorge Burges says: “History is mere history, myths are what matter. Myths determine the type of history a country is bound to create and repeat” Our dictatorships are remembered for what they were; the myth, repeated ad nauseam, is that our monarchical self-centered civilian rules were democracy.

Pakistan was internationally viewed with derision. Our democracies were epitomized in a former president daring law enforcers to arrest him and a three-time former prime minister taunting as to why his living beyond means should bother anyone. This was democracy’s best revenge; the profound ‘izzat’ bestowed upon the vote.

The much-repeated questions about the legal means to this cabal’s Midas touch remain unanswered to this day. However, the unwavering belief in their ‘right’ to rule is undiminished. A befitting Shakespearean quote would ask of them: “Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?”

One essential that holds absolute unanimity is the role of honestly functioning institutions. These institutions become motivators by implementing policies and rule of law. People become economically productive, bettering their lives and enriching the national economy.

One thing that does not abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. If a leader’s conscience is compromised, the nation’s fate is sealed. Corruption destroys more than the economy; it shreds the very fiber of society; above all it batters faith in the democratic system itself. The trickle-down effect sees the people conform and comply to the lure of easy money – easy everything.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, to his credit, upended the seemingly impregnable status quo. Moreover, besotted with unlimited obstacles, he has improved upon all macro-indicators in a very limited period. He is now the target of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, the name and objective of the movement itself as dichotomous as its monarchical bigwigs.

Solon initiated democratic principles in the first Athenian democracy. He repealed Draco’s Laws (aka the Draconian Laws) and rewrote the constitution. Having done that, he went into self-imposed exile for a decade to ensure that he would not become a tyrant.

Hierarchy is the antithesis of democracy. Our timeless ‘qaideen’ have / had been at the helm of affairs for decades. Now their scions berate their monarchical right to rule us. This spawns from a tailored system where wealth and pedigree remained the only qualifications to enter our hallowed halls of unaccountable power.

Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stock-broker, was bedeviled by the quick buck bug. He turned hustler and was handed a four-year prison term for fraud. Today, Belfort is a known motivational speaker; his story became a five-Oscars nominated Hollywood flick ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’; his memoir is captioned the same. His webpage unremorsefully boasts: Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street!

The verbose of our motivational speakers would have been hilarious if not the irony involved. Imran Khan’s singular ‘sin’ is his persistent quest at accountability and challenging the status quo. The COD and the 18th Amendment could have been a boon for a true democracy; it spawned a kevlarized oligarchy – guardians of the fatal status quo.

In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle wonders: “When water chokes you, what are you to drink to wash it down?” With the PDM initiating its quixotic forays, one can’t but ask a simple question. If democracy, the PDM brand, chokes us (yet again), what are we to drink to wash it away?

The writer is a freelance contributor.


More From Opinion