COMMENT: When small men cast long shadows —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur - Sunday, March 27, 2011

COMMENT: When small men cast long shadows —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Brutality is the hallmark of small men with large influence. History has never seen or heard of a brutish sage. This is the debilitating cost of being governed by ‘small men’ and therein lies the bane of the rule of small men who cast long shadows

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes, types and calibres. Some excel at leading people out of morass while some manufacture quagmires. Sycophants of the latter type create a fictitious aura for themselves hoping their mediocrity will go unnoticed. They also depend on someone else’s ‘personality’ or ‘legacies’ where they contributed nothing.

While they mess up the lives of millions, their spin-doctors present them as virtue and wisdom incarnate. It is for such men that Lin Yutang, the Chinese poet, novelist, historian and philosopher, said, “When small men begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting.” This is so true of Pakistan since 1947; elsewhere sunrises follow sunsets but here the way spurious religiosity and fake surreal nationalism have taken hold it portends eternal night.

The media, instead of preaching sanity and tolerance, ensures that the footprint of these two qualities is ruthlessly restricted. Politicians brazenly defend the most flagrant acts of corruption and misgovernance while praising their leaders here or abroad. Sycophancy practiced in every field of life with abandon deludes its victims who soon start thinking of themselves as the lynchpins of the universe and start playing God. Ardeshir Cowasjee sahib has often quoted Churchill as to why rulers and state functionaries succumb to the belief of being the chosen ones of God and then begin to act like Him.

Winston Spencer Churchill in Great Contemporaries tells how Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was led to accept that his providence sanctioned greatness and superiority. He would be told, “You are, they say, the all-highest. You are the supreme warlord, who, when the next war comes, will lead to battle all German tribes, and, at the head of the strongest, finest army in the world will renew on a still greater scale the martial triumphs of 1866 and 1870. It is for you to choose the chancellor and ministers of state, it is for you to choose the chiefs of the army and navy.

“There is no office great or small throughout the empire from which you cannot dismiss the occupant. Each word you utter is received by all with rapture or at least respect. You have but to form a desire and it is granted. Limitless wealth and splendour attend your every step. Sixty palaces and castles await their owner, hundreds of glittering uniforms fill your wardrobes. Should you weary of the grosser forms of flattery far more subtle methods will be applied.

“Statesmen, generals, admirals, judges, divines, philosophers, scientists and financiers stand eager to impart their treasured knowledge and to receive with profound gratification any remark upon their various spheres which may occur to you. Intimate friends are at hand to report day by day how deeply impressed this or that great expert was with your marvellous grasp of his subjects. The general staff seem awed by your comprehension of higher strategy.

“The diplomats are wonderstruck by your manly candour or patient restrain, as the case may be. The artists gather in dutiful admiration before the allegorical picture you have painted. Foreign nations vie with your own subjects in their welcomes, and on all sides salute the ‘world’s most glorious prince’. And this goes on day after day and year after year for 30 years.

“Are you quite sure, gentle reader (to revive an old fashioned form), you would have withstood the treatment? Are you quite sure you would have remained a humble- minded man with no exaggerated idea of your own importance, with no undue reliance upon your own opinion, practicing the virtue of humility and striving always for peace?”

Needless to say, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, having lost touch with reality, led Germany towards unmitigated disaster as the rulers here have been doing. Superiors here face a relentless onslaught of praise and soon lose touch with reality. This Kaisernine malady afflicts not only the rulers but also even the small fry nazims. But then it is not a politician-specific disease, it is found in equally virulent form among the bureaucracy and even private organisations. It afflicts anchors, commentators and experts too. Its most virulent form is exhibited in the armed forces because belief in infallibility and indispensability is compounded by a false perception of invincibility.

This breeds pernicious self-righteousness. It is little wonder that March 24 is celebrated as an Argentinean national holiday to remember the estimated 30,000 people who were kidnapped, tortured and killed 35 years ago when the military took control, heralding seven years of rule that became known as the Dirty War years. Those generals, now on trial, then played God.

Some here act in that same iniquitous and brutal manner. This paper’s editorial ‘Balochistan cannot suffer anymore’ (Daily Times, March 25, 2011) has candidly highlighted a similar situation in Balochistan. It says, “Balochistan is not a playground for ‘foreign elements’, as much as the PM would like to have us believe. Governance in the province has been hijacked by a reportedly brutal Frontier Corps that has claimed the area as its exclusive preserve. Innocent Baloch who may be able to contribute to the betterment of their society, political workers, educationists, doctors, engineers, etc, are being picked up and whisked away, reportedly by paramilitary forces and the government seems unable — and unwilling — to stop them.”

“Every dead body that ‘mysteriously’ turns up in Balochistan after ‘mysteriously’ going missing — the last count was 13,000 dead — is another nail in the coffin of any peace and stability in the province. It will not be long before we will be burying the soul of the largest province in this country. Short-sighted hated policies, cruel treatment, what comes close to an illegal occupying force in uniform and the consequent hate-fuelled sentiments of the Baloch people have turned one more part of Pakistan against the centre. Enough with the rhetoric and the cosmetic promises; Balochistan needs a determined political solution, otherwise we can, literally, kiss it goodbye.”

Brutality is the hallmark of small men with large influence. History has never seen or heard of a brutish sage. This is the debilitating cost of being governed by ‘small men’ and therein lies the bane of the rule of small men who cast long shadows. They neutralise virtues and allow vice to prevail and prosper. Their disconnect from reality curtails every opportunity for reform and progress. Woe betide the people ruled by small men.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

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