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Debating Universality, Objectivity and Un-questionable Relevance

Saeed MandukhelBeauty is objective and it is a hallmark of a thing and an object that inherits and inhabits it universally was counter-narrated with the presumption that beauty lies in the eyes of beholder. The realist and idealist debate of Aristotle and Plato might, from the plain man’s perspective might be taken as time wasting argumentation, very much synonymous with the often trapping and confusing debate of whether the chick or the egg came first!

While living in the very post 9/11 world, one is taken aback by the plethora of visions, missions and so-called realities that a man of little sense becomes Saadat Hassan Manto’s Bisham Singh (the main character in his story Toba Tak Singh); a lunatic who after the partition of the sub-continent could not understand the miracle that his native land, Toba Tak Sing, a land of Sikhs has become Muslim by Parting with Pakistan. In fact, the prevalent inhalation of two nation theory was something that had turned sane into lunatics; not to speak of the insane.

S.T Augustine, in his explanation of time professes his inability to objectively quantify the very metaphysical and subjective concept of it———— believes that the totalizing mentality of common man and his materially molded ideology all the time lead a person, not only a lay man, but a learned person, to such a surety that he/she proclaims to have a complete and accurate sense of time.

He says, although he believes he knows everything of and about time. Yet, if some somebody asks what is time and how it is; he is puzzled and he responds with a very vague explanation: that it is something measured in seconds, minutes and hours, etc; as it was yesterday, it is today and it will be tomorrow—–with some beliefs and preoccupation of time that has no such relevance. With a bit of contemplation the philosopher comes to the conclusion that he accepts what the society names as time; he is conditioned to take it for granted, the way public perceive it. Thus, time that is thought to have passed by someone might have passed away the same person, even with an irritating laugh!

Similarly, If one state’s heroes and ideal are zeros in the eyes of others and vice versa; if civilization can be termed as the highest form of barbarism; if grand narratives are reduced to something relative; if the White man’s burden is buried with the resurrection of an ideology that the  brightness and glamour of  West stands upon the darkness of East; if East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, can be self-falsified by the Western campaign to include India as the world’s 6th veto power;  if permanence in state to state relation is no more wise; if the bad of tomorrow is the good of today; and if change is something that is constant and irrevocable then the acceptance of objectivity appears an obsession, and off course debatable.

With the destabilization of meta-narratives, blurring of ideological boundaries and amalgamation of pure and impure, classic and base and the low and high, a clear-cut line of division is almost impossible—- as one is to accept that everybody is right and no one is wrong, with an ideology to question that, what is right and what is wrong? Who has the right to determine the line between them and reinforce it?

Yes, any information posted on the Internet will be perceived and treated differently by different cultures, people of different age and gender. Something that looks quite appropriate for someone will look completely immoral for the others. For example, an online music video with half-naked singer, more likely, would not shock anyone from the European-American culture environments. At the same time, the same image might get in conflict with the moral norms of the Asian societies, because of the different cultural background.

Thus, it is possible to state that every person has his/her own image of appropriate and inappropriate issues, due to the different environment, culture and personality.

To avoid collective imprisonment, deconstruction of thoughts is essential. In fact, it will be wise to laugh away the so-called modern and commonly held objective maxims and replace them with their more humane, psychologically positive and highly relatively counterparts: Instead of saying ‘prepare for war to establish peace’, it shall be ‘to prepare for peace to avoid war’; instead of saying ‘burn yourself to light others’, it shall be believed that ‘light yourself to enlighten others’. The latter substitutes will do away with the paradox nature of the statements. Furthermore, it will have positive psychological impact by avoiding violent and negative signifiers.

In other words, objectivity, Universality and hegemony grow out of the same seed: pawing ways for power imbalance, never-ending conflicts, dominance and deprivation. Subjectivity, plurality and localization are tendencies that will lead to acceptance, coexistence and multiplicity. Instead of hegemony, harmony will prevail; instead of globalization, localization will flourish; instead of falling prey to capitalist brands, we will submit to indigenous cultures. Exactly, we will surrender to the whims of culture, the way the West is enslaved to law. The difference lies in the fact that their laws are preserved in books, held sacred and dispensed in courts by the men in black gown: the ones who think themselves above the same law and will never mix with the public for whom the law is meant; they will always wear serious looks. We will live by culture, which is lately dictated by Mullahs, who also wears black gown, serious looks, and while considering themselves above the same Muqtadeen will never follow the same culture.

In a nutshell, all human being of the world cannot have one culture, one religion, one language and one political system that can be utilized beyond time and space. Finding objectivity will mean imposing the dominant discourse, which in every case creates binaries. Among the two the stronger is favored against the weaker, as the self is always projected at the cost of de-humanizing of other. Thus, permanence, objectivity and universality are a set of mind where cultural relativity, subjectivism and multiplicity cannot nourish.

Writer: Saeed Ullah Jan Mandokhail

The writer is a cultural critic and political analyst. He can be reached at



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