Nations, don’t just happen

imageThe breaking news was as usual all about dire consequences of one event or the other. One gets used to it. This is the way of all channels and media, world over. Somehow, bad news travels fast, gets more attention and attracts people. Nothing like a good old disaster to get people animated. Anyway, here in Pakistan we have become de-sentisized, as we have plenty of bad news and on top of it, dozens of channels vying for breaking news. Grief!

All the bad news notwithstanding, I would like to add my two bits to the discussion of how things have deteriorated and we are in a mess. My personal take on it is that, it is nature taking its toll. Yes surprise, Nature!

In the past I have written on our nationhood and blamed our lack of belief in our vision. This lack of vision, a desire to be an aspirational Muslim homeland, got diluted and a desire to be a strong economic state took over. We got our wires crossed and really ended up doing neither. (Reference However, over time and after due consideration, while I still think we need a vision to take us further – otherwise there is nothing to hold us together – the reality is that nature is taking its toll.

Let me explain my statement, which I assure you is not an effort to be facetious. In the worlds written history, there have been nine great nations. There have been other good ones, but what we would classically call great, are those who have dominated their period in the world, added to knowledge and their traces are left in the working of the world even today. Historically they have lasted an average of two hundred and fifty years or more. Want me to count them out? Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, Turkistan, Britain, America; more or less chronologically and another interesting point; there have been no repeats. China might well turn out to be the first repeat.

Anyway, think of these nations. They were formed layer by layer. The Egyptians took thousands of years to come to a stage of absolute dominance. Same with the Romans. From the discovery of Romulus and Remus on the banks of the Tiber to Julius Caesar was several hundreds of years. These years comprise a coming together, a homogeneity of purpose, a gathering of strength, conquest and then respect follows from other nations, that you are the leaders. Having reached this peak, the decline starts and at first society declines, then economics and finally the military strength dissipates. That is the round trip of a nation. (Reference

Now think back to August 1947. When India obtained independence they had a memory. They remembered the Aryans, Alexander as he came through the Khyber Pass, later the Huns, Mongols and Babur. India owned the Red Fort and Taj Mahal. All these they took as their own. This was as much their history, as Chandragupta Maurya or Ashoka or Ranjit Singh. Their culture was a melting pot of homogeneity and in economics they were working together against adversity. So naturally it is easier to bond as a nation and have one identity.

Then there was Pakistan. We had a seven year history (from 1940 resolution), two varying lands and cultures- apart by fifteen hundred miles-, a western part which comprised borderland tribes, who had only shared history of invasions in common and were diverse otherwise. We had nothing binding us, other than a great principle and we competed for the same resources. This was running uphill against the flow of history and nature. No wonder, we shall take time! 67 years is a minuscule time period in history, a dot in time. We are children as a nation and still learning. When we get to our teens our time will be different and hopefully we will mature. It might involve another hundred years for these layers to form. In comparison to other stages of development of nations, I would say maybe we are like the Wild West of USA just now.

We shall get there In-sha-Allah. Just require patience and faith. The good will come through. Nations, don’t just happen.

In the expiry of nations

In the expiry of nations

When Halagu ripped Baghdad into shreds in 1257, he was leaving a message of history, not unlike those left before. For a time thereafter, he kept the Abbasid Caliph in a cage and fed him his palaces gold crockery. When the Caliph protested, Halagu enquired what was the purpose of these plates? Had these assets been used to pay an army, then today I would be in the cage and you would be sitting outside. The caliph went to his eventual fate, pondering this question. Mankind too has never quite got to grips with this question.

By my count, 9 major nations ruled in the last 2500 years. The lifecycle of a nation starts with birth from humble beginnings, then a natural cohesion, later much larger than life aspirations (vision), success against the odds, leading to a period of glory and power, decline and then death. The events of final destruction are few and far between, occurring on average once every few hundred years. When it does happen it is cataclysmic, but it is decades or centuries in the making.

It is with this stage of decline, I am most concerned here. Rome born on the banks of the Tiber circa 500 BC, flowered and ruled via their wars and subjugation of enemies. But some 400 years before they were destroyed in 451 AD, Nero was already fiddling while Rome burned to its core. Caligula professionalized deviancy, while other Caesars and cohorts wallowed in the same mire for centuries. Only when the structure of Rome was moth eaten, did Attila destroy the empire totally.

During this 400 year period of decline, Rome still was the ultimate economic and military power in the world. The story is repeated over and over. In all the 9 cases, these nations have ruled on while huge fissures had formed inside. A social scientist evaluating these societies, would pick the tell tale signs of decay, but obviously no one listened. Despite Halagu’s lesson!

So Ottoman society was in decline in the 17th century, but expired in 1921. The Pashas court was a minefield of politics, conspiracy, deviancy and lots of other evils. Similarly in Victorian times, British morality and social norms declined, with the elite living off the fat created by previous generations. The nationalistic desire to fly the flag world over was consigned to the heap and more hedonistic motives led to self-indulgence. Again a social scientist in second half of 19th century would have said the nation is declining. But soft, they still survived two world wars almost a century later!

That is the crux of the matter, while societies decline great nations survive on economic and military strength way beyond, when their spirit has been broken. The house of cards can take long to collapse.

Now just look around and do you see something familiar happening in the last 50 years? On the North American continent is a nation born some 400 years ago, which has aspired and reached greatness and won wars and influence. When its Baby Boomer generation existed, it was a land of harmony and enjoyment, the nation was at one with itself – an envy for the rest of the world. Since then, in the last 5 plus decades, its society shows all the signs of deviancy that mankind can think of. It started with the breakdown of the family institution, leading to one parent families. Its people now focus on consumerism, just like the Abbasid Caliph in 1257 and they live for enjoyment. They do not create and manufacture things and have tolled these out to ‘inferior countries in Asia’. The country has indulged in economic wars, which it has not won, because its people do not want to take part in these wars.  Its people are forever fighting for their personal rights in court and it has become a country of litigators and litigants. It has very high rapes per capita and the most legal suits ratio. The people eulogize themselves, through items like Miss Universe and the Oscars. They have become a people lacking depth and wisdom and their media screens issues based on share of viewership rather than importance of topic.

For those who keep looking for Green Cards and American nationalities, I would suggest think again. You do not want your children and descendants growing up in a country which is on the skids. The end seems nigh.

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