Tug Of War – Lord Of The Rings

Mar 3rd, 2013 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan, Social, World

Ah, why

Should life all labor be?

Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,

And in a little while our lips are dumb.

Let us alone. What is it that will last?

All things are taken from us, and become

Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.

Let us alone. What pleasure can we have

To war with evil?

The Lotos-Eaters, Alfred Tennyson

 

I find “A Game of Thrones” to be such an interesting phrase. A good friend (a hard-core loyalist) really insisted that I read the book as it would really make me renew or rather, review my reverential love for “Lord of the Rings.” I dismissed the claim before even touching the former, saying that just the author’s name (R.R. Martin) is a pathetic rip-off of R.R. Tolkien. Both, however, have other similarities I’ve been told. The biggest similarity – as I understand through my extremely biased point of view – is that they both tell a story that we find ourselves plotted in: the story of power. We read this story every day. We see ourselves, and other characters like us caught in a relentless tug of war. We yearn to have ourselves heard. And we feel so good when we are heard. We feel proud. We feel empowered.

Sauron had the same problem. He wanted to feel empowered. So did Shaytan. The former came up with a brilliant idea to fool everyone, all races, to feel empowered. With their own token rings to cherish, they felt secure. But Sauron was deceptively clever. “One ring to rule them all.” And they became pawns. The latter wanted to feel empowered too. And he made such a compelling case. “I am better than him.” And although his statement was perfectly logical, he failed the test. Because he was too sure, too secure about his worth. And to this day he tries and sometimes tries very hard to feel empowered. And every time we become his pawns, this sense of empowerment is given to him. And like the nine ring-wraiths, who were once men, we fall into the trap.

All of us think that we are better than someone else. Smarter, prettier, richer. In one way or the other, we feel that because we are better than someone else out there, we have more power. And because we truly believe that we have that power, we translate that into control, and that makes us feel that we are right, above all and everyone else. I am better than you. Therefore, you are nothing. This was Shaytan’s logic. This was Sauron’s rationale. And this is the game-plan that runs our show, all our affairs: from belittling our helping hands (whom we call ‘naukars’), to bossing our children around, to killing people because they believe different to what we do, to calling others terrorists or infidels, to making fun of people who mispronounce McDonald’s, to raping women, to mauling boys to death. We all follow that game-plan. Because we all want to feel empowered. We feel smug. In control. So sure. But it’s pathetic really. Why feel so good about yourself when you know that the match is unfair? A man with a gun in his hand is no match for a child with tears of fear in his eyes. The rules are lopsided. And the rules are always with the rulers. The rest must simply obey. Or no dice.

But here’s where this power-play gets painfully intriguing. “Security,” Hecate, the Queen crone in Macbeth says to her prentices, “is mortals’ chiefest enemy.” So the more power we begin to wield, the more desperate and greedy we get for it, the more we feel the compelling need to have ourselves asserted, affirmed and that furthers our pride which we mistake as faith in ourselves. But what is really happening behind the walls of this fanciful fortress is that we are becoming more and more insecure. Hence the need to have ourselves asserted. And proven right. The fortress is nothing but a house of cards. Why is democracy the way to go? Because those on the top assert it to be so. Why is that man with a beard a terrorist? Because those on the top claim it to be so.

And the rest must follow. And we do because it’s the easier thing to do. Why should we go through the toil and trouble of challenging status quo? It wasn’t my father that was shot? It wasn’t my sister who was raped? Why should I care? I am still alive, and I have my iPhone 5, and I’ll make it to my friend’s wedding after-party on time despite being late for my blow-dry appointment. It is but convenient to not be bothered. The problem is not with the Saurons that we are surrounded by. Nor with Shaytan who plays the Pied Piper. We want others to feel empowered at our expense. We let them feel empowered. We prefer to remain silent and let things be because we cannot be bothered, enough.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

It all boils down to this. Many proponents of Friedrich Nietzsche attribute these memorable words from “The Madman” to the idea of the utter rejection of God and – taking that to its logical and dangerous conclusion – to negate any agent of authority premising order. And it has all come down to ‘invention’. Power has now been relocated.

We are too comfortably dumb and preferably numb about the world around us. And we have made it this way as Nietzsche is rightfully claiming. Outsourcing responsibility and sensitivity is the new fad. We don’t want to be disturbed. We continue to take orders because we feel securely empowered in our own limited loci of control. We want to, and continue to feel good about ourselves and that gives us a false, almost petty sense of power. And the tragically ironic part of this whole story is that we are indifferent. We are letting the plot of this power-play sway us from one narrative to the other. We all are playing this tug of war. We all trying to prove that we are better than the rest.

Sauron and Shaytan are perhaps merely characters on yellowed paper for most people nowadays. And who cares about boring stories anyway as they lack spice. Stories are just stories. And all that happens around us: the boy who is bullied in school just because he is short, the girl who just turned 35 and is still not married just because she’s not “gori” enough, the nameless child who died in a drone attack, the fruit vendor who was hanged some time back, the maid who got abused because she put less salt in the haandi…are simply stories for us, interesting to talk about over our evening tea. But as the conversation ends these stories are stacked away. And as rats, or pawns – whatever we may prefer to be – we enjoy our own private games of thrones in which we are kings and queens. The rest – like us – are simply ruled upon. And the pull of power reigns us all.

Hajrah Khan

About the author

Hajrah Khan is a thinker and English Language and Literature teacher at a leading private school in Lahore, Pakistan

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3 comments
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  1. Game of thrones is awesome. You really should read it. ;p also a very well written article. It seethes with the intensity of your emotion. I like.

  2. I’m so so so impressed.and so very proud to be your sister.

  3. Beautifully written. I really loved reading it.
    I am myself a fan of Lord of the Rings and the perspective you have given is equally inspiring. I just read the preface written by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist: “dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral, at least as well as its froth and cream.”
    It is a bitter reality that we face everyday from our relatives, from our travel partners in wagons, our friends and beloved ones, these sore words of control they want us to feel deep in our skin, put in innocent questions without empathy and full of apathy.
    While we completely forget any kind of ‘morals’ that govern societies. This is despicable.

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