PENSIEVE: Structural integrity failing! —Farrukh Khan Pitafi
Revolutions I would have believed in, but unfortunately my country does not want a French Revolution for the sake of real change but in search of our own Napoleon Bonaparte. However, countries with far weaker structural integrity have survived in history and may survive for good
You must watch the ‘Star Trek’ series, especially its prequel titled ‘Star Trek Enterprise’ and the culmination of its timeline called ‘Star Trek Voyager’. What? Think I am being silly? I thought so too when somebody told me to do so. But then I came across Michiko Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible. I have mentioned the book earlier too, which informs us how our future is being shaped by the cutting edge technology visible in the ‘Star Trek’ series. And honestly science fiction — minus what is known today as ‘Star Wars’ — liberates us from the immediate experience and shows us what else is possible. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Carl Sagan and Douglas Adams all never seize to surprise me. So today I invite you to think not only of what is there but also of what else is possible. Your own Star Trek/science fiction moment.
In the ‘Star Trek’ series, one phrase that we hear when the starship comes under a devastating attack is: structural integrity failing. Of course that means that the ship is about to literally fall apart in a bit. In my limited existence I have heard something of the same sort about my country repeatedly, which if they could, my ears would have thrown up at by now. The neo-conservatives have the plan to tear us from limb to limb, India may invade any time, Yehud o Nasara — Jews and Christians — are hatching a terrible terrible conspiracy to annex our land or the country will simply implode under the weight of its own contradictions. I am ashamed to confess that once I was paranoid too but I know better now. Pakistan was not made to collapse but to bounce back whenever people predicted its end.
In defence of those who still treasure paranoia, I must concede that things do look awful. The country looks devastated by the floods, terrorism, power outages, inflation and impoverishment. In terms of manufacturing we can only produce babies, beggars and loudmouthed and self-effacingly insane politicians. Leaders who fight their coalition partners with such ferocity and for reasons that the war between Lilliput and Blefuscu is made to look tame. If ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ is predicting a bloody revolution — O God, please do not let it be another case of bloodlust — our London-based bhai from Karachi is busy welcoming a military coup that even our army does not find viable. Our only alleged exports are terrorism, aka destabilising ideologies and nuclear secrets. Whatever little infrastructure there was is gone and so is the desire of our pirs of politics to face their voters.
And of course our politics is entrepreneurial in its own weird way. Our minister for water and power is said to have a property dealing business, our railway minister has his cinema business, our defence minister is the owner of a shoe company and the cherry on top, our foreign and prime ministers both have their quite famous family shrines. This country should be economically thriving. But sadly, that happy moment never arrives. And I am talking of an economic condition where the old managers and the new ones alike refuse to accept the need for a manufacturing sector boom. Looks like we will have to make do with the occasional bubbles in the telecom sector. I may be old-fashioned but I believe that in order to be a boisterous economy we cannot rely solely on consumption.
So yes the picture is sad and it is quite depressive. But that is that. Where in the wide world does it mean that the country is about to go up in smoke? Revolutions I would have believed in, but unfortunately my country does not want a French Revolution for the sake of real change but in search of our own Napoleon Bonaparte. However, countries with far weaker structural integrity have survived in history and may survive for good. In the golden words of our journalist friend Iftikhar Ahmad, even if a low quality street rag prints two lines predicting our demise, our talk shows and columnists start discussing it as if it is a foregone conclusion. Patience, my dear friends, patience. I am not the kind to criticise the media but honestly, while growing space should have brought intellectual responsibility, it has only brought to us the disgusting habit of shooting off our mouths and filling the environment with more poison. If you really want to know, my biggest concern is not that this country will break apart but the fear that things may not continue the way they are.
Now the futuristic ‘Star Trek’ moment. Have you ever thought how this country will look after a couple of centuries? I know, I know, there are fears of a terrible future too. But I am talking about the most probable outcome. I believe in two centuries, we will not only still be there but also a thriving economy. Do you know why? Do you remember your first few days in school or at work when you thought that you will not last long and everything bad seemed to happen to you? I am sure you do. But remember what happened then? Gradually you got used to the environment and other people got accustomed to you, which was when everything started working in tandem and your class fellows or colleagues started helping you understand what you were expected to do.
I believe that while it sounds unrealistically simple and even outrageous, this interpretation of affairs is more accurate. I think 63 years are nothing but an icebreaking session in the lives of nation-states. When they emerge out of them, circumstances quite often change. I think we can improve upon what we have. All we need is a collective vision and a desire to change. Perhaps all thinking men should unite for a bit.
The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org