Being a Black man living in the 19th-century, American Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar lived during a time of grave injustice in the USA.
His poem titled “We Wear the Mask” laid bare the wounds he and his fellow blacks held close to their selves. Here is a portion of the poem:
“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile,
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!”
Pakistan was established to become a “dream” state (at least Mr. Jinnah’s speeches seem to indicate so). How then did it become the nightmare that we are witnessing today?
In Dunbar’s words, we “let the world dream otherwise” but did not have the gumption to pursue our own dream.
When one colonizing system left, we installed another colonizing system. When the Gora Master left, the Khaki Master took over. Unlike the Gora Master, this New Master came with a mask (or maybe more than one).
Why did we agree to be “colonized” again? Iqbal failed. Faiz failed. Faraz failed. Countless others failed. The dream failed.
For three quarters of a century, we were unable to realize that something was amiss — a just state, our constitutional rights, our economic potential, our societal vivacity, our human dignity … our very freedom.
No, it wasn’t that the whole paradigm was forced upon us. Rather, we collectively wanted to live in that paradigm. And we participated in the evolution process. The New Master was our “savior.”
It was an act of volition because, as Dunbar wrote, “We wear the mask.”
In 1971, we saw the result of wearing the mask. Today, our country is potentially at the verge of another historical calamity.
Will we remove the mask of our Master? Will we remove our own mask?
Will we remove the mask?