Deconstructing the ‘establishment’
Expressions such as the ‘Danda’ (the stick) as a slang while mentioning ‘power’ in complimentary terms, ‘software update’ in social media, ‘khalai makhlooq’ (the aliens) in politics, and the ‘hidden hand’ in the formal environment are known to everyone in the country.
How you perceive the ‘establishment’ depends on what side you are, if it favours your stance, your desire or your position then the establishment acted in a responsible manner. If it is the other way around then the establishment crossed the lines and failed to remain within its constitutional role. Interestingly, now we define the establishment’s role as pro-democratic or anti-democratic, which indicates the deep-rooted disease in the system.
The term ‘establishment’ isn’t new to global power corridors. According to Danielle Kurtzleben from NPR, “In a 1968 New Yorker article, British journalist Henry Fairlie claimed credit for inventing the term ‘establishment’ in the modern, political sense. However, he traced usage of the term back to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an 1841 speech called The Conservative. Writing in 1955 about the disappearance of two UK Foreign Officers, Fairlie used the term to describe the powerful people, who, among other things, defended the officers’ families from the press. Fairlie had a definition that was simultaneously specific and amorphous. He said he wasn’t referring just to ‘centres of official power’, but rather to a variety of other powerful people.” These powerful people include owners of media houses, editors of leading newspapers and magazines, prominent journalists, heads of private for-profit and not-for-profit organisations and luminaries. When they all join hands for some specific objectives, they all formulate an ‘establishment’ which drives the country invisibly. Now the question is; who brings them all on-board?
Who dictates the terms? Who determines fate? Who lays out plans and who decides victory or defeat? These are the questions which interest everyone, but the good thing is when there isn’t sufficient evidence to reach to the conclusion, the general public in Pakistan remains quiet for the larger interest of the country.
Now again we are facing a bipolar world after almost three decades of unipolarism; under these circumstances our policymakers have to remain vigilant to emerging dynamics in today’s closely knitted society. During the Cold War, siding with the US was uncomplicated, but now being an integral part of CPEC, we are subject to both challenges and opportunities—therefore we need to balance our international relations to best serve our national priorities.
Kurtzleben suggests, “To read news stories about the establishment over the decades is to see the group described in the same undefined-but-we-all-know-who-we’re-talking-about terms as today.” Another dangerous dimension of manipulations are purposely built campaigns to pursue set objectives. These campaigns usually exaggerate facts and figures to an extent where it is difficult to differentiate between truth and fabrication. This usually leads to mounting lies, baseless allegations, tarnishing reputations, damaging honours and breaching privacies thus creating divides and nurturing hatred in society; which is indeed detrimental for civilisation.
Can we ensure smooth functioning of institutions if everyone acts within given constitutional roles? Can we explain our politics in terms of constitutional procedures? Can we precisely point a finger to any institution being at the core of the establishment? If we can’t, then according to Kurtzleben, “It implies that the word ‘establishment’ will become more popular when the establishment is threatened—when the anti-establishment voices get the loudest.”