David Foster Wallace has somewhere written that narcissism is part of depression. But Wallace’s characterization is only partially true for a kind of narcissism leading to nihilism, which in a grim way ultimately forces the individual to consume himself.
There are other, arguably more stark, forms of narcissism. And one such form is cultural narcissism.
A cultural narcissist had a twisted view of reality, which is not only self-centered but also self-protruding, that is all reality emanates from his own self. Consciously or subconsciously, he keeps circumambulating around the Caaba of his imagined lofty narratives, going on an on in circles without ever having a slight tinge of doubt. Nothing captures him more than his version of cherished reality, of which he is the origin as well as the terminus; always situated in the centre of his universe and audacious and fearless of his infallibility. Consequently, all other ideals are redefined, and those which cannot be redefined are forcefully diminished as invalid, with respect to that reality. Not only that but all the human faculties, such as the abilities to reason, reflect and argue, inadvertently fortify these new definitions.
Let me once again emphasize that I am talking about All the Ideals. The liberty of the individual, the love of the other, the truth to be deciphered from the revelation, other humanist ideals such as empathy and justice, and the one you mentioned as the seventh step of your charter, to know the ‘other’.
And God is no exception. Isn’t He too a supreme ideal to be imagined, after all?
Therefore, it is not that a Purist Pakistani - a large part of the choir – is incapable of compassion and empathy with the ‘other’ but that all these notions are conditioned according to his imagined structures of reality. In the political manifestations of these cherished structures of reality, the ‘other‘ is essentially viewed as an entity to be released from the shackles of darkness and brought into the open arms of an imagined Islamic ideal.
Doesn’t it seem a lovely cosmological framework to encompass all polity? From darkness to the light? I mean, who would theoretically disagree to that? Its simple and elegant; and if you are already fed on romantically imagined, flimsy and incomplete socio-historical narratives, you are not only conditioned to make perfect sense of it within your percept, but also ideologically prepared to take it forward to the next step.
In these imagined narratives, the world, – which is in utter darkness – will be brought to light before the end of days. Did I hear you say something to yourself ? — Ahh, you are probably thinking that such eschatologies are shared by many other religions of the world and there is nothing unique as such. I agree to that but here comes the really innovative part: the final phase of this perennial conflict between the forces of light and darkness will start from Pakistan. After clearing the first two steps, that is an Islamic caliphate in AF-Pak and India, and submission of all modern heathens, caliphate would start expanding and reach its natural limits when all the universe will be unified under an enlightened Islamic polity.
Would you disagree that bringing nations of the world from the darkness to light is not enough pursuance of a compassionate ideal?
It is not my desire to keep you engaged at length with our intricate and innumerable miseries. Bickering about your well intended charter of compassion hasn’t been slightest of my motivations, needless to mention that I do resonate with it in broad terms; what I wanted to tear apart, rather, was myself . Remember that urge to reveal the innermost?
And now when you presumably know the silent majority a little more, I must tell you in the end why the charter of compassion won’t work.
That the charter would not work, is not because the Conservatives would refuse to take the prep-talk about the compassionate side of their religion from an atheist, and the Liberals would remain indifferent to any religious enquiry whatsoever; rather, its futility lies in its failure to recognize the actual problem.
Not reaching the root of the Pakistani problem, the whole charter tries to place it within the domain of religious interpretation. Thus it projects the so-called Golden Rule of emphasizing in tradition what should provoke empathy for the ‘other’ and downplaying what is considered insensitive. I ask you what is it, if its not a cunning contrivance? Isn’t it simple picking and choosing with wise gimmickry?
Ain’t all the religious bigots in this country among liberals and conservatives, the sundry drum-beaters projecting Armageddon scenarios every other day, and even the suicidal radicals, doing the same thing; that is picking and choosing?
In the charter, you have time and again insinuated to reject the so-called authoritarian interpretations of religion and tradition, and embrace the more humanistic ones. Well, the culture narcissist – making large part of the silent majority – whose reality is already transposed, is exactly doing it inadvertently, but for those views which are essentially consistent with his version of reality.
Because, in my opinion, we all think and act according to our own perceptions of realities and corresponding world-views. Post-modern socio-political thought structures have at least provided some basis to argue that all of us do enjoy this right, and be ready to eat the fruits of this liberty.
In my opinion, what we instead have to do, is to extract the problem from the domain of religion or tradition - where you tend to put it – to the domain of aesthetics. In other words, we have to explore the relationship of individual with the world according to his notion of what is beautiful, rather than many other alternative notions, such as what his religious belief entails and whether and how he can perceive the ‘other’ from various standpoints.
I hate to reiterate that I do not speak from the position of a critic or a scholar, but just a Pakistani who have read you and understood you as the ‘other’. Through your writings, I have found in you a uniquely profound dimension to believe in humanity and the humane ideals. For what can be a more truer perception of ‘other’, than being able to perceive his God from his own standpoint. I don’t characterize you as a ’gasp‘ atheist but one that is kind of perplexed in placing faith in God as a fact or as an ideal to be imagined. Most of us who choose to believe in God as a fact, have a tendency to define the fact according to our own perceptions of reality.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was reported to have said that Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. In my view, a large majority of Pakistani society has a problem with imagination and not with inaction or insensitivity to move towards achieving a compassionate ideal, and subsequently a humane society. If we want to compel this proverbial choir to sing in harmony, and in an audible voice, we must first challenge their notions of beauty with full force. And there can’t be any stronger form of this challenge than challenging their perception of God.
For how can believers in an ugly and insensitive God can strongly believe in a beautiful and compassionate world-view.
Regards and peace.