interview
Voluntarily displaced
By Saeed Ur Rehman
Rehan Ansari, a globetrotting Pakistani writer and editor, worked in a major Indian newspaper as the Foreign Editor for three years and translated Paksitani cultural experiences for Indians and Indian experiences for the world. At the moment, he is writing a book on his experience of working in Mumbai, a cosmopolitan rather than a nationalistic city. The News on Sunday caught up with him in Lahore as he was on his way to Toronto to complete the memoir.

Against the current
Victor Gordon Kiernan (1913-2009), a Marxist historian and scholar, was erudite and wide ranging in his intellectual interests
By Dr Arif Azad
Victor Gordon Kiernan, Marxist historian and scholar, an early translator of Faiz, died on 17 Feb at the age of 95. His death pulled in glowing tributes from South Asian and British Marxists like Tariq Ali and Eric Hobsbawm, reflecting Kiernan's wider cultural and political sympathies. Two lasting and abiding interests -- radical Marxist politics and the subcontinent, marked the whole tenor of his life.

Taal Matol
Swathe of colour, tainted
By Shoaib Hashmi
It is suddenly Spring, while we were still waiting for winter. And Lahore is a swathe of colour. I am reminded of a song sung by Harvard maths professor, pianist and songwriter Tom Lehrer 30 years ago.
"Spring is here, a-spring is
here;

demands
Gelebration of the oppressed
The landless peasants of Sindh unite for freedom, and most importantly, their rights
By Urooj Zia
Opinions regarding the outcome of the Sindh peasants' long march for land reforms and amendments in the Sindh Tenancy Act (STA) of 1950 remain divided. Some are celebrating the promise made by Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza as a success who said that the suggested amendments would be tabled in the next Sindh Assembly session. Others hold a more pragmatic view, and have promised a second long march and a bigger sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly building in August if the deputy speaker's promises are not met.

Who may live and and who must die
State uses force to eliminate both external and internal enemies to rationalise it as a pill that has to be taken for the nation
By Ameem Lutfi
The ability of the state to put to death certain elements that either present a threat to the lives of the general populace or a threat to national integrity seems to have become an every-day reality for us in Pakistan. Military operations in FATA and Balochistan are certainly not the only examples of state-force in public memory. Contemporary history is full of examples of a state using force to eliminate both external and internal enemies.

RIPPLE EFFECT
Ruled by psychopaths
By Omar R. Quraishi
What is a psychopath, one may ask. According to Wikipedia (what else is one supposed to quote in a newspaper article?), it is a construct made by psychologists to describe "chronic immoral and antisocial behaviour." Perhaps one could argue that it should not be necessarily 'immoral' but 'amoral' -- as in behaviour that does not adhere to any moral norms in that it does not depend on the individual's perception of morality in society.

 

Voluntarily displaced

By Saeed Ur Rehman

Rehan Ansari, a globetrotting Pakistani writer and editor, worked in a major Indian newspaper as the Foreign Editor for three years and translated Paksitani cultural experiences for Indians and Indian experiences for the world. At the moment, he is writing a book on his experience of working in Mumbai, a cosmopolitan rather than a nationalistic city. The News on Sunday caught up with him in Lahore as he was on his way to Toronto to complete the memoir.

The News on Sunday: What led to your joining DNA as a Foreign Editor?

Rehan Ansari: I grew up in Karachi and I have lived and worked in Lahore, Toronto and New York. I have long known in my bones that Mumbai is the first city of media in this region. If someone from Toronto can take up a job in Los Angeles, why should someone living in Lahore not accept a job offer in Mumbai. That means I was mentally prepared for a job in media in Mumbai, even though I did not know exactly what that would be. But there are gigs that led to the job. While living in Lahore I was a columnist for Mid-day Mumbai for three years. Earlier, I also used to go to MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival) to make contacts. This was made possible by Sajjad Gul, a media baron in Lahore, who wanted to establish a video production house in Lahore and we were thinking of inviting people from Mumbai to train Pakistani film editors, camera people and so on.

TNS: Was the experience of settling in your workplace in Mumbai easy?

RA: In Indian media, as everywhere else in media, all editors know each other, and if they come to a newspaper they bring some people with them. My Mid-day column was my calling card, but I was not known to anyone in any other capacity. The owners of DNA wanted what I offered, which was experience of being a journalist in New York and Pakistan. I also realised that people in the newsroom had moved from all over India and so for many Mumbai was more unknown to them than to me. I had been visiting Mumbai and the offices of Mid-day for several years.

I had already lived in several cities without knowing many people at the time of arrival. I had moved from Karachi to Vassar College in the USA in 1987 to do my bachelors. While I was pursuing my liberal arts degree, my parents decided to migrate to Canada and I became a Canadian citizen with them. Then, in 1991, I moved to Pakistan to work in Lahore, a city where I had not been to school or college. In subsequent years I have lived in Toronto and New York and started from scratch.

I moved to Pakistan to be a writer and then was attracted to Delhi and Mumbai because something about the eurocentrism of the western academy in the late 1980s and early 90s bothered me. Like so many young people interested in cultural studies I was introduced to Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Edward Said and Aijaz Ahmed but somehow I did not feel comfortable with staying out of South Asia and working through the maze of postcolonial cultural studies. So I came back to India. Interestingly, my biological roots had moved to Canada by then. In 1991, I came to Lahore without knowing anybody and started working for The Frontier Post. So all these experiences of voluntary displacement had prepared me for Mumbai.

TNS: What was your role as the Foreign Editor at DNA?

RA: I had several roles. One of them was to cover foreign relations but also in edit meeting to talk in particular about trends in the west that would be of interest to an Indian audience. It is interesting that a major newspaper was willing to have me in that role. Another role was to translate Pakistan for the Indian audience. DNA was the first Indian newspaper which spotted and reported the anti-Musharraf sentiment in Pakistan. It is the first Indian newspaper to have a full time correspondent in Pakistan who is Pakistani.

TNS: While you were there, did you ever feel that people were trying to fit you according to their stereotypical models of a Pakistani?

RA: First of all anyone can google my name and more than a decade worth of columns, journalism and other writing comes up. And, perhaps for this reason, people almost always did not say simplistic or essentialist things to me. I was often invited as the Foreign Editor of DNA to all kinds of media panels. Another important factor was that I was working for a self-proclaimed cosmopolitan newspaper. Even the name DNA (Daily News and Analysis) had no nationalistic baggage. It was not The Times of India or The Hindustan Times. And everyday 260,000 copies were sold in Mumbai alone. DNA refused to take sides in narrow identity politics. If I had an argument with my Editor-in-Chief it was about issues like civil liberties versus policing (in relation to the so-called war on terror). But this was not a nationalistic argument. It was about global concerns.

TNS: What is your view of the usual India-Pakistan bickering?

RA: When I joined a Mumbai newspaper, I was thinking it may be possible to care about both countries without thinking 'either this or that.'

TNS: Let's talk about your work-in-progress. What is the idea behind it?

RA: I am writing a memoir that includes my time working in Mumbai, as a Foreign Editor of DNA. I have written some chapters. I have spent some years thinking what it means to be 'Indian' and to be 'Pakistani,' and looking at how many people use the terms. I think my experience is a bit of an experiment in looking at a third way of feeling and acting. Not strictly Indian, nor Pakistani but being in India and Pakistan.

 

Against the current

Victor Gordon Kiernan (1913-2009), a Marxist historian and scholar, was erudite and wide ranging in his intellectual interests

 

By Dr Arif Azad

Victor Gordon Kiernan, Marxist historian and scholar, an early translator of Faiz, died on 17 Feb at the age of 95. His death pulled in glowing tributes from South Asian and British Marxists like Tariq Ali and Eric Hobsbawm, reflecting Kiernan's wider cultural and political sympathies. Two lasting and abiding interests -- radical Marxist politics and the subcontinent, marked the whole tenor of his life.

Born in 1913 to a father who worked as a translator of Spanish and Portuguese with the Manchester Ship canal, he went to Manchester Grammar School where he showed scholastic aptitude. From his father he imbibed the love of languages and interest in people and nations beyond the shores of Britain. Like his Marxist contemporaries, he came from a non-conformist background which showed up in running against the orthodox current in Marxism.

In 1931 he arrived at Trinity College Cambridge where he stayed for seven years, excelling academically. It was at Trinity that his interest in Marxism and South Asian circles began to shape the contours of his future life. In 1937 he joined the communist party of Great Britain where he was to remain till the USSR's invasion of Hungary in 1956. Marxism also introduced in him the interest in the struggle of the colonised nations fighting colonialism. This led Kiernan to revive and activate a colonial group at Cambridge previously run by the Canadian EH Norman. Norman was a distinguished historian of Japan, a diplomat and a victim of McCarthy's witch-hunt in US.

It was during this period that he fell in with South Asian radical students. The upshot was his life-long interest in the region. Kiernan kept up with his South Asian contact all his life. Professor Amin Mughal, who lives in London, told me of his personal experience of meeting Kiernan a couple of times. He remembers how Kiernan would light up at the sight of old South Asian friends.

Instead of the originally intended one year, Kiernan ended up spending the years from 1938 to 1946 in Lahore. His days in the city were spent setting up study circles, forging links with intellectuals' circles while teaching at Aitchison College, then the Chiefs College. Like underground operatives of the Communist Party, he carried a secret missive from Ranjini Dutt Palme, a leader of the British Communist Party, to the leadership of the communist party of India – a style of operation so typical of the communist parties in those days.

He also formed close connection with Faiz Ahmed Faiz and learnt Urdu and Persian. It is also speculated that he met Allama Iqbal whose works he translated into English later on. Here he also married theatre activist, Shanti Ghandi, whom he had known from his Cambridge days. The marriage lasted as long as he remained in India. Only those who were very close to him knew of his first marriage. The second marriage took place after a long period of forty years with Heather Massey in 1984. He later confessed to Tariq Ali that the second marriage rejuvenated him intellectually and led to extraordinary creative output in the closing two decades of his life.

After his return to Britain, Kiernan immersed himself in the works of Communist Party Historians Group whose members included figures like Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, and Edward Thomson. To the debates of the Historians Group, he brought intellectual flexibility and open-mindedness -- a rare trait for an ideological scholar under pressure to toe to the party line. As noted by great Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, Kiernan was the prime force behind the global impact of English historiography. He may not have acquired the recognition that fell to the lot of other exalted figures of the Historians Group; he was regarded, by consensus, as the most erudite.

Following his unsuccessful attempt to secure an academic position at Oxford on account of radical politics, he settled down to academic life at Edinburgh University in Scotland in 1948. He remained here till his retirement in 1977. It was at Edinburgh University that he produced his translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Allama Iqbal. Kiernan's translation of Faiz was perhaps the first one of its kind introducing Faiz to the world outside Pakistan. This period is marked by his best known work on the history of Western imperialism entitled The Lords of Human Kind: Black Man, Yellow Man, and White Man in an Age of Empire in 1969. With experience and more time at hand after retiring from the university, his creative output grew. The range of his interests neatly divided between radical politics, classical languages and culture can be discerned in an extraordinary output from a Dictionary of Marxist Thought (1984), State and Society in Europe (1980), The Duel in European History (1989) Tobacco: A History (1991), Eight Tragedies of Shakespeare (1996) and Horace Poetics and Politics (1999). Perhaps never before such a wide diversity of intellectual preoccupation compressed into such an eventful last two decades of his life.

In India too his intellectual contributions did not go unacknowledged. On his 90th birthday the Communist Party of India brought out a collection of Kiernan's writings honouring his undying link with the subcontinent. Kiernan is survived by his second wife, Heather Massey, his writings and fond memories of India and Pakistan.

[email protected]


Taal Matol

Swathe of colour, tainted

By Shoaib Hashmi

It is suddenly Spring, while we were still waiting for winter. And Lahore is a swathe of colour. I am reminded of a song sung by Harvard maths professor, pianist and songwriter Tom Lehrer 30 years ago.

"Spring is here, a-spring is

here;

Life is skittles and life is beer;

I think the loveliest time of

the year

Is the Spring; I do! Don't you? 'Course you do!

But there's one thing that makes Spring complete for

me;

And makes every Sunday a

treat for me.

All the world seems in tune,

on a spring afternoon

When we're poisoning

pigeons in the park;

Every Sunday you'll see, my

sweetheart and me

As we're poisoning pigeons in

the park…."

Strangely enough the sentiment is closer to reality than you'd think. For months we have been trying to tempt one or the other of our cricketer friends to take in a tour of the country, and one by one they had all refused citing security concerns. Eventually Sri Lanka agreed and turned up to play a series of tests and One Day Internationals and the first day of the first test went off smoothly. The second day was another story!

As the teams made their way from their hotel to the ground they were way laid by a group of a dozen terrorists and a running fight ensued. At the Liberty Market roundabout, right in the centre of city, half a dozen of the police escort were killed, two members of the Lankan team were shot as was a Pakistani third umpire; fortunately none of them fatally.

Cameramen from a channels filmed the terrorists shooting away at the team bus and anything else in sight, as did closed circuit cameras from many shops round the place; and then the terrorists got clean away. The whole town was stunned. Within minutes a whole plethora of wild accusations went around naming everyone from a 'foreign hand' to accusations of similarity to the Mumbai massacre. The tourists meanwhile packed their bags and took the first flight home abandoning the tour.

Now there is nothing to do except sit around lamenting the sad episode, wondering how long it will be before some other team gathers up enough courage to come to Lahore for a tour. And I am reminded of another verse from Tom Lehrer who simply strung together all the names of all the hundred or so elements, with the last line saying, "These are all the elements whose names have come to Harvard; and there may be many others but they haven't been discovered'! Touche!

 

demands

Gelebration of the oppressed

The landless peasants of Sindh unite for freedom, and most importantly, their rights

By Urooj Zia

Opinions regarding the outcome of the Sindh peasants' long march for land reforms and amendments in the Sindh Tenancy Act (STA) of 1950 remain divided. Some are celebrating the promise made by Sindh Assembly Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza as a success who said that the suggested amendments would be tabled in the next Sindh Assembly session. Others hold a more pragmatic view, and have promised a second long march and a bigger sit-in in front of the Sindh Assembly building in August if the deputy speaker's promises are not met.

The STA-1950 was the result of a massive movement launched at that time by Haider Bux Jatoi and his Sindh Hari (peasants) Committee. The latter also served as a model and an inspiration for other movements of landless peasants in the country. Arguably the most successful among these was the armed movement at Hashtnagar, Charsadda, led by the Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP), which eventually liberated the peasantry there, and bolstered the middle peasantry by providing them with the land they had previously tilled for the feudal lords.

The current amendments in the STA are the result of months-long negotiations between local NGOs and landless peasants. These amendments hope to bring the original STA "at par with the times." A major highlight of the march was the Third Hari Conference in Karachi on February 25. To put things in perspective, the Second Hari Conference was held in 1970 in Sukrund, near Nawabshah.

The spirit of the landless peasants who participated in the march was a sight to behold. For one, this was a proper march, on foot, not the march-cum-long-drive that our generation is aware of, courtesy the lawyers' movement.

On Feb 15, thousands of activists and landless peasants, both men and women, had congregated at the mausoleum of Baba-e-Sindh (father of Sindh) Comrade Haider Bux Jatoi. From there, around 200 people, including 150 landless peasants, set out for Karachi on foot, via various stops in rural Sindh. Music and dance was a major part of the entire thing. The younger men did not walk as much as they danced all along the routes, as the procession covered an average of 25 to 28 kilometres every day.

The secular culture of Sindh was also wholly visible in the march, as monotheists, polytheists and atheists walked, danced, ate and celebrated their joint cause together for 12 days. Several attempts by some participants of the march to inject Islam into the event were overturned by the peasants and the leadership of the movement. "We appreciate your participation and support, but we do not appreciate the participation of your religion" was the common sentiment.

This is understandable, seeing as how around 60 to 70 percent of the landless peasants in Sindh are Bheels and Kohlis – lowest caste Hindus. The main slogan of the march was Sufi Shah Inayat Shaheed's "Jekho Kherey, So Khaey" (loose translation: the tiller has the right to the produce).

Shah Inayat led a peasants' movement in the mid-1700s, and the "Jhok communes" were established as a result long before the French communes were even conceived. The Jhok communes, according to legend, were attacked on the orders of the Mughal emperor, who was assisted in this by the feudal leadership of the area, as well as religious leaders. Shah Inayat was arrested and ordered to be crushed to death in a chakki. Many of his followers laid down their lives too. All the martyrs, irrespective of religion, are buried at a shrine in Jhok Sharif, which is dotted by around 25,000 graves, including two mass graves.

Much praise goes to the leadership of the current movement, including Zulfiqar Shah from South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), Punhal Sario from the Sindh Hari Porhiat Council (SHPC), and Shaheena Ramzan and Ramzan Memon from the Bhandar Hari Sangat (BHS), the parent organisation of the SHPC. Not only have they obviously educated landless peasants in several areas of Sindh about their rights, they have also indoctrinated them politically, and have, more importantly, taught them how to obtain what is rightfully theirs.

"We are not merely looking for freedom, we want our rights" was what everyone who was part of the march told TNS. There is a difference between the two terms, they explained. When a wadero (feudal lord) fears legal repercussions, he sets Haris free, but he does not give them what is rightfully theirs. "He hopes they will be happy enough to be free. He expects them to simply get up and go to a camp like they usually do. We don't just want freedom. We want our rights too. We want to own the land that we till, we want our due share in the produce, we want to be treated with dignity," the peasants said.

Stories of bonded peasants across the province corroborate this point of view. This is especially true in upper Sindh where the feudal lords own larger tracts of land and are therefore socially and politically more powerful than their counterparts in southern Sindh.

TNS met a group of 25 people, including 15 women, who had walked 25 km from Bolarchi to Jhok Sharif, district Thatta, to be part of the fourth day of the long march. 25-year-old Shambu Kohli narrated the tale of his tribe, the Kohlis from Bolarchi. He, and around 50 other people from his tribe, currently beg for a living. For 20 years they have been bonded to their Wadero, Ali Nawaz Leghari, in Bolarchi.

Two years ago, the Kohlis of Bolarchi were mobilised against their landlord by activists associated with the SHPC and the BHS. Afraid of legal action, Leghari said they were "free to go." The Kohlis, however, made history. Instead of fleeing to a refugee camp like other 'freed' agriculture labourers had done before them, they stayed put and demanded that they be paid for the labour they had put in for 20 years on Leghari's lands. 80-year-old Leghari tried to scare them by allegedly lodging false FIRs at the local police station against many of the Kolhi men. Lowest caste Hindus, at the lowest possible rung of the social ladder, the Kolhis cut a helpless figure, but decided to fight back. They have now sought the services of a lawyer and plan to sue Leghari in court for violation of the Abolition of Bonded Labour Act.

The peasants' long march ended on February 26 with a sit-in at the Sindh Assembly building, and the ensuing promises from the deputy speaker. Does the movement end here, though? No, the haris maintain. Their sentiments were summed up most aptly in the speech which SHPC head Punhal Sario delivered at the Third Hari Convention. "We voted the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) into power four times. It gave us nothing. Workers in Karachi were shot at during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's tenure. The Communist Party did nothing. Nationalist parties have failed too. What we need is not the leadership of any of these parties. We need a movement carved and led by the people – by peasants and industrial workers," he said. "We need a united Left. We need to get rid of our 'organisational chauvinism,' sit with other people and learn to listen to their point of view even if we don't agree with them."


 

Who may live and and who must die

State uses force to eliminate both external and internal enemies to rationalise it as a pill that has to be taken for the nation

By Ameem Lutfi

The ability of the state to put to death certain elements that either present a threat to the lives of the general populace or a threat to national integrity seems to have become an every-day reality for us in Pakistan. Military operations in FATA and Balochistan are certainly not the only examples of state-force in public memory. Contemporary history is full of examples of a state using force to eliminate both external and internal enemies.

Rising from these histories of states dictating who may live and who must die, is the question of under what circumstances (and against whom) does the state uses its ability to expose a certain group of population to death.

Theorist Michel Foucault, in his lecture at Collège de France, argues that the modern state justifies the death-function by appealing to the principle that the death of others makes one biologically stronger insofar as one is a member of a race or population. It is this concept that leads to the idea of "State Racism."

Since the declaration of French human rights, the birth point of modernity, the primary role of the modern liberal state is to protect "bare life" and well-being of its own population. This new emergent concept of protection of bare life went alongside the previously existent power of the sovereign's 'right to kill' that had taken the form of state's monopoly over violence. This conjoining of the modern state's role of protecting its population with the "sovereign's right to kill," according to Foucault, led to the birth of "State Racism." The term signifies the idea that since the primary concern for modern state is to protect the interests of its own population or other populations groups outside of the national boundaries, and even within, are considered expendable in the interest of protecting its own population.

Since the nation-state model is presented as an "end of history" and it asks of the component states to imagine themselves to exist till eternity, the power of the state to kill, does not remain a reactionary force. With state think-tanks looking to plan well ahead, this "mortality calculus" figures predominantly in the long-term state plans. It is this future planning that has led to the phenomena of "pre-emptive war".

One of the most popular examples of "pre-emptive war" is the US invasion of Iraq. Regardless of the debate that whether the US waged war on Iraq to protect itself from possible future 'Saddam attack' or to secure oil reserves, one can confidently claim that the war was initiated in order to ensure the stability and predictability of American society. The foreign Iraq population was considered expendable in order to protect the future interests of Americans.

Coming to examples closer to home, I would like to extend Foucault's argument a little further. In post-colonial states that have been granted sovereignty in the past century or so, the state tends to eliminate certain portions of population not only to protect the "bare life" of its citizens but also to protect the abstract entity of 'nation' itself. In such societies where memories of foreign rule are not part of written history alone, where sovereignty has come about through a strong national struggle, the "nation" is not just the aggregate of its population. With the entity of 'nation' taking on a life of its own, the project of protecting the national sovereignty or the bare-life of the nation (not the population) becomes an end worthy of killing and dying for.

Even though in western countries the idea of nation is often presented as not being just a collective identity for its population, in most post-colonial nascent states that the "nation" becomes an entity in itself that can be divorced from its population. As a result the project of defending the "nation" often becomes more important than defending the 'population'

In countries such as ours, national sovereignty is asked to be defended at all costs. Hence, the plan to protect the nation figures in the possibility of a high number of casualties. These deaths could either be of the state actors themselves, such as those of the armed forces, or of those who present a possible threat to the national sovereignty.

With Pakistan being in a state of constant antagonism with India, both nations have often posted a very large number of soldiers on the border. Due to the belief in the abstract entity of "nation", both the countries are ready to expose a large population of soldiers to death in order to protect enemy forces from stepping into even an inch of 'our' land.

The ability of the state to kill its own population becomes most prominent when it is called upon to crush local liberation struggles. In 1971, when East Pakistan started its struggle for independence from Pakistan, the latter went about on a brutal killing spree. Likewise, since 1947 whenever the Baloch struggle against the centre has flared up the state has been willing to expose the general population to death or death-like conditions. In both the cases the deaths came to be rationalised as a pill that had to be taken for the "Nation".

Anthropologist Achille Mbembe in his wonder paper titled "Necropolitics" writes: "The perception of the existence of the Other as an attempt on my life, as a mortal threat or absolute danger whose biophysical elimination would strengthen my potential to life and security--this, I suggest, is one of the many imaginaries of sovereignty characteristic of both early and late modernity itself". To this I would just like to add that in case of nascent nation states where national boundaries in popular imagination are not fixed till eternity, the state looks to eliminate the "other" that presents a threat to the abstract entity of the nation.

 

 

RIPPLE EFFECT

Ruled by psychopaths

By Omar R. Quraishi

What is a psychopath, one may ask. According to Wikipedia (what else is one supposed to quote in a newspaper article?), it is a construct made by psychologists to describe "chronic immoral and antisocial behaviour." Perhaps one could argue that it should not be necessarily 'immoral' but 'amoral' -- as in behaviour that does not adhere to any moral norms in that it does not depend on the individual's perception of morality in society.

In many industrialised countries, psychopath is a legal term used to fight crime perpetrated by individuals who may have traits similar to those exhibited by psychopaths as defined by specific laws. Of course, the primary reason for the enactment of such laws is to treat those who have such disorders

The heading of this article may make some readers wonder who is being ruled over and who is the ruler. Once the definition of what makes a psychopath is given, it will hopefully become clear that one is referring to the Land of the Pure.

According to practitioners of psychiatry and human psychology, a psychopath is someone who finds gratification in criminal, sexual or aggressive impulses and also if he or she is unable to learn from past mistakes. There is also a strong element of lack of remorse in that the actions undertaken and executed by the individual are such that they can harm others but that the doer expresses or in fact experiences no remorse for such actions and gains satisfaction from them. Surely, these are all traits of those who have ruled over this country -- both in mufti as well as khaki lest I also fall into the dangerous trap of blaming everything on just the politicians. Those who fall in this category do not seem to learn from their mistakes, they seem to never express any regret or remorse for their misdeeds or misgovernance. And worse still, they hold delusions of grandeur with regard to the consequences of their actions -- as in policies that harm citizens and tangibly lower their quality of life but which those in power interpret as being good for the people. Hence satisfaction is gaining from implementing and enforcing them on a generally unwilling populace.

A student of the Greek philosopher Aristotle by the name of Theophrastus is said to have come up with the first description of psychopathy in a book called The Unscrupulous Man. A French psychologist in the early 19th century spoke of patients who were not mad in medical or other terms but carried on with actions that were "impulsive and self-defeating" but that they kept on carrying out such actions, fully understanding the obvious "irrationality" of their behaviour. Psychologists in the early 20th century expounded on this ideas -- some of them in the context of the system of corrections that was becoming an established institution in the west. For example, one predominant view was that such people were in fact incorrigible. Putting them in jail would not achieve much because they did not understand the dire consequences of their actions. Also because they failed to express any remorse and hence were unwilling, if not wholly unable, to learn from the past and at least not do the same, which would make them, end up again in the correctional system.

It was not until 1941 that a canonical work was done on this issue by an American psychiatrist Hervey M Cleckly who was a professor at the Medical College of Georgia. His work, The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality, can be found on the Internet (in pdf format at http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/sanity_1.PdF) was groundbreaking in that much of what he wrote is used by psychiatrists today. He first came up with the idea of a "mask of sanity" or a demeanour used by psychopaths that made others think of them as perfectly normal and rational individuals. (One wonders whether this explains why so many times when a murderer is caught, those who know him/her because of living in close proximity or because of a relation express surprise at his/her actions and say that he was a 'normal' person and so on and so forth). He also called it a "mask" because it hid from other people the mental disorder of the person who was a psychopath.

Interestingly enough, psychopaths also sometimes tend to display an overdeveloped sense of narcissism. They are basically in love with themselves which is present in most people who not categorised as psychopathic but that in the latter it is found to a degree whereby it causes psychological problems. According to Freud, there is a triad at work: self-admiration, self-centeredness and self-regard.

Some of the traits found in psychopaths, as defined by psychiatrists are: Superficial charm; a very high sense of self-worth; pathological lying; ability to be manipulate others; lack of remorse or guilt; lack of empathy and failure to accept responsibility for one's actions; tendency to get bored quickly; living life as a parasite; poor behavioural control; sexual promiscuity; lack of realistic long-term goals; doing things on impulse; a high degree of irresponsibility and juvenile delinquency; displaying a "reckless disregard" for the safety of oneself or others; aggressive or violent tendencies; a high sense of entitlement; inability to distinguish right from wrong; poor judgment and failure to learn from experience and substance abuse. Of course, this is not to say that those who have all or part of these traits are necessarily psychopathic but that individuals clinically determined to be psychopaths tend to display all or most of these traits.

A well known Canadian criminal psychologist, Robert D Hare of the University of British Columbia, has said of psychopaths that they are "intra-species predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse. What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."

In children, three particular traits are thought to give early signs that the child may grow up to have psychopathic tendencies -- bedwetting, cruelty to animals and starting small fires (also referred to as the 'Macdonald triad' after forensic psychiatrist J M MacDonald of New Zealand – first spoke of the triad in a 1963 paper that he wrote for the American Journal of Psychiatry titled 'Threat to kill'). I have no idea about bedwetting tendencies but I have seen many many children in my life who are extremely cruel to animals and who also love to start small fires.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: [email protected]


|Home|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|


BACK ISSUES