Schadenfreude, a German loanword in English, means “taking guilty pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.” Ever since Musharraf resigned just a couple of days ago that’s all I see on television, the press and in private conversations. The glee cannot be contained, and it’s coming out vulgar.
This is not to suggest that Musharraf should not have resigned or be impeached; he is guilty of much and should have ideally gone before the second emergency. It’s true, his resignation was simply because he had no choices left, the forces that backed him were opportunists, and they found new opportunities. But I wonder if the celebration is premature, that the reversal of fortune that seems integral to the drama of Pakistani politics might someday roll the die again.
Seems like the past nine years have been nothing but Schadenfreude. It starts with Nawaz Sharif dreaming of becoming an emir, then ending up incarcerated. A fall from grace that many liked. And for those who never forgave him, his first return to the country was met by empty spaces where crowds should have thronged, Shadenfreude for the those who saw beyond his padding of the truth on how long his deal was cut with the Saudis. Months later, with the elections, Nawaz Sharif’s standing is reversed, eliciting the same merriment from his camp that once were the handbags of his detractors. More recently, the PML-N’s silent betrayal of the judges when it voted for a finance bill that expanded the number of Supreme Court judges was met by a twist of fate through the ruling of the High Court on the tenability of Nawaz Sharif as a parliamentarian, backtracking to the side of justices deposed once again.
And then, of course, the PML-Q, a ragtag bunch who did their best to demonstrate their abandonment of their political masters for the greener pastures of a controlled democracy, watching their ebullience evaporate when the elections results are announced, when the titans of a dictator’s controlled pawns fall. Watching democracy come back was fulfilling, but so was the cruel joys of watching the people abandon the unprincipled in the PML-Q, and also watch the president wanting to dance with new partners. A pinnacle of collective Schadenfreude.
The same is with the PPP. Musharraf now expects to be enjoying a bit of Shadenfreude pretty soon if and when the judges are restored, because the judges will do away with the NRO.
But in all of this, there is only glee and counter-glee, and seeing people come down, have a reversal of fortune, serves no real purpose because it’s all about having things done, getting them reversed, avoiding continuity, or even establishing policy.
With Musharraf gone now, the self-congratulation needs to stop because the Shadenfreude will not get anyone very far. The truth of the matter is that the challenge is now, excuses are finished, the economy needs overhauling and security needs to be re-established. Even starting a trial for Musharraf will have people absorbed by the drama of how far he can be punished and humiliated further, but the noose that is tightening the daily survival of the underprivileged shall not be alleviated by it.
If the present is not taken seriously enough, then there is room for Schadenfreude for the adversaries of the victorious, who have already gotten people riled up by using the NRO not only to forgive but to reinstate, with Salman Farooqi, Rehman Malik, and maybe, just even maybe, Zardari himself as the head of state. Let’s hope the future isn’t about celebrating misfortune, but achievement. It can happen, but the window of opportunity is small.
The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka @yahoo.com
Source: The News, 21/8/2008