Food For Thought

Opting for a Societal Strategy to Counter Radicalism

In animal symbolism Red Robin denotes all the good things from hope to renewal, new beginning and joy. There is a reason to be joyful as now the Red Robins of Waziristan are back. Operation Zarb- e-Azb is bearing fruit and chink after chink the territory is being reliberated from the dark shadows of obscurantism. The permanency to this tranquility depends not solely on kinetics but more so on deep-rooted social engineering and corrections in ideological overturns, through stacking of correct narratives, one after the other. The region of FATA (even so Afghanistan) requires a new dimensional, high definition enlightenment without which the beast of the jungle will not leave and chickens will come home to roost again and again.


Enlightenment is, therefore, the therapy to save the ideology from precipice and its unwanted pitfalls. Generally the enlightenment is of two types, radical and moderate. The moderate enlightenment is an evolutionary process which takes place over a period of time. This part of world now requires the radical enlightenment. This might look like an oxymoron but for pure happiness of the society, there is a need to undertake social engineering at societal level with cultural underpinnings.


A new discourse has to be invented, comfortably ensconced between the pull of philosophy and the drag of history. The intellectual history of Muslim comity is frozen in time, there is much beyond the mere definitions of theists and atheists. Spinoza once said "Man is neither good nor bad morally but merely neutral and morality itself is purely a function of society.” People living at the dissenting fringe of society can be recasted by appreciating the root cause of dissent, rather than demonizing the periphery. The Quakers in 17th century hated slavery, not the slave. The Quaker entrepreneur played a central role in formenting the Industrial Revolution, especially in England and Pennsylvania, thus initiating the radical enlightenment which made the abolition of slavery possible. For any society the basic mortar for cohesion and pure happiness is the prevailing sense of equality. The prejudices and static traditions are the termites which eventually tunnel out the equality by preferences of the influentials. Therefore, the emergence of informal aristocracy is to be seen as the vanguard of inequality quarters.


How then would the society be re-engineered? Remember, the philosophy as the higher thought is not for the majority. It will not enlighten the people enmasse. For masses a systematic re-education is required. The equation of re-educating, de-radicalizing and educating (RDE) has to be established with mathematical dexterity. Re-educating means correcting the ideological aberrations which will result into generic deradicalization and thus the intellectual chasms can be filled with education based on rationality, reason and sublime logic. It is believed by rationalists that men don’t degenerate in society, it is simply because reason has not yet developed sufficiently for them to take advantage of it. In short, the general freedom and equality is linked to general enlightenment. The rules, norms and traditions are for emancipation, not enslaving the people. World is passing through interesting times. As per Fareed Zakaria, world is moving from anger to indifference with three forces: politics, economics and, technology shaping the world. Where then can we fix the concept of enlightenment? It is the new political discourse of the society where the new found principles can have their gestation. In present world both the global north and the global south are facing the inequality.


The West is facing the problem of plenty and East the problem of scarcity. Net result in the words of Thomas Piketty is overwhelming inequality, thus the emergence of folds where the radical thoughts grow casting their diabolic shadow. In Afghanistan same inequality is manifested in a little different hue. Afghan society is deeply tribal in nature. The Afghan cities are the microcosm of the rural Afghanistan. The west and the rest have reaped the failure of their success in Afghanistan by applying an obtuse strategy of fireworks. Due to ground and ideological friction, the foreign troops are almost always the victims of system fatigue. Present day world is a depiction of an array of uni-multipolarity, many powers and one super power. It also seems that due to reasons known to the power to be, the world conflicts or chaos, once stirred, are very difficult to control. Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are the current examples of this international vagary. Why is it so? Alvin Toffler's third wave is now giving birth to the ever increasing influence for the fourth wave, which is the culture. Culture is the destiny of the world. The datafied world is bound to converge again on culture. The phenomenon of globalization is trying to dilute the same but only in a subtle way. The social instability inside Afghanistan is due to the lack of institutions or the malfunctioning of the existing ones. As of now only traditional institution of jirgah and arbitration is effective between different tribes and warlords. The Afghan society is the true depiction of the malfunctioning of these traditional institutions.


The basic responsibility of the state is the redistribution of, primarily, the two sine-qua-nons – sustenance of food and the deliverance of law. Afghan state lacks in both. It behaves as a minimalist one due to lack of the application of the principles of equality and the radical enlightenment. Isomorphic mimicry, that is copying outward forms of developed countries without investing into the people, leads a nation to nowhere. Historically there always were the estates before the state, but that is why the world went under the birth pangs of the Reformation, Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. Estates within the state of Afghanistan is not a territorial issue. It is to be fixed with the wand of rationality and reason. Even the civil society can't do the trick as civil societies are always partial, partisan and self-directed towards its own ideals. The band, tribe and solidarity, based on genetic relatedness, is the social retardation which takes societies backward rather than moving ahead. Tribal laws revolve around an extreme sense of bondage slavery, which when comes in context with other tribes becomes a sort of nepotism based on kingship and reciprocal altruism. All is absolutely against the principle of equality and rule of law.


Prebendalism of sort was the most effective reason for the birth of Taliban, rather than the concept of Afghan Jihad which is over since long. Political correctness of a society as a whole is very important cause without which even modernization will be a phenomenon without development. On the other hand the fulcrum to start the process of enlightenment is the Afghan government, however, weak it is, has to be trusted, as the distrust of any government metastasizes into distrust of everyone. The Federalist Papers is not only documentation of American history, rather it is more or less a document dealing with difficult societal situation through the prism of enlightened reasoning. The political machine of Taliban in Afghanistan is more of a social clique than a military club. The recruitment is done through the precinct captains in rural areas and ward healers in towns and cities.


To address the problem of emergence of obscurantist beasts one after the other, we need to break the cycle of ideological gestation. The entire west is focusing upon the state building of Afghanistan whereas actually there is a need for nation building. Till the time the swap over is not done, the Afghan problem will simmer like a volcano. State is built through tangible institutions like army, police, bureaucracy and ministries etc., whereas nation is built through the intangibles of national identity, corrective ideology, symbols and shared identities. The Third World War would be the war of intangibles. The west and the rest are rather investing in tangibles, thereby winning battles and losing the war. The ideology is the plane where the actual fight has to take place. This can happen not through kinetics but the shining armour of reasoning, logic and enlightenment. Historical amnesia has strangely taken over those nations who, themselves, overcame their dark periods through the application of intangible first, before the sequencing of tangibles. Institutions are very important but these are not the bedrock to raise edifice, the bedrock and ideational plinth is the correct ideology and the sense of identity.


With due apology, to James A.Robin and Daron (authors of Why Nations Fail), nations do not fail due to lack of institutions, rather nations fail when their institutions don’t manifest the lofty principles of equality, liberty, rule of law and respect for human values.


The writer is a freelancer having a military background and regularly contributes for national dailies on issues related to national security, strategy and foreign policy. He is also a Ph.D scholar at National Defence University.

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