They create fear

Muddabir Ali

The concept of discipline and punishment can be traced back to the primordial nature of state which Michelle Foucault has addressed in his book “discipline and punish” For state rulers, It has remained a very difficult task to keep masses discipline and complacent in order not to face any resistance that might endanger their privileged position. Foucault has argued that in ancient times power of the sovereign was maintained through severe public executions but at some point a shift in power was observed when the victims challenged the power of sovereign; they took pride in being killed than to live under the indefinite power of the King. This act inculcated a sense of glorification among the masses for the slain and now people were less fearful to the King or sovereign. It became impossible to continue with these public executions, which only afflicted the body, hence the new technique was employed that could influence minds of the people. Rule the minds, rule the people; this is where they rested upon. Through this article I am intended to show how our minds have been clenched with an invisible fear that becomes the reason for our false-content life.

A very close friend of mine said to me, “Hey! Look, you are crossing your limits, do you know you are under strict surveillance of the state, do not risk your life and let the things be in the order they are. And believe me; I would not suffer to expound your stand point if something bad happens to you.”  The whole idea of ‘Panopticon’ revived in my mind and it left me in more miserable situation.  Foucault borrowed the idea of panopticon from a German philosopher Jeremy Bentham. It was a special kind of architecture designed for the prisoners in which there was a central tower spreading light across the cells where prisoners were kept. The flood light from the central tower never disappeared. It was an indication that they are being watched continuously so they remained mindful of not doing something amiss. What this central brightened tower doing is creating a sense of fear. Prisoners do not know when they are being watched and when not, but continuous shed of light has instilled a fear that they can be noticed at any time. This architecture helped Foucault to explain how subjects in a state are entrenched with fear through strict surveillance and punishments employed from the central tower.

The modern nation states  particularly the security state, elite class (military and political) has aptly used the apparatus of “fear”  keeping  masses in oblivion to the real story and  running it’s corporate business alongside, so that they may not encounter any trouble in their voyage of elitist luxurious life. Important thing to mention here is once the fear is injected among the masses the occupants of the central tower doesn’t matter. The question here is; how this fear is generated? This fear is invisible which has been nourished throughout our life (Threats, non state actors, helping foreign conspirators….) this is how we are kept disciplined because we fear the punishments

State has many institutions under which thousands and thousands of people are employed and everyone is obliged to render his/her services to their best capacity according to their job definition. Army has to secure borders, police has to check internal security and rule of law similarly judiciary and other institutions have their specific roles to play. I don’t understand why few institutions are taken as holy and flawless when it is understood that humans can err. Let’s take a very simple example:  You criticize policies of politicians no one would bother you to stop but once your criticism tilts towards Army you will feel this whole world falling on your head. Why disagreement with the policies of Army is considered vicious? Why disparaging military corruption is seen blasphemous? Because when same thing is repeated time and again (even if it is false) appears true and people start believing in it and when such people are told about the other side of the picture, which they can’t see, instead they get enraged and suffer from cognitive dissonance. The reason for such a para-normal psychology is a well-crafted, thought-out process repeated over the years. With the dying platforms for critical engagement in form of public-spheres, Mass media, both electronic and print has been the handmaiden of ruling elites to what Noam Chomsky calls “Manufacturing Consent”. Generating consent is not an easy task. The whole propaganda machinery of ruling elites works behind in cahoots to mould and shape the public opinion.

The contributor is a student of Political Science at GC University, Lahore. 

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