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Exploding Population and the Philosopher-King

In much of the developed, as well as developing, world population growth is slowing. Unluckily, the same is not true of Pakistan. Pakistan, now the 5th most populous country in the world (according to unofficial sources, as no census has been held since 1998), leaving behind Brazil, has a population growing much faster than had been projected. Its total population as of 2011 stood at 197.4 million, and its mega-city “Karachi” is estimated to have crossed the 23 million mark (as of April 2013).

In this under-developed, war-stricken, resource-scarce country, this exploding bomb of population is a matter of grave concern. Leaving aside the basic rights of liberty and security of life, the state has even failed to provide basic facilities such as health and education. In the war that has been continuing for more than a decade now, the country has lost more than 60,000 lives. The infrastructure along with the writ of the state is collapsing. In this scenario these increasing millions of mouths that need to be fed are coming into existence without any proper planning.

In an age when the world is socially progressing, we are regressing. The rights that were once freely exercised are now being taken back. Women in many parts of the country are denied education and are prohibited from attending schools, colleges, universities; a right they previously exercised freely. Women have also lost their right to vote in many parts of the country. Women’s freedom of movement has been restricted as they are discouraged from going to markets. To implement this policy, shopkeepers are not allowed in some parts of the country to sell goods to women who are not accompanied by an adult male (Mehrum). With the exception of a very few, even among the educated classes, women are discouraged from working or having a professional career. Amongst the masses they are considered inferior beings and merely child producing machines whose function is limited to bearing and rearing of children. The denial of education and the taking away of right to vote is a recent loss, and is a product of the incoming Taliban (Government-in-waiting) rule.  

Whether the war on terror is our war or not is an irrelevant question. More troublesome and worrying is the fact that we are ourselves caught up in different ideological wars. We have lost more than 60,000 lives; our mosques, temples and churches are blown up every other day and those who cause it are barbarians for some, stakeholders for others and brothers-in-faith for some others. This was recently evident in the Peshawar church attack in which more than 80 innocent lives were lost. And the incident that was condemned all over the globe, presented an opportunity for some to introduce their masters, thereby legitimizing them by opening up of Taliban offices in this country. It is a matter of grave concern that the reins of this country are in the hands of such inhuman, intellectually bankrupt, religious bigots.

From history we come to know that whenever such social condition exist political philosophers are born; for political philosophers only take birth and political philosophies only develop when there are social disturbances. Political ideas come about as a reaction to certain events; and it is these ideas that in turn shape future events. Plato prepared a comprehensive plan of education and communism of wives and property, Hobbes gave the ideology of absolute monarchy, Locke that of constitutionalism and Marx that of communism.

Plato, Aristotle, Burke, Mill, Bentham, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, wrote with a purpose. They were men of purpose and action. They preached and defended what they considered morally right. They either supported or condemned the then existing institutions and systems. It is not logical to ignore history; revolutions and social changes have only been brought about by philosophers and thinkers. In the western world, social conditions have been comparatively better; but even in the 20th century men such as Hobhouse, Laski and Barker dealt with questions such as rights, duties, liberty, equality, justice, political obligation and so on. In the absence of a philosopher, revolution will not come about, it will have to be created, and this self created revolution can only take the form of a bloody revolution.

With no signs of real economic growth and the problems of energy crisis, street crime, terrorism, religiosity, combined with non-availability of education, health care and employment opportunities, the birth of these millions and millions of more mouths is a burden on the already non-sufficient resources. The state needs to legislate, introduce schemes, awareness campaigns, birth control programs etc. to control this unplanned and unwanted growth rate. But unfortunately, the rulers of this land lack the wisdom and vision to govern; hence attention to such matters cannot be expected.

The system of democracy, which is considered as an ideal system all over the globe, is probably not best suited to the conditions here. Maybe the system of a philosopher-king, as envisioned by Plato, might turn around things in this failed state. Only a philosopher-king could analyse this society and its problems in detail and provide a solution to fix them. To conclude in R.G. Collingwood’s words: “If political philosophers do not involve themselves in analyzing the problems of our society and have no commitments to them, politics will be guided by fools”. This seems to be true of the state of Pakistan as well. 

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