Shahzeb Khanzada presented a cogent and historically informed analysis of fascism in his program on April 22, 2022, which provoked an immediate reaction. Interestingly, he did not name any (Pakistani) names, but it was immediately understood on both sides to whom he was referring. There is one man whose politics fits the bill – and we all know who he is. Some folk protested Khanzada’s mordant analogy citing their leader never committed the mass atrocities fascists did in the past. They are wrong. Fascism should not be reduced to Nazism. Fascism is far broader than a single historical case; fascism is a state of mind.
Autocratic leaders love Presidential System – and Imran Khan is no exception. Pakistan has witnessed a consistent deterioration of democracy and fundamental rights quality during his nearly four years-long stint. He has touted Presidential System on many occasions while in power. Now that he has been ousted through a constitutional process by an active parliament, he has once again tried to discredit the Parliamentary System to preach a transition to a Presidential System. His logic? A Presidential System bars dishonest politicians from holding power. The reality? Such a system is potential autocrats’ personal favorite.
“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”
“There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.”
These quotes are attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – the German poet and playwright. Well, quotes are quotes, and as an academic, I am inclined to find sources and exact page numbers. However, even if they cannot be authentically linked to Goethe, they capture the political situation Pakistan finds herself in, i.e., between an aggressively stupid leadership and its frightfully ignorant following.
“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” – Ecclesiastes*
* (this is not a direct quote from Ecclesiastes but something invented by Baudrillard to stands as a strong metaphor to idea of simulation – that it is not real!)
“Burger” is a pejorative term that entered Pakistani popular discourse in the recent decade to denote young, westernized, affluent, urban elite, who study at expensive private schools, speak English rather than Urdu in their social circle, and prefer eating burgers over the local cuisine. They are constantly derided for being out of touch with mainstream Pakistani politics and society. “Impossible Burgers” are the vegetarian substitute for beef-based hamburgers created by Impossible Foods and introduced by the fast-food chain, Burger King, that became immensely popular with the ‘conscious’ consumers for being an environmentally friendly product, which not only simulates the real meat but also tastes better than it. Burger King even offers a promotion to try both products out and find any difference. To make it real – or surreal or in Baudrillard’s definition of the situation, hyperreal – the Impossible Burger patties ‘drip blood’, which happen to be just beetroot juice. Impossible Burgers, hence for the sake of thought experiment, are a milestone simulacrum in our journey towards a total simulated reality in which the sovereign difference between the simulated and the real will gradually disappear – turning us into “burgers” who will no longer be able to distinguish between the real and the simulated.
We have become active consumers of therapy!
This notion raises immediate alarm in the humanist and learned community for such notions stand to trivialize the suffering of many (as much as a quarter of Americans (Terlizzi & Zablotsky, 2020)) and feed the paternalistic stereotypes (e.g., weakness) around seeking help for mental issues. However, my intent is the archeology of mental health problems on the one hand, and a critique of the commodification of mental health and an uncanny attitude towards active consumption of psychotherapy in contemporary capitalist societies.
Kuhn proposed, knowledge within any discipline depends on a communally shared commitment to a paradigm.
A paradigm roughly consists of:
- an array of assumptions about what exists (ontology)
- how it may be known (epistemology)
- how scientific work ‘ought’ to proceed (ethics).
- a pattern of activities held to be consistent with these assumptions.
Two conclusions follow from these assertions:
- A commitment to a paradigm must precede the generation of knowledge. Thus it is the commitment to an a priori set of assumptions and practices that makes knowledge possible. In effect, different paradigms will create different scientific realities, and there is no means of standing outside a paradigm of some kind to adjudicate among them.
Truth exists only within a paradigm.
- Individual minds are not the source of knowledge, but communities. Individual knowledge, hence, is not a private achievement but owes its origins to community participation.
Source: Gergen & Gergen. (Eds.). (2003). Social construction: A reader. Sage.