Conflict and all that is embodied in this eight-letter word has been a part of human nature since the very beginning of time. The reason being survival. As populations grew so did a demand of resources and this eventually led to conflict and warfare because as Darwin put it, only the fittest will survive and how is one to survive without resources? This article will discuss the phenomenon of urban violence in Pakistan through the philosophical lens of Rousseau’s, Hobbes’s and Locke’s theories of the State.
If one observes Rousseau’s theory of state, most of this conflict took place on the periphery of a state, thus not involving any populations of citizens. Defence mechanisms and budgets were set up to further minimise civilian populations from getting involved or getting affected by conflict. In exchange for not exhibiting the free will to create conflict within the state, citizens were guaranteed peace by the state exerting power to diminish all external conflict trying to seep in.
As populations grew and resources diminished, states began looking outward to satisfy their citizens’ needs. The only way to obtain means of satisfaction was to indulge in conflict with another state as no state wanted to willingly give up resources for nothing as it would even if not in the short term, in the long run affect them and their populations. As oversimplified as this may all seem, at the end of the day that is how modern-day conflict came into being, the fight for survival and the means to do so. Yes, there are many other factors such as power, corruption, all those wonderful terms, however, they all are symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself.
Urban conflict or warfare is another consequence of growing populations, lack of resources and “sovereigns” in power. In context to a state such as Pakistan, one should view the idea of a state through the lens discovered by Hobbes instead of Rousseau or Locke when understanding the being that is urban conflict and warfare as the absence of external conflict proved not to be enough to guarantee internal state peace as brilliantly explored by Galtung.
Internal state peace is both the lack of violence and the freedom from social inequality, lack of sanitation, identity depreciation, destabilisation of cultural references or belief systems. States cannot be merely viewed through Rousseau’s rose tinted glasses, that make one view conflict as synonymous to violence, which if dealt with externally, can be curbed without it affecting urban populations. No, conflict and that it embodies is more accurately unpacked by Hobbes.
According to Hobbes, sovereignty is the supreme authority over a state and a sovereign is owed complete obedience by its subjects/citizens. Thus, when a “sovereign” is seen being manipulated and state resources being handed over for a few pennies and personal gain, there has to be conflict, if not anarchy, within the state. In Pakistan, urban violence is a consequence of both internal and external decisions. Due to its vast array of resources, yes it has been the envy of many a state but if it were stronger and its “sovereign” more that of a Rosseau interpretation, there would have been hope to curb conflict.
Once, the corruption of the “sovereign” was apparent, it seemed as if all of the evils that had escaped Pandora’s Box, had made their way to the state of Pakistan. As the depletion of resources continued, so did the shadow of conflict grow. This growth was apparent by the increased numbers in unemployment and corresponding surge in violence in the form of movements such as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
It soon became apparent that conflict had found its way into cities and amongst urban populations such as those of one of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
A wide gap between individuals formed and led to such disparity between socio-economic classes of society, that it began affecting law and order. Those who had means, had the ability to even escape Justice. Mr. Hughes turned out to be right, Justice was clearly blind when it came to Pakistan.
A state should, however, always be afraid of creating a large population of individuals who have nothing to lose. As the breakdown of governance continued and the wealthy profited, those who had been plundered of their rights and resources as citizens of the state decided that the only way forward was through violence in urban areas. With no proper implementation of rights owed by the government to its citizens, cities like Karachi found themselves under fire. Mobile snatching became a small and new form of urban warfare as individuals such as Mr. Saad Hassan had mere seconds to hand over his phone, otherwise he would have to face the result of the pistol that was being poked into his back.
The escalation of urban violence in States such as Pakistan has been so rapid, that these incidents have moved from the dead of the night to broad daylight and no one as much as blinks an eye as they are all aware that this urban warfare is due to the state neglecting the rights it owes its citizens. Galtung, very accurately stated that the mere absence of conflict is not enough to guarantee peace. It is also necessary that individual freedom and human desires are not suppressed. By such conflict and violence taking place within urban populations, individual freedoms and desires are inadvertently being negatively affected. Individuals such as Mr. Saad Hassan, will have to make a conscious effort as to determine when it is safe to travel, whether one can avoid travelling with a cellular device, what kind of vehicle one should travel with etc. This not only curbs his freedom but his desires, which the state has guaranteed he may exercise as long as they are within the limits of the law, which they are. This state of restriction has many effects on various individuals and subsects of the affected urban population. Many find themselves subscribing to the growing “brain-drain” crowd, individuals leaving behind their identity as means of survival. They see this as a more peaceful reaction as opposed to fighting to freely express their freedoms and desires.
This anarchy and chaos has no solution other than a radical change in the “sovereign.” Unless individuals can envision a state that protects their rights, freedoms, desires and provides them adequate resources without having to carry out conflict, they have reached a point where they have nothing to lose and thus will continue to carry out all forms and degrees of violence.
Urban populations are the last tier in the pyramid after which society will totally unravel and cease to exist. If one goes through the tiers of society’s pyramid like structure, one comes to realise that urban populations are the pinnacle of the this and if they are bombarded with conflict and warfare, a point in time will come when individuals in such urban settings will be reduced to animalistic tendencies of survival and thus the pyramid will collapse.
Thus, unless urban warfare and conflict is addressed and appropriate measures taken, the only viable solution will be revolution, leading to a total rearrangement of “the state” as we know it because as we know our innate guiding principles shall continue to whisper to us, “Survival of the fittest…survival of the fittest,” and as urban warfare continues and anarchy spreads, those whispers shall only grow louder and louder and become harder to ignore.
To avoid such a revolution, the solutions which must be practiced both on a short time and long term basis are, fairer mechanisms of distribution of wealth, the state providing facilities and assistance through programs such as free health care, food stamps, unemployment compensation, housing assistance, and child care assistance. These practices will not only curb such inclinations but provide a stable environment which shall minimise the chances of tensions culminating to the current state.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2021. Survival of the Fittest | Definition, Applications, & Examples. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/science/survival-of-the-fittest> [Accessed 18 October 2021].
Rousseau, J., 2018. The Social Contract. Seltzer Books.
Hobbes, T., n.d. Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil.
Locke, J., 2019. TWO TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT.
Hughes, L., 2021. Quote from The Panther and the Lash. [online] Goodreads.com. Available at: <https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/774933-justice-that-justice-is-a-blind-goddess-is-a-thing> [Accessed 18 October 2021].
Ali, M., 2021. Cell phone snatching incidents on busy roads rock Karachi. [online] Gulfnews.com. Available at: <https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/cell-phone-snatching-incidents-on-busy-roads-rock-karachi-1.231611> [Accessed 18 October 2021].