Monday, April 11, 2016

Cynicism and the Theory of Lesser Evil

[Here is the part 4 of the article: "Cynicism and Pakistan."]

The Theory of Lesser Evil (TLE) is a manifestation of cynicism. As cynicism finds its meaning mainly in negativity and faultfinding, TLE too believes that everything is Evil; there is no Good. If everything is Evil, and there exists no Good, then what we are free to do is make a choice between all the Evil things. Nonetheless, TLE makes room for things which are more Evil and which are less Evil. This seems to be a ploy to carve out a niche for human choice; otherwise, if everything is Evil, then there is no question of making any choice. In that case, we are all condemned and doomed to live with Evil. But the choice between the things more Evil and the things less Evil allows for us to live with things which are less Evil. Herein lie the roots of the Theory of Lesser Evil.

So the first thing which requires to be explained is: the TLE as a manifestation of cynicism holds no water. Cynicism itself, which believes in all-pervasive negativity, is inconsistent. Even if it is not rejected on its own view that “everything is negative” as negative, it may be challenged by its self-defeating argument: it views everything as negative. It is this view about things which helped man improve upon and evolve the things. In another sense, by declaring negativity as over-riding, it may have exhorted and appealed people to think and act about changing them. That means at least in one of its outcomes, cynicism appeared not as negative, and thus helped man move forward. In addition, it may be noted that in its total or not-so-total rejection of everything as negative and faulty, cynicism by implication seeks to align with an all pure perfectionism.

Also, cynicism is a view about things and not a statement of fact about things which it tries to feign. In that sense, as one view among so many others, it mirrors merely one aspect of reality. Since as a philosophical view, cynicism may not be confined to personal considerations of men in case of whom it is based on negative experiences, and since all of their experiences could not have been negative, and it is certain other factors such as bent of mind, psychic perspectives, etc, which may have caused them to be cynical in their attitudes, their cynicism turns out to be a matter of attitude and not of their philosophical view. That clarifies the cynical position of Paki cynics as grounded in their personal attitudes, and not as a consistent view about the things prevailing in the country. That is most obvious in the realm of politics, where due to their cynical attitudes, intellectuals and commentators have miserably failed to understand and analyze the nature of the polity of Pakistan; and thus their cynicism tries to justify the same polity which they declare as absolutely negative.

Let it be admitted that it’s not clear whether it was gradually increasing voter turnout in elections that forced cynics to propound the Theory of Lesser Evil so that the participation of comparatively overwhelming majority of the citizens in elections could be justified or it was the other way round, and though I find myself on the side of the former view, I think it requires detailed research to establish the temporal precedence of the fact of voter turnout over the TLE’s formulation and also to sort out when and how the TLE came to be formulated. However, be that as it may, there is this Theory of Lesser Evil which till now prevails as the dominant view about the things political in Pakistan.

It may also be noted here that although the Theory of Lesser Evil is a manifestation of cynicism, at the same time it needs to be realized that the TLE is inconsistent with an over-riding cynicism; that is, how it unravels the essence of cynicism and breaks out of the cynic shell to connect with the reality strikes at its own root. In that it creates space for two things. First, that not everything is negative and we may not succeed to find fault with everything. Second, that despite the fact that everything is negative and faulty, there are certainly such things which are not that negative and not that faulty as others are which may be said totally negative and totally faulty. That is, it is such things which are less negative and less faulty with which we can connect. That’s something verily positive; it accepts the negative reality and sees some parts of the reality or political reality as acceptable since they are less negative and less faulty.

In view of the above, it may be concluded that perfectionism as a cherished ideal aside, in reality things may both be evil and good; it means nothing is perfectly good or perfectly evil with an either-or choice. That amounts to saying that, for instance, in a situation all the things may appear evil, but in fact they are not; this or that or something/s may be good, and it is with such a thing that we need to connect not only to strengthen it but to increase the magnitude of good also. In the realm of politics, it translates to mean that not every political party is perfectly evil or perfectly good; not every idea and act of a political party is evil or perfectly good; it may be both, but this or that political party or this or that idea and act of it may in fact be good, and it is with this or that political party or this or that idea and act of it that we need to connect not only to strengthen it but to encourage and fight the evil also. That is absolutely essential to discourage, weaken and debunk cynicism in Pakistan in the field of politics and in general as well if we want to come out of the false spell of the Theory of Lesser Evil.

One last point: a cynic or not-a-cynic may raise the question: how to judge which political party or which of its idea and act is good or which evil. Simply, it’s the constitution which provides us with that yardstick that helps see and identify good and evil in the realm of politics especially. Another lesson: not only the “ends” of a party but its “means” also which it adopts to seek them need to be judged on the touchstone of the constitution. Finally, as the constitution is basically a moral document, we are bound to judge how far every political party and every idea and act of it is in accordance with the values of the constitution of the country, and also how far it accords with the moral values of humanity.

Link to the 1st part of this article: Cynicism in Pakistan 

Link to the 2nd part of this article: Cynicism and the politics in Pakistan 

Link to the 3rd part of this article: Cynicism and the political evolution of Pakistan

Note: This article was completed on October 24, 2014.