Strings to the heart

Justin Bariso in his article on Elon Musk refers to the ‘dark side of emotional intelligence’. The said dark side implies how people who are very good at recognising the emotional trends of people, also know how to trigger and manipulate them. Pretty much all populist leaders who come to the stage embrace this skill. They recognise what is raw and then, with the meticulous precision of surgeon, put in the right dosage of salt in the wound to invite an expected reaction.

When Trevor Noah called our Kaptaan as the Pakistani Trump, I accepted the comparison half-heartedly. After all, nothing could be as bad as Trump. That said, a recent random suggestion of the same video got me to rethink my stance on that. 

34 days in, the partial government shutdown is a tragedy not solely because of its impact on the country’s economy and the people affected by it, but because of the infantile shrewdness of Trump. Demanding a $5.7 billion budget for his wall, Trump refuses to let the government machinery work leading to a pause in several public operations and impacting over 800,000 federal workers who haven’t received their pay checks since the shutdown. As a response, Trump is shameless at his stupidity. That, he’s always been. But, this time, he is just cruel. Inquired by several journalists who’ve got to ask him questions, he insists that those who will not be able to pay his bills are actually supportive of his actions. But then, he goes further. When asked about a party fellow’s confusion on why the federal workers would have issues getting food, Trump brought a new, rather ghastly interpretation to the aforementioned confusion: he claimed that ‘local knew locals’ and that the grocery stores would probably give free food to those who are suffering this due to the greater cause. ‘That’s what you do in such times’, he says with a smug on his face.

Listening to Trump, I could not help but remember how Kaptaan too expected the same when his followers were brought under police rebuttal by the preceding government. How, he too challenged the norms by demanding a burning of the bills and driving past the toll plazas because he believed that the then government did not deserve any money. That, he, more than once, asked his followers to disregard the instructions of the civil authority, those that his party members had themselves agreed to, and instead invite chaos. But, Kaptaan took a step forward with this by infusing all of this with religion. Suddenly, being anarchic against PMLN was Jihad. There were shouts of Allah-hu-Akbar as the writ of the State was challenged. People believed him then. People continue to believe him still.

And this is where we return to Buriso’s narrative in his book, ‘EQ Applied’. In the article, subsequent writeups and the book, he shows how emotional intelligence is not as much of a white skill as it’s made out to be. Yes, we do get a spread of humanism but this only happens when the person has good intentions behind them. However, the moment you recognize that certain individuals are more prone to emotional highs and lows, you can tailor your narrative to bring about those changes and/or mitigate a protest or disparity in opinions.

Both Trump and Kaptaan are masters at that. Which is why, they continue to remain popular. They manage to have a deeply emotional relationship with the audience by removing the distance and becoming more closer to the receiver of their message. This, in this time and age, is done via twitter. Everyone who follows Kaptaan, seems to believe that the tweets that flood his feed, are meant for him. And, he takes it personally. This almost always happens inadvertently. 

Once the connection is developed, it hampers one’s ability to be truly objective which is why, followers of such populist leaders cannot help but get emotional, impatient and reactive at any criticism towards their leaders. They feel that they have the responsibility to protect their ‘friend’, forgetting that he is a public figure.

These days Kaptaan is getting away with murder. Well, not literally. A few weeks ago, he complained on how the walkouts from the NA wasted tax payer’s money. No one reminded him that 27 of his party members, and himself, had been out of the parliament for 40 straight days in the ridiculous dharna of the yesteryears. Strange, Kaptaan himself didn’t feel any guilt writing that tweet. Just as Trump is shameless in now requiring the US to pay for the wall that was always supposed to be paid by Mexico. But, that’s the thing with such leaders and their followers. All that really matters at the end is what the truth can be shaped out to be; using whatever tools at hand. In our case, the best words that can trigger the right emotions and reorient the reader to the present while ignoring the past. And, that’s a skill both Trump and Kaptaan seem to have mastered.


The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.


The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

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