policymaker as magician
i have said previously on this space that our culture does not lend itself to scientific reasoning easily and that we are generally still in that stage of human civilizational development where science has yet to conquere the paradigms of magic and mysticisms.
this is why for instance siddique-e-afghan, the ‘genius of the east’ and the eccentric mathematician-magician and self-anointed head of the ‘universal mathematical-philosophical-philological-chemical-industrial-everything else association of afghanistan’ engages in magic mathematics and fascinates people, but as is apparent in his shows, he fascinates himself far more than any other of his audiences. he has been reported to have claimed to derive the cellular number of god from some sort of cyrptic calculation he does from the number of verses and suras and their period and length and time it takes to read them. he is also alleged to have claimed that he predicted afghanistan’s current travails through mathematical methods and with mathematic certainty many years ago when afghanistan was still not in turmoil (which oddly enough places him at around 10 years of age because that is when the stuff hit the fans) and also that he has an as yet undisclosed formulae for recommending uncanny solutions that will provide for the solution to afghanistan’s present day problems -again, of course, with mathematic certainty. i enjoy his shows every morning on the national tv following the news when he plays with a stick and a cube of numbers on the tv and is at his most excited and therefore inarticulate and incomprehensible. a clear and undeniable case of post-traumatic stress disorder on two legs. i have no idea what convinced him to agree to the demolition of his house which had blocked a critical road construction project at a traffic bottleneck in karte parwan of kabul.
but let’s put mr. afghan aside for a while.
on thursday work required that i had to accompany some folks into a meeting with one of the better known figures of afghanistan’s post-taliban transition and development -someone with a reputation for being a technocrat par excellence. i had not experienced that level of pomposity and self-hype ever before. he humbly listened to the rest of us for about five minutes, and then when he could take all of this nonesense talk from mere mortals anymore, he sallied forth into a lecture that lasted the duration of the lunch and a bit of the afternoon tea. he compared himself to that judge of the children in the arab proverb who is so misunderstood and under-understood he ends up committing suicide. he inked to his hollowed name the credit for virtually every successful national venture on all fronts of security, development and international policy, and found a reason for most of the failures of the past five years in those in decision making places not listening to him, or worse, listening and not comprehending what he really said. someone else found an opening in the conversation and started talking, and our luminary host started literally falling asleep and sulking in his chair. then after the person was done he woke up and said that yes, he had read all about that stuff and here are ways of improving that too. then he started quoting left and right, and quoting his ancestors who had all been rulers of this and that large province, and then he returned again to his favorite subject of putting down a few more people. then he took the foreigners to task and said that in an upcoming shindig he has been charged with planning and launching here, he will make sure things change. afghan culture is notorious for requiring one to demonstrate extreme modesty; here was someone who would have none of that. but all of this aside, still, as i focused and concentrated on what the man was actually saying, at some point -and as my other colleagues were mesmerized with the talk mouth agape or scribbling furiously in their notepads- i realized that there is very little in all of this that can be put to implementation. i also noticed that contradictions abound in many of our master’s pronouncements, and then i began asking myself why and how is it that we not only tolerate but engage in worship of such luminaries. and that was when i was reminded of my own high theory about our culture being essentially still in the eon of magic, mysticism, uncritical submission to perceived and promoted authority, and more uncritical thinking. this man, i then realized, knows how to play the game really well. he is a magician who has mastered his craft and is so suave at it, he does not even have to appear as if he cares any longer. his flaws will be interpreted by the masses as calculated missteps and mispronouncements or some deeper sign of superhumanhood. his enemies will adulate him just as they hate him. and all of this will contribute to ever-enlargening egos and a prevalence of megalomania…
as long as there are wizards and wizardry, this country will have leaders and decision makers. someone needs to start pissing in their game. which is why of all things, the one thing this class cannot tolerate is intelligent critique. it is a sign of things to come, and they shudder at the sight of it and put it down to no end. even folks known for their scientific prowess and knowledge, flaunt that knowledge about in the most unscientific way possible. as they speak, they lend their pronouncements with the air of pomposity and unfalsifiability that veers into area of magic and sacrosanct scripture.
someone ought to unleash a bit of karl popper on these hags… really
but before that, someone ought to break down the false edifice of unfalsifiability and dewy eyed public admiration around them.
undo these false emperors’ clothes, children!
some healthy irreverance, young turks!