The power of cogs and pawns

  • And how they shape and reshape our world


Nothing, I repeat, nothing is what it seems to be. Behind every facade of power lies subservience. Scratch the surface of the bravest of souls and you’ll find bruised egos, battered emotions and intense craving for love. Sit alone and chat late at night with the mightiest conqueror and you’ll hear their demons speak about the hell they rot in. Find them in their forts, in their mansions, in their gaudily decorated offices and you’ll see they are busy saving themselves from allegations of scandals and scams. The ‘Men on Top’ are busy covering their tracks, justifying their deeds, worrying about their enemies who are ‘out there to get them’, devising strategies to counter future assaults, firefighting previous accidents, keeping their beloved close to their hearts fearing that if they falter, they’ll lose all they have in the flick of a second.

We all are cogs and pawns. Some big, some small, some loud, some mum, some surrendered long ago, some putting up a brave fight, some corrupt to the core and some holding on to the values of doing good, not evil. Quite often, human society is thought of as a gigantic machine with billions of parts, each performing a specific task for the greater good of all. Interestingly, this analogy sheds light on an eternal truth. Cogs, no matter how mighty or vital, are always replaceable. They are neither eternal nor permanent nor remain around forever. They come, have their heyday, rise to the top, ultimately perish and be relegated to the ash heap of history where they are just another name, another mighty someone who couldn’t survive his Waterloo.

We, who are either irreplaceable cogs or shameless pawns, demand bigger greater deeds from those who are just like us but got a little lucky

And then there are cogs that are mere pawns. They are pawns in the hands of bigger cogs; they are pawns in the hands of bigger pawns. They strive at the behest of their masters, steer things in his favor, maneuver him past the controversies, manipulate things that have potential to harm, make do as best as they could with whatever they have, manage the perception, summon courage necessary to all this, pave the way ahead and deliver the goods their master requires.

And here’s the punchline:

‘All cogs-regardless of shape, size, sex, religion, ethnicity, social status, wealth, education-are pawns controlled by someone else, owing their allegiance to someone else’. The joke now stands complete.

Allow me to simplify it further. Cogs are with Nawaz Sharif. Pawns are with Imran Khan. Cogs want to get rid of a sham democracy. Pawns want democracy to go from strength to strength. Cogs are doomed because they are repeatedly hoodwinked. Pawns know that People’s Party’s revenge is the best revenge. Cogs know but willfully overlook the past of Big Marble Palace. Pawns seek salvation through their Lordships’ suo motu notices. Cogs know they are triumphant. Pawns know their time will come.

For many, the only way to make sense of volatile things and nebulous happenings is to be totally, utterly and completely indifferent. Both cogs and pawns are indifferent. Cogs don’t feel and pawns don’t care.

However, despite knowing the ultimate truth, both the cogs and pawns keep on forgetting the mantra to stay aloof, don’t give a damn about anything or anyone no matter how provocative it gets, maintain a safe distance from all that makes one uncomfortable and live life like a stoic accepting the highs and the lows with sheer equanimity. Or, and it’s a very dangerous ‘or’, you whether a cog or a pawn becomes a blind follower of one of the either mighty men fighting in the arena. You bark your master man’s opponents down; you bite once they are down and in the dust.

We, the lovers of strong men fall for the same trick over and over again. We make mortal men into mythological creatures and relegate them into the pantheons of immortals. We, as Dostoevsky said, enjoy witnessing the downfall of the upright. We, who are either irreplaceable cogs or shameless pawns, demand bigger greater deeds from those who are just like us but got a little lucky.

We are yet to dig graves, way deeper than our ancestors, and bury the wrong convictions we’ve cherished all our lives. Hope is good, baseless hope grounded in nothing is poisonous. Change is inevitable but when we believe it can be ushered in by sheer will power, we are mistaken.

There is a life beyond cogs and pawns. We, if we really want, can be men; courageous, upright men willing to speak their conscious. Bold, fearless men who know that what they utter, what they do ripples through eternity.

May the cogs and pawns in men perish, may the man in men prosper.