‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Wars and bloody revolutions happen because people do not speak up in time. A stitch in time is supposed to save nine but when evil is left alone, it propagates quickly. We allow to let evil accumulate so much so that it gets out of hand. We see this happening in our everyday life at all levels.
Let’s take bullying in schools. Since no one has the guts to speak up and no one feels obliged to challenge him, the big, bad bully continues to terrorize the silent majority. People standing in a queue do not speak up when the queue is broken by people who have links and friends in the right places. Instead of rising against it people join the trend and try to find links of their own. Many look the other way and pretend not to notice when they see an injustice which is not directly affecting them.
In legal terms, in some situations, knowledge combined with the failure to make an attempt to prevent a crime will make one an accomplice. An accomplice is normally regarded as just as culpable as the person who actually commits the crime.
The will of the people determines what kind of society it will be and what its course will be. It can’t be left to the government or law enforcement agencies. Behaviors and conducts assume permanence with time and become trademarks of a society and nation.
Keeping silent usually is interpreted as acquiescence. Our laws are not implemented in true spirit only because we ourselves tend to violate laws according to our convenience and when we see a law being broken by others we choose to not get involved for fear of rebuttal or persecution. Smoking is now prohibited by law in public places in Pakistan but is as rampant as before because non-smokers will not tell the smoker to snuff out his cigarette and law-enforcing personnel cannot be everywhere. So the law remains just a law. When people become apathetic to their surroundings and selfishness becomes the order of the day then it’s every man for himself. Moral turpitude sets in leading to moral death. People cannot differentiate between good and evil.
With this evil overwhelms goodness and becomes the norm. A small problem can assume gigantic proportions if not nipped in the bud. It will gradually become acceptable and will not appear to be something wrong. In our society there are numerous examples of the same. Bribery and nepotism are so rampant that they have become acceptable and so considered a necessary evil, at best.
History is replete with examples where societies have destroyed themselves by keeping silent in the face of an oppressive and evil minority thus allowing it to become a majority. Modern society and democracy side with the majority which can never mean that majority is always right.
This kind of dilemma happens around us every day. In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority are, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority are. Oppressive eras, in which people keep silent in the face of evil, are often followed by a bloody revolution or a takeover by a foreign power. The end of the Mughal era and the many martial laws in Pakistan are examples of the same.
Evil, when left to propagate itself, will gradually either result in the indoctrination of the good and will engulf it or will destroy the good unless it is challenged and defeated.
It’s when people take charge of their life and proactively take matters in their hands and rise against evil that miracles happen. Slavery was abolished in America when a handful of people rose against it and challenged the majority. This changed the world and in a country where ‘dogs and negroes’ were not allowed to enter certain establishments till 50 years ago now has an African-American president.
Unfortunately, the current situation in Pakistan is a good example of people enduring evil and keeping silent in the face of evil and insolent might. This attitude has made us immune to many horrendous atrocities that happen around us every day.
We shrug our shoulders in an attitude of resigned indifference and get on with our lives. Thus our apathy results in normalizing these atrocities, so much so that our children grow up with them and begin to think of them as norms. In time they themselves indulge in them as they start to consider them right and justified. We are the architects of not only our fates but our collective future.
Take the current scenario in Pakistan. Motorway is closed. Petrol and gas pumps are closed. People wielding sturdy sticks studded with six inch nails are on the streets, ready to attack anyone and anything they fancy. Armed police is ready to fire at the slightest provocation.
As my countrymen continue to happily wreck their own country, I can’t help but think of all those who have to travel under compulsion. People who are ill and hurting and have to get to a hospital, people who wish to reach an ailing loved one, to attend a funeral, students who need to reach or apply to colleges after the recently declared Matric result, travellers who have flown in and have a schedule to follow, even brides and grooms waiting to be united!
And all this at the behest of a ‘religious’ party, which clearly wants to create anarchy and chaos. The other protagonist, PTI, seems disorientated and confused and is fast losing the trust people had imposed in it last year. Instead of playing a positive part as a strong opposition and letting democracy take roots, it is promoting violence and disruption. What have we become? Why can’t we think for ourselves? Till when will these self-serving, ignorant, well-fed politician puppets, living opulent lives in their palaces, keep exploiting us? Will we never have a leader in the true sense of the word?
We, the people, do not realize our power. We all studied the ‘Unity is strength’ story of the farmer and his three sons while in school but short of cramming it up for the exams, we did not learn anything from it. We have divided ourselves into small groups based on caste, creed, religious sects, ethnicity, geo-location, language, economic situation and so on and so forth. The tried and tested old formula of ‘divide and rule’ still holds water and our enemies from within and without continue to exploit it to wreak havoc in the country
Now what can we do, you may say? The common, thinking man faces this dilemma all the time. I think the best we can do is to do the best with what we have and where we are.
What we can do is free our minds and remove the barriers we have erected around us. Come together as one; develop a sense of unity and uniformity in thought, action and attitudes. The time has come where we take matters in our own hands. Five clear steps in the right direction, in my opinion, are:
- Try our utmost to put national interest above personal if there is a conflict between both.
- Spread education through personal efforts either by educating a child or extending economic help. Invest effort, time and thought in raising our children right.
- Raise our voice against corruption and injustice in appropriate ways and not just remain a silent observer.
- Come together as one and develop a sense of unity and uniformity in thought, action and attitudes.
- Adopt a proactive attitude and form a group of like-minded people, who take the public servants and elected representatives of a locality to task and make them accountable for malpractices at grassroots level.
I fully believe that as a nation we are full of resilience and strength. It’s a case of a pack of monkeys leading a nation of lions. These monkeys, in their lust for power and pelf, have always put personal interest over national interest. Let’s open our eyes. Just look at how our so called leaders and law makers live. Do they have the right to lead us?
True leaders are people who are at the forefront when it is time to give and at the very back when it’s time to receive. Hear the shallowness and superficiality in their words. Observe them snapping at each other like hyenas and bowing and scraping at the altar of selfishness and greed. They are not leaders. They seem to me to be more like vultures! They are in power because we allow it. The blame for the current situation lies mostly with us.
A drop of water may be insignificant when solitary but when many come together will move mountains.
‘Tho’ much is taken, much abides;
and tho’ we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
‘The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.” Martin Luther King.