Monday, September 24, 2012

The Elusive Common Man

Obviously, no self-respecting blogger could pass up a comment on the whole blasphemy story and the arising ‘situation’ on Friday. Although I’ve never thought of myself a as a ‘blogger’ (possibly because I write once a decade or possibly because the number of people who voluntarily read my blog has never actually hit double digits), I do own a blog and I think it would be improper of me to just let this one pass. Of course, much has been said about the whole violent episode, and I think we’ve all had it up to here (go ahead, do the gesture as you’re reading this!) with the analysis on the insensitivity of the West and the gullibility of our people. And so, like Syed Noor, I understand and value the importance of originality and innovation to keep people interested. This post is truly going to be unique and insightful! I wish you all the best getting to the end.
The cinemas and KFC weren’t the only things ablaze in Pakistan last Friday, so were Facebook and Twitter. As we locked ourselves in and logged on, everyone’s feeds were inundated as the battle of the wits raged online. Everyone was appalled by the violence, its inanity, and our complete helplessness to do anything about it. With a dash of sarcasm, a hint of depression, and sprinkle of condescension we spent the day preparing, doling out and consuming vast quantities of this heady concoction.
But there was one major problem – the guest of honour was absent. The simple fact is (at least on my feeds) that the people making most of the noise (yours truly included) understood very little of what was going on. Consequently, all these people are even less able or inclined to influence, reach or even identify the one person responsible: The Common Man.
Tales of The Common Man have travelled far and wide and I have even come to suspect the veracity of some of these accounts. Either some people have been inventing stories about him, or he has deliberately and craftily been developing a confusingly contradictory persona. If it is neither of these two, then The Common Man has to be one of the most fickle characters ever to have walked the earth.
For if everything I’ve ever heard about him is true and accurate, The Common Man is illiterate, lazy and dishonest. At the same time, he is essentially wise in the ways of the world, works like a dog to feed his children, and is greatly disturbed by the increasing lack of good old honesty.
The Common Man also holds religion very close to his heart. He is devout, but not really a nut about it, except when he is a nut about it and is willing to burn, maim and kill at the slightest provocation. But he doesn’t really believe in God at all – the rampant godlessness is evident in his amorality. This is a good sign, though, because he is on the brink of breaking the shackles of this oppressive construct. Oh, and at heart, The Common Man may just be secular, though, somehow, all politicians feel the need to pander to his religious sentiment.
Perhaps Religion is not the right platform to gauge The Common Man’s stability of views. It is rumoured that he is particularly susceptible to exploitation by Mullahs and Pirs. Does this exploitation extend to other facets of his life? Well, he has us chasing our tails over that one as well. Sometimes, he is a serf; exploited left, right and centre by wily politicians, crooked bureaucrats, feudal lords and powerful industrialists. On other occasions he is a shrewd operator who knows how to play all the powers in the system off each other to maximise his personal gain.
While his wants and needs are catered to by a paternal feudal lord, he happily toils all day to go home to enjoy the simplicity of his life. But simultaneously he lives in perpetual fear of the monstrous inhumanity of his exploitative masters, who spare no trick in keeping him subservient, kidnapping his daughters, murdering his sons, etc.
In the factories, The Common Man presents himself as the oppressed worker, cruelly held in servitude by his poverty. At the same time, he is also busy organising unions and bringing work to a halt at the slightest denial of his outlandish demands.
The Common Man has been ruthlessly lied to and misled by his television, the newspapers and his history books. This in itself is very odd as The Common Man cannot be fooled since he’s an excellent judge of character and is a master at reading the political implications of any and all actions.
And what opinion does The Common Man hold about social issues? Well, essentially The Common Man is conservative, everyone knows that. But he’s not really a fraction of the Conservative us urban Middle/Upper-Middle-classiyas are. In fact, everyone knows he’s a Liberal. His views on women are sometimes confusing though. Sometimes he is a champion for gender equality, working hard to educate his daughters and allowing them to work. He also frequently subjects these same daughters to cruel and sadistic punishment at the slightest pretext to satisfy his honour.
The contradictions inherent in the most powerful man in the country could go on endlessly. There are many possible explanations for them. Possibly, like Franklin W. Dixon, the title of The Common Man is associated to more than one person; therefore, several different personalities combine to create this hodgepodge that no one is able to decipher.
Another possibility is that many people have been deliberately misattributing certain characteristics to The Common Man in their aims to strengthen their arguments. In fact, one wonders whether The Common Man even exists as a person and is not rather a vague conceptual figure to whom various obvious traits can be associated by the application of logic rather than empirical evidence.
Sometimes, poor The Common Man has been victim of identity theft. People masquerading as The Common Man have acted without his blessings. On some occasions, The Common Man just changes his mind!
If opinions on the blogosphere are to have any consequence in the long run, they need to be able to understand and influence The Common Man. His elusiveness makes this a near impossibility, but it is imperative that we track him down and interrogate him.
The Common Man does occasionally interact with us, through rickshaw drivers, domestic servants, office peons etc. but as much as a treasure trove of information as this is, it too fails at two points. One is our general reluctance to question these people about The Common Man, and the other is again the issue of misrepresentation. Anyone presenting the opinion of The Common Man will no doubt taint it with his own interpretation. This is an alternative of limited value, but it will have to do while an aggressive manhunt prevails in the country. Until this happens, speculation is highly entertaining, but no more than a fairy-tale.

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