As I took to my study to write this on Monday afternoon, channel after channel on the TV in the lounge was beaming minute by minute live coverage of the news which since Sunday, was from or about Youhanabad a predominantly Christian community next to some posh housing localities in Lahore.

The images and rhetoric from all quarters, some involved, some eager to score points, some indifferent yet speaking; made me stop, sit up and listen. And I found that missing from the whole dialogue was the facts and no was covering the cause but the debate was on the fall out and what should not have been done in the aftermath.

The one thing I found in common in all these talk “shows,” from these sparring contestants was that everyone wanted to “show” their verbal prowess, not display their knowledge or understanding of what was happening! And in many cases the people were short of tolerance with each other and tall on blame.

And I went back to a time when class 9 physics taught us that tolerance was an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or part, and how we thought “variation” would be a better alternative.

For tolerance was personal, it was beliefs, it was friends’ idiosyncrasies, it was something that just was, never flaunted, neither needed to be talked about nor needed to be not!

It was it, period. A part of growing up.

Coming to recent events, I find this allowable variation becoming so alarmingly great in our dealings with each other as human beings and creations of the one creator, it has now become varied not only on the basis of caste, color, or creed, but even variations have appeared within these divides.

And in retrospect I regret that I have seen this lack of tolerance unfold before my eyes, and kept my eyes shut to it!

Neighbors, streets, areas, cities were divided not by social class but on factors like language, color, cast, creed and then inevitably religion, soon followed by sect; and the rot was allowed to spread unbridled with many claiming that this was the way things should be.

The natural process of survival of the fittest fallacy.

For a country just 68 years young, nurturing its fourth generation of Pakistanis, this has been a descent into the dark abyss sooner than anyone could have thought possible.

We had Jinnah and then no one to step in his shoes. Less than a decade down life’s path came the first intervention in the form of a coup and that set the proverbial ball rolling for future “doctrines of necessity,” and “bad times deserve worst measures.”

Within these first 10 years were lessons to be learnt, which were not tackled, and which we have not learned even now.

Three years and two months into independence, in October 1951 the Prime Minister was assassinated. In February 1952 language riots broke out in the erstwhile East Pakistan when Urdu was declared the national language. And the main Islamic political party which had earlier opposed the division of India, rose against the Ahmadi sect in Lahore and February 1953 the Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad, handed over the control of Lahore to the Army, declaring martial law on March 6, Lieutenant General Azam Khan took over as the ML Administrator.

Such windows of opportunity have always been exploited, be it the 876 BC military coup by Zimri a military commander of Israel; Julius Caesar; Pope Gregory IX 1232 inquisition; to modern era Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Burma/Myanmar, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Chile, Saudi Arabia; all examples of state intolerance and using the inability to understand public sentiment as an instrument to allow anarchy to spread.

And this makes me feel guilty of remaining silent when I should have spoken.

The result of this collective collusion of silence in the face of oppression has today brought us to a point in our lives where life no longer matters, with terror seeping so deep in our psyche, that we just change the channel on our TV and surf for entertainment while around us there is chaos and mayhem.

Sixty eight years of silence, and now the din is so loud that we find it unbearable – yet the rot keeps getting deeper.

Nero alone fiddled as Rome burned. We are 200 million, and we are diddling our thumbs as Pakistan burns.