Notes on Political Fanaticism
By Abdurrahman Tahir
No matter what the situation, politics has always been one of those topics we turn towards, whether to make small talk or to show genuine concern. From informal gatherings, like weddings or lunch, to formal gatherings like office meetings, we Pakistanis commonly tend to discuss politics. Asa developing nation, it is not only beneficial but necessary for its citizens to be well-aware of the political situations and policies being implemented; the more informed the people are, the better they will be at choosing a candidate to lead their country.
Fanatics are people with extreme views, they show intolerance for opposing views and, as philosopher George Santayana described best, they redouble their efforts while forgetting their aim; in their world, it’s how they show their commitment to a cause or ideal, while looking down on those who disagree. Because of these extreme views, they start confusing their opinions with facts, convince themselves that their way is the only way and start seeing the world in black and white, forgetting the several shades of grey that lie within.
The reason why this is such a big issue is the fact that due to this intolerant and somewhat ignorant mindset, we tend to cross boundaries from discussion to violence. We all have all seen people harming each other in the name of politics or religion, to the point that they may even commit murder. For a very long time, Pakistanis have divided ourselves into groups of people from different castes, religions and political sides; when it comes to discussion on these topics, it is becoming common for us to break friendships and harm others just because of differences in opinion. Rather than keeping ourselves well-informed and open to new ideas, we let others do our thinking for us, take opposing opinions as a form of disrespect, and share views using aggression, rather than speech. Because of this, people suffer from having to hide their identities, political views or religion.
To counter this culture of dogmatism and fanaticism, we build structures and follow certain security protocols, but this is not a solution. As a solution, we must accept that we will never find an idea, a point of view, a language, or a culture that everybody can agree on. As much as it frustrates us, our reality is a multifaceted, multicultural world. The way forward is through democracy, education, information, and by ensuring that you and I give ourselves a moment of reflection and allow ourselves to doubt that we are always right. The fanatic is not always somebody else; he or she lives, potentially, in all of us. Multiculturalism doesn’t create fanatics, but it gives us the possibility to cure our own fanaticism if we only dare to admit that we are not always right.