- Looking for gold among heaps of sand, pebbles and dross
“It is hard to know what other way men can come to truth, to lay hold of it, if they do not dig and search for it as for gold and hid treasure. But, he that does so must have much earth and rubbish before he gets the pure metal. Sand, and pebbles, and dross usually lie blended with it. But the gold is, nevertheless, gold, and will enrich the man that employs his pains to seek and separate it.”
– John Locke: “An Essay concerning Human Understanding”
There is so much to seek in the world, yet there are so few who have the desire to undertake the challenge. More often, one is content with what one can have without enduring struggle and pain. That is why we are resigned to living with varying levels of mediocrity.
This mediocrity does not envelop us only in matters of the physical. It relates more to what lies within the domain of intellectual pursuits. That’s where societies and amalgams of people may have regressed to indescribable lows.
Among states, it is the lopsided prioritisation that further contributes to lowering of standards and benchmarks for measuring achievement. Even when the glory of a past has been lost, there is not a feather that would move. Loss is absorbed in the elasticity of an irrational narrative and put aside wrapped in tonnes of shamelessness.
As a cumulative effect of all this, the stock of people has been gravely impacted afflicting all echelons of society, most notably the political elite and the bureaucracy. What we, therefore, end up with is a sordid assortment of an average or stunted mind with little knowledge base, no professional learning, no pride in service, below-par morality, extra zeal for making a quick buck, colonial mindset and a morbid penchant for the burlesque
One still comes across passionate crusaders who are always looking for some flash of perfection. Their posts often reflect the pain of people surrounded by an abundance of vultures. They neither understand what is at risk, nor are they willing to make an effort to do so. They only have the irascible weapons of scorn and ridicule which they indulge in with utter profanity in their effort to deflect attention.
But, then, nations and states cannot progress in an environment of mediocrity. In a world that is moving from one goalpost to the next with electrifying monotony, the ones who fail to keep pace are devoured deep in the pit of oblivion. Unfortunately, there is little realisation on the horizon, with even less likely in the days ahead. Quite appropriately, the one feature that best describes such people is their innate and pompous fatality which is reflected in gross quotients of self-righteousness.
The other necessary ingredient that would help nations move forward is their ability to face the truth and handle it with purposefulness. But, what one witnesses are monstrous edifices raised on false and fickle foundations solely meant to advance the vested interests of individuals. Consequently, in the absence of a transparent system that is graced with ability to sift the right from wrong and the powers to punish the guilty, this sickening spectacle of wobbly structures has, over time, become our exclusive trademark which we, individually and collectively, are engaged in perpetuating further with our misdeeds.
To top all that, we have not been able to divorce the colonial mindset that we absorbed from our past rulers. It not only continues with all its fanfare and manifestations, it has even gained further disdain and vengeance with time.
As a cumulative effect of all this, the stock of people has been gravely impacted afflicting all echelons of society, most notably the political elite and the bureaucracy. What we, therefore, end up with is a sordid assortment of an average or stunted mind with little knowledge base, no professional learning, no pride in service, below-par morality, extra zeal for making a quick buck, colonial mindset and a morbid penchant for the burlesque.
Have a look at the ongoing accountability process. In spite of the good intentions of Prime Minister Khan, there are miles to go before he would be able to introduce even a modicum of sincerity and commitment to the cause of transparency. What he has taken on to eliminate is an affliction that the whole society espouses with unmitigated passion. It is corrupt to the core. It has been rendered so by a sequence of rulers who prospered at the expense of the state’s writ and exchequer. Where we stand today has not come about in days. It has taken decades with virtually everyone who ruled during this time culpable in the crime.
Having an incorruptible person at the top is not enough to reverse the cycle of degeneration which runs deep. This is particularly so when, as part of the incumbent administration, there are people who hail from the periods when corruption was accepted and glorified, and who may also have benefitted from the contagious largesse. They don’t look upon the current period as becoming a standard for the future. To the bulk of them, it is an aberration which cannot sustain. One has personally heard some say that it is a transitory phenomenon. They firmly believe that the old, seedy times shall return, taking them back to playing their vile and Machiavellian tricks when they would be able to manipulate the system with impunity for their personal gains.
The vicious fight that the stalwarts of the old order are waging is not without a method or purpose. They, too, believe that what the Prime Minister is trying to do is not going to catch roots. In this belief, they have the unstinted support of the system that they put together so laboriously which is still run by a coterie of bootleggers who swore allegiance to serve their masters. They have all been partners in crime and corruption. They have not only reaped its benefits, they have degraded it to unprecedented levels of depravity.
To complicate matters further, not much substantive thought was given to the challenge of cleansing the system. There is unanimity among these partners in crime that the well-intentioned initiative has to be thwarted using all means, fair or foul. They are all together in this affront. In addition to a flawed system that they can exploit, the people who are administering it have a tarnished history of their own. This has earned a bad name for the entire process which is exactly what the bands of looters and plunderers wanted in the first place: to render the legitimacy of the process controversial and accuse the government of political victimisation.
So, from one person to the next, it is an inglorious fall that afflicts the entire spectrum. There does not appear to be an easy way out. But the process cannot be left unfinished either. The battle is only starting. What is required is to pinpoint the weaknesses of the accountability process and mend them quickly. Attention should be paid to replacing people of a chequered past with those who have the will and the character to withstand the tactics of the wicked coalition who have laid open their illicit coffers for others to partake of.
A look inwards is essential to sideline the ones who have questionable credentials. It is the sabotage from within which is the principal impediment in the path of reform. It would be inappropriate to preach honour with tell-tale skeletons in the cupboard.
Pakistan’s survival rests on the success of the accountability process. It must go on unhindered. But, for that, there is a lot that needs to be done to clean up the house. The mounting challenge is to look for gold among piling heaps of “sand, pebbles and dross”.