Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blasted into Agnosticism? By Believers.

Here's a headline for you - The Daughter of the East has fallen victim to the regions' time honoured tradition of filicide. Benazir Bhutto assassinated by bullets and bombs at a fateful Rawalpindi rally pictured to the left...with the word Shahid chillingly emblazoned below her in a fitting final shot...rendering captions superfluous.

I'm surprised by how sad I feel. I never thought much of Benazir after her two failed prime ministerships. She made a mess out of two precious opportunities that her countrymen gave her - discredited democracy for several years along with her inept alter ego, Nawaz Sharif - and made it easy for the military establishment to take over her country each time. So much so that its taken 7 years of an incompetent, though largely benevolent, dictatorship to bring democracy back in fashion in Pakistan.

But Benazir first came to power around the time that I first started following politics and so she's been part of the political world as I've known it, forever. She was like a slightly crazy aunt that I'd gotten used to having around, periodically noisy but largely irrelevant. Her 15 minutes up, she seemed destined to live out her years in affluence in London...seemingly delusional about her achievements and importance and seemingly paranoid about how just about everyone was out to get her.

Well today, I guess this can be said - She was important and They were out to get her. And though she was an imperfect leader. Though she was smug and self-important. Though she was corrupt. She was also Pakistan's only real liberal, moderate, secular voice of any importance. She was also, I think, courageous. Of all the condolences that poured out on the news, I think Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi was the one that really put that into perspective for me. He said, she was "a woman who chose to fight her battle until the end with a single weapon - the one of dialogue and political debate." And whatever else she was, that is true of Benazir and I think given the way things are in Pakistan today, using only dialog and debate is immensely courageous. I think she came back despite the danger, to get one last chance to redeem herself and with her courage and in her martyrdom, I think she succeeded.

The sad thing is that her attackers have probably succeeded not just in her murder but also in their wider objective of driving Pakistan in a more Islamist direction. An assassination is such a horrible thing. All the possibilities and hopes eliminated just like that in a flash - I hate assassinations. Among other things, I think they're responsible for the rise of rampant right-wing Republicanism in the US (JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King) and of the end of the Israel-Palestine peace process (Rabin)...and the sad thing is its always the extremists who assassinate the moderates because by definition moderates won't do such things. Those unable to win the debate with ideas and inspiration have often succeeded in winning the debate with assassinations. And in causing so much more misery for thousands, even millions of people for years and even decades, before another leader comes along to show the way out.

Through the course of the day, I found my thoughts veering in directions agnostic. I should say first, that I've always believed in God(s). Always. Even as I turned completely, vehemently away from religion, I continued to believe in God and to pray to Him/Her/Them. But today as I thought about assassinations and their intolerable effectiveness, I wondered. Would God, if he exists, really choose to test us by allowing these things to happen? Would he, like a bad soap opera script-writer who builds up a beautiful romance and then kills off one of the audience-beloved pair, manipulate our emotions just to keep us interested in him? And even if he allowed assassinations to happen, wouldn't he make sure that the vision of the fallen leader was miraculously realized? Wouldn't that be the best way to teach a lesson to those b***ards out there - Instead of deepening the misery of the largely-innocent?

Going by history, I have little hope that Benazir's killing will not lead to more turmoil in Pakistan and a move away from a modern liberal path...leading either to years of violence or years of suppression under a tyrannical military or theological regime.

I pray it won't happen. But I'm increasingly not very confident that there's some non-denominational being or beings out there listening.


CadeRageous said...

First of all, thank you for this post. Before yesterday, I never knew who she was, but to hear it from a perspective who's known her public image for years and years is most enlightening.

Seconds, the point you make that all voices with at least an edge of liberalness are taken out is very disturbing to me. This is very scary to me, now that you've made me realize it. Though he was Republican, you might even add Lincoln to that list of the killed for his staunch opposition to slavery.

Lastly, I hope that you don't let such tragedies sway you from believing in some higher power. In my view, it's the darkest times (this is dark, but we ain't seen nothin' yet) where our faiths are tested most. My main strength is my absolutely firm belief that what happens is meant to happen. There is a reason for everything, though it's seldom if ever known to us.

So find peace, if you can, through this tragedy. Learn from it in every possible way, and continue to move forward. That's what life is about.

U Chandra K said...

hmmm... I liked the title.... and let me quote my partner when i say the whole theory of agnosticism is 'pretty questionable' :-)

CadeRageous said...

Whoever you are U Chandra, I love you, hahahaha...

CadeRageous said...

and your partner.

Anonymous said...

Let not the talk of puppies and teddy bears make you believe in a higher power cause puppies and teddy bears are just as cuddly in the atheistic world.

For those who do believe in a higher power, all I can say is that the next time His boss gives Him a performance appraisal, His bonus is going to be so low that it won’t even meet inflation protection.

I mean if you have power, why let the puppies bleed? Can't You just create a unicorn that heals wounds in a twinkle with some pixie dust. How difficult is that for someone omnipotent. He needs to find a different job. He ain’t doing so well right now. One measly unicorn. Power is wasted in Him.

CadeRageous said...

I think life isn't meant to be ALL perfect, nor ALL beautiful completely lacking pain and suffering. It's those dark moments that make us appreciate the good in life. So many there's a purpose for all the nasty, horrific things that happen (I guess this is the argument for the purpose of a Devil).

Addicted to Friends said...

Love the "one measly unicorn" comment. Difficult to argue with that :)

Doccy said...

Its sad that shes gone ...
But whoever did it, had some nerve to tolerate her for so long!!
Someone please kill Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sheriff, Shahbaz Sheriff, Ch. Aitazaz Ahsan & Iftikhar Chaudary too. With them gone from the face of Pakiland, atleast 75% of the problems Pakistan is facing will automatically disappear.

The "incompetent, largely benevolent, dictatorship" made just ONE mistake in 7 years and that was to let these "SCUMS ON EARTH", back in the country.