Taboos have been commonplace in almost all societies — antiquated, medieval, modern and post-modern. However, the one with worst historical, social, political and intellectual repercussion has been truth. That the things shouldn’t be spoken, written and communicated as they actually are or appear to be. That the facts, courses and public discourse and opinion be oriented in a manner that favours elitism and status quo regardless of the reality or consequences.
In the ancient times, the flow of knowledge and information was controlled, directed and censored by the political and religious pulpits and elites in a manner that did suit their perks, power and privileges. They didn’t allow the information and facts to be made public that stood in contravention to their ill-built prestige, wealth and status quo. This is why the real account of events couldn’t emerge and evolved in the historiography. This is evident from the varying accounts and explanations of same event and incidents.
The contemporary times outweigh and outpace the preceding societies as far as recording and reproducing the actual account and events are concerned. The narratives and historical accounts are tightly censored, checked or even curbed in many societies across the globe these days. The narratives and public opinion are orchestrated and oriented by state. Given their highhanded stake and authoritative stance to historiography, the state narratives always remain dominant accounts of events. The alternative narrative of an event, though grounded in reality, hardly makes it into the minds and perceptions owing the lack of acknowledgment and legal assent.
Today, truth is what the powerful believes it to be. Narratives are fabricated, manipulated in a way to support status quo. There are more curbs on speaking truth than on any heinous crimes. The surge in populism, demagoguery, emotionalism are evident of dwindling scope and space of truth both in minds and behaviours of today’s world. Since all information, facts and realistic assessment of events are archived under the state’s possessions, hardly genuine facts and knowledge make it through the public domain. Disinformation and authoritative curbs on freedom of speech, of thoughts, of critical cognition, of realistic reflections have been fast becoming part and parcel of public policy making in almost all political and social units across the world. The allure and scope of reality, logical assessment, cost-benefit analysis, critical appraisal in legislative and executive domains are withering away over time.
Elections manifesto across the globe are exaggerated statements and assumptions than facts substantiated by reality, logic and evidence. This is how most of policies, outcomes and expectations are far more divorced from what is promised during the electioneering.
Worse, whosoever dares to speak truth in a manner that infringes the elite’s primacy is meted out with threats of dire consequences which in cases culminate into something fatal.
The case of Pakistan is no different. The country’s history is contested. Historical distortion of events and accounts are open secret. A glance through election manifesto and ground realities speaks volumes of it. Though structural and socio-economic constraints may bar the stakeholders, it’s mainly the intentional falsifications and hollow claims to win public support that lie behind this dichotomy.
Historical accounts and truthful expositions need to be institutionalised and vital events revisited in a manner that propounds realistic narratives than fabrications and falsifications.
The world needs to recognise that the more we drift away from truth and reality, the more we suffer from the forces and evil of our own calling. Salvation does not lie in shying away from the realities, but in accepting and learning from them and basing our future courses in line with the lessons historical events and factual accounts realistically teach us.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2021.
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