“Your wish is my command” is a phrase that originates in the Arabic folk tale ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’. It’s what the genie said to the boy who conjured him. In the real world, perhaps this has descended upon our society from slaves, concubines, ministers and officials in the erstwhile royal courts; with catastrophic pitfalls nevertheless. The sad fact is that non-expression of truth or not saying ‘no’ has become a habit or a culture. People in authority in private or official life have gotten accustomed to the ‘yes man’ ethos and as a result, the slide down the slippery slope continues unabated in Pakistani politics, bureaucracy in different hues and colour e.g. public administration, general management, judiciary, and even in the armed forces. It is said that a lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. The pure battlefield cry like “ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do and die” (a slightly altered version of lines written by Lord Alfred Tennyson in his 1854 poem, ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, about a failed British military action: “Theirs not to make reply / Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die.”) has erroneously been stretched too far to apply to day-to-day peacetime affairs. In all public/ government departments, the difference of opinion or a mere expression of a fact is termed as tactlessness, arrogance, or inanity that gets reflected in annual confidential reports with severe implications for promotions and postings. Thus the fear so instilled has enforced an environment where ‘wrong’ is practiced as ‘right’ without any qualms. The culture of blind obedience like Aladdin’s genie to even obvious illegal and immoral orders and instructions has played havoc in our society and consequently, Pakistan stands at a nadir in almost all walks of life.
There is a Hebrew proverb that states, “A rich man has no need of character”. Needless to say, the journey from the status of ‘put up for approval please’ to the prestigious position of ‘approved’ is mostly marked with a long list of compromises, with serious moral, material and psychological ramifications for the national fibre nevertheless. The self-serving but detestable ‘yes man’ culture has become so well entrenched that rise in status or career in public or private life appears impossible without due give and take in all commissions and omissions during or even after retirement till slurping the last drops of perks and privileges before finally settling down for the concluding moments of mortal life. It is only then that not all but a few of the so ascended elite under final pangs of conscience resort to social, print, or electronic media to exhibit their broken spine as a solid one (no pun intended). The rest go down to oblivion without remorse or regrets, but some diminish even with false pride.
It must not be forgotten that one who rebukes a man will afterward find more favour than one who flatters with the tongue. It is an extreme rarity (maybe one in a million) who despite competence, capabilities and sure-footed career opportunities and with due awareness of the consequences, picks up the courage to say the right thing at the right moment and to the right audience in authority. Such a rare blue-blooded breed is mostly subjected to ridicule, maltreatment, jealousy and social inequality; yet, at the end of the day, these exceptional people get more respect and self-satisfaction, and better family life despite modest social status. Not to forget that character is like a tree and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Goodness is about character: integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people. “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in character. If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation…” — Chinese proverb.
As always, the public at large as well as officialdom from top to bottom, despite being part of the same rot tend to take solace by merely throwing around the query as to who will bell the cat. The short answer is ‘each one of us’; as long as we are willing to pay the little price for the much-needed transition from rotten environs to a civilised society. As long as we keep waiting for the others or the government to take a start in this direction, each one of us will at best remain a bystander. As a society, we have to work together for the grooming and revival of mothers, teachers and balanced religious institutions for the inculcation of universally acceptable moral, ethical and religious values and due character building. The over-commercialism of the education sector has done more harm than good to the nation already in disarray. The addiction of parents and students with high grades at the cost of losing cultural values, national pride and religious faith are too poisonous and it is futile to expect anything good from it.
The ability to call spade a spade comes with a strong character and sound logic based on virtuous knowledge and experience. While the majority of the ‘hungry poor classes’ erroneously may have some tenable reasons to indulge in ill practices for their survival; however, the ‘hungry rich class’ remains the raison d’être of a corrupted country. The elite class has learned the art to function as a conglomerate that seems to remain above the law and thus stays incorrigible. Therefore, short of a mass political movement led by honest leadership, the light at the end of the tunnel remains dim. Nonetheless, infused with the spirit of self-sacrifice, small individual steps in the right direction are bound to usher in the envisioned dawn. Back to basics, we need to restore pride in following the teachings of the Quran & Sunnah besides adhering to the philosophy given by Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal and the motto given by the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah i.e. “Unity, faith and discipline”. Only then can we hope to get rid of the abhorrent custom of saying or hearing “: your wish is my command”. “Right conscience must always be your best friend of influence: tied closer than even the yes-men who can send ruin.”