THERE is certainty in the land; a peaceful resignation surrounds the fact that elections have taken place.
When he let the ECP take the PTI’s bat away, the chief justice said there was no proof of elections within the party — just as there wasn’t any proof of the lack of a level playing field for Feb 8 and just as journalists complaining about FIA harassment hadn’t put anything on record — so the court couldn’t do anything.
Spell out something clearly, else you won’t be taken seriously. But then, you can’t really spell out anything unless you have your own private intelligence agency collecting proof for you.
In the Harry Potter series, the wizard Dumbledore had a phoenix — a creature of great power, who would bind itself to a person who had demonstrated extraordinary courage. A fanfiction writer expanded upon this concept in an online publication, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
He posited that when someone works towards doing something incredibly courageous, somewhere in the universe their phoenix is born. Sensing this overload, it heads towards the would-be hero to lend them strength. But there is a catch. A phoenix comes but once. Decide against being courageous, and it will go away and never return. You may accomplish much in your lifetime, you may again have cause to exhibit great courage, but squander an opportunity with the phoenix present and it will never entertain you again.
On Saturday, Jan 13, a phoenix appeared briefly on Constitution Avenue with an offer: to lend assistance in doing something incredibly courageous, despite it being against the grain of what you yourself want and believe. Because that takes absolute courage. Yet the phoenix watched for nine hours before it finally winked out. And you must remember that the phoenix comes but once. Never will it believe in your cause again.
Hate is a powerful feeling, but it is not courage. It has the power to consume both oneself and one’s surroundings. It may come about through immediate triggers, such as something a road-rager deliberately ramming his vehicle into another experience in the heat of the moment. Or it can be a product of densely layered dislike and discomfort. But hate is not justice. And it doesn’t take a phoenix to recognise the difference.
What allows for all of this to happen again and again? Some blame can be apportioned to our politicians and their inability to reach out to their opponents during cycles of favour and their unwillingness to bury the hatchet or memories of their difficult days. Because this endless cycle of unprovable influence can only be broken if there is a compact among the representatives of the people.
Instead, our politicians prefer to repeat the lives of Sonic the Hedgehog, as if the game was being played by a four-year-old. They collect credibility over a long and arduous journey in opposition, like Sonic collected rings. They then lose it all during their first brush with friction, like Sonic lost his accumulated rings on the first spike he fell on or the first mistake you made. Except Sonic was bound to his fate and the player’s skill. Sonic would even gesture to the screen with arms held to his sides as he was losing his rings, as if asking the player why they would do such a thing.
A phoenix comes but once. Decide against being courageous, and it will go away and never return.
With politicians, however hard, it’s always their choice. The public and their voters are the ones asking why they would do such a thing. Hit a spike like Sonic and you’re left more vulnerable. The next spike and it’s your life. Sonic gets a redo once you turn the console off and then on again. Politicians don’t. Yet they keep doing it. Again and again with accumulation and loss. Again and again letting other people hijack the system in the hope of fixing it by turning it off and on again or by striking the controller.
Who strikes the controller? The ‘establishment’ is a term used in our country to describe the forces within a country’s power elite who band together because of a common interest to endorse and entrench the status quo. We don’t have such a creature. What we have is almost its opposite. Powerful individuals who change every few years, upending all the regular status quo forces. We hide our embarrassment of this rule of musical chairs by calling it something which sounds less arbitrary: an establishment.
A supposedly status quo entity is one which becomes a yo-yo at the whim of a single person. When one such person is religious, the country pretends to be pious. When the next such gentleman thinks himself enlightened, the country’s elite bring out the drinks. We also get someone who thinks himself a thinker and then someone who believes he is worthy of thanks and everyone begins to put up banners saying ‘thank you’.
Finally, in broader terms, every playground has a bully; but in some places, bullies seem to have a playground. Half of the playground is barren and used to hone their art. The other half has a few swings still left, a patch of grass here and there. Like all things in life, there must be balance here too. But they must be able to rule the playpen.
Yet, children also want to go to the playground to play but would not be able to do so. What is a playground without children? What is an election with missing politicians? It is perhaps the same as peace without justice. And as newspaper editor, William Allen White once said: peace without justice is tyranny.
The writer is a lawyer.
Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024