EVERY nation has a hole in its soul! For some Indians it's femicide, but more conscientious amongst them would also like to add to the list the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and the targeted killing of Muslims in Gujarat. The British people believe drinking is the hole in their soul because nearly 25% of adults drink when they're depressed. The humiliation and disgrace of World War II still rankle in German minds. What's the hole in the soul of our nation? What should keep its happily unhappy people awake at night?
First of all, what does it mean to say that a nation has got a hole in its soul? It's simply a state of national mind when people as a whole feel a certain lacking, a hole, or a vacuum in their guts, hearts and souls. It can happen when a nation has everything going perfectly well for it. It can also happen when the life of a nation hits rock bottom.
Since everything isn't going well in this country, the rock bottom is relevant for us. Is it corruption, inefficiency or greed? Is it our incessant despair over political conflict and chaos? The answer to each of these questions is an emphatic no. No, not because none of these characterises our national crisis but because these are mere symptoms not the disease. Here's my diagnosis for your consideration. Hypocrisy and hypocrisy alone is the gaping hole in the soul of this nation.
French novelist Honore de Balzac wrote that manners are the hypocrisy of a nation. In our case, we have turned hypocrisy into manners. Everything is about something and nothing is about nothing. We live in the pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles that we don't really possess. In other words, we're a nation that has double standards. We love to live in our mirror image.
It's said that the Germans wanted to win a fourth World Cup this year to fill the hole in their soul. The World Cup became part of their fabric since West Germany won their first crown in 1954 in Switzerland. The players on that team are still held in high regards in Germany because it had marked the rebirth of a nation a decade after its crushing defeat in World War II. For the first time, the German nation was able to find a new identity to salve over its wound.
Hypocrisy has created many wounds for us. It has turned our lives into an endless masquerade ball, where each of us meets others from behind a mask. Every time a scandal is exposed, it doesn't shock us as hard as it should. It's not because scandals have become less scandalous. It's because we have become resistant to scandals in the manner antibiotics are losing their power to fight infections.
That precisely embodies the hole in our soul. For so many years a bunch of bureaucrats have used fake credentials of freedom fighters to seek career enhancement. These imposters have lived a double life, Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes who had no qualms about deceiving us by deceiving themselves.
Japan is the example of one nation in the world that has grappled most with the hole in its soul. Norihiro Kato, professor of modern Japanese literature at Wasada University, wrote an article in the New York Times. He argued that Hello Kitty, a fictional character produced by the Japanese company Sanrio selling over $7 billion in a year, all without any advertisement, is a symbol of Japanese denial of their wartime atrocities. Professor Kato also mentioned that Godzilla is a symbol of Japan's sense of victimhood and unresolved pain of losing World War II. He further wrote that the over “cutification” of their popular culture is a result of Japan's inability to properly face-up and resolve their history.
What does hypocrisy symbolise for us? It's the black hole from which nothing can escape. Whether credentials are falsified, bank documents are doctored, question papers are leaked or 154 parliament members get elected without an election, the proverbial onion peels down to the same ugly nub. We're a nation thriving on self-deception; each of us is cheating himself before cheating others.
Today, politicians curse journalists, doctors fight reporters, people mistrust leaders, intellectuals undermine intellectuals, and law keepers compete with criminals. It means each side is now seeing through the hypocrisy of the other and losing respect for them. A nation can't have respectful people unless they also have respectable ones.
Other nations heal their souls, whereas we make ours worse. Fraudsters, phonies, imposters and pretenders swarm this country, and in all familiarity we're all strangers. Every face is a spectacle of farce behind its mischievous mask. No other nation ingests this duplicity so much like us.
The writer is Editor, First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.