Benazir Bhutto’s Hope
When hope dies.
Can we know it has died?
Looking at the profound sadness and rage of Pakistani supporters of Benazir Bhutto, I can only remotely imagine the pain of such a loss, the rage at the human will to murder. Her friends and political allies immediately vow to continue her campaign. The headline quoting Rehman Malik, “She has been martyred” is based on hope that there is a future for which she gave her life.
I’m reminded of “Five Easy Pieces,” the 1970’a movie about alienation, despair and unsuccessful seeking. In the final bleak scene, the main protagonist, played by Jack Nicholson, simply leaves everything behind, including his wallet, his girlfriend and his jacket, and hops on a truck going North. A journey with no baggage at hand, no intentions claimed, no feelings acknowledged. The truck takes Nicholson away from his context into an unknown future, propelled by despair. No hope needed.
Benazir Bhutto’s journey of return to Pakistan is exactly the opposite of the American portrait in “Five Easy Pieces” which recounts a soulless journey of escape.
I make this connection also in relation to news media. Just as the character in the movie is unable to understand and name the cause of his alienation, just so the media in the US, and by extension our social discourse, is unable to analyze and explain the causes that promote the climate for hatred, murder and suicide. The underlying causes of hatred and murder in Pakistan are to be found also in middle America and in every sector of US society and they have to do with alienation. But we also have the internal resources to deal with the despair of alienation. We can claim our immediate context, respect our immediate relationships even when those relationships ask that we extend our boundaries of understanding.
The journalists who work in global corporate-controlled media are unable to name the causes so they use simplistic explanations that blame extremists who hate the USA. The conclusion follows that the extremists and their violence in Pakistan is a threat to us in the USA.
The threat to us is not from Pakistan, although it is related to Pakistan. The threat to us is within ourselves, what we talk about and what we leave unsaid. It is a lack of hope that our immediate context is the ground in which a better future will grow. Could this be the reason our media spend hardly any time analyzing our own context as a cause of violence?
Watching the news today, I can see hope in the agonizing suffering, the social and violent convulsions in Pakistan. By contrast, the commentary by journalists on network television and our public discourse remind me of Nicholson hopping on a truck to just get away, not realizing that he is taking his unnamed alienation with him. I think I can tell when hope has died.