Just in case you missed GEO TV's Report Card fireworks Monday
Men are very clever in newsrooms. TV talk show hosts are even more clever. Senior analysts in print are the cleverest. Even I once wanted to be clever. I wanted to hold forth and expound on the delegitimisation of the upgradation of the paradigmatic shifts in the tenuous relation between the Establishment and the Civil and the Deep State proponents of Lacanian democratic vicissitudes. So I invented a game I would play when anyone asked me for my Opinion: why don’t you become the tadzia and I’ll become the car, I’d say. Together we’ll do tadziakarry.
I thought about my game when I saw Reema Omar and Hassan Nisar trending on Twitter today. They appeared on the Geo TV show Report Card on Monday, December 28 to discuss predictions of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s success in ousting Imran Khan as prime minister.
Nisar sahib responded by saying that it was stupid to make predictions on anything in Pakistan. Anything could happen, and this country was no less than a Jadoonagri. Ask me about America, I can predict them, he went on to say. Ask me about Russia. I can take a stab in the dark. But I can’t predict anything about Pakistan.
When it came to Reema Omar, she gave a different answer to the question of the PDM’s success. “One thing that was said earlier, it astonishes me,” she said, ostensibly referring to Nisar’s point. “It saddens me. Everyone has said it in their own way. You can call it jadoogars, selectors—you can use any word—that you can’t predict anything in this country because these jadoogars keep changing the side they are on. It is acknowledged by everyone that this is the country’s reality. I do not know, but in my opinion, this is an unfortunate reality and it should change. This is our issue. But we are not focusing on how this can change. The people who talk about changing it, we nitpick their strategies; our focus stays there. So at least on this show I will keep saying that we have accepted this defeatist attitude that this will never change in our lifetimes. We will never have free and fair elections. The selectors, magicians, aliens will always have a role to play. This pains me.” (Rough translation from the Urdu).
What happened over the course of the rest of the show is worth watching for it was an education in just how clever tadziakars react to opinions that diverge from theirs. Also eminently worthy of your attentions are Reema Omar’s subsequent response to such a reaction.
News of the debate spread on Twitter fast, with many of the usual polarized positions being taken, but they left me cold. What preoccupied me instead was Reema Omar’s point because it reminded me of a critical approach taken by one of my favourite tadziakars, ironically also a clever, clever old man. In his book Violence, Slavoj Žižek argues that there are three types of violence: the subjective, the symbolic and the systemic. There are obvious signals of violence such as acts of crime, terrorism, civil unrest. “But we should learn to step back, to disentangle ourselves from the fascinating lure of this directly visible ‘subjective’ violence, violence performed by a clearly identifiable agent,” he says. We fixate on reporting on the gory details of a bomb blast and suicide bomber.
Žižek is instead interested in systemic violence “that had to go on in order for such a comfortable life to be possible.” He is talking of violence inherent in a system, “not only direct physical violence, but also the more subjective forms of coercion that sustain relations of domination and exploitation.”
This is the clear-eyed view much like Reema Omar appeared to be taking: we should not be lured into the fussy minutiae of interpreting political statements around the PDM rallies or arrogantly purport to predict the PDM success or failure. What really matters here is not the “visible” but the invisible, the systemic. This is, as she said, our acceptance of the contours of the conversation around the Opposition’s efforts. She is operating in a rarefied atmosphere.
Hassan Nisar did not, regrettably, react well to Reema Omar’s arguments but in my mind his rhetoric can be judged for the service it provides: a vehicle for the collective cathartic expression of national frustration and anger. Clever metaphor, idiom or figures of speech do not, however, an argument make. It is on this count that he did not deliver. His tadziakari paled in comparison with Reema Omar’s. But I am grateful for his incensed yet impotent interjections: it just threw into relief Omar’s arguments, tone, demeanor and composure. In that sense, it was very, very clever.