Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Last Seen: The Ship of Fools is Sailing Down the Jhelum

Afshana looks around at jokers plying their trades and sees a theater of the absurd!

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

We: The Bunch of Fools!

“No pity, Lord could
change the heart
From red with wrong
to white as wool:
The rod must heal the sin;
but, Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!....
‘Tis not by guilt
the onward sweep
Of truth and right,
O lord, we stay;
Tis by our follies
that so long
We hold the earth
from heaven away….
Our faults no tenderness
should ask,
The chastening stripes
must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders –
oh, in shame
Before the eyes
of heaven we fall….
Earth bears no
balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the Knave,
and scourge the tool
That did his will;
but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!”….
(The Jester’s Prayer by Edward Rowland)

In 1494, a German humanist and satirist Sebastian Brant wrote a famous allegory, 'The Ship of Fools," wherein he depicted 110 varied follies and vices, each undertaken by a different fool. A ship encumbered with fools and steered by fools to the fools’ paradise unites a common theme, shaping a long moralistic poem that lashes at the medieval grotesqueries, especially the abuses in the church.

Since fools have a place in world, Brant satirized through them. They form a vital character that melts the toughness of world by maintaining dual realistic and fantastic perspective.

Perhaps, human beings need the fool. He is, at times, a subtle teacher and a real instructor. Tickling and amusing, he supposedly thwarts situations that are outrageous and atrocious to survive. As pointed in Cervantes’ Don Quixote:-

“O sir!...may God forgive you for the wrong you have done in robbing the world of the most diverting madman who was ever seen. Is it not plain, sir, that his cure can never benefit mankind half as much as the pleasure he affords by his eccentricities?”

Even the Shakespearean fool is an influential character. He usually speaks nonsense and yet divulges the truth. When all others live in distortion, it’s his distorted world that turns out to be a reality.

The most famous fool of Shakespeare is ‘The Fool’ in King Lear, the character with no name other than fool. When Lear is deserted by his unfaithful daughters, it’s only The Fool who accompanies the King as his only courtier. Similarly, when the King steadily slides into lunacy, he and his fool change places. Paradoxically, The Fool incessantly tells him sense—

‘Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest
Set less than you throwest.
(King Lear)

Literary instances apart, the fact is that fools are not the only ‘foolish’. A person happens to be a fool when he does a foolish act. Stupidity cannot be limited to any particular group of people. Every so often, the people we look up to most make the biggest fools of themselves. Their buffoonery does not carry any covert sense. They are out-and-out idiots.

Politicians of all hues form the major lot and so do their blind followers. Both hoodwink the realities foolishly. Leaders shout and people sway. Empty slogans and pipe dreams, leaders sell them off mindlessly. Gullible masses take them flatly. Rationale and reason is bogged down by silliness.

Public mind is generally listless because of life pressures. It stops analysis and assessment after a certain period. More so, conflict of any kind makes it comatose. The level of timidity slowly droops into foolishness.

Like Brant’s voyage to fools’ paradise, people yearn and wait for things impossible. Leaders wish to become national heroes. Politicos feel to be godfathers. Doctors crave to be Hippocrates. Engineers hope to be booming builders. Lawyers pine to be just winners. Businessmen desire to be millionaires. Bosses aspire to be demigods. Teachers long to be role-models. Students want to be all-time achievers …blah blah.

Of course, all these high goals are not apparently unattainable but what makes them so is the corruption of mind that aims tall. When the basic standard of morality decays, the human mind loses its right to think big. And if it still does, it smacks of thorough foolishness. This is where the irony begins. People start carrying bloated misconceptions about themselves. They conceive to be the wisest of all! And this happens to be the chronic symptom of their foolishness—

“The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It).
The follies are committed by everyone. Prudent people learn from them. Fools do not. They goof unremittingly.

And imagine some of such fools becoming the vanguards of any nation. It is no less than any cataclysm. And more deplorable is the presence of foolish followers, the incredulous and naïve ones who shout and scream for things absolutely incomprehensible and unfathomable to them.

O Lord, be merciful to us, the fools!

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