Every progressive society has a brain; the intellectual elite or intelligentsia, which not only sets the direction of the society by instilling values of rationality, intelligence and wisdom in young people (students) but also informs the general masses by apprehending the existing state of affairs. The role of the intelligentsia to society hence is same as that of the brain. In simpler terms, the proper functioning of society is largely dependant on the role played by the intelligentsia because it organically becomes the custodian of collective social intelligence; the supreme value of social change.
For the past four decades, social change in Pakistan has been dying a thousand deaths and every death should invoke the collective guilt of the intelligentsia and academia; for an outcome expected but often not realised. Whenever the issue of social change has been deliberated upon, the emphasis remains on the reversal of process rather than diagnosing issues, figuring out remedies, adapting to change and moving on while the reversal of process should take care of itself.
For the past four decades, social change in Pakistan has been dying a thousand deaths and every death should invoke the collective guilt of the intelligentsia and academia for an outcome expected but often not realized.
When a society is led by an intelligentsia, void of intelligence and wisdom, custodians of social and political thought remain intransigent to change for conscious or unconscious fear of losing control over collective social intelligence. Even the notion, ‘is led by’ becomes doubtful in the rarity of wisdom and intelligence. What does it mean by loss of social intelligence? It poignantly refers to the stunted social growth and the prevalence of obliviousness in the intellectual elite. Thus, our oblivious intelligentsia has remained unable and inept at playing its role to develop a young generation of intellectuals that could use the strength in their character rationally in order to bring positive and constructive social change.
Social change in Pakistan has remained stunted since the era of Muhammad Zia ul Haq, the architect of sectarian polarization. A plethora of literature has been written on his dictatorial brilliance, but how it destroyed the capacity of social intelligence has been far less a concern for the intellectual elite.
Conversely, Zia’s period was hopeful because of many reasons. One is that the intelligentsia of that time consciously played its role by resisting tyranny and oppression. Proponents of social thought and their connection with the public, their bond with youth and universities, their profound voice and ubiquitous expression amid the realisation and apprehension of circumstances that they lived in was phenomenal. No one can forget the role of Faiz and Jalib whose immense recognition by general masses was the manifestation of collective social intelligence, which is to say that conscious intelligence in society was alive and kicking.
But the period after Zia proved lethal for social change and collective intelligence. This has been the result of sheer negligence on part of our academia who uncannily began to train students not to deal with relevant issues. The scale of that training has been so seismic that students forget to think critically or think at all for that matter, which is a major reason why the literati and culturati of our society are only shadowed memories of a glorious past. That is why students with the highest grades in exams, become unexaminable after exams. Alas, it is a resounding obituary of our academia and intelligentsia. The tragedy is that we as a society cannot even lament the loss or reminisce the days of yore as the very candlewick of our social intelligence rests in peace.
But the period after Zia proved lethal for social change and collective intelligence. This has been the result of sheer negligence on part of our academia who uncannily began to train students not to deal with relevant issues.
The predicament cannot be better explained than an upfront reflection of our society. We have custodians (owners and masters) of holy places, of the loudspeakers, of extremism, of violence, of rapes, of minorities, of women, of polity, of economics, of universities but we do not have custodians of rationality, intelligence and wisdom. This is the reason we try to import cognoscenti and somehow expect that they will cure the damaged caused by negligence on part of our intelligentsia. The recent efforts by the government to use foreign scholars for fixing the economy is a reinforcement of the notion that there are serious issues with the national universities. Fetching great minds is not a bad approach, not building our own, is.
At this stage society becomes unkind to its subjects as subjects become to society. This inertia persists, if not challenged or remedied, and the most suitable challenging force is intelligentsia. However our oblivious intelligentsia has become a figurative nobody to everybody and the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, the confabulate poetry of social change by our intellectual elite.
Khaqan Ahmad has done M.Phil in International Relations from the National Defense University, Islamabad. His areas of expertise are Indo-Pacific region, Middle East, European Affairs, International Political economy, Foreign Policy of USA, China and Russia, Philosophy, Theories of IR and Artificial Intelligence. Currently, he is working as a Research Associate at the CSCR.