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Covid, Criticism, and our Responsibilities

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By: Aubaid Ahmed Akhoon

‘The healthcare is in shambles’, ‘the country is going through the worst health crisis and the pandemic’, ‘Covid19 has exposed our ‘below average’ health sector’, ‘the government is doing the best it can and yet the scenario demands more and refuses to get any better’- these and many more reflections are being shared widely on social media platforms and in the media these days. Since the pandemic is so widespread and the country is too vast to be monitored perfectly, one can assume that the criticism is sometimes exaggerated and blown up. But the idea of criticism is to keep the government engaged 24X7 in the process and keep its alertness alive and active until we sail through these rough waves.

When we hear the word criticism, a lot of thoughts keep circulating in our minds and most of our thoughts are so limited that we even use this seemingly small word to oppose ourselves or someone else, but if we take into account other aspects and try to draw positive conclusions from it, then this will be called constructive criticism. It is the criticism that reminds the writer, an individual or a government not to ignore the fact that they are being held accountable for every step taken.

In Urdu literature the word Tanqeed is a translation of the Criticism, which means Appreciation, estimation, assessment, judgment, evaluation, etc and in Urdu literature, the literal meaning of the word is to examine a piece of literature from every angle, aspect and presenting any conclusion after examination or investigation to the reader without any prejudice so that it will be refined and the reader will be able to differentiate between various aspects of it.

From childhood, we have all observed that whenever our parents find any shortcomings in us, they show us the intention to learn or take advantage from the virtues of another intelligent friend, relative or acquaintance. But if this practice (criticism) of parents becomes a daily routine, it paves the way for negative criticism because each person has different abilities, every human being has different strengths and weakness and it’s this unique quality that draws difference in the personality of every human being.  Comparison is fine as long as it’s done in limitations but once it goes beyond certain specified horizons, we may begin to imbibe the negative vibes and creates a gap between parents and children that sometimes take decades to fill.

It is obvious that if the mind of a writer is full of enmity, hatred, resentment, then he/she cannot be faithful to criticism. Remember, the critic must know the art of writing above personal criticism otherwise his work is nothing but a useless exercise. The critic must be aware of this fact that criticism based on personal vendetta and biases does no good to the world of literature and is uncovered and exposed by history. We have many examples where critics, having one or the other vendetta tries to fiddle with a concept or a piece of work and where ultimately exposed by future critics and literary personalities. It is thus a preliminary requirement for a critic to be totally faithful to the genre and look at the various parameters of a subject in question or in observation.

According to Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist in the English language, the greatest threat to freedom is the absence of Criticism. It is a fact that if a society discourages genuine criticism, it will lose its structural nuances and suffer deformity that would be beyond repairs. Healthy criticism is exactly the same as oxygen is to life. A famous quote from the genius, Plato, states that – If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then they are doomed to live under the rule of fools.

In India, as in the rest of the world, the impact of Covid-19 is growing day by day and the government is trying to control the epidemic while as the opposition party is criticizing the government for failing in the health sector.  It is due to the criticism of the opposition that the current government is fully focusing on the health sector and in the future the health sector will be among the priorities of the governments and if we try to draw negative conclusions from it the issue will become a new election manifesto for the upcoming governments to get votes in the name of better health sector and the fear of being misused is also a bitter reality.

Prof. Ale-Ahmad Suroor (1911 – 2002), a Padma Bhushan and gold medal awarded Professor, poet and critic has a great reputation and contribution in introducing criticism to the art of regular genre of literature in Urdu language. Whatever literary and critical capital he has, holds a unique place in Urdu literature and he has made very eloquent remarks regarding the demands of criticism and its definition and explanation in the beginning of his collection of articles under the title ‘What is Criticism’. In one of his writings he says: ” I take criticism seriously; I consider it as an important and difficult task and I don’t know how to enjoy it, but I know how to publish values – so I demand seriousness, seriousness and consideration from the readers as well. ”

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