Certain diseases have a way of flying under the radar in a way that eludes medical science to this day. Since infections are generally detected through the presence of antibodies that fight them; scientists figured it was easier to hang a bell round the good guy’s neck rather than the bad guys. This means that in nearly 85 percent of cases the good guys show up to do battle with the baddies, and just when they are about to fall into the villainous trap set by the trespassing vermin, doctors send in the cavalry, flooding that patient’s circulatory system with enough medication to wipe out the bad guys and all their sleeper cells, for good.

But like in blockbuster Hollywood action movies, sometimes those vermin can turn into super-villains, infections that cannot be brought down by a simple dosage of Penicillin or other broad-spectrum antibiotics, creating circumstances that necessitate the deployment of Her Majesty’s Double-O division. Of course, Agent 007 is suave, sophisticated, highly-skilled and completely fuelled by Vodka Martinis that are shaken, not stirred. But he is also a loose cannon, a bad team player and, at best, a liability for the MI6. Now, while Dame Judi Dench may have no qualms about unleashing such a madman onto the world, your average doctor will think twice before letting something like that loose upon their patient’s compromised immune system.

Life is seldom fair, though, and tends to offer up more than one Kobayashi Maru per cycle. For the uninitiated, the Kobayashi Maru refers to a no-win situation; a test designed to evaluate leadership qualities among cadets at Starfleet Academy. While the universe created by Gene Roddenberry is a work of fiction, the logic and philosophy behind the Kobayashi Maru test is infallible: a crippled ship, marooned deep into the heart of the Neutral Zone, or No Man’s Land, is transmitting a distress call. You are the captain of the USS Enterprise and you have a choice; attempt to rescue the ship and its helpless crew and risk sparking an intergalactic incident which may cost the lives of your crew, or abandon all souls aboard the Maru to certain death. There is no correct answer, no optimal solution to this problem. In fact, the only way James T Kirk ever got around this test was by cheating. And deception is not very becoming of a ‘good guy’ now, is it?

Unfortunately for us, it is the only weapon in the arsenal of the righteous few that govern the land of the pure. Ours is a society sympathetic towards self-preservation: a model Darwinian eco-system. The Dog-eat-Cat-eat-Mouse-eat-Cheese world we live in has shaped us, for better or for worse. We are no longer crippled by agony and misery, no longer paralyzed by guilt and no more stricken with grief at the various injustices that surround us. Our minds have found a way to rationalize the pain, relegated it to the background. Our consciences have grown tired of shouting themselves hoarse outside press clubs and on The Mall and have gone back into hiding. As more and more people are lowered into their self-righteous graves, we grow more and more scared of our own shadows.

Ten years ago, no one would have believed me if I’d have said that Salmaan Taseer would be assassinated by an acolyte of the Right for doing wrong by his God. Eight years ago, you would have laughed at the prospect of any dictator, let alone the democratically-mandated Pervez Musharraf, would ever be tried for ‘crimes against the state’. Six years ago, you would not be caught dead trying to find a way to get the Taliban terrorists on the negotiating table. Four years ago, we would’ve been laughed out of conversations if we insinuated the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf would be the third largest political party in Pakistan. And, of course, two years ago, we would have crucified the government official that had the audacity, nay the gall to classify a dead terrorist as “a martyr”.

Things change. People change.

The disease of the last millennium has now become a revolution. Violence in the name of God is now, more than ever, the single largest threat to our existence. This is not a new phenomenon, just old milk in a new bottle. Over the course of the past few years, a game of dominos has been played with regimes and political systems in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Country after country has fallen prey to a veritable Molotov Cocktail of sectarian strife, internal political wrangling and external military involvement. Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan; all have faced their darkest hours. We in Pakistan, though, have had the luxury to sit on the sidelines so far, content with watching the world as we knew it coming down all around us. We have been held hostage by the terrorists for so long that now we have begun to rationalize our preference for their tactics, Stockholm be damned.

Civilized society is all about looking out for the little man, the marginalized and the vulnerable. But our Darwinian dwelling has evolved far beyond the limits of what is acceptable in the civilized world. Today, neighbours would rat our neighbours; friends will betray friends; brothers will kill their sisters and terrorists can threaten our entire way of life, without causing us so much grief as we would suffer when one of the good guys stands up and chastises us for our wrongdoings. Salmaan Taseer did nothing more than remind us to be good people, Shahbaz Bhatti’s only crime was that he stood up for the poor sods who didn’t have a voice. Hundreds of thousands of heroes, who have laid down their lives in defence of what they thought was right are today shunned by our pathological leaders because they cannot afford to antagonize the disease any further.

We must recognize the underlying condition for what it really is: denial. We just don’t want to believe that we no longer have control over our lives, or that our lives are controlled by the fear of something unpleasant. We just can’t live each day paralyzed with fear, not realizing our full potential just because we think that someone will come and blow us to bits if we do. So far, we’re letting the terrorists win. Let this be the year of their defeat.

 The writer is a former journalist currently working in the development sector.

Tweets at:@mightyobvious_