Whims and applause of the crowd

  • What causes the mightiest of us to perish sans redemption?


Few of us become momentary masters of lives and fates of great many. These few are adored by those who believe them to be saviours, praised by those who know they will deliver, followed by countless acolytes, and opposed by those who envy their rise and position. Their struggle is mythologised, their life is dramatised, their sacrifices are highlighted, their every move is significant, and their every omission is monitored. They are, in a nutshell, bathed in glory and attention.

Until fate takes a turn for the worst, whims change and applause of the crowd fades.

In our times, no matter how rational, reasonable and right a decision may seem at the time of making it, later on, hindsight ruins it. Since hindsight, wisdom after the event presents better options that make us regret the roads not taken and choices not opted. The best of men are reduced to caricatures, eventually. And then an endless array of regrets and rues pile up ultimately leading to the path towards perdition.

Our Prime Minister Imran Khan is infamous for taking a decision, then revisiting that decision, and then deciding against that decision. Remember the Atif Mian episode? Imran Khan took a decision to bring him on board the economic advisory committee, he regretted it immediately. The right person, turned out, was of wrong faith. And when the enlightened, brave, bold, upright Prime Minister realised it, he surrendered. Even the mightiest, as and when go against the whims of the crowd, have to fall in line or fall prey to the onslaught of raging masses.

One group in these masses is unified by hatred of a very specific ‘other’ group. In the insightful words of Eric Hoffer, a 20th century philosopher, movements of every shape and hue ‘can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.’ Minorities, even if they are wealthy and influential, are easy prey for the sheer fact that they are few in numbers and in no position to mount a successful struggle against the excesses of the majority.

Minorities, even if they are wealthy and influential, are easy prey for the sheer fact that they are few in numbers and in no position to mount a successful struggle against the excesses of the majority

A crowd belongs to the majority. And in a democracy, even if it is as flawed and dangerous as ours, they are not only paid heed but their sheer number dictates everything from policy matters to day to day affairs of governance.

And in Mankind’s quest for ‘making devils’, we have forgotten the better angels that dwell inside us.

In our land people are selected for their competence and the same people are de-selected because they hail from a ‘wrong’ belief. Our Naya Pakistan is where the mighty Saviour caved in to unreasonable, utterly shambolic and wholly shameful demands of sacking a person of known credentials for no other reason but the faith he ascribed to. Welcome, dear reader, to a land where those who demand reverence for books triumph over those who read them.

The triumph of the Crowd continues.

Rather than paying heed to the matters of consequence that touch us all, we have opted to look the other way.

We have entered ourselves in the service of one long, endless, unwritten covenant where we have agreed upon the order of things and how much priority they have. The movers and shakers in our midst, the makers and destroyers who rule over us, the things and people they rule over are all deaf, mute servants who give in when they should have looked at the crowd in its eye and told them how the wise and right decision is not always the popular one.

Bearing in mind the cost of sounding clichéd, we all know the ultimate truth. All these grave, solemn matters of utmost consequence will ultimately be of no consequence. Crowds have certain common issues and dilemmas. These masses that are flooded across the length and breadth of mother earth are divided along the lines of race, nationalism, faith, cast, creed, clan, and ethnicity. These folks have been busy trying to lick clean their wounds with parched tongues since time began. Some among them perish because few Celsius go up; others feel lucky that they don’t fall in the cursed category. Most of them parrot what the media tells them, others have their noses and eyes glued to their smartphones. Many vie for morsels to feed their kith and kin; others are obese with diseases that only go away once a person bites dust.

Amidst the whims of these crowds, mightiest of the men perish. In search of applause and approval of these crowds, many vie for glory and a place among the immortals. Mankind, it won’t be a hyperbole, sacrifices its best at the altar of Lord Time. Be it saviours, dissidents, innovators, discoverers, or thinkers-those who stay clear of the whims and applause of the crowd are the ones who are immortalised for eons to come.