On Intellectual Thuggery

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By Rukaiya Amin

Intellectuals are the people who have diverse wisdom and foresight, who apply their intellect for the purpose of awakening and invigorating society. They help to divert the masses from what is unwise and wrong toward what is righteous and the good. Intellectuals influence and shape public attitudes and beliefs. They constitute a distinct segment of population whose activities can have, and have had, momentous implications for societies, nations and civilisations.
Around a more or less solid core of producers of ideas, there is a penumbra of whose role is the use and dissemination of those ideas. These latter individuals are the intelligentsia and would include those teachers, bureaucrats, engineers, doctors, journalists, social activists, political aides, judges and others who base their beliefs and actions on the ideas of intellectuals. When intelligentsias are addicted to being irrational, when they want to get ahead by taking advantage of other people and poor society sitting with hollow expectations, promises and trust, they become thugs. There is a good and bad (pseudo) intelligentsia in society.
Intellectual thugs are hungry for significance beyond those with whom they share their lives. They hungers for power and recognition and their vision (howsoever warped) is seductive. They display the ruthlessness of pure logic, a logic that sees the people as tools to be shaped. This particular section always exhibits the bragging mentality that the system belongs to them and everyone else has been invited to come and eat. They are arrogant at times and consider themselves as super human. Often times, people respect them out of fear; not out of love.
Thug is a person who commits crimes for personal gain through robbery and force or intimidation with orgy of hijackings. The theft involves robbing people or institutions of their rights, ideas and freedom of expression and thought. The Intellectual thug is ubiquitous who changes colours with the times. They commit coolest and genius thefts. They are opportunists and loot the dreams, aspirations, and sweat of hard-work of hapless. They play mind numbing acts of corruption, rubbing shoulders with the corridors of power. When their personal interests clash they manifest and manipulate the things.
The question is: how can an intellectual thug be identified?
These unscrupulous people have many guises and avatars.
It may be an individual, an institution or a relationship which had worked this way for years. He may be an ordinary man who benefits with his dubious tactics. He may be a crooked but savvy politician who makes wheels of bureaucracy creak. He may be a teacher who grinds the taught for coaching fees and good grades. He may be a businessman tagging the prices at his will and having political patronage to get cheap contracts. He may be a clerk often indulging in dilly-dally tactics. He may be a doctor playing with the lives of patients. He may be an engineer who architects the planned murder of projects. He may be a ghost supervisor at a University of whose scholar becomes the cheap labour. He may be a policeman who doubles the trouble in the times of help. He may be a journalist who is purveyor of hate news and extortion.
It may be a high-skilled bureaucrat, with a knack for getting things done his way. It may be an unholy relationship between the industrialist or businessman and the executive or a symbiotic relation between politicos, police and criminal elements. It may be the rowdies who are given red-carpet welcome, who on and often threaten officials and violate the law with impunity. It may be an institution where meritocracy is marred by considering themselves far above the state and its grubby spoils system. Yet, they continue to operate a system of “legacy preferences”- an affirmative action for kinship. The adage “Sau chohee khake billi haj kochali” best fits them-after snatching rights of the innocent, they don’t hesitate in showing sane behaviour or displaying fake goodness both on- and offline.
The reason for this is nepotism operating in and among all social classes, where potential benefits decline as one move down the social class ladder. Join the crowd and cheat. They can behave unfairly without consequences. The masters set the tone; the rest follow and so cheating becomes the norm. Glorification and constant use of cheating as a plotline is blurring the lines, and now we are left with a culture that accepts, even encourages cheating- what can be called as “Galat-ul-Aam”- a situation where doing wrong seem right. Power corrupts, more so, when the power is undeserved. In the process, the enforcers of the rule of law are frequently seen to be on the side of the violators of law. A vicious circle starts.
The agent of the principle of human equality and enlightenment is the God- fearing intellectual, who places reason at the centre of all things, and therefore is the one who would deliver progress and justice. I find truth in Einstein’s words: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” A person with capabilities and knowledge bears this kind of responsibility and owes his or her world the benefits of their profound wisdom. Unfeigned intellectuals need to use their capacity to contribute to steering society away from the negatively-impacting results that they foresee, not just for past mis-directed efforts, but also for the current and future inappropriate endeavours.
The problem with these intellectuals is that they live in an ivory tower. These people must know that where privacy ends, public interest begins. They are the products of nepotism- the worst form of corruption which fuels graft, discrimination, impoverishes the masses and sets off one section (winners) against the other (losers), breeds public outrages, maladministration, and injustice. With these actions , the moral and economic gap widens in society. In J & K, the moral dimension has become so bad that the first thought is, how to evade the law! Whenever one gets opportunity he(santari say lekar mantari tak)uses his authority without any fail for his or her personnel gain.
The idiom ‘Jiski Lathi Uski Bhains’ which means “Might is Right” prevails under these conditions. When evil minds combine, good minds have to work together to combat them. The best antidote is to inculcate spiritual values and practices which naturally nurture and enhance a sense of belongingness in people. When we realize that life is short and we are all going to die, there seems no point in being unethical and hoarding wealth. Shrouds have no pockets nor can one bribe the angel of death. We are accountable for the abuse of power if not (by tactics) here definitely before the Lord of the Worlds. For someone dishonest, whose self- conscience is dead, for him law is redundant. Conscience is the light of the soul that burns within our psychological heart. It raises the voice in protest whenever anything is thought of or done contrary to righteousness. A virtuous and courageous person can alone use the instrument of conscience. In a wicked person this faculty is dead and destroyed by sin or corruption. Hence, he or she is unable to discriminate right from wrong.
When we adopt belief of belongingness to the entire universe, the demon of ignominious selfishness will evaporate into thin air and we shall achieve the peace, serenity and tranquillity of mind we have ever been yearning for. In the context of what has been said above, it will be worthwhile to develop in us that stance of sensitivity and belongingness which will make us truly human. Noble ideas and features like egalitarianism, compassion, generosity, large heartedness and true perception of life will automatically follow suit.

— The author holds a Master’s degree in Urdu. She can be reached at: rukaiyaamin91@gmail.com