…Say young women looking for a neat packet from ‘sugar daddies’ who like to cavort, cohabit and consort with girls old enough to be their daughters or even granddaughters. You don’t have to hunt too hard to find old geysers amidst you with ‘trophy wives’, as they are known in the US. The poor pretty things like to grab the comfort, riches and power offered by their feudal lords, never mind if he’s fossilised and wrinkly.
Look at the Italian prime minister. He’s causing waves for his latest romps with a teen who is a nightclub dancer. Italian authorities are looking into charges against Prime Minister Berlusconi, 75, who allegedly paid Ms Mahroug (the underage dancer) and other women as well. Most Italians don’t care what their leader does in his bedroom. Even parliament supports him. While the media airs the scandals during prime time, Silvio Berlusconi is secure because he himself is a media baron and chief executive of the country. “This bizarre situation has come to seem normal to Italians, just as one’s eyesight adjusts to the darkness,” writes the New York Times. Let’s move from Rome to Cairo. President Hosni Mubarak, 82, while stubbornly insisting ‘old is gold’ continues to hang on to his chair of 30 years. Egyptians on the streets are being killed, but the president refuses to quit. The young came out crying for a change. They are brave, bold and high-spirited men and women who have appointed themselves the arbitrators of Egypt’s destiny. A friend in Karachi gifted with unusual powers to foresee the future gets “images” and “pictures” of Mubarak “standing upright in his usual style with a bloodied face.”
Lust and power inebriation of leaders pretending to ‘serve’ their people has one defining trait: agelessness and a love for status quo. In Pakistan, since its birth, leaders are often old men. Nay, they turn old by the time they quit. Be they dictators or civilians, all start off as “new potatoes” or “young corn” but soon turn rancid and stale. Their end is always the dumpster where they are discarded as trash by their successors.
Two leaders, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir, have left an indelible mark on our tortured history. Both had fire in their bellies and zing for power when they revolted against the status quo. ZAB stood up to his own “adopted father”, President Ayub Khan and led the revolt. We quickly rallied around him because he was our hope of the future… young, handsome, vibrant and vocal. He lifted us from the gloom of the 1971 war of humiliation and defeat with India. Despite losing East Pakistan, our chins were held high, mainly because our youthful prime minister promised us a great beginning. His daughter, too, stirred our passions against tyrant Zia. We adored her. She was our heroine, young, beautiful but brave.
Nawaz Sharif, pink and white, was young when he became the prime minister. But like BB, by the time he fled from Pakistan in 1999, he looked a wreck, not because he was old, but because he overstepped his mandate and wanted to be prime minister for life as stories of corruption, misrule and blatant abuse of power swirled around him. A hair transplant does not a young buck make!
The fate of the present lot will be no different (my Karachi spiritualist friend tells me of horror images she sees, but let’s not go there). Cavalier carriage, facial-fresh faces (yes men get facials!), designer suits worn with $15,000 a piece shoes, our young ‘soldiers of democracy’ arrived three years ago to take over the reins of a country ravaged by tyrant Musharraf and his band of thieves. Soon, very soon, the gold turned tinsel and democracy took a dive down south breaking into a pandemic of corruption, putrefaction and depravity.
Today, the man on the street, starving, sick and unwashed misses the ‘fruits of democracy.’ A lowly employee tells me, “Do you know how much my supervisor, a mere matriculate, takes home each month?” Before I can venture a guess, he answers, “One hundred and sixty thousand rupees!” His salary is mere 20,000, I’m told, but “he cuts Rs2,000 each from our salaries! There are seventy of us working under him.” Why don’t you all revolt? I ask the les misérables. “Do you want us to get sacked and starve in the process?” he shoots back. I am silent.
Status quo lovers around the world are in for a shock. The old system crumbles around them. The belief “old is gold” is being rejected by the young. The Arab world is in turmoil today. Out with the old, in with the new is the revolutionary signature tune tweeted among the youth of the world. Fed up with old dictatorship that festers the worst worms of humanity that one can imagine, the young have risen. Pakistan too is ripe for change. Even the opposition leaders are beginning to look more like foxes than humans. Their endless lectures in the print and electronic media are unoriginal, musty and often obsolete.
Old customs, ways, values, traditions and beliefs, today, have developed into a full blown case of demagoguery. The rawness and primal stupidity of the ignorant and unlettered is now gradually becoming a groundswell that can devour a sizeable number into its fold, turning Pakistan into a rudderless boat.
All eyes are on America. Apart from Fox News, the rest of the media has begun a soul searching exercise in real earnest. “No, the United States is not hated across the region because of the freedoms we enjoy or even because of the lectures on democracy we do not cease to deliver. We are hated because we are perceived as hypocrites who say one thing and do another,” writes Pat Buchanan.
He’s an old wolf, someone who has survived by holding on to the status quo for decades. So now for him to reflect the worldview that America “supports despots” and if the US is “about to be thrown out of the Middle East, it would be neither undeserved nor an unmitigated disaster. After all, it’s their world, not ours,” is a wake up call for all who think that “old is gold.”
Transcend we must, but to a higher tower of truth.