By Ayesha Siddiqa
November 5, 2011
For many, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally in Lahore indicated a nationalist upsurge — the sudden pride in being a Pakistani who was part of the process of an upbeat political activity. The sense of elation was natural, given the fact that crisis rather than the lack of it has become the rule rather than the exception. An average Pakistani seems to be on a never-ending roller coaster ride. Nations that get sucked into such a whirlwind often lose their sense of making appropriate choices. In fact, the appropriate choice becomes the one which provides instant, though short-termed, relief from an immediate crisis.
Under the circumstances, the tendency is to deconstruct existing structures, often at the pace of destruction, and replace them with something which is often militantly nationalistic, self-righteous and generally dictatorial in character. Hence, extreme sociopolitical crises results in extreme solutions that may not bring long-term relief but are akin to a shot of morphine that gives an immediate high.
One of the best examples of what results from the collapse of a sociopolitical system is the rise of the Third Reich in Germany during the 1930s. Burdened by global recession and a humiliating military defeat, the bulk of middle-class Germany found refuge in Adolf Hitler’s ideology. The Fuhrer promised getting rid of the Treaty of Versailles and unemployment. The silver lining was that once in power, the Nazis would change everything that had been spoiled by the ruling elite of those days. The Weimar government was ferociously accused of capsising to the enemy. The moral fabric of German society had thinned to a degree that there was little possibility of questioning Hitler’s logic.
Thus, the rise of the Nazis was phenomenal. From getting 12 seats in 1928, the Nazi party gained popularity, winning 107 seats in 1930 and 230 in 1932. The sociopolitical and cultural discourse also began to change. There was greater emphasis on German traditions and values, which the Nazis promised to reinforce. This became extremely popular with the youth and women. The latter played an important role in enhancing the political power of the Nazis, just like we saw in the case of Maulana Fazlullah in Swat.
The ascendency of the Nazis to power was not a reflection of some inherent unreasonableness of the German people but an indicator of the utter collapse of German society. Eager to survive and frustrated by the callousness of a political structure that didn’t deliver or dialogue, middle-class Germany opted for a dictatorial philosophy that had the potential of providing immediate relief. The German society at that time had completely lost the sense and ability to transform, hence temporary transition was the only option. The choice itself indicated the depravity of the then existing political system for which the best option was Hitler. Every act of political misdemeanour such as making concessions to the forces of evil and compromising on larger public good comes to haunt a state and its society. The Nazi party, which was a natural beneficiary of the flawed system, made gains through the excellent use of technology and modern tools of communication. Part of the problem of a weakening political structure is that the stakeholders are unable to reinvent themselves.
The crumbling power of the Weimer Republic forced various powerful interest groups to search for a more potent player with the capacity to generate a more gripping ideology, which the Nazis presented in the form of fascism or an extreme form of nationalism. Not that foreign players did not have a hand in Germany’s military and economic devastation, but fascism held European powers entirely responsible for the chaos. At one level, the society had become very politicised and, on the other, extremely apolitical because the formula for changing conditions was absolute force and not dialogue and negotiations.
Pragmatism is indeed a double-edged sword. Political survival is necessary but not at the cost of ideals and values. Hitler was a choice made by a society that had forgotten the art to negotiate dialogue and stand up for some principles. In the mid-1930s, when everyone in Germany thought they were transiting to a safe option, they were actually burning all their boats. Transition does not happen without transformation!
Source: The Express Tribune,