May 2020


  1. Lack of Leadership and Political Commitment in Pakistan
  2. Mindful social justice
  3. What People Power Looks Like in a Pandemic Democracy

Lack of Leadership and Political Commitment in Pakistan


“The poor performance of elected leaders and assemblies in federal and provinces make the democracy more complex. Failure of democracy, the leadership crisis, after the death of Jinnah, and the failure of Pakistan Muslim League to become a national party”

In Pakistan mostly political leadership belongs to the background of feudal society. This is the typical South Asian politics where feudal leaders are most respected. The elected leaders have acted or performed as role of dictators. Military considered that political leaders are not able to rule over the country. The politics of Pakistan has been unable to develop a strong consensus on the political model. Whatever consensus is developed among the power sharing parties but they stay away from the political position soon after due to their own political gains and interests. Their competing interests openly defame constitution and the norms and values of democracy. The constitution became controversial because military took over and imposed the martial law. If this tradition continues then the participatory democracy cannot flourish. The civil leaders and parliamentarians also amended the constitution without any consensus over the system. Lack of open debates over the important national issues has slow down the growth of shared framework for political action. The political ruling elite develop a selective approach by excluding those who disagree with them. Not only political elites who suppress the opposition, several societal groups even create violence against the opposing groups who raise the questions about their views and ideas. The gradual growth of Islamic extremism and militancy and the sectarian movements within the societal structure in early 1980s has noiseless the free flow of views, ideas and information on the important national issues. It gave the rise of intolerance, increased the level of violence within the society. The extremist groups used hate speeches and accommodate violence within their structures. Thus the main effects of these activities were the cultural and social values, pluralism, diversification and religious harmony. The process of democratization badly suffered because these groups were gaining strength within the society and political system. Such conditions are not favorable to the growth of democratic norms and values, and rule of law. 

The process of democratization and political participation is assisted by the civil leaders and political parties within the country. These are the most important vehicles of expression of interests and political mobilization in a democratic way. Unfortunately, in Pakistan the political parties and democratic forces are weak and unable to perform their integral role in an effective way. Their role has been suspended under the military rule due to which they have been badly suffered. The frequent electoral process has been suffered, weak organizational structures, absence of socio-economic opportunities and lack of economic and financial resources. The undemocratic behavior of political parties, personality based politics, regional tug of war, and ideological differences badly suffered the political parties to function in a meaningful manner. It also suffered with ideological confusion and visionless leadership. 

The Muslim League laid the basis of Pakistan failed to transform itself as national and federal party. The Muslim League round around the persons and individuals. The other parties also could not give the alternative for the country. Therefore, the political parties could not function regarding to develop political model and stability. The political parties of Pakistan lack the leadership, visionary human power, and the scientific study of socio-political and economic problems. The public gathering and mobilization may useful but it cannot be an alternative for the socioeconomic and political problems. The members of General Assembly and Senate always absent which shows the political non seriousness towards national issues.

Democracy faced strong troubles in Pakistan, the poor democratic credentials and weak institutions can’t lead democracy to prevail in the country. The parliamentary system of government faced many ups and downs. The inheritance of undemocratic forces encountered the balance democratic system of the state. The external security threat and regional issues affected the prospects of democracy in Pakistan. Failure of democracy due to these problems faced by Pakistan and other factors were the leadership crisis, after the death of Jinnah, and the failure of Pakistan Muslim League to become a national party or the identification of federal towards provinces. The disintegration of national political parties leads the base for military to take its roots within the political framework of the country. Early military takeover where the dominant ruling elites were saying that the liberal democracy was inappropriate for Pakistan. The suspension of constitution by the consistent military coup makes it difficult to create strong political institutions and the diversified ideas.

The ruling elites apply selective manners of democracy, take the handful and selective political leaders and exclude all other democratic political leaders. This policy created the division among parties and institutions. Democratic institutions stabilize if the process is not disturbed by other forces. The advocators of democracy must function in true spirit, should offer equal rights for all citizens and respect the free speech and emphasis for the diversified ideas and encourage the free flow of information. This may support for the creation of strong democratic culture within the country.   The civilian rule and authority has been suspended by the subsequent military takeovers. That’s why the quality of democracy and the performance of political parties remained poor. The democratic culture and the values of democracy face strong challenges in Pakistan. The poor performance of elected leaders and assemblies in federal and provinces make the democracy more complex. They failed to build consensus over the norms of political system and drift towards confrontation, religious intolerance and extremism.


Ali Abbas, Ph.D. candidate at the School of Politics and International Studies, Central China Normal University Wuhan, PR China

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Mindful social justice


Mindfulness can help us to discern, interrupt and transform power differentials and biases.

According to Ronald Purser, mindfulness can be transformative when it helps people “connect the dots between their personal troubles and public issues.” Luke Wreford and Paula Haddock call for a “move beyond a focus on individual wellbeing towards more collective and systemic responses to the personal, social and ecological challenges we face.”

Their critiques of the individual focus of most popular mindfulness trends are on point. When placed within a social justice context, however, mindfulness practices can offer valuable ways to integrate both individual and collective change. Both are integral parts of social transformation. Mindfulness can, in the words of the great Grace Lee Boggs, help us “transform ourselves to transform the world.”

For that to happen, we need to practice mindfulness not just to ease stress and reactivity. We also need to reflect deeply on the ways we have been shaped by the broader world. We can then amplify those aspects that move us closer to liberation, while unlearning, dismantling, and disrupting those parts of the larger society that are harmful. We can reflect on how systems of power impact us in different ways so that we can heal from that harm and refrain from perpetuating it.

Doing so requires that we understand and account for our diverse positions in society. We can consider how the various aspects of our particular identities like race, class, gender, sexual identity, dis/ability, religion and immigrant status work together to locate us within sociopolitical power dynamics. Like coordinates on a map, these ‘positionalities’ (combined with a power analysis) tell us why we have our particular lived experiences.

This recognition deepens the individualized reflection of many mindfulness practices by asking us to mine our interpersonal experiences to understand why they are what they are. For instance, the storylines that arise for us when we meditate are shaped by our positions in the world. Those storylines will likely be different for the person sitting next to us, particularly if they live a very different identity than we do.

When we truly engage this level of reflection, we begin to realize that our socialization and position in sociopolitical power dynamics don’t just shape our sense of ourselves; they also shape our sense of other people. This intrapersonal level of reflection can help move us from a focus on the individual to a focus on relationships.

My positionality - where I’m marginalized and where I’m privileged - is in direct relationship to yours and vice versa. Often, the two mutually define each other in ways we may not even recognize. Since many of us are not in authentic community with each-other across our differences, that process can easily lead to “Othering.” We then create “us/them” constructs that perpetuate harm and inequality.

Our mindfulness practices can help us learn to discern and interrupt our implicit and explicit biases. Once we can better account for power differentials and their impact in society, we can transform them.

The intrapersonal level, then, helps us begin to reflect on the “we” instead of the “us and them,” but that still doesn't complete the individual/collective cycle. What do we mean by “we,” and what conditions are attached to belonging to it? There are multiple levels of “we.” We have collectives in our family, our local community, our organizations, and even our identity groups. Then there’s the broad, collective “we:” all humans, all sentient beings.

On several occasions after talking in contemplative, yoga, or mindfulness spaces I have been asked how positionality and diverse identities can be reconciled with the emphasis on “oneness” that is so prevalent in mindfulness. This is a good question, and the answer comes in many layers.

First, we have to look at the particular mindfulness tradition people are referring to, with its long cultural and philosophical history. Different traditions likely talk about this question in different ways. One limitation of many contemporary mindfulness programs is their decontextualization from the rich cultural and historical traditions from which they emerge, which can easily result in cultural appropriation and misrepresentation.

Secondly while “oneness” might be an absolute or ultimate goal, we aren’t there yet, and we can't get there without accounting for the different lived experiences that diverse communities have, and the power dynamics between them.

There is a tendency to presume that the only way to be “one” is to be the same. In this interpretation of mindfulness, sameness usually means the cultural norm. For instance, when discussions of racism are raised in predominantly white mindfulness spaces, some white people will say that talk of difference disrupts our “oneness.”

In this situation, oneness presumes whiteness and any challenge to that norm is read as the problem. The Reverend Zenju Earthlyn Manuel notes that “[w]hen we try to manipulate the nature of our oneness into a flat, one-dimensional sameness, we choose to ignore the concurrent multiplicity of nature.”

But this is a learned construction that simply preserves the status quo. Rev. Manuel asks, “How could a path to spiritual liberation possibly unfold if we turn away from the realities that particular embodiments bring…spirituality must acknowledge the body and the denigration of certain types of bodies in the world.”

Often, the interpretation of oneness as sameness comes from socialization, unexamined assumptions, and power dynamics. Mindful social justice offers us tools to dismantle these things. When we more deeply reflect, account for and unlearn them, we have more agency and choice about how we relate to ourselves and to one another.

We can then embrace the diverse richness of our differences and the interrelationships between them. This approach can reframe oneness to mean interconnection, as some mindfulness traditions already suggest. In this frame, we are all one because we are all part of a rich, interdependent web.

We hold different positions within that web, so difference is a rich and critical part of the system. But those differences don’t have to come with the power dynamics currently attached to them. As the great Audre Lorde wrote, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

In her book, Transformation Now!: Toward a Post-Oppositional Politics and Change, and drawing on the work of M. Jacqui Alexander, feminist scholar AnaLouise Keating captures this reframing well:

“This ‘vision of interdependence’ is not some abstract belief in an otherworldly reality to which we escape so that we can avoid the difficult conversations about embodied and psychic differences; this vision is rather deeply embedded in everyday life even our most ordinary actions and encounters….We practice a relational ethics that demands a new level of mindfulness.”

True transformation requires a fundamental shift in being. True social transformation toward justice requires this shift to happen at the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and collective levels. Fortunately, mindfulness practices - when situated within a social justice frame - offer rich potential do the work that’s necessary to access this interconnection.

Doing so requires that we uncover the conditioned meanings that get attached to difference, into which most of us have been socialized. It demands that we become unflinchingly clear on our own position in the world. And ultimately, it provides us with the opportunities to forge our interrelations in ways that co-create liberation.


By : Beth Berila

Date : March 22, 2020

Source : Open Democracy

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What People Power Looks Like in a Pandemic Democracy


Because of the coronavirus, nearly 300 million Americans—roughly 95 percent of the population—are under orders to stay at home. As of last count, sixteen states and one territory have postponed their presidential primaries or switched to mail-in ballots with extended deadlines. The Democratic National Convention has been put off till August, with one official anticipating a “bare minimum” attendance. The possibility of a ghost election in November looms.

Of all political forms, democracy is the most dependent on the participation of its citizens. Critically, that participation is supposed to be collective. Citizens are bound to each other, which makes them a people, and they govern as a people. Democracy “is not an alternative to other principles of associated life,” wrote John Dewey. “It is the idea of community life itself.” And though a voting booth may be more reminiscent of a cubicle or a confessional than an assembly, what we do inside of that booth is a public endeavor.

Yet, if we cannot gather to assemble or vote, much less deliberate, in what sense can we have a democracy? How do we do politics in a pandemic, self-governance under quarantine? Is it possible to supervise the supervisors if we’re too sequestered—or sick—to vote?

The question of isolation and democracy has long haunted political writers. It was posed, most poignantly, by Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America—not in the relatively chipper first volume, which was published in 1835, after Tocqueville’s return from the United States, but in the dystopian second volume, which came out in 1840, long after his gaze had settled back on France. In the first volume, Tocqueville could scarcely contain his enthusiasm for the civic mindedness of American democracy, where citizens rushed to build a bridge or take care of some other item of public business. In the second volume, as he contemplated the passage of aristocratic society from the European scene, his view grew darker. Because people in aristocratic societies are linked in time to their ancestral families and homes, he wrote, they “are almost always closely involved with something outside themselves.” Democracy breaks that chain of inheritance. It destroys the familial “woof of time,” leaving “each man… forever thrown back on himself alone.” That isolation, which threatens to “shut up” the self “in the solitude of his own heart,” makes democracy ripe for despotism.

Tyrants, the tradition of political theory teaches us, thrive on the separation of citizens from one another. So isolated are people under despotism, wrote Tacitus, that even the courts conduct their affairs “almost in solitude.” Maximizing space between people clears the public square of all potential opposition and resistance. It is what allows the despot to swing his sword with such abandon. It thus required Tocqueville no great leap of the imagination to think that a nightmarish era of democratic despotism lay ahead. Everything he’d read seemed to compel that conclusion.

Yet the literature of democracy is less settled on this question of isolation than we might think. Some writers have described societies in which citizens are kept apart, or at least away from public life, as not posing any problem for democracy at all. Aristotle, for example, identifies four kinds of democracy. In only one of those democracies do those who are eligible to participate in politics actually take part. Tellingly, it’s the one in which revenues are sufficiently high and widely distributed as to fund the life and leisure of the poor. In that kind of democracy—let’s allow the anachronism of calling it social democracy—the citizens are able to gather and decide their common fate.

In the three other democracies, revenue (or property) is too scarce or unequally distributed to provide anyone but the wealthy with sufficient time and resources to assemble and deliberate about politics. In these democracies—let’s be anachronistic again and call them American democracy—even those of moderate means cannot assemble; they’re too busy working or surviving. Yet Aristotle insists on calling these societies democratic—as do many contemporary defenders of the American system—despite acknowledging their similarity to oligarchies. Citizens may not be physically isolated in these Aristotelian democracies, but neither are they physically isolated in Tocqueville’s democracy. It is the political isolation that counts.

In Federalist 10, James Madison makes the case against those who claim that only small societies can sustain popular government. In such societies, counters Madison, a majority will tyrannize the minority. Larger republics like the United States, by contrast, will take in a “greater variety” of people and interests. Popular majorities, which are rooted in “the possession of different degrees and kinds of property,” will find it difficult in the United States to acquire “a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” Even if they do have such a motive, they won’t be able “to discover their own strength and to act in unison with each other.” The greater the number of people who must reach agreement in order to act, the more likely it is that their “communication” will be “checked.” The fragmentation of the citizenry—in other words, their political isolation from each other, their inability to make connections—helps maintain popular government in America.

Most writers on democracy, partisans and critics alike, are ambivalent about isolation, seeking to sustain some connections while suppressing others. Rousseau wanted people to rush to the assemblies whenever a public question was posed, but he didn’t want them talking among themselves before they got there. Keeping citizens apart ensured that they would not contaminate each other and find common cause with other people’s one-sided views, that the decision of the assembled citizenry would be in the general interest rather than narrow or partial. Some two centuries later, Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name” made much of the isolation of the suburban housewife. Yet hundreds of pages into The Feminine Mystique, Friedan allowed that the real problem of the American housewife was “how few places there are in those spacious houses and those sprawling suburbs where [she] can go to be alone.”

During the cold war, defenders of liberal democracy, fearful of the mass politics of fascism and communism, went in the opposite direction of Rousseau. It was better to divide and separate men and women into small groups and associations, directing their attention away from common concerns and the fate of the nation. Such organizations were moderate in their aims, pragmatic in their demands, restrained in their tactics, and deferential to established leaders and traditional institutions. Their members would be made doubly so by their membership. Released from the restraint of these groups, however, men and women would rush into the arms of demagogic leaders, who’d convert this new fund of energy into a mass movement of the right or left—the political valence didn’t matter—seeking total control over the national state. When it came to high politics and the state, it was best for citizens to tend to their gardens, chatting with their neighbors over the fence.

More recently, we’ve seen a version of this cold war argument mounted against populism, in which commentators see in the gathering of large numbers of people a kind of virus threatening liberal democracy itself. It’s not simply the racism or misogyny of Trump’s rallies that makes writers worry; it’s the style of the rallies themselves, which are often compared to rallies on the left, where no such opinions are to be found. “The fervor of Sanders supporters… at his largest events,” The Washington Post reported recently, “are reminiscent of the mega-rallies Trump held four years ago and has continued to stage as he seeks a second term.” What’s worrisome, in other words, is a mass politics in which elites are denounced, opponents are demonized, institutions are challenged, certain forms of pluralism are questioned, and the rabble is roused—the kind of politics and rhetoric that have often marked movements and leaders of the left, such as Lincoln and abolition, that are now thought to be unimpeachable.

So we come back to pandemic politics. For years, many have sought to isolate the contagion of populism. Now we’re seeing the program in action. Bernie Sanders’s campaign—already on life support after the South Carolina primary, then additionally hampered by the quarantine—is now dead. Trump’s rallies have been canceled, at least for now. Yet the end of mass populist rallies has also entailed (Wisconsin aside) the postponement of primaries and elimination of voting booths—the suspension of politics itself, as least as that term is conventionally understood in the United States. Must it be so?

There is a counter-tradition, less theoretical than practical, that has seen isolation as neither a threat to, nor an axiom of, democracy. In this counter-tradition, solidarity between citizens cannot be assumed. It must be created—often by men and women with very little of it, under less than promising conditions, in which they are kept politically, if not physically, apart from one another. Let’s call this “inauspicious democracy.” Or simply, democracy.

As Friedan came to realize, the problem of the suburban housewife had little to do with whether she was alone or not. Rather, “she was so ashamed to admit her dissatisfaction that she never knew how many other women shared it.” Women lacked access to any apprehension of what other women were thinking and feeling; they lacked access to other women’s consciousnesses and the means to create a collective consciousness. The reason the problem had no name was that there hadn’t been a conversation that named it.

The first step, then, was to talk. Thus, “on an April morning in 1959,” were a thousand consciousness-raising groups (in a manner of speaking) born: “I heard a mother of four, having coffee with four other mothers in a suburban development fifteen miles from New York, say in a tone of quiet desperation, ‘the problem.’ And the others knew, without words, that she was not talking about a problem with her husband, or her children, or her home. Suddenly they realized they all shared the same problem.” In the very anomic suburbs where Friedan had said women were alone.

Where Friedan’s solidarity arises from a commonality of unacknowledged interests, a shared situation that lacks only a story (and a storyteller), Frederick Douglass’s account of his escape from slavery reveals a more chance encounter between divergent interests. Walking along the Baltimore wharf one day, Douglass stopped to help two Irish dockworkers unload a ship’s wares. He struck up a conversation with them. When the Irishmen learned that Douglass was still enslaved, and would be for life, they counseled him to flee to the North where he’d find allies who could help him win and keep his freedom.

Years later, Douglass would report that it was this serendipitous solidarity of strangers that produced in him the resolve to escape slavery. Even under the most harrowing conditions, in which all manner of silence and separation is enjoined, men and women find ways to create connections and forge new solidarities. Not because they already enjoy democracy but because they are trying to create it.

If one half of the democratic project is to create bonds that are not there, the other half is to sever bonds that are there. Nora leaves Torvald, Douglass flees his master, workers walk out on the boss. Indeed, across the globe, the labor movement always has been a double movement of both solidarity and separation: on the one hand, creating a sense of identification and shared fate between workers in the face of repeated attempts by employers and the state to break those connections and keep workers apart; on the other hand, pressing workers to give up their connection to the boss. Breaking the bonds of established society, forcing men and women to separate and isolate from one another in this way, is never easy. Everything in law and custom conspires against it. It is made more difficult, as Susan B. Anthony recognized in her discussion of the challenges facing the women’s movement, by the warm and “friendly relations that exist between the sexes” and other social dyads.

Yet it is the very tightness of those bonds of oppression, the political scientist Frances Fox Piven suggests, that makes them such potent instruments of inauspicious democracy. The reason workers feel obliged to their bosses, wives to their husbands, debtors to their creditors, renters to their landlords, is not simply that workers and wives and debtors and renters face negative sanctions if they break their commitments. It’s that bosses, husbands, creditors, and landlords depend upon them. Superiors need the cooperation of subordinates in order to accomplish their aims. Society needs the cooperation of subordinates in order to accomplish its aims.

That gives those subordinates a tremendous amount of power, argues Piven. Power lies “in their ability to disrupt a pattern of ongoing and institutionalized cooperation that depends on their continuing contributions.” Disrupt that cooperation at the right moment in time, break those bonds and forge new ones, and democracy will be advanced: a union will be formed, a civil rights law will be passed, a division of labor in the family will be recast.

The premise of the tradition of inauspicious democracy, then, is that men and women are already in association, cooperating to produce the family, the economy, and society as a whole. That cooperation creates all sorts of negative consequences—patriarchy, poverty, environmental catastrophe, and much else—but the victims of these consequences seldom realize that they share a connection or common interest, or that their cooperation, and society’s dependence upon them, gives them potential power to deal with those consequences. Denied access to existing political institutions, they must find ways to discover that connection, that power. They must turn themselves, writes Dewey, from an “inchoate, unorganized” and “formless” collection into a self-conscious collective. They must “break existing political forms” and create new ones; they must destroy old connections and forge fresh ones. Democracy, in this account, is never “the product of democracy,” that is, of current political institutions. It is “the convergence of a great number of social movements” working to “remedy evils experienced in consequence of prior political institutions.”

When people express concern about the consequences of pandemic politics for democracy, they are thinking of a fairly familiar, and limited, repertoire of activities—voting, primaries, conventions, marching in the streets. But the counter-tradition of inauspicious democracy teaches us that the world of established institutions and familiar tactics, even if those tactics once belonged to protest movements past, is not the only place to look for democracy. It presses us instead to look at those networks of interdependency that Piven spoke of, to see how subordinate classes might use as leverage the dependence of their superiors (and society) upon these subordinates, to bring about a greater democratization of the whole.

Isolation, it has been pointed out, is a luxury many men and women in the United States cannot now afford and will probably never enjoy. For many in the working class, and some in the professional classes, there is no withdrawal from public spaces to a place of greater safety at home. These men and women are picking lettuce, boxing groceries, delivering packages, driving buses and trains, riding buses and trains, filling prescriptions, operating registers, caring for the elderly, taking care of the sick, burying the dead. Though these disparities understandably arouse a sense of deep unease, and guilt among those who are their beneficiary, there is a dimension to this inequity that has gone overlooked. The state designates these men and women to be “essential workers,” and while that designation has earned those workers little more than a patronizing thanks for their “selflessness” from President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, and other worthies, the designation is nonetheless a recognition of their potential power right now. Power that some have begun to wield.

Since the pandemic began, there have been a number of stories of workers organizing walk-outs, sick-outs, and pickets in which protesters remain in their cars and honk their horns, eventually bringing out the police. In some instances, these actions have been effective. In New York City, as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo refused to close the schools, teachers, often acting in advance of their union, threatened to call in sick en masse. Although it’s been forgotten in the reporting that has conferred a halo on the New York governor’s leadership, journalists at the time acknowledged that these worker actions were forcing the state’s hand.

The sites of these actions have varied, but it is workplaces like Amazon and UPS and Instacart that get the bulk of the attention. There’s a reason for that. As shopping in person grinds to a halt, online ordering has skyrocketed. With business orders plummeting, residential orders are picking up the slack of what little there is left of the economy. That, again, puts these workers into an effective position not only to press their own demands but also to push for more measures to protect the public good.

While the bulk of these actions have been led by unions or activists within unions—in other words, people already adept at the politics of democratic solidarity—we’re also seeing new forms of organization in areas like housing, often in the most surprising circumstances. In Los Angeles, Saturn Management—named, presumably unwittingly, after the Roman equivalent of the Greek god who devoured his own children—sent out an email to the three hundred tenants who rent properties from the company across the downtown and west side of the city. Tenants throughout California had been calling for a rent strike; the email instructed Saturn’s tenants to pay their rent on time. Rather than bcc’ing all the recipients, however, the company including their email addresses. Without thinking, Saturn gave the renters both a common cause—creating a new constituency for action, in Dewey’s sense—and a means to communicate with each other about the cause. One renter, Roberto Torres, emailed his fellow tenants, “I’m just throwing out there—RENT STRIKE.” And then they organized a Google document and a Slack channel.

It would be foolish to understate the obstacles to democracy in America at the moment or to overstate these attempts to overcome those obstacles. The United States has seldom been an easy place to make change. It took the French an afternoon to storm the Bastille; it took American workers a hundred years to get a weekend. Yet it’s also true that solidarity, the connections that are created and sustain democracy, is often a story of surprise. Its most potent moments come, almost always, after a long and terrible night.

On one such night, that of January 18, 1945, the Germans evacuated Auschwitz, leaving behind only those too sick and diseased to be forced to march. Primo Levi was one of them. On January 20, Levi and two men managed to lift themselves from their cots, go outside, and salvage a heating stove, fuel, and two sacks of potatoes. They took their treasure back to the hut that passed for an infirmary. The men in the hut decided to award Levi and his mates each a slice of bread.

It was an unthinkable act of cooperation. The camps allowed no room for fellow feeling, much less sharing. According to Levi, “The law of the Lager said: ‘eat your own bread, and if you can, that of your neighbor.’” Politics begins the moment such laws, which have the force of nature, are suspended—and democracy, when they are suspended in egalitarian acknowledgment of the contribution of each to the social production of all. When that bread was shared, says Levi, he realized that a new and unexpected bond, born of gratitude, had been created among the prisoners. “It really meant that the Lager was dead.”


By : Corey Robin

Date : April 13, 2020

Source : The New York Review of Books

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