My dear country fellows! here is a story of a happy king and a busy nation…Do give it a read if you can spare a few moments from your BUSY lives…And yes please note that all characters appearing in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, murdered o absconded is purely coincidental or inspirational 🙂 Thanks [Awaam]
By Fouzia Farooq
Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to be loved by his subjects and thus rule longer and prosper. He decided to win the hearts of his subjects by doing everything that could make their lives easier. He thus, constructed canals, bridges, roads, waived taxes, built schools, universities and provided security to his people. He tolerated freedom of thought and expression. Considering himself a harbinger of change he quickly completed his projects. When he built canals, agriculture flourished and food and grain became abundant. The people had plenty to eat and ample to store for the droughts. With waiver of taxes grew industry and with the networks of roads and bridges trade flourished. Efficient maintenance of law and order made the kingdom well connected and now people could travel from one place to another by safe roads. The schools/universities induced logic and rationality and brought consciousness among the people about their rights. It was a time when people realized that kingship was against their basic rights and it is only rule of the people for the people by the people (democracy), which was the best way of governance. It was not long that people started complaining about all that they did not have and struggled for a revolution. A satisfied belly and stable life conditions provided people permanence to unite against the king. The naive king who wanted to rule through love was bound to lose. Therefore, the revolution succeeded. The king was soon captured, and along with his family members he was executed publically. No one remembers anything about the good deeds of that king now. The historians only write about an incompetent king who was killed by his dissatisfied subjects.
It was not long that rule of the people for the people by the people ended up in a confusing musical chair of enthronement and dethronement. This post revolution anarchy naturally paved the way for dictatorship as has been the tradition in politics. This time, a wise king was able to take control. He wanted to rule longer and stay strong. This new king had a magical power to communicate with the dead. Thus, he called the spirit of the forgotten dead king and asked him the tip to rule long with success. The naive king had gained wisdom through his experiences. Thus he unraveled one of the greatest lessons about governance, “it is neither love nor fear that makes people obey for a long time. To disobey and to break the law is their natural instinct. They cannot love the one who commands and controls their will. In the absence of coercion they would forget to fear. Hence, you should learn the art to keep them busy in their own lives and you shall rule for as long as you want to.” Saying this, the forgotten king vanished forever, even from the pages of history. Expedient as the new king was, he understood the meaning of the word “to keep them busy”. Thus he built a strong army on the grounds that the Mongols will rip the state apart if he did not. This huge military machine needed finances for its existence and sustenance. So the people were asked to pay heavy taxes that left them hand to mouth. Since the insecure state was in “an extremely vulnerable condition aka nazuk mor” due to the attack threat, therefore, strong police and espionage system was developed. Whatever transpired in peoples’ private lives was directly reported to the king. Police became a torture tool for the suspected offenders. This was the time when only advance technology introduced in the state was in the form of weapons and torture machines. Social gatherings were banned and for weddings or departure to another city, government’s permission was a compulsion. The king placed spies in the market and whoever was found buying expensive items (means he had a better purchasing power), was arrested and all his/her belongings were confiscated. The schools received grants but the syllabus was technical education or religion. The knowledge that trained people for rational/ logical thinking i.e. philosophy, political science, sociology, history and economics was discouraged by government and was socially ridiculed as outdated. Since the country was “vulnerable,” therefore, all modes of public expression i.e., art, literature, poetry were banned. Only those creative minds who could work under the “patronage” of the king were allowed to continue. Under the guidance of this expedient ruler, all was well, as the court historians reported for future generations. Since there is no alternative historical record to counter this view, we may infer that it was indeed a golden epoch of peace, the Mongols never attacked, may be they were intimidated by the large standing army. People never revolted as they were too busy to make their both ends meet. The king ruled long and state was wealthy enough to build many magnificent monumental wonders through his patronized team of artists and artisans. The people and the king lived happily ever after as they deserved each other.
Dear friends, this quasi-factual parable is based upon some true events that occurred in the medieval history. The naïve king and the expedient king are real as well. This story has several lessons for the rulers of every age, i.e.
1- Those branches of education that lead people to critical/logical thinking make people question authority and thus bring anarchy.
2- Growth of middle class is dangerous. Middle class with a consciousness of their basic rights may attempt to break the status quo through revolution.
3- People are always thankless, no matter how many roads, bridges or any other facility the ruler provides them, they will never stop conspiring and complaining.
4- To keep the subjects busy in their own lives is the best way to rule longer.
As far as present day Pakistanis are concerned, they are kept extremely busy. No one has time to worry about corruption or terrorism anymore. While inflation keeps the poor busy, never ending queues for petrol and CNG, the electricity, gas outages, water scarcity is meant for those who have money. Pakistan is a country where money can no longer buy everything. I am not talking about devaluation or depreciation of Pakistani rupee. If even you have any other currency in the world, you will have to struggle to get food, fuel, electricity and water. In the 21st century this is a brilliant way to keep us busy indeed!!!!
Dr. Fouzia Farooq Ahmad is a medievalist serving as faculty member in the Department of History Quaid-i-Azam University. Her areas of specialization are history and political anthropology of medieval India.