This may be debatable, but old Greek literature tells us that there lived, in the beautiful ancient city of Athens, a remarkable man named Socrates. He had an academic as well as a political following in Athens and he gathered, intrigued and touched many young minds during his ethical inquiries. While the youth of Athens celebrated Socrates as their great teacher, he considered himself a midwife, giving birth to the souls of reason, and a gadfly, stinging the morally apathetic civilians of Athens and waking them from their slumber.  

If a leader had gathered people under the banner of justice (insaf) in Socrates’ Athens, he would have asked those people what they meant by justice. His ethical inquiries addressed the very basic issues of society as well as the human nature. All he did was ask questions in a discourse to help other people establish reasoned arguments for their opinions. This method, that we now call the Socratic Method, helped the youth of Athens understand how flawed their reasoning had been up till then, and how the political elite was benefitting from the stunted intellectual growth of the civilian population. So, Athens’ political moto at the time of Socrates was “anything goes,” people put financial gains over societal virtues and the individual morality had only to do with worldly pleasures. Much to the displeasure of Athens’ social elite, some young people were so motivated by Socrates’ discourses on justice, courage, knowledge and wisdom that they pointed some dangerous fingers at their fathers. Not long after that, Socrates was brought to trial on the charges of corrupting the youth and leading them astray, and the consequence of this for Socrates was death by hemlock.

Let’s now compare the ‘corrupted youth of Socrates’ to the youth of today’s Pakistan. It may not be that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) managed the largest young voters’ turnout in the 2013 elections, but there is absolutely no doubt to the fact that a substantial majority of the urban youth population sided with PTI. We cannot be completely sure of how our rural youth voted but the more visible, urban youth has been very active since their favourite cricketer joined the race for Prime Minister-ship. Their obnoxious presence took social media by storm in 2013 and 2014, and corrupted social media for the rest of us, forever.

The youth that Socrates had corrupted decided to challenge the status quo by writing books inquiring into the different forms of government, the best possible society and the best way to live life. They became the giants on the shoulders of which their descendants saw further and further, and they became the light-bearers so their civilisation could be delivered to the lights of enlightenment and science. The youth of Pakistan on the other hand makes no inquiries whatsoever because it already knows. They claim to know it all and they believe in overthrowing governments forcefully. Socrates’ disciples went on to establish the first universities in the world so education could reach more people, and two thousand four hundred years later, our youth is endorsing the corruption of education. The KPK government has banned books, twisted the literature of the books for their Islamic agendas and included biased historical narratives to pollute young minds but our youth still stands with Mr Khan because he appeals to the irrational in them.

On one particular subject, however, Mr Khan bears striking and uncanny resemblance to most of the ancient Greek philosophers, and that subject is ‘women.’ Just like ancient Greeks, Mr Khan too does not believe that women deserve equal treatment. Beginning from the very beginning, the Women’s Protection Bill of 2006 attempted to allow DNA and forensic reports to be used as evidence for rape, something that should sounds very reasonable to a rational being. This bill was severely opposed by Mr Khan who claimed that if passed this bill would bring “a made-in Washington Islamic system,” and later he said his opposition was merely a reaction to the Musharraf-rule. Khan shook hands with Musharraf on his preposterous referendum, his overthrowing of a democratic government, his coming back to challenge a democratic government but somehow, the protection of women did not seem like an agenda to shake hands on. Moreover, after the recent Protection of Women Against Violence Bill of 2015, Khan sided with those who called the bill un-Islamic. So, to think that this Oxford graduate and his urban followers would stand up for the right of women and their protection against violence is apparently unwise.  

The youth of Socrates drove the Western civilisation into the era of public use of reason, a concept that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant later dubbed ‘enlightenment.’ In order to reach enlightenment, a little corruption of the youth is perhaps necessary. It is a concept that Pakistan, even in the 21st century, is unacquainted with because the fundamentalists never gave our society an option to endorse it and the Mr Khans of our society helped them. Their modus operandi has been simple; they keep our youth morally and intellectually sedated. And the Muslim community stopped producing philosophers a very long time ago, so don’t wait for a ‘gadfly’ or a ‘midwife.’