Dialectics of a conflict
sis, which creates its own antithesis.
In a controversial situation, says Hegel, each side considers itself to be totally in the right and its antagonist wholly in the wrong. However, in point of fact, each side is partly wrong and partly right. But being right or wrong is merely an academic question. What’s important is the antagonism, which, though painful, leads to a new and higher situation. On the other hand, “Periods of happiness,” in the words of the German sage, “are empty pages in history, for they are the periods of harmony, times when the antithesis is missing. What is left to life is simply habit, activity without opposition.”
Seen from this perspective, the clash of adversaries is to be welcomed rather than feared, encouraged rather than shunned. Which side wins or loses, thrives or gets decimated, is beside the point. What matters is the fact that the clash is both a necessary and desirable step in the evolution of society.
History then, according to Hegel, advances in terms of conflict, which is always good. One may not see eye to eye with the Hegelian view that conflict is always good. However, it is hard to deny that conflict is not inherently bad. Conflict, it must be admitted, has been a powerful instrument through which history advances and societies transform. But for the strife among adversaries, we would not have seen the Renaissance and the Reformation or the Glorious (1688), French (1789), Russian (1917) and Chinese (1949) revolutions. However, the change produced by a conflict can be a change for the better or the worse; it may usher in development or decadence, growth or decay, progress or regression, order or chaos, peace or mayhem, greater harmony or discord. One may look at Gen Kayani’s statement as well as that of the chief justice of Pakistan, incidentally issued on the same day, from a Hegelian perspective. The statements reflect the predicament of the Pakistani society, where democracy is struggling to take root, where attempts are being made – feeble though they may seem at present – to bring the high and mighty to the book, and establish rule of law and a progressive, liberal society. However, such endeavours are generating, as they always do, stiff opposition from forces that have high stakes in preservation of the status quo.
Down memory lane, the political system of Pakistan has been dominated by the armed forces, which have directly ruled during half of the country’s history and have been the power behind the throne for the remainder of the time. There was a time when even mild criticism of the forces was looked upon as too daring a venture, and bringing serving or retired generals in the dock was pretty much out of the question.