“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity”―Hunter S. Thompson
These days there are disturbing flashes of news on the electronic, print and social media regarding all kinds of perverse and criminal activities. Browsing through various channels, one can mostly see blood-curdling incidents that involve rape and murder of innocent children, so-called respectable citizens engaged in child pornography, females wrongly accusing their male colleagues of sexual harassment forcing them to either resign or commit suicide, males trying to take advantage of vulnerable females in work places and universities, cases of gang rape of minor girls—even middle-aged and old women are not spared but what tops the list is when such heinous crimes are committed in the corridors of public offices duly abetted by those who should be holding such criminals ‘accountable’ for their deeds
Are we really responsible citizens of this country is a question that seems to crop up each time a child is molested, a kidnapping takes place or when destitute young girls taking refuge in government-run shelters are compelled under duress to satiate the lustful needs of ‘higher-ups’ and ‘the powerful’ who, intoxicated with the arrogance of authority consider themselves above law and accountability. By sheer strength of the grade and position they enjoy, they think that no one can touch them or question their acts.
Where there is smoke, there is fire! No matter how many justifications are given, if someone with a conscience is raising a voice against certain criminal activities, then there surely must be something uncanny going on behind closed doors. This must not be ignored on the pretext that the informer may have his/her own vested interest or some score to settle. Sweeping such accusations under the carpet without thorough investigation implies that rather than the doings of a single person, there is a mafia-like operation which includes a number of participants who support each other at these crucial times making the whistle-blower appear as the real culprit. Assuming that the informant is a perp, there is still a need to expose the truth. However, such incidents create a momentary excitement but the heat soon dies down and all is conveniently forgotten. Such is the level of responsibility!
Those irresponsible parents having no clue about the basics of parenting; those irresponsible teachers who just treat students as money-minting objects caring two hoots about their morals; those irresponsible students for whom education is nothing more than time-pass; those irresponsible relatives who, fraught with malice cause irreparable damage to their kinfolk; those irresponsible traders who cheat the public; those irresponsible officials who, instead of performing their functions diligently, render the lives of people miserable; those irresponsible professionals who mislead their clients with bad advice and poor service; those irresponsible journalists who spread rumours rather than report honestly, those irresponsible citizens who have no time to cast votes and observe rule of law, those irresponsible politicians who are least interested in uplifting the common man; those irresponsible……(no end to this babble)…..all contribute to rendering the entire society as irresponsible.
One person’s irresponsible behavior can have far-reaching effects what to talk of similar acts by many. Undoubtedly, the collective irresponsibility of the entire society has the most damaging backlash one can imagine. Those who choose silence out of expediency are equally liable for all the wrongs just as the real felons. We all want rights but there is no desire to fulfill our obligations. What will be the result? A very incoherent society that does not care about repercussions of the irresponsible attitude of its members. Instead of looking into within one’s own faults, each person wants to blame the other. Consequently, everyone is a loser, including those who have still managed to maintain some ethical values.
Coming back to the recent allegation of refuge homes for destitute females turning into brothels at the behest of their supervisory officials, is not a new story. In fact, secret gambling dens, bordellos and bars have been thriving under the watchful eyes of authorities since long. As pointed out earlier, hue and cry is raised for a short time and then a hush shoves everything back to normalcy. Being a country created in the name of religion, it cannot afford to publicize the immoral acts of its governing officials. The dichotomy is that the most indulgent are actually the most powerful with deep-rooted connections in the circles of authority, therefore they remain protected, undisturbed and appear innocent. Here is where accountability has to be made effective. The moral fabric of the society will always remain tattered where the roles of the innocent and guilty get switched.
Since ancient times, unity of the unscrupulous has been exemplary while the so-called moralists and responsible citizens have hardly been able to see eye to eye. Under these circumstances, unconscionable behavior will obviously thrive giving rise to all forms of perverted activities. Even today, some of our ‘enlightened’ rulers have tried to convert this country into a pure Islamic state and in this quest covered up all forms of ‘indecency’ by putting a ban on them. In doing so, they failed to notice the lava that was gradually building up underneath and rapidly spreading throughout the façade affecting every segment of the society. What could have been regularized for a better control has now become unmanageable with its tentacles threatening to pierce through the conscience of even the saints.
A wake-up call is necessary to shake some sense in the minds of everyone whether from the governing elite, the governed and particularly the educational institutions that are nurseries for building the character of a nation. Uncontrolled birth rate, especially at the poverty level is preventing the growth of decent human beings. How well Marie Curie appreciated this concept when she said: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his/her own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)