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Full disclosure. The title of this piece is borrowed from one episode of the legendary sitcom series Seinfeld. In one episode this is the title of a fictional movie that Jerry, Elaine, and George plan to see together but cannot. Although Seinfeld is one of the three sitcoms I can never resist, the other two being Fraiser and MASH, that is where the resemblance of the fictional movie mentioned in the series and this article ends. Our discussion today is neither about lighthearted banter nor any movie that could have the temerity to feature as a plot device in a sitcom. No, it is dark and distressing.

If you want a spoiler at the very start, let me categorically state that the entire premise can be boiled down to one sentence: that the time to write the obituary of the human race is nigh. That the end is most likely to come from neither the rise of the uber or omniscient machines nor invading aliens or even the more mundane climate change. Man’s basic character flaws like myopia and sheer stupidity have led us to the brink. Each nation either pursues policies least informed by an understanding of their longstanding consequences or develops blind spots which allow some horrible fault lines to fester. And remarkable as it sounds, most of these fault lines are about to explode simultaneously. Let’s take a gander, shall we?

They say charity begins at home. So, let us begin with our dear republic. I often marvel at the foresight of the geniuses who decided to let a significant segment of a society, whose creation was preceded by the worst communal violence of the century, radicalise for the sake of the so-called Afghan Jihad. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had to be repelled but the decision to let the resistance take a religious colour, and allow religious militants from around the world to take shelter in the region is exactly the kind of mind-numbingly tragic decision whose cost is being paid in blood and tears today. Remember, in the 1953 Lahore riots the country’s ruling elite had already sown the seeds of instability. And yet it did not stop the use of religion as a political instrument. What followed after the Afghan Jihad and particularly after 9/11 is there for all to see.

But you will say those were the decisions of another generation, ours knows better. But do we? Here is another proof of the pudding for your eating. Knowing that the country had lost a significant segment of its Deobandi population to extremism, in the past decade as we urged successive governments of the country to see the groups like the TTP for the enemies they were and silently pocketed the threats we received, I practically begged on live television and in spaces like these not to let the other major religious segment, the Barelvis, get radicalised. All of this is on record. But nobody listened. First, Tahir Qadri’s agitations, then the rapid rise of the TLP were dismissed as lovers’ quarrel. Now, I fail to find a reset button.

Now take three variables and work out a regression equation. The first variable: the negotiations with the TTP which apart from countless moral conundrums will invariably mainstream a highly volatile segment with the muscle memory of extreme violence. Second variable: an equally unstable if diametrically opposed segment led by the likes of the TLP. The third variable, a state which despite losing eighty thousand citizens in its fight against the far-right extremists, is more suspicious of its battered, broken and marginalised secular class than any far-right group. The last variable is unavoidable when you see how most institutions of the state evolved in the past seventy years with an inherent bias against secularism. So enormous is our blind spot that even our census doesn’t take stock of the Deobandi-Barelvi fault line. I don’t know about you, but one of my worst memories of the 1980s and 1990s is of the sectarian violence at the time. It is one place I am keen never to revisit and that too with such significant numerical variation.

The second example is of Afghanistan where the return of the Taliban is the dead-end of the radicalisation curve. The dead-end because the world is tired of trying to fix Afghanistan and the country’s new rulers are intent on regressing rather than progressing.

The third example: India. With a 1.3 billion population India is more complicated than either Pakistan or Afghanistan. But rather than learning from their examples, it is keener on weaponising every dormant fault line. And my God, look at the fault lines. The majority-minority fault line becomes particularly challenging when the most othered and often demonised minority is 14 per cent of the population. The percentage may not look big until you take the massive size of the pie out of which this slice comes into cognizance. But this is not the only fault line. Hidden behind this much-hyped fault line are the far bigger ones. Consider the current upper-caste elite capture of the state. Brahmins are said to be five per cent of the total population. The real majority (the lower castes), usually underrepresented in the state machinery, faces the prospect of losing whatever measure of reservations (affirmative action) once accorded to it. The third fault line, the regional and lingual divide. The current elite, led by the UP-Gujarat affluent class, wants to remake a highly diverse country after its own image. What can go wrong?

Two more quick examples. One, Europe. A region that has paid a heavy price because of the rise of racist miscreants like Nazis should have been more vigilant against a relapse. While Germany has internalised that message and is keen to avoid that tragic past, countries on the other side of the divide during the second world war are less circumspect. While the Viktor Orbans of Europe are still limited to countries like Hungary, the dramatic rise of the far-right pundit and demagogue Eric Zemmour in France pales Marine Le Pen’s popularity in comparison shows that this element may get its first kill in the presidential election next year. France is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, ergo a veto power, a key player in Europe, and a nuclear power.

In America, after losing Trump to the far-right due to its unrelenting criticism and opposition, the country’s liberal elite is now busy punishing the only man who could arrest the march of the xenophobic, misogynistic, anti-diversity, conspiracy theory-driven elements. The media and the elite are so angry with President Biden for his withdrawal from Afghanistan that they lost all perspective and seriously damaged his approval ratings. Where myopia, selfishness, and emotional instability dictate policy the results are invariably catastrophic. When Trumpism returns to power it will be far more lethal and violent than you except.

If you look closely the same decay is underway in every country. Even in countries where the presence of strongmen obscures such trends, beyond immediate leadership, societal polarisation is reaching the breaking point. Russia, China, Turkey, all included. Something’s gotta give. And as Shakespeare so aptly put it: these violent delights have violent ends. Mankind, face it, we are doomed because of our collective stupidity.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2021.

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