A number of things have happened lately that, when looked at all together, point to a pretty interesting phenomenon in popular politics. By popular politics, though, I don’t mean what most people support, but what is the popular perspective among those privileged enough to spend all day talking about politics.
Feisal Naqvi dismisses intellectuals as “the 50 people who talk to each other on Twitter”, but considers Mr Zohair Toru, despite all his faults, a political hero. But think about what Feisal wants us to celebrate in Zohair.
First, let us first celebrate the fact that well-meaning, English-medium burger babies have been so roused from the depths of their traditional apathy that they are actually taking to the streets.
From apathetic burger-babies to “fantastically ignorant” (Feisal’s words, not mine) street protesters. This is an improvement? Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate if our privileged and educated youth put their time and energy towards analysing economic policy or water conservation? Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate these English-medium burger-babies getting off the street and taking up the less glamourous work of actually governing? Yes, they may have to start at the bottom of the ladder and work their way up, but surely spending their days taking notes and running errands is a small sacrifice for someone who has been given so much in life. After all, revolutionaries love to suffer, right?
Second, I think it is worth celebrating the fact that our burger-babies do not feel that it is appropriate for the police to push around non-violent protesters.
Talk about setting the bar low. Congratulations privileged youth! You don’t like to be pushed around by police! What an accomplishment.
It’s also a little bit of a stretch to say that these burger-babies don’t approve of police violence. Actually they don’t approve of police violence against them. If a group of “beret-wearing poli-sci types” took to the streets to demand the repeal of the blasphemy laws, would Imran Khan’s ‘Fashionista Army’ be on the streets to defend them?
We should also be a bit troubled by the blatant anti-intellectualism coming from “a partner at Bhandari, Naqvi & Riaz and an advocate of the Supreme Court”. But, of course, this is actually a faux anti-intellectualism, anyway. Do you really think Feisal Naqvi, Zohair Toru, and Imran Khan think their servants are fit to govern the country? I’m sure they have not bothered to read Gramsci, either.
Really, though, this defense of Zohair Toru’s silliness is just the latest in a line of self-praise for meaningless and ultimately ineffective tantrums by the privileged class. It is the latest expression of the people who look down on the great unwashed masses and look up with envy to the super-wealthy who keep them from what they believe is their rightful inheritance.
When Shah Mahmood Qureshi left the cabinet, I talked to so many people who acted as if he were Jinnah come back to save the country. Everyone said he was starting a new political party (a claim SMQ himself has publicly denied) that would sweep to power and solve every problem in the nation.
I suspect that this attitude also this accounts for the appeal of political parties like PTI to so many in the middle class. I always laugh when people tell me that Imran Khan is an alternative. Imran Khan? The ego-maniac millionaire celebrity play boy is an alternative? The man with the huge private estate and the ex-wife back in London is an alternative? The pseudo-religious know-it-all is an alternative? An alternative to what?
Let’s be honest, shall we? PTI has been around for almost 15 years now, so it’s not exactly fresh and new. PTI first contested elections in 1997. They won 1.7% of the votes. In 2002, they actually did worse, only taking 0.8%. In 2008 they didn’t even bother to show up. Imran Khan has been peddling his brand of politics for nearly a decade and a half and guess what?
Nobody is buying it.
People like Feisal Naqvi try to dismiss everyone who doesn’t agree with them as elitists, but who is more elitist than a bunch of people who can’t convince anyone to vote for them and still insist that they represent the people? In this sense, Zohair Toru is a perfect representative of PTI, or even some new party like PPP (Ghairat-e-Qureshi).
People who are used to getting whatever they want – and easily so – who simply cannot understand why, in the words of Feisal Naqvi, “politics is inherently a dirty business”. That’s also why their answer is always to ask for some “man of impeccable character” or Khalifa to save the country. They don’t want to get their own hands dirty, or stand in the sun too long, or get pushed around by police. They want a national daddy to fix everything so they can get back to “concentrating on their hairstyles”.
There is no doubt that people are frustrated – and with good reason. But we need to ask whether we’re channeling our frustration into pragmatic solutions or whether we are acting out and throwing tantrums in the hopes that daddy will buy us a new Prado with better features than our old car. We need to ask whether the “Revolution” being peddled by these spoiled middle class kids isn’t the same thing as trashing the car so that daddy will HAVE TO buy them a new one.
And it’s not just Pakistan, so don’t give me that answer either. This same phenomenon is found in other democratic countries where the privileged middle class loses all sense of perspective and forgets that governing is harder than throwing tantrums until you get your way. In the US, Ralph Nader ran for President in 2000 which was an expression of the frustration of the American educated middle class. He only won 2.7% of the vote, but it was enough that ended up resulting in eight years of George W. Bush. They wrecked the car, but the replacement wasn’t what they bargained for.
In the UK, this lesson was learned the hard way by Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats party when they won 23% of the votes in 2010. Neither of the two largest parties in the UK – Labour and Tories – had a solid majority, so Nick Clegg found himself in the position of ‘king maker’ by forming a coalition government. That meant that rather than organizing street protests of “fantastically ignorant” youth, Mr Clegg and his Lib-Dems were suddenly required to fix the problems they had been complaining about for years.
Turns out it’s easier to stand in the sun and get pushed by police for a while before going to a fashionable party.