The pathology of denial

There still exists a loud cacophony of voices in our midst which seeks to deny that we have a problem with extremism.

Khurram Husain September 15, 2010

Even cliches fail me now. Even as our cities are bombed and our minorities mowed down with machine guns and hand grenades, there still exists a loud cacophony of voices in our midst which seeks to deny that we have a problem with extremist and intolerant strains of religious militancy. Even as floods devastate our countryside, at a time when we need the state more than any other time in our recent history, there exists a cacophony of voices in our midst which seek to discredit whatever broken remnants of government we have left.

The piling debris of confusion and despair now looks hopelessly unmanageable. The cross cutting conflicts are too many to be reasoned through, the voices too shrill to be argued with, the arguments too specious and slippery to be engaged with. It seems like the bombs are the clearest voices in our midst now, the targeted killings the most persuasive arguments, and the floodwaters the only public spaces left that effectively connect us with each other — sweeping all before them without regard to gender or creed, race or religion, sect or language.

And still denial rules supreme. Still there are those who say this is not our war. Still there are those who would prefer to tear down the edifice of state rather than work to shore it up. Still there are those who pine for more chaos, more disorder, with all the wiles of a moviegoer who waits anxiously for the plot to thicken, for the destruction to come on harder and headier. Yes, let’s all exalt the spectre of revolution and military takeovers, just pause the action while I fetch my popcorn!

Notice how denial always rests on a popcorn understanding of large scale events. For instance, notice how adamantly so many cling to the notion that America is out to destabilise Pakistan, when every shred of evidence clearly shows that the superpower is in fact struggling mightily to sustain and prop up the global order it has presided over since World War II. In a world fast falling apart, with instability plaguing countries from Mexico to Iran to North Korea, a semblance of stability has been brought only recently, and through tremendous difficulty to the Caucasus, the Balkans and Southern Africa and large parts of North Africa. With that in mind, why on earth would the superpower be seeking to create more instability in a nuclear-armed country like Pakistan?

Of course it doesn’t help that a small band of ideological warriors went ahead and ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003, wreaking such catastrophic damage to America’s global mission that the superpower is unlikely to ever recover from it. It also doesn’t help that America is leaving Iraq in a condition of greater disrepair than the country has ever experienced. But how on earth do we see that sort of thing happening here? Under the present American administration?

But evidence matters little to those in denial. It’s easier, more comfortable and certainly less confusing to select a couple of dots and connect the shortest distance between them and disregard the rest as the PR machinations of an imperial ambition and its collaborators. It’s easier to outsource our understanding of the world through blind faith to trusted arbiters, whether the cricketer turned politician or someone else, who participates heartily in the cottage industry of denial based views.

But denial won’t save us from the bombs and the bullets. Denial won’t produce order out of chaos. Denial cannot substitute for politics once we have torn down the last and only edifice of participatory state making that we have, broken and imperfect as it may be. The high road today is to find a way to tame this animal called democracy. The low road is to shoot it dead. And please remember that we are fighting the Taliban on the streets of our cities today only because for years we denied their ascendancy in the tribal areas of our western borderlands. If we continue in our denial today, tomorrow we’ll be fighting them in them our homes, indeed even in our hearts and minds.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2010.


Farrukh Siddiqui | 12 years ago | Reply Why do you care about the U.S. hatred so much? Are you a Pakistani or an American? Fyi.. the U.S. foreign policy is equally unpopular across Europe including Britain. Please research and become more aware of what is really going on. Taliban is a creation of the ISI and the CIA. Even now, it is being financed through the U.S. via the ISI. There are scores and dozens of stories in the mainstream US and British press on this. Which world the media people in Pakistan are living in? I am stunned at the ignorance in Pakistan's media and many people including readers here. The Republicans have launched a massive whispering campaign against Obama (you can read it in all their pet newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal) that he is a Muslim. You are going to see an extraordinary rise in its tempo as the US nears congressional elections. Part of this campaign is to demonize Muslims. They have targetted even some long time and prominent Muslim Republican party members such as millionaire Seeme Hasan in Colorado. The campaign is very similar to the completely false propaganda that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. That was a completely fabricated lie. Here again in Pakistan, we are being told lies through paid media people. Some of them were revealed through picture at a US Embassy party few months ago. Please wake up and come out from ignorance. I live in Boston, have lived there for 30 years, I am hardly a practising Muslim but I care about Pakistan. Please do not think I have an personal interest or a biased view. I enjoy my drink with a relish!
Raja Arsalan | 12 years ago | Reply It is good. Please don't spread undue hatred amongst the Pakistanis against the US. There are many too many in the country.
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