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June 15, 2011



The mark of Cain

You see these faces daily, on your way to work, on your way to the mall, as you walk, drive or are driven along streets, or stroll in a park alone or with your family or friends. Their eyes cross yours, you cast a casual glance at their uniform; and you think you know what you are looking at!
See their faces now, as they eye their prey while he begs for mercy. They warm up to the kill by working out where to place pain on his body in well-measured blows and kicks, before making the final move to draw blood.
Indignation sears you, rage makes you tremble. But you cannot avoid their faces. You fix your gaze on them. You wish you could somehow look deep within their souls, into the deepest recess of their minds, at the demons that must abound within them. You wish you could unravel the secret behind the existence of these demons. What begot them? The Shakespearian frailty of their mothers? The Freudian resentment they may bear their fathers?
But you can’t penetrate. Your gaze strives in vain against these stony walls of ghastly determination – determination to abdicate one’s right to be called human. You see blood gush out from the body of the victim who is still trying to evoke their pity with his pleas for being taken to hospital. They make sure his blood flows out smoothly.
You suddenly realise there is no need for your effort. There is a distinct lack of psychological complexity here. They don’t have to displace from their minds the fact that it is a 19-year-old boy, it is a human being, it is life. There is no such notion to displace in the first place. There is no question of conscience involved. What about the fear of consequences? Consequences here are determined not by crime but by class; and the boy obviously has ‘no class’, he is an underdog. He is so vulnerable, so inconsequential.
It is inhumanity then? But what animal can ever stand accused of this? What beast would do this to another beast? No, they have to be human;

they are distinctly human. And that’s scary. Still scary, after so much that we have come to know during this century and in the centuries before it about the capability of humans to degrade their own species. It is scarier when you think it is not happening in a movie based on the memoirs of a holocaust survivor, it is not happening as part of a tribal genocide in some far-off land in the continent of Africa. It is here, right in the middle of where you live. You are no more a perceptive viewer of a depiction of reality; you are a spectator of the rape of your own humanity.
Then you hear the lords, telling you not to point fingers at the institutions that nurture these rapists, to focus on the individuals, and not to forget that the one who lay bleeding was a criminal. You then focus on the faces of the lords. The faces that gleamed when six “Chechen” “suicide bombers” were bravely killed by some individuals who just happen to belong to an institution – the sixth “Chechen” wasn’t born yet. The faces that frown at the mention of a meaningful enquiry into the murder of an investigative journalist who perhaps lost his mind before he lost his life and blamed his own murder not on individuals but an institution. The faces that will definitely frown if the lords were reminded of some other videos that originated in Swat containing scenes of some individuals, who again just happened to belong to an institution, indulging in war-time fun. The faces that show no sign of shame while their bearers correct the count of those made to disappear in Balochistan, whose families, as part of some grand conspiracy against the institutions of this country, name institutions and not individuals as responsible not only for the disappearances but the reappearances of many in pieces of flesh. As you see these faces, life becomes unbearable nausea, pure filth that you feel mired in. No, this is no material for a Capote classic; the enormity of what has happened and is happening is monstrous. This country is no Denmarkwhere just something is rotten. The mark of Cain is visible everywhere, on each one of these faces. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was his unconvincing defence. He has learned to do better. He actually became our keeper; he speaks through many tongues and appears in many guises, with uniform and without it, in parliament and outside it. He has ‘institutionalised’ himself, polished his lies and perfected his deceits. He kills now with abandon and his children revel in orgies of blood and gore. They are not individuals that just happen to be there. They are not leaves in the wind. They are organic parts of a predatory monster, the institutionalised Cain, institutionalised in the state and its organs, institutionalised in the politics and parties of our “brothers” who are our keepers and will not let their watch over us grow distant, even if they have to amputate our limbs.
What is happening is not an aberration. A state that has ideoligised violence of various kinds in the name of values and beliefs, constitutionalised theocratic superstitions, intellectualised unreason through education and propaganda, brought up sectarian and ethnic vultures that thrive on hatred and feed on the flesh of the “other” – a state that for decades has rented itself out to the highest bidders to fight their wars and clean their filth, a government that comprises thieves, swindlers, fakers and murderers; a political culture where the stature of a politician depends on how may large swathes of population he holds hostage, how many people he can get killed in a day and how many institutions here and abroad he can do business with – this has been our sorry lot which would be the undoing of any people.
But couple it with the state’s colossal failure to ensure, both in economic and social terms, a ‘human’ level of existence for the majority of its subjects, and you get some idea of the nature of the beast. Imagine this beast fully aroused at a time when the state has to rent itself out, yet again, in a war whose weight is proving to be too much for it to bear but whose weight it must ‘obey’, and you have a situation which would put to shame Hamlet’s lament on his times.
The toll on our institutions is terrifying, with things falling apart with a rapidity that frightens them, demolishes the myth of their invincibility and exposes their utter irrelevance to any idea of a possibility of a new Pakistan arising out of the ashes of the old that is on fire. The spirit of Cain has come to possess them in the same measure as that of their failure to gain ‘real’ legitimacy which cannot be the work of force alone.
Long-time renegades from their basic responsibility – that of making little “things of life” possible for those they rule and theoretically protect – they will now seek refuge in unbridled force wherever they can, against those who run afoul by raising questions of legitimacy.
And when institutions crumble, in the darkness that falls the little Cains they harbour within them will kill not only at their masters’ bidding but also for money, mirth and revenge. It shouldn’t be very difficult in a land vanquished by Cain.
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