By Malik Siraj Akbar
Masses (or known as awam in Urdu) and children have two things in common. One is innocence and the second is their inquisitiveness. Innocence and inquisitiveness may appear two contrasting qualities. Those who are innocent are often perceived as diffident and introvert. They are known as people who do not generally question the status quo or the situation that surrounds them. This assumption is equally true. People in the third world countries, unlike children, do not ask as many questions.
What causes this behavior change? Actually, as people grow older and mature up, they also become cognizant of their limitations in a society where people’s individual existence does not make much sense against the privileged and powerful section of the population that generally rules and determines the fate of the masses.The grown-ups also eventually learn about the price they will have to pay for questioning the authority of the select group that (mis)rules them.
In the midst of such circumstances, masses pose only closed-ended questions. The other dilemma comes from the very basic human instinct of not liking to be looked down upon. Thus, people would assert their guided and limited freedom by asking questions that make them sound as naive as children. In our daily interactions, we hear these questions from the masses. We know they sound funny but we, as “behaved citizens”, don’t laugh at them because we also recognize their validity in a society where people exercise totally limited freedom to question certain established norms and practices. It is better to suffice with these innocent questions than providing the authorities a chance to muzzle the existing inaudible sound.
Thus, this is a strange yet a deep quandary. We want to know but we can’t pose questions.
Of course we do question at times. But we also know that we do not mean [to ask] what we actually ask. Our questions do not represent what we want to ask but we remain contended with whatever restricted freedom we enjoy. Thus, in such repressed societies questions echo like responses and responses resemble the queries.
What is the people’s first reaction when something wrong happens in the country? If there is a railway accident or a corruption scandal, people have this naive question: “…Then why doesn’t the government resign?” We know there are few things without which [some] people can live but power is an exception to the rule. Nobody wants to give up power. If the powerful give up control over power then the whole philosophy of power and power struggle will disintegrate. We also hear more similar innocent questions in Balochistan when the provincial government complains against its powerlessness. The people immediately suggestively ask: “Then why doesn’t the Chief Minister resign?” We also hear the provincial assembly in Balochistan whine as to why the federal government does not respect the resolutions it passes. There is almost a repetition of the question, “Then why don’t the parties boycott the elections?”
In a nutshell , our people ask the very wrong questions. Under the rules of the game, power is not meant to be relinquished. Acquiring power is a dirty business but you have to get dirtier and nastier to sustain your control over it. In a society where democratic institutions are controlled by undemocratic people and ruined by authoritarian tendencies and corrupt practices, people do not enjoy the luxury of asking questions. How do you go about a change then? The best thing for the masses who publicly ask naive questions to do is to firstly ask the “bold questions” in daily conversations with their friends, families and circles of like-minded people. Our tragedy is two-fold. One is democratic parties, institutions and governments are controlled by people who fear nothing but democracy itself. Secondly, the power of the people has also been replaced with a fake public power. This is a breed of people who do not mean to vote when pretend to be voting.
Democracy does not get polluted only because of corrupt and autocratic leaders.
Democracy also gets disfigured with a phoney power of the people and abundance of hackneyed questions. (The Baloch Hal)