Sigmund Freud says, “Repressed emotions never die, but are buried alive and come out in terrible ways.” Ernest Hemingway, who won the Nobel-Prize for literature in 1954, wrote a story, For sale: baby’s shoes, never worn. This six-word story is considered the shortest complete short story ever. Who is selling the shoes? Maybe a child’s parents. Perhaps the child died at birth or was stillborn. The parents may have bought shoes with great desires, but are forced to sell the dead child’s shoes due to their financial situation. Monster of poverty, economic inequality, improper allocation of resources and helplessness of man in front of nature is all what this story features. This is the reason why Ernest Hemingway, called this story spanning six words the highest story of his career.
Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was much impressed by two masterpieces of world literature — Ernest Hemingway’s story, The Old Man and the Sea, and Albert Camus’s novel, The Plague. Marquez combined the ‘objective’ prose and philosophical symbolism of Hemingway with the existentialistic prose of Camus and created one of his most famous stories ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’. It tells the story of a nameless veteran in his late-70s who was a colonel in the Thousand Days’ War — a Colombian civil war at the turn of the 20th century. The colonel and his wife live in an impoverished village, stricken by repressive political violence and corrupt officials and aristocrats. Even though the colonel played a crucial role in the Thousand Days’ War decades ago, delivering “the funds of the civil war in two trunks roped to the back of a mule”, he never received his pension cheques. Each Friday the colonel walks to the post office at the harbour and waits for the cheques. The postmaster has a cynical attitude towards the colonel’s hopefulness. The colonel’s wife too realises the pension will never come; and after years of disappointment and near-starvation, she tells her husband that they can’t eat hope. Though the colonel and his wife live on the brink of starvation, with no hope of income, the colonel’s dignity and pride remain intact. He refuses to let his wife sell their few possessions lest anyone find out they’re starving. At his wife’s insistence, the colonel sells his rooster to his friend, Sabas, a fellow veteran who became rich through opportunistic political allegiances. The colonel, however, reneges on the deal and reclaims the rooster. In the end, the colonel’s wife asks him in desperation what they will eat. The colonel replies they will eat shit.
In Charles Dickens novel, Great Expectations, Pip says: “Nothing is so keenly seen and felt as injustice.” What strikes us the most is not the realisation that the world is not entirely just, as few of us expect it to be, but that there are clearly remediable injustices around us that we want to end. Without awareness of these obvious injustices, the people of Paris never attack on Bastille prison. Gandhi would not have challenged an empire on which the sun never set. Matrin Luther King would not have fought against white supremacy. They were not trying to achieve a completely just world. Rather, they were trying to remove the obvious injustice as far as they could.
Injustices destroy the existence of man and the state. The world has reached this conclusion after centuries of experience. That’s why it has completely eliminated injustices from its own societies. That is why today they are at the height of development, prosperity, freedom and stability. On the other hand, due to the injustices today, our state and the people have reached the extremes of misery and instability. Due to these conditions, people have become physically and mentally ill. Their desperation and uncertainty are reaching their limits. Everyday thousands of troubles await them outside the door of their houses. They have become completely toxic. Remember that poison does not have eyes. Therefore, if anyone from the elite class thinks he is safe in the country, he is wrong.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2023.
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